Monday, 22 June 2015

Spanish Moss - Red Sky at Night Quilt

In our adventurous, pre-children years, Tim and I traveled to Europe to study in Russia, visit friends, and walk the Camino de Santiago, a 1000 year old Catholic pilgrimage through the north of Spain. We walked 25 kilometres a day (around 15 miles) for two weeks straight, a total of 300 kilometres. It was so challenging, but also the most rewarding and relaxing leg of our five month trip. Each day we woke up, bought a chocolate pastry and a coffee, and started walking. When we got tired, we stopped for a break, when old ladies stopped us on the side of the road to sell their homemade cheese, we bought it. It was a journey you could drive in an afternoon, but taking two weeks meant we ate afternoon tea overlooking purple hills of Spanish heather, we took in creeks and farms and German tourists. We watched bread bake in an old woodfire oven, and then ate it for lunch. It's amazing what you can see and taste and feel when you go slowly.

Last year I made a hexagon quilt while I waited for my baby girl to grow inside me. A friend once asked why I chose a pattern with such small pieces that had to be hand-stitched. Surely a blanket could be made in an afternoon? I can't remember my words exactly, but I remember a conversation following about taking our time. About making slowly being an important part of the experience. Choosing the little colours, basting them over the hexagon paper, stitching them together piece by piece. This was a quilt that would express part of who I am. It would be part of my memories of being pregnant, part of my hopes for this little girl, an expression of my love for her, that I would be willing to take my time.

When I found Spanish Moss in a random quilt book earlier this year, I immediately loved it. I can't find it anywhere in Barbara Brackman's Quilt Block Encyclopaedia in the nine-patch section, and when you google it, you get nothing. So if you know this block by another name, let us know!
For the star points I used the method where you lay the small square over the large one and sew diagonally across it, wasting a small triangle. I've always felt uncomfortable with this method for sewing triangles, prefering half square triangles. But we've sewn a lot of those this year, and I'm learning that they're not always the most efficient choice. All that cutting and pressing and trimming and sewing back together again. I'll be using this method more often, believe me! Even if just to shake things up a bit! ;)


You will need:

Red: Three 4.5" squares, eight 2.5" squares, two 3 3/8" squares.

White: Seven 4.5" squares, four 2.5" squares, one 3 3/8" squares.

1. Sew three of the 4.5" red squares to three of the white squares, around each side. These will be the half square triangles. Cut through the square diagonally, and then in half again. Press and trim to 2.5"

2. Cut the two red 3 3/8" squares in half diagonally. Sew the opposite sides on first, Press towards the red, and then sew the other corners.

3. For the star points, sit a red 2.5" square in the corner of a white 4.5" square. Sew through the red square diagonally across the corner. Trim the excess little triangle 1/4" from the seam and press toward the red.

4. Repeat on the next corner, then repeat on three other white 4.5" squares.

5. Arrange each of your 2.5" half square triangles around a 2.5" square as pictured below.

6. Sew together in pairs and press open. Sew those pairs together to make 4.5" squares.

7. Arrange your block as pictured with the little triangles pointing towards the star. Sew together in rows of three. Press.

8. Sew your rows together and voila! Another pretty star for your collection!

I had another friend, an artist, once say to me that she could never quilt, because she couldn't cope with losing all that fabric in the seams. What a waste! But quilting reminds me that life isn't just about conserving energy or time or the odd quarter inch of fabric. It's not about taking the fastest route or the easiest option. There is great value in stitches done by hand, in sewing red corners to a square to make a star, in cutting up beautiful prints and sewing them back together again. It's not waste. It's experience and beauty and effort and love. And these are worth far more than economy.


  1. I feel you a little closer knowing you are from so far away but you have been so near once. I live in Spain, in Galicia, near Santiago de Compostela.
    You are doing a great job with this quilt. I loved the idea when you started, but i couldn't get the time to start, and half year have passed and I have nothing. May be another year...

  2. Hi Jodi, what a nice memory..and welcome on a cold wet scottish morning!
    We also have been there when taking our old campervan for a three week meander round Spain and Potrugal. Superb fish cooking and lovely sunshine and the hills. Not unlike the north of Scotland.. but warmer..!
    I agree that taking time to do things slowly can be an almost meditative experience and good for the mental health too. Part of the what I took out of recent mindfulness course.
    I love this block, tho like Tartaruga above ..not this year. I made a baby quilt years ago that introduced me to the stitch and flip method for the corner triangles.. but .. you stitched a second seam to the other side of the cutting line. This gave tiny half triangle squares that formed a colourful band in the borders. Very effective and no waste!
    Thanks for the weekly update.
    Freda P

  3. I am loving your stories while watching Red Sky at Night. I plan to play later on in the summer, after two major quilts are done and gifted. But it's lovely to see your journey, and know that I'll be on it a little later, a pilgrim who comes after you, like the ones before and after on the Camino.

    And those waste triangles that you cut off using the technique in this post make great mini quilts...

  4. Can you believe Jodi that I haven't done El Camino yet? Well, I arrived here in 2004 and a year later baby one was born, and another year later baby 2 was born. So now. 11 years later and two munchkins, Im waiting until they can 1: walk and not complain 2: be responsible enought to be let in the house alone. Hahaha. Do you think Ill ever have the chance to make it? Anyways, Im enjoying seeing your quilt come along. This one is a lovely block!


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