Ask Jo: Fair and Square


After my blog post earlier about my Fair and Square blocks, I got quite a few questions from blog readers.


From Shoshana:
I love these blocks, which book is the pattern in? I know, I have too many ufo’s as it is, but I think I just might start another!!! I do finish them all in the end………”
The pattern for this quilt is in Bonnie Hunter’s book Scraps and Shirttails II.  I think some people have overlooked this book of Bonnie Hunter’s as all of the quilts are made from men’s shirts.  Many people have no interest in collecting shirts for fabric and don’t like the look of it.  Many complain shirts are so expensive and lots of work.  I get that.  BUT, that doesn’t mean the designs can’t be made in fabrics of your own choosing.  If you’re someone who has overlooked this book…AHHHH!!!  I feel so terrible for you.  This book is one of my favorite all time quilt books…..Remember my Rectangle Wrangle quilt?  It came from this book!!

I did make that out of shirts but it would be good however you do it!!  There are many other good quilts in the book too!!

P.S.  I finish all of my UFO’s in the end now too.

From Chris:
Jo, can you explain a little more about what you are doing differently to your blocks to
get them into rows rather than diagonally? Like you I also prefer rows.
Also, did you keep your scrap palette to a certain color range, and not just grab any
Scrub in the tote?”
Shortly after the book came out Mary at Country Threads (their quilt shop was still open then) made the quilt as a shop sample.  Although the book pictures the quilt done with strings left over from men’s recycled shirts, Mary had done her’s in scraps similar to mine.  I oohed and awed over the quilt.  I loved it.  Mary and I got talking about it and she said that she doesn’t like on point (or diagonal) settings so she did the blocks differently.  After I got home and looked at the pattern, I understood what she did and why.

I opted that rather than make the two different blocks, I would take the first blocks and sew the string pieced triangles onto the block.  Let me explain a little more in-depth…

If you look at the book, Bonnie Hunter makes two different blocks and puts them together in a diagonal, on point, setting. See…One block has the outer black border and the other block consists of four triangles sewn together to make a block.


I looked at the pattern this way.  I saw it like this…The block with the black outer border, turned and set and point, with the string triangles added to the corners.


There is a bit of a danger doing things this way as the strings will be stretchy and want to shift but my person experience with that is that no matter what, string pieced blocks have a little more “give” that normal blocks do.

If you do it the way I did, you’ll need to trim you blocks after sewing them together.  All of mine were cut at 14 1/2″.


I don’t want anyone for a second to think that I am criticizing the way the pattern was written or the design of the quilt.  Obviously, I love the quilt.  After all, I am making it.  I don’t like on point settings and could see a way around that so that’s what I opted to do.  Either method will make a beautiful quilt!!

As far as my scrap palette….I save my strings and scraps differently than many people do.  I have FOUR different scrap users systems.  I have one for dark jewel tones and Civil War reproduction fabrics.


I have one for bright colors….


I have one for shirts….


and one for batiks.  The batiks could easily work in with the jewel tones or brights depending on the quilt but, if I want a batik only quilt, I won’t have to dig through the other to find what I need.


Here is a photos with all of the 2 1/2″ strips from each of the different saver systems.  You can see the difference right?  Darks at the top, brights, shirts and the small box on top is the batiks.

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Ask Jo: This and That


Everyone once in while blog readers ask question in the comment section or in personal emails.  Sometimes I know that other blog readers might like the answer to the same questions.

A recent question from Mary Lee was:  “I would really appreciate a tutorial on pie crusts! I tried to find it in the archives but could not.”  The question came after I wrote this blog post about making strawberry pie.


Ah…it’s not.  Thanks for pointing that out to me.  I don’t have my pie crust recipe on the blog and I should have it on.  How about the next time I make pie, I take some pictures and do a complete post on that?  I don’t make pie a lot…but hopefully this will get me making it.  Hubby will sure be happy that you asked.

This comment came from Lucy:  ”Please show more projects and less fabric. ( on your email newsletters)”.   This one made me laugh.  I sure wish I would write more about projects but in order to that, I’d have to have the projects to write the posts about.  I work full time….I take care of the blog and my website Making Learning Fun.  Besides that I have a busy family…Kelli and I have publication obligations with magazines that can’t always be revealed.  I don’t have any more time in a day to do more projects so I can write about them.

