Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Hoosier Block - Red Sky at Night Quilt

This block has been teasing me. I found it in a book I have at home from the 1980s. I can't find it in Brackman's quilt block Encyclopedia, so it must have been first published in the 70s when another wave of enthusiasm for quilting swept the nation. It was one of those blocks that I found in my first search for two-colour blocks, sketched it in my grid book, later made it, took photos, and started to research ideas.

My first port of call was to look up the word Hoosier. I'd never heard it before. I was more than a little disappointed to discover that it was a derogatory term for country folk from Indiana. Was is derogatory like 'Nigger' is, or like Redneck? Does Redneck mean the same to me in Australia, as it does to you in the States? I remember sitting in the cafeteria in the international students section of the University of St Petersburg in Russia, chatting with other American students about our different slang for different kinds of people. We had 'occa' and 'yobbo' and 'bogan'. And we had Redneck. But try as we might, we never were quite sure we understood each other exactly. It was a pretty funny conversation... Should I just rename the block? Were the 1980s 'PC' enough that I could trust that if it was published in a quilting book, it mustn't be that bad? Can you enlighten me?

Then I found a lovely story in my new book about quilt-making in the 1930s about a woman named Viola Sanders Webb from Tennessee. She planted her own cotton to make her own batting, she used plain cream, and died, flour sacks to make the most beautiful two-colour quilts, and entered them in the Tennessee State Fair, which had a quilt category just for feedsack quilts. She lived a kind of 'Little House on the Prairie" life, which meant that things didn't feel all that different in 1930 than they did in 1920. It was just always tough. But she spoke about it with such pragmatism, and her sense of design was wonderful. After reading about quilting being fashionable, not just necessary, during the depression, it was uplifting to read her side of the story, recorded in an interview with the author of "Soft Covers for Hard Times."

But would it be offensive to talk about a lovely country Tennessee lady with a block called Hoosier? And where was Tennessee compared to Indiana anyway? Not that far. Except that one would be considered north, and the other south...which would probably make them quite different, is that right? Hmmm. I might have a thing or two I can teach about American Quilting history, but as soon as it becomes about culture and language, I'm going to have to rely on you to fill me in!


You will need:

Red: Two 4.5" squares, four 3 3/8" squares, eight 2.5" squares.

White: One 4.5" square, eight 3 3/8" squares, four 2.5" squares.

1. Cut the white 3 3/8" squares in half diagonally. Stitch them to opposite sides of the red 3 3/8" squares. Press outward and sew the other triangles on the remaining sides. Press outward and trim to 4.5".

2. Take the white 4.5" square and one red 4.5" square and sew around the outside edge. Cut diagonally into quarters. Press open, and trim your new half square triangles to 2.5"

3. Lay out your block as below.

4. Sew small pieces in each corner to the one next door, then sew those together to make 4.5" squares.

5. Sew your squares together in rows. Press open.

6. Sew the rows together. Press seams open.

You may have noticed I was a day late with today's tutorial. Each week I try to set aside time to get more than one done, so I can get a little ahead, but each week, I seem to fall a little bit further behind. Each month, Tim spends a week in Newcastle, trying to finish off his Post Graduate Degree, which is due at the end of the year. And every time he's away (which is now), I find it all the more difficult to hold everything in check. I have that feeling, like I used to at university, walking to the Librarian  with arms full of too many books. And if I let go just slightly, before I got to her desk, they were all going to fall out at once. 

This weekend, as you can see above, I finished my quilt top! It uses 41 blocks, set on point, and I have two that I didn't use, that I'll make into matching pillows. I really wanted to make the other 6 blocks to make up the promised 49 for those who wanted to set theirs square, but I'm going to have to finish after the 43rd. I can't tell you how sad I am about this, partly because some of the other blocks are lovely, and partly because it feels like quitting. But it also feels wise. 

This is block number 36 (I think! Is that what you're up to?) I'll do seven more tutorials and stories and then I'll show you how I stitched mine together. If you sew them on point like mine, you'll have a 92" squared quilt. How amazing! Right at the end, I'll hold a link-up so you can show your progress, and we can see how wonderful and different they all look in the various colours people have chosen.

Thank you so much for your encouragement and enjoyment of this series! I've learned so much, and I can't wait to finish this quilt and show you!

Jodi. xx


  1. As the Russian lady I used to pick strawberries with would say "you good gell". Glad your setting your limits on what you can do. Its looking beautiful. I'm so far behind and haven't been sewing recently... I feel I'm letting you down by not keeping up! But being so close to the end gives me a kick up the bum xx

  2. What a lovely quilt block. Please be assured that Hoosier isn't a derogatory term. It simply identifies people from the state of Indiana. One of our state college basketball teams is called the Hoisiers, and there was even a famous movie titled Hoosiers about an Indiana basketball team. The origins of the name are unknown, but my favorite is it came from the phrase "who's there?" spoken in a slurred country way to question when someone arrived at your door, "hoos ere?"

  3. "Hoosier" is a nickname for someone from Indiana and not a derogatory term. Most of the states in the US have official nicknames for the states and their residents. I'm from North Carolina which makes me a Tar Heel (a whole other story). Indiana is the Hoosier State. People from Indiana are called Hoosiers. The athletic teams of the University of Indiana are called the Indiana Hoosiers. A Hoosier cabinet is a piece of kitchen furniture. Many Indiana business have Hoosier in their names. I could go on with examples, but you get the idea.

  4. WOW! It looks fabulous!!!! I love love love it!!!! I don't know the ins and outs of Hoosier, but as others have said, I can and was going to reassure you that it is not a bad word! So don't worry! xx

  5. I have never heard the term "Hoosier" before now -- so interesting! I do have a question for you, though, and that is when were you in St. Petersburg? We were missionaries there 10 years, from 2003-2012. I was just back this summer to see friends and take care of some things we had in storage. We loved it! I am having such a good time following along with your blocks, and honestly, I'm glad that they stop at 43, because I'm behind -- and I'm setting it on point. I'm doing small blue and white florals, so it will look very different from yours. sarah@forrussia.org

  6. Lovely! I can't wait to see the whole quilt top!

  7. As an Indiana girl I can tell you Hoosier is not thought of as derogatory...that said, I am a Purdue "Boilermaker" Indiana girl and our rivals: Indiana University are the "Hoosiers" so there is that wrinkle for us :) Use Hoosier, it's fine!

  8. I love your blog, though I'm obviously behind on reading after a cross-country move at about 8 months pregnant. :) As everyone here has said, "hoosier" is not really a derogatory term. However, I'd encourage you to rethink publishing the n-word, even though I totally get that you weren't directing it at anyone.

    I'm just a stranger from the southern US, so you don't really have any reason to listen to me, but here's some of the reason why it's really not OK (ever) for white people to use the n-word: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/03/white-people-cant-use-the-n-word/


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