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.

When I made my quilt Wild Child, I used the bright strings….


I am using them for my spider web quilt too.

When I made the Fair and Square quilt…I only used the dark scrap savers system.

Personally I think this method of saving scraps makes a much nicer more finished looking scrap quilt.  I will say that red fabrics can often go either way so if I’m making a red quilt, I sometimes raid different buckets.

Something else I would like to point out is this:
If you are trying to decided if a fabric should go in a dark or bright scrap bucket, do this…take a piece of white fabric and a piece of cream fabric.  If it looks better with the white fabric, it belongs in the bright bin.  If it looks better with the cream fabric, it belongs in the dark bin.  I am not saying this is all a rule or anything.  I’m just saying this is how I operate.  People are well to save their scraps any way they want and if they don’t like scraps…there are plenty of us out here that do so pass them on rather than throw them away….we all appreciate your donations.

From Gretchen:
These blocks look lovely! This is going to be a beautiful quilt. I’m impressed you have all the children napping at the same time.”
This question I get a lot and ALWAYS makes me smile.  From moment kids start childcare here, I work towards getting them to nap at the same time.  It’s really pretty easy once the kids are over 6 months old.  I run childcare a lot like school.  We eat at the same time…we have group activities together….we go potty at the same time…we was hands at the same time.  Every day is much the same.  Kids get in a routine and know that after lunch, nap time is next.  Being I am in a house setting doing care, it’s hard to keep sleepers isolated so to honor the sleepers, older kids observe quite time by watching PBS or other educational television.  Quiet time lasts about 1 1/2 hours-2 hours depending on who is here and when they start waking.  If someone is sleeping after that time, everyone is allowed to get up that isn’t sleeping and then we do quiet things like puzzles, games or art.

From my experience kids LOVE routine.  It makes them feel safe and secure….just like it does for us adults.  The second we feel like our schedules are out of control or overwhelming, we get agitated.  Kids are the same.  Days when things are off typically means something messed with our schedule.

Typically four days of the week I have 4-5 kids under 20 months old with the youngest at 7 months.  They are all in the routine.  All of them nap.  Typically I have everyone sleeping by 12:30pm for sure.  About 2pm they start waking.  So with my 1 1/2 hours off of direct care, clean up the morning messes, prep snack, and often prep activities for the next day.  After that is done, I can often sneak in 30 minutes of getting a chance to eat then cutting out fabric, pinning blocks or the like…I love that.  If I don’t get at least 20 minutes of regrouping time in a day, my 10 hour days are really hard on me.  I know that so I do all I can to get that….after all, if I’m happy, the kids have a better day and I do too.

This is one of the blessing of my job and working in my own home….That time I have is very appreciated.

I hope that answers your questions….If not, keep asking.


6 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Fair and Square”

  1. Great tips! I especially like your tip of sorting bright and dark material. I did Bonnie’s Strip Twist and I was trying to go for a bright quilt but some browns and beiges slipped in there. The quilt was nice but I would have preferred it without those colours(after seeing everything together). So your tip would have helped me discern what would have been appropriate for the look I was going for.

  2. Thank you for answering my question. I store my fabrics like you do, but never thought of auditioning the fabrics against white or beige fabric. Another great tip :)

    Many years ago, I did in home day care. I had a house full in all ages. Miraculously they all fell asleep. The phone rang, so I ran to answer it before the sound woke the kids. Ran into the high chair leg and broke my toe. Well my yelp (!) woke every child. Thanks for bringing back a silly memory.

  3. I need to start organizing my scraps. I love your 4 systems for colors. What size strips do you cut? Do you also do squares and rectangles? Do you follow Bonnie’s method and then take it farther into the 4 color catagories? Thank you for the suggestions today. I love your way of looking at things differently. And I agree ROUTINES are wonderful and comforting. I’m super crabby when things get me off my routine!

  4. Thank you, Jo for info on how you made those blocks. This quilt looks so rich with your choice of using the darker colors. I really appreciate the tip on separating scraps into the four color systems. What a time saver! I did buy Bonnie’s Scraps & Shirttails II because I thought it had a lot of pretty quilts in it, too.

  5. I did in-home childcare back in the early 90’s and basically did the same as you are doing now. Kids need a routine in the early years to begin them on a journey of following rules. As the kids grow in this system you don’t have to constantly tell them to wash their hands before eating or after coming inside or going potty. Lunch is at a certain time and then it’s nap/quiet time. Some days I miss it, most days I don’t, ha! I now take care of my grandson who came into my life at 5 and after two years he gets off the bus and goes immediately to wash his hands before his snack. He knows the rules of my house, which are totally different than his.

  6. Jo, you are my hero!! I love that you are a prolific quilter and a child care provider. Other than going to school right now, you and I have a similar life. I have been quilting for about 10 years and can’t wait for Bonnie’s next mystery quilt. Because I am a part time college student, which because of my slowness of speed, turns me into a full time student, HA HA, my quilting has been on a back burner. Very sad day!! I have also been watching nieces and nephews for years. I am currently watching my three young granddaughters a few days a week. I love to run my “nunu time” just like you do. We have a routine. They love it! It is very important to them.

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