If anyone doesn’t want to read a post about fabric, books, recipes, my family, the dog, childcare, charity quilts or whatever you aren’t interested in, please just pass the post and don’t read it if it is something that you don’t find interesting.  I know this may come as a surprise to some but HONESTLY-I write the blog more for me than for anyone else.  I write it as a journal for myself but I open it all for others to read.  Some days of my life are more exciting….some are BORING.  Some days all I get done is work, supper and laundry. That’s life and the blog is a reflection of my life.  Lucy, I’m sorry I’m not more exciting.

I was asked by blog reader, Linda Yarrow, to pass information on to all of you about the plight of some of the quilters in Houston.  Follow this link to learn more.  Now is a good time to clean out your sewing stash, quilt tops, or unwanted finished quilts and send them their way.  They are in need and as quilters, we help.  Please do read more by following the link.

So many people were interested in knowing more about this quilt.  It’s the one my niece Jody made for a benefit.  A blog reader had donated the kit and Jody put it together for the benefit.


So many wanted to know the pattern.  Another blog reader, Baraba, stepped forward and provided this information.  Here’s what she said, “The name of the quilt is Cottage Cozy. It is in the Very Merry Quilt book by This and That. I think you can still get the booklet.”

That’s today’s installment of “Ask Jo”.  Let me know if you have other questions….

Strawberry Pie


After I showed you this picture of the strawberry pies that Kelli and I made when Ragbrai (the bicycle tour across Iowa) through, I got a few questions.


One comment was that the person had never heard of a baked strawberry pie.  Most pies that are strawberry usually are not baked.  There are glazed strawberry and also jello strawberry pies.  For us, we did baked strawberry and I think it’s really good.

Another reader asked for the recipe.

This is my recipe.  Long ago I used to clip recipes out of the newspaper Iowa Farmer Today.  They always had awesome recipes.  At the time I clipped it I was really trying to learn to make pie.  I kept all the recipes in a three ring binder.  This particular recipe got used so much I started keeping it in the outer clear sleeve and that’s where it has stayed.


Well the ironic thing about the recipe is that the magazine was doing a spread on a lady who makes pies for Ragbrai…and this is the recipe I used to make pie for Ragbrai this year.


Here’s a close up of the recipe.  It says Rhubarb pie but I substitute any and everything with it.  I’ve made it with pears….blueberries…half of one fruit and half of another.  It turns out every time.  Sometimes I leave out the cinnamon.  In this case for strawberry pie I did leave it out.


Baked strawberry pie is really good so if you haven’t, give it a try.  We all like it at our house.

Ask Jo: Shopping Locally


I’ve had comments from people suggesting that I should “shop locally” and support my local quilt shops.  I’m going to take a minute and address that….

I buy my fabric as it presents itself to me….

This came from the thrift store….


This came from a garage sale…..


I get some fabric from blog readers….

This came from an on line store.


I also buy 100% cotton shirts from thrift stores and use them as fabric.  Occasionally we make design a quilt from a fabric line and get the fabric from the fabric company.

Overall-most of my fabric comes from the thrift stores or is gifted to me.

I make lots of quilts….most I give away.  Some are charity and many are gifts for family and friends.  When I give a quilt for charity, I am already giving of my time.  I don’t feel it is necessary to buy fabric from a local store for them.  I can easily  buy a piece of fabric at one of my thrift stores for 50 cents and I can bind a quilt and occasionally I can even get a piece big enough to back a quilt.  If I were to purchase all of that fabric in town at a local fabric shop, I would not be able to do very much charity work at all.  It doesn’t make sense to me to buy fabric, in this case, at a local shop.

The thrift store where I buy most of my fabric from donates proceeds from their sales into our community.  Hmm…that sounds like a good use of my money and a help to the community.  Other thrift stores in my area provide jobs for people who have disabilities.  Hmm…that sounds like a program I’d like to support too.

Most of my other fabric is bought on-line.  Recently I’ve bought fabric from Homestead Hearth’s Blow Out sale, from Whittles Fabrics and from Quilted Twins.  All of the fabric I’ve purchased has been VERY discounted.  I love a deal.  I’m not someone who needs to touch the fabric so it all works out good for me.  I’ve even provided links so others who enjoy a good deal can get things from them as well.  All of these places are run by people who are trying to make a living.   They aren’t big corporate shops.  All of these are stores in towns that are providing jobs to people in their town.

The customer service that I’ve gotten from Whittles Fabrics is some of the VERY best I’ve ever had in my entire life….much better than I’ve gotten at some of my local quilt shops.  I love Whittles and I love Cathy.  She’s the best!!  I’ve been in contact with the gals at Quilted Twins chatting about blogging and the like.  They have AMAZING free patterns and I feel one way I can thank them for the free patterns is to buy some fabric from them.

As for my relationship with local shops…. [Read more...]