Monday, 9 February 2015

Red Sky at Night - Checkerboard

Ever since I read Little House in the Big Woods to my kids last year, I've wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder's mother. Don't you? As we sat together in the evenings reading about Pa bringing in the straw after harvesting the oats, so Mama could make the summer hats, Pa coming home from town with new calico so Mama could make dresses, Mama milking and making cheese and curing meat while Pa hunted wild bear and played his fiddle in the evening... Oh, I can't tell you how much it all filled me with longing! I know Ingalls Wilder is writing the book about when she was seven, so she probably wasn't privy to the strains and challenges her parents experienced. And I know I've been able to have an education and enjoy a washing machine and the internet and modern health care, but there's something about her skill and simplicity that draws me.
The thing is, I know I will never quit the life I have for hers, because while I could learn how to make cheese and hats online, I'm not really prepared to give my precious time to learning all those new skills in this season of my life. You see, what I really covet from Laura's mother, is that she grew up learning all these skills as a girl. She wasn't searching the internet and figuring it out as she went, she had it all inside her. All that knowledge and skill. The demands of each day and season, came naturally, and with grace (or at least that's how Laura remembers it.)
In our last two posts, we talked about how quilt designs were not purely functional. They were creative, and they were inspired by the life and circumstances around them. Today, we're talking about function. In the 1800s, girls as young as 3 or 4 were taught to sew squares together to make little quilts for their dolls. By the age of seven, they were expected to stitch regularly without need for close supervision. Squares are a wonderful place to start because they don't have the challenges of stretch, like triangles with a bias angle, and you can cut many in a row, from an old dress or tablecloth, with minimal waste. And, of course, they are an easy shape for those sweet little hands to keep track of.
If you look at old quilts stitched by children, you'll notice they look like they were stitched by children. There was obviously an emphasis on process, on learning, on trying. And they are beautiful. There's one here and here. Aren't they beautiful?
These quilts inspire me to let my children learn, and to let us all enjoy learning, to give them a wealth of skill, like the old glory-box, for when they leave home, skills that feel like second nature, because they learned them when they were young.


Today's block is super simple! So simple that I didn't appear to take as many photos as I would have liked. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

You will need:
RED: Three 2.5" x 16" strips
WHITE: Three 2.5" x 16" strips.

(just an idea: Keep your scraps together! If you're using the same colours like me, there'll be plenty of other blocks that need the same width shapes!)

1. Start by sewing your strips together side by side, alternating colours. Press after you've sewn them together, all in the same direction.

2. You now have a stripey rectangle. Now, cut 2.5" strips across those stripes, so you have new strips of red and white squares.

3. Lay them out as the picture above, so you have your checkerboard pattern.

4. Sew strips together. I like to press these seams open because I think it sits flatter.

I love seeing all your blocks on Istagram! Thank you for sharing them! We actually have two mothers sewing this quilt with their daughters. I can't tell you how chuffed that makes me feel.
Tully didn't sew this block, but he did enjoy modelling it for me! If you'd like to see the quilt we did make together last year, I wrote about it here. He is still so proud of it!


  1. Oh I should definitely start teaching Rosie to hand stitch while I'm stranded in hand stitch land! I'm sure she'll be interested in it as she is interested in what I make and does want to "help". The question is do I have the patience? :) beautiful blog once again Jodi xxx

  2. I am loving this red and white combination! Its going to be stuinning!

  3. I'm not in the qal, but I'm in love with this series in you blog

  4. A fantastic tutorial, so simple and obvious when you know how, but so hard if you don't. I agree with everything that you said about Laura too! xx

  5. Oh, yes, Laura's mother seems like such an amazing woman! Your thought about how it was learned in childhood reminds me of something that happened today. We just got a new puppy, 6 weeks old, yesterday. It is our first dog, and you can imagine how happy the children are! Today Aria noticed the puppy was not interested in her dog toys, but wanted to chew on the fringed edge of a thick wool blanket. With great satisfaction Aria whipped together a fleece mini pillow with fringed edges for the puppy, just the right size, she insisted, for her tiny mouth. She was SO happy that she knew how to sew. She actually went on and on about how great it was that she could make just what she felt was needed without even a pattern. Of course, I was happy for her too! So, here's to what we can do to bless our children with life skills. I do greatly value how homeschooling gives us that opportunity!


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