Mitered Corners for Piano Key Borders – Hack

A dear friend admired my “Pine Tree Point” quilt and commissioned me to make one for her queen size bed. (“Pine Tree Point” was designed by Bonnie K. Hunter and features string-pieced elements. Click here to see/purchase the pattern from Bonnie.) The task, enlarging the throw size quilt to queen size, was accomplished by enlarging the background frames around the trees and widening borders. The 4″ tan border plus the 8″ wide Piano Key border yields the 12″ drop my friend desires.

What would look best in the corners of the Piano Key border? I contemplated making Sixteen Patches of 2″ finished green squares, but decided mitered corners would be perfect. However, experienced quilters know that it’s tricky to obtain the perfect 45 degree angle join. If you’re a smidgeon off, the corner can be either too point-y or too tight.

Here’s the hack — make and join strip-pieced half square triangles and add them like corner squares for the border.

I cut a 9 1/4″ square from freezer paper and sliced it in half diagonally. Then I drew some lines on the paper triangles to remind me of the direction the strips should run. As shown in the lower right corner, I pieced strips of graduated lengths together and pressed the freezer paper triangle on top. Using the paper as a guide, I rotary trimmed around the triangle with a straight edge. I peeled off and re-used the paper guides for all the triangles needed.

I pinned and sewed each half square triangle to its mate using a 3/8″ seam allowance. I pressed the seam open and trimmed the half square triangle to 8 1/2,” square. I made sure the diagonal line of the ruler followed the diagonal line of the half square triangle.

With the side borders already sewn onto the quilt top, I added the half square triangles as corner squares to the strip-pieced top and bottom borders.

Ahh, doesn’t that look nice?! Easy-peasy! I stay-stitched all around the edge of the border so the stitches would not pop loose during quilting. I’ll be sure to show you the quilt once it is quilted and bound.

Old Joke — New Quilt

“What’s black and white and red all over?”

Was your first response “a newspaper,” or did you and your elementary school classmates come up with other creative answers like “a skunk in a blender?” Eeeew!

My hometown’s newspaper, the Culpeper Star Exponent, published a page of cartoons in black and white each week day. And that was the page we kids turned to after Daddy read the national and state news, and Mama perused the community and recipe columns, and Grandma took note of the obituaries. Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Funky Winkerbean, and Prince Valiant all were read and chuckled over Monday through Friday, but the favorite day was Sunday when the funnies were in color!

This quilt combines all the newpaper offerings – colorful Four Patches for Sunday comics, black on white for editorials and articles, red sashing and border for “read all over” by all the family members.

If you would like to make this quilt, follow these measurements and basic instructions:

  • Sort through your bin of 2 1/2″ squares. Combine four different fabrics for each Four Patch. You need one Four Patch for each block in your quilt.
  • Surround the Four Patch with 2 1/2″ black on white strips. You need {2} 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ strips and {2} 2 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ strips per block.
  • Trim all your blocks to be the same size, ideally 8 1/2″ square.
  • Cut red print sashing strips 2″ x 8 1/2″ and sew them between blocks. Cut cornerstones 2″ square.
  • Add an outer border of red fabric 4″ – 6″ wide.
  • Quilt an edge to edge design with gray thread.
  • Bind with black print.

I had two leftover pieces of contemporary black print for backing, neither large enough for my quilt, so I inserted a strip of pieced “Sheepfold” blocks between them. The pieced backing adds an extra layer of fun, don’t you think?

Comment below: What’s your craziest answer to the old joke, “What’s black and white and red all over?”

Bev’s Three Quilts

My friend, Bev, recently sent me three quilt tops to complete for her. First up is “Lady of the Lake.” After you admire the hundreds of tiny half square triangles, zoom in to see the fabrics she chose. At first glance the quilt seems to be made of Civil War reproduction fabrics. Look closer! Bev has included contemporary batiks in brighter colors. Amazingly, all the fabrics blend cohesively in this quilt! The “Abigail” pantograph adds depth to the large white triangles.

“Lady of the Lake”

Bev also sent a wall quilt of “Sawtooth Stars” with “Hourglass” centers. The homespun fabrics lend such a comfortable feeling. How about that bright blue star in the center of the bottom row? The unexpected shade adds interest to the quilt, don’t you think? The “Drunken Feathers” curvy quilting ties all the patchwork angles and lines together.

“Sawtooth Star”

Bev’s third finish is a “Churn Dash” quilt, also made of homespuns and coordinating fabrics of muted tones. How different Churn Dash appears without a light background! The alternating red and light triangles in the block corners add an appealing secondary design. For quilting, I chose a Baptist Fan design with brown/gold thread.

