Monday, 18 May 2015

Churn Dash & Greek Cross - Red Sky at Night

All the quilts I've been making lately have been gifts. Gifts are fun to make, but they also bring with them a different underlying design guide. Rather than going by feel, by that adventurous and daring 'I wonder if this would work?' or 'this doesn't look how I imagined, let's change tack,' I'm directed by what I think my recipient would like. When I'm making just for making, I feel free to try, to play, to fail. I lose that freedom when I make for others. I spend a lot of time second guessing. Last week, I lay all my red and white blocks out on my design wall and had a little freak out. It was and white! Two colours! No clash! A sampler rather than repetitive and geometric.
ARGH! What could I do to make this more me, more mine? A red and white sampler could belong to anyone, right? How can I make my mark? Include my stamp? And so it went on through that day and into the evening. That night I couldn't sleep so I made myself a cup of tea and sat by the fire with my grid book. Suddenly ideas started popping into my head. What about a single colourful block? Or little aqua stars in the sashing? A pop of red floral? Or I could introduce some coral and navy! Yes! I started to get excited again and gathered up a collection of ideas to show my mum when she visited yesterday.

I realised, while chatting to my mum about her quilt, that I don't often get to check in with the friends I'm making quilts for, while I'm making them. I sat her down in front of my design wall, and ran through all the options. She loved, loved, loved the red and white, on its own, just as it was.
"It's just so me!" She exclaimed, satisfied. And I could see that she was getting the same feeling about  red and white, that I get about clash and saturation. It made me so glad I checked. And it was just the encouragement I needed to keep going, free of that niggling doubt.
Today I enjoyed that freedom so much, I made TWO blocks! And because they are made up of all the same ingredients, and came together so quickly, I've thrown them together in the same tutorial. I knew you wouldn't mind!
The Churn Dash is old, reportedly from the early 1800s, but its earliest print publications date back only to the late 1920s-early 30s, along with most of our other blocks. It's named, as many of you would know, for the old butter churn, and was one of the most common blocks for little girls to make. I'm guessing that's because it's so simple, yet striking, and easy to alter or play with. According to Barbara Brackman's Encyclopaedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, this block, and it's alternative layouts, have TWENTY FIVE different names, all from the same period, including Shoo Fly, Monkey Wrench and Lincoln's Platform. It's one of those blocks that's so common in the quilting world, that's it's easy to find its basic history, but as usual, I'm left with more questions. Why the sudden explosion of the block in the 1930s? Why all the names? Did they look at the butter churn and think, 'That would make a great block!' or did they make the block and it reminded them of the butter churn? WHY Shoo Fly? Did Laura Ingalls Wilder make this quilt??
I really hope Heaven is the kind of place where I can seek out these women and ask them. I could happily spend an eternity talking patchwork stories!

I included the Greek Cross in this tutorial because all you have to do is flip the squares made of rectangles. And BAZZING! A completely new design! And you probably know by now how much I love magic tricks. This is definitely another one for my "make a whole quilt from" list.

For this tutorial, I've given the fabric requirements for one block. Double it to make these two blocks at once.

You will need:

Red: Two 5" squares cut in half diagonally to make half square triangles, four 2.5" x 4.5" rectangles, one 4.5" square.

White: Two 5" squares cut in half diagonally to make half square triangles, four 2.5" x 4.5" rectangles.

1. Sew the red rectangles to the white rectangles. Press seams open or towards the red.

2. Sew the red triangles to the white triangles. Press seams. Trim to 4.5" square.

3. For the CHURN DASH, lay out with red square in centre, and white bars touching it. Sew together in three rows. Press and sew those rows together.

4. For the GREEK CROSS, simply flip the rectangles so that the red bars touch the red square. BAZZING!

Wasn't that satisfying?! I'm really enjoying that settled feeling once more of knowing what I'm making. It's not quite as thrilling as playing with clashy, bright colours, but it sure beats constantly second guessing myself. And I do love peaceful piecing!


  1. I love reading this post! And I know this red and white quilt is going to be amazing! I agree, don't add another color!

  2. Haha I so thought oooooo I want to make a whole quilt out of that greek cross as soon as I saw it on your insta! Xxx

  3. Great post and so beautiful blocks! Thank you for the tutorial! Greetings from GREECE! x Teje

  4. As you know, I'm not a fan of this project (sorry) but what about a striped border in red/white? Or a plain border with just some slashes of red/white stripes? Or what about a striped binding? Or a striped backing. I wouldn't use wide width stripes, but use those slightly in the narrower side or even slightly wavy.

  5. I am sorry that you had second thoughts. Sewing this quilt up in a matter of a few days I feel like I am seeing red and white, but it is just stunning. I am so glad this is the tutorial right after the spider legs. It was so intense...which makes it so beautiful. I really needed a break from small pieces for a bit and this block was so easy and quick. I feel like you have done this several times as I have rushed through each block. Really time consuming ones and then...easy one. So excited to be almost half way.


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