Monday, 16 February 2015

Oregon Trail - Red Sky at Night Quilt

Just before Christmas, Tim and I moved our family 6 hours west. It was our first move in six years, our first move since being students, since having three kids. So I'm sure you can imagine the stuff we had accumulated in in that time! Packing up our house into the truck, while looking after two young children and a baby was one of the most stressful things I have experienced.
So it was with great appreciation and sombre feeling, that I made this quilt block, while thinking about the history of the Oregon Trail.

Between 1840 and 1870, many thousands of farmers, miners, businessmen, and their families moved west over the Oregon Trail, which began in America's East in Missouri, to take up offers of free land. It was a perilous, six month journey in a wagon, across fields and rivers, largely unprotected from the weather and the wildlife. In preparation for leaving, women were encouraged to make two to three quilts per person, and they would also make while travelling. Many of these would have been quick and practical designs, many would have been made by family and friends as gifts, but many also were made on purpose, filled with memories of home, prayers for the journey (ever wondered about all those biblical references in quilt blocks?), and influences of their outdoor living. These quilts reminded them of the beauty on the road, loved ones lost, times of survival, protection and rescue.

I love the idea of making a quilt to mark occassions, don't you? Many of the quilts in my home have been made to cover beds, to play with colour, to use up scraps. But I also have those made by dear friends as thank yous or congratulations. One made while recovering from miscarriage. One sewn with rare fabric given to me by a generous friend. But those most precious to me, are the ones I made for my baby girls while pregnant. (I took up quilting after Tully was born.) In fact, one of the main reasons I found out what gender I was having, was so that I could make those quilts with deliberation. I wanted to choose the colours and design just for them. It was a wonderful way to prepare for a newborn, and then enjoy them in our home. And Evie loves to cuddle her quilt, and hear that I made it when she was still growing in my belly.

While I never, ever want to be on the road for six months, like those women were, moving my family so far away, I do connect with the desire to make quilts that remind me of celebrations, grief, change. Or to mark great challenges with very beautiful stitches. Don't you?


To make your own Oregon Trail block, you will need:

Red: One 4.5" square, eight 2.5" squares, four 3" squares.
White: Four 2.5" x 4.5" rectangles, eight 2.5" squares, four 3" squares.

1. Cut the 3" squares into half-square triangles.

2. Sew each of the white triangles to each of the red. Press seams open.

3. Using the 45 degree line, and the 2.5" points on your ruler, trim your squares to 2.5".

4. Lay out your block like this:

5. You're going to make the little pieces into 9 patches to make up the block. Start by sewing your half-square triangles together and pressing them open.

6. Sew the white rectangles under each red triangle.

7. Next, sew the 2.5" red squares to the white ones, and press toward the red side.

8. Now sew those new rectangles to each other to make mini checkerboards. Use the seam fold to match the seams together before you sew.
Press open.

9. Sew together in rows of three. Press seams open. Sew the three rows together.

You can now add your Oregon Trail to your collection! Don't forget to share it on Instagram with the #redskyatnightQAL tag. So many of our blocks were designed around the time of migration in the States. It does make me wonder, how can I design quilts inspired by my own story and surroundings?


  1. I'm loving this series and qal. Makes me wish I had enough time to join in!!! Alas - too many quilts half done and birthday gifts to make!!! I love the meaning and memories that quilts can evoke of the time or season they were made during, or whom/what event they were made!

  2. I am way behind on my blocks (cut, not sewn) but I'm determined to get back up to speed this week. I think this weeks block will stretch my very limited skills but that's kinda the point yeah? :-)

  3. Thank you for the history, Jodi. Your block is beautiful. I like the way you've connected it with your own story.

  4. I have my first 3 blocks done and will do this one this afternoon when I get home.
    How many blocks will you be posting? One a week for how long?? I was thinking I want at least a queen size so I was wondering if I'd have to start doubling up or if you'll be doing this for a while?

    Peggy in NJ

  5. This is going to be such a beautiful quilt! xx

  6. I love this series, and the stories you tell with each block. Shifting is stressful at he best of times, definitely more so with young children, and if your husband has a garage like mine does.


I so love your comments! I read all of them and reply when I can. If you don't hear back, I'm lost under a mound of scraps or outside jumping on the trampoline with the kids. Jodi. xx