“Churn Dash” variation

Congratulations to Bev for three gorgeous quilt finishes!

“Lori’s Legacy” Published

If you have recently sorted your scraps and have discovered that you have a lot of strips and strings, this is the project for you! I designed “Lori’s Legacy” as a signature quilt to honor long time McCall’s editor, Lori Baker, upon her retirement. Lori’s favorite color is purple, so that was the obvious color choice for her quilt, but you could make your quilt with your most plentiful color of scraps.

The editors at Quilting Daily emailed instructions for a simple signature block to Lori’s colleagues and contacts in the quilting industry, asking them to send signed blocks to me this past summer. Once I received the blocks, I set about designing a quilt that would showcase them along with with various purple, periwinkle, lavender, and magenta strips and strings.

Lori unboxed her quilt gift during a Quilt & Tell podcast. Click here to listen. You can tell that she is super pleased with her retirement gift.

“Lori’s Legacy” is patterned in the March/April 2022 issue of McCall’s Quilting magazine, beginning on page 44. As a spin off idea, you could modify the design for a baby or wall quilt by making the central Churn Dash block and surrounding it with a coordinating print border.

The editors have sent me an extra copy of the magazine that I will use as a prize in a drawing here on my blog. If you would like to be entered in the drawing, leave a comment below stating the color you would use to make “Lori’s Legacy.” The drawing will be on Valentine’s Day.

“Unity” QAL Progress

Are you quilting along with Bonnie Hunter ( She has designed a twin size medallion for our quilt-making enjoyment while we shelter at home. Although Bonnie’s quilt features red, blue, aqua, and white, I’ve added more colors for variety’s sake.

I have kept up with the clues 1-5, and the 6th is revealed tomorrow. What a cheerful and fun quilt to work on, week by week! If you would like to make a “Unity” quilt, link to Bonnie’s blog and click on the “Unity” tab beneath her header picture.

“Aunt Dinah” Potholder

I hope you have found some time to sew between household and family responsibilities this past weekend. Perhaps you are finishing your “Aunt Dinah” big sister and little sister blocks for our quilt along. Are you looking forward to May’s block? I’ll post instructions on Friday.

Generally, I like to give secondary ideas for using each of the QAL patterns, be it a table runner, baby or bed quilt, or pillow. This month, I decided to add a narrow border to a 6″ “Aunt Dinah” block, transforming it into a potholder for my kitchen.

To make my 6″ block, I used fabric from the “free” box of scraps and 10″ squares left over from my “Sisters” quilt. I cut strips for the border from a red 10″ square; I needed two 2″ x 6 1/2″ strips for top and bottom and two 2″ x 9 1/2″ strips for sides.

I cut two 10″ squares of thin 100% cotton batting and layered it with a leftover 10″ square for backing, centering the “Aunt Dinah” patchwork square uppermost. Notice that the backing is right side up, and the patchwork is right side down.

After pinning all around, I sewed the layers together with a 3/8″ seam allowance, leaving a 3″ opening on one side for turning right side out. I trimmed away the excess backing and batting and clipped the four corners diagonally to reduce bulk. After turning the potholder right side out and a quick press, I slip-stitched the opening closed and quilted the patchwork “in the ditch” with white thread. I switched to red thread for simple quilting in the border.

Are you humming “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” as I was?  . . . “strumming on the old banjo.”

If you are a new blog follower, it’s not too late to join the QAL fun. Just click on the “SISTERS BOM QAL” tab for all the information. Instructions for blocks are posted on the first of each month in 2020.

“Shortcut to Dresden” Republished

Quilting Daily, the company that publishes many of your favorite quilting magazines, has issued a special edition of McCall’s Quick Quilts. Included are twelve of “our most popular patterns.” If you are a regular subscriber, you’ve seen and appreciated these beauties in the past few years. I was pleased to see my “Shortcut to Dresden” quilt included in the roundup. Click here to read my original blog post about this quilt.

The fabric line, “Flower Mill” by Corey Yoder for Moda Fabrics, is an all time favorite. It is so fresh and pretty, perfect for spring. I felt that the design and coloring were perfect for girls, so I gave the quilt to my niece who has three daughters.

Some insider information for you:  The instructions call for adhering fusible web to the wrong side of all the wedges and machine appliqueing around all with a blanket stitch. This construction technique was my editor’s prerogative, making the quilt “quick, modern, and stress free.” When making this quilt, I actually added 1/4″ seam allowances to the sides of the wedges and sewed them together with a traditional construction method. Once the plates were assembled and seams pressed open, I machine appliqued them on the white background squares with a blanket stitch.

You can see that the “Dresden Plate” lends itself to many fabric styles. Using Civil War reproduction fabric with shirting backgrounds lends a comfortable, homey look. Whereas all twelve wedges for each Plate of the published quilt are of different fabrics, each Plate of the CW repro quilt uses just two alternating fabrics. I added seam allowances to the points of the wedges and hand appliqued the Plates on large shirting “Four Patches.” Illustrating two setting options, the blocks in the published quilt are set on point, and the blocks of the second quilt are straight set with pieced sashing and “Nine Patch” cornerstones.

My friend, Carol, says that “Dresden Plate” is on her quilt bucket list. How about you? Are you planning to make a “Dresden Plate,” or have you already made one? Leave your answer in a comment if you’d like to be in a drawing for a free issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts, June/July 2020. Two winners will be notified on May 2, 2020.

You can order a digital copy of this and any other magazine published by Quilting Daily on their website. Click here to shop for magazines.

“Unity” QAL Progress

I am quilting along with Bonnie K. Hunter who designed a medallion quilt to spark our creativity as we stay at home. Bonnie blogs at quiltville.blogspot.comClick here for links to the introduction and subsequent instructions which are posted each Monday. Do you see the blue and gold print I used in the diamond shapes of the Part 2 border? I received 1/3 yard of this fabric at a retreat last September with the challenge to use it by the time of our next retreat. I am happy it fits in so well with the other fabrics I’ve chosen for the “Unity” QAL.

Over the weekend I finished Part 3 – -36 tiny stars. I expanded Bonnie’s suggested palette of red, white, aqua, and blue by adding green, yellow, orange, and purple. By adding these hues, I’m planning ahead. At some point in the QAL I want to incorporate multi-colored “Shoo, Fly, Shoo” blocks made for Bonnie’s “Leader/Ender” challenge this year. (Click here to read about the challenge.) Adding some color to Part 3 will make the quilt more cohesive when I add the scrappy blocks down the road.

I’m ready for Part 4. Are you quilting along?

Workshop Summary

This past Saturday, I offered a workshop for making the “Giant Churn Dash” baby quilt to Tarheel Quilters Guild members. About ten ladies attended; we had a blast sewing together! Pictured below are Joy and Maureen who are focused and concentrating as they sew. And you can tell that Colleen is in her happy place with fun fabrics in her hands!


While most workshop participants used 2 1/2″ strips leftover from jelly rolls for the strip-pieced units, some cut strips from stash or fat quarters. Karen modified the instructions so that she could use 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles she has cut and saved through the years.

Due to obligations at home, Anita could not attend the workshop as planned. But she sewed along with us while at home, and we exchanged pictures in the afternoon. Instead of placing a white square in the center, Anita featured an airplane print that she also used to back the quilt.

Several ladies affirmed that they would make this quick, easy and versatile design again. Yolanda plans to make two from the same pretty fabrics; they’ll be given to twin girls in the NICU of our local hospital.

On Sunday, at the guild meeting, we showed our quilt tops to those in attendance. Barbara was our over-achiever, she made 3 quilt tops and quilted all on her new longarm overnight.

I encouraged everyone to access the instructions on the Patterns page of my blog. Like you, even those who could not attend the workshop may still make a “Giant Churn Dash” baby quilt.



Giant “Churn Dash” Baby Quilt

Since “Churn Dash” is the March block of the month in our “Sisters” quilt along, I have a pattern variation to share with you.

I’ve designed a contemporary baby quilt based on the time-honored design. One giant block is all you need to make for this quilt! Click on the Patterns tab in the bar beneath my header picture (or in the drop down menu on your smart phone). Once on the Patterns page, you’ll be able to click on the link to the printer friendly instructions for the 24″ block and two borders.

As you might surmise from looking at the picture, the rectangles are strip-pieced from 8  2 1/2″ strips. You can use leftover jelly roll strips or you can cut 2 1/2″ wide strips from stash as I did. In addition, you need about 3/4 yd. of light background fabric and 3/8 yd. of a theme print. I’ll be teaching this quilt as a workshop on Saturday to fellow Tarheel Quilters Guild members. When 20 of us complete our quilts, our NICU charity coordinator’s stockpile of baby quilts will be greatly increased.

I selected coordinating quilting designs for my two Giant Churn Dash quilts. For the “Under the Sea” theme quilt, I chose light blue thread and a pantograph of sea creatures.

And for my “Pretty in Pink” quilt, I quilted a freehand design of heart shaped leaves and large flowers with pink thread.

I’d love to see a picture of your Giant Churn Dash baby quilt! Send a digital photo to