Writer, Textile Artist, Plantswoman

Category: 9-Patch Quilt Challenge

9-Patch COVID quilt update!

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost a year since we started this project — April 2020, to be exact. Today, I finished putting in the final stitches binding the edges of the quilt. The original plan, when we thought we’d be done with COVID after the first lockdown, was to get us together in the Heritage Centre for an old fashioned quilting bee. But that possibility never became a reality. As we entered into Lockdown 3+, I decided to assemble the quilt top, set it up on my big frame and hand quilt it . The nights were long, the days wet and dreary, and I found the peace of quietly stitching away while listening to the radio (Lyric) or a book on Audible created a “happy place” that even the failure of the Trump Impeachment could not invade. I’m posting this for my patchwork buddies — the women who put together the 25 Nine Patch blocks from scrap fabrics that make up this quilt.

The 9-Patch COVID sampler scrap quilt 2020


Draft 9-patch COVID quilt


9 Patch Update

I cannot believe I haven’t created a post in over two weeks! Where has the time gone? What on earth have I been doing? Well, gardening for sure—and making cotton masks, lots of them over 120 so far. And continuing to learn about the nature of sourdough (the gluten variety). It’s been a difficult journey, largely because I cannot eat the stuff, as much as I would love to. So why do I torture myself with this one thing? Because it’s a puzzle to solve and, if I can figure out how to make it with gluten, I might be better at making it gluten free. And because it gives such gustatorial pleasure to my husband as the aroma of home baking permeates the house.

Enough. While I have been busy in these pursuits, those of you in and around Clashmore have been providing finished blocks for our Tidy Towns 9 Patch quilt. Here is a gallery, set almost as a quilt if you can imagine the navy blue sashing between the blocks.

9-Patch Quilt Challenge update

I’ve had a few quilt blocks submitted and it looks like those participating are enjoying making these blocks. I have created pages for a list of blocks now with links to tutorials and assembly diagrams. There are more to come but they will have to be squeezed in between the garden and the face “masks” — really reusable cotton face coverings.

Here are the blocks that can be found under the Challenge drop down menu:

Nine blocks make a baby sized quilt or wall hanging. Also makes a nice table cover.
Twelve blocks will give you a Single sized quilt.
Sixteen blocks will make a Double (Full) sized quilt.

9-Patch Challenge Update: Basic instructions for any quilt

Yay! Several people have requested fabric packs and they have been collected or delivered to An Siopa Nua for pick up.

I realize that a simple set of instructions is needed for those who have never done patchwork before. I went back to the book I first used almost 40 years ago. It is now long out of print, but if you like patchwork and want to go on to bigger things than we are undertaking, there are a few used copies available on Amazon (UK version – USA version.)

I also found instructions for piecing the basic 9-Patch Block and for making the Half and Quarter Triangle squares needed for the other blocks we are doing. These can be found under 9 PATCH INSTRUCTIONS in the menu bar above. I’ll also be creating individual pages for the blocks under that menu.

I’ve had some spammer issues when I allowed anyone to subscribe to my blog so… if you are interested in getting a notification about new things being added to the Challenge section, let me know and I will add you as a subscriber.

The 9-Patch Challenge

Calling all those who like a bit of a puzzle and aren’t shy of picking up a needle and thread!!

You are cordially invited to join in on a 9-Patch Quilt Challenge. 9-Patch is both the name of a specific quilt block and a patchwork block construction method. Nine equal sized squares get assembled into three rows which are then joined together to make a square block. See this excellent explanation on The Seasoned Homemaker.

In the basic 9-patch block, the 9 squares are single pieces of fabric. In researching for this project I found 70 different blocks that used the same kind of construction — three squares to a row, three rows to a block. The variations have squares that are themselves constructed from smaller squares or triangles (or both! See below… ) I’m going to assemble a gallery page for all the blocks I found, but we don’t need to go into that to get started.


If you live in Clashmore or the surrounding area and are interested in working on some quilt blocks but don’t have suitable fabric (or thread), I have more than enough to go around and am happy to share.

In addition to making something for yourself, you can contribute a 12.5″x12.5″ quilt block to a community quilt that could be raffled off to support Clashmore Tidy Towns. Putting the whole thing together and quilting or tying it will have to wait until we can actually be in the same room together. In the meantime, working on some quilt blocks can help to pass the time. You don’t even need a sewing machine (although you can certainly use one if you have one.)

I can provide a sandwich bag with two, three or four pieces of color coordinated quilt fabric—enough for two or more 12.5″ blocks. I’ll also include a sheet with a basic template for each of the pieces for the four blocks above based on nine 4″ finished squares, yielding a 12.5″ block including the outside seam allowance. I can leave the pack to be collected at one of our two shops or with your area volunteer if you are cocooning and getting deliveries from our Community Response folks. To request a 9-Patch quilt block pack, simply fill out this form:

The materials you will need to have are:

Must haves for piecing patchwork blocks:

  • Good quality scissors (dull scissors will make a mess of your fabric)
  • Straight pins – any kind but the glass headed pins are easier to use
  • Hand-sewing needles – Sharps No. 6 to 9 (the larger the number the shorter the needle.)
  • Thread – any color dark or light.
  • Beeswax cake (or a beeswax candle end) for thickening and smoothing thread. You draw your thread through it before threading your needle. It thickens the thread and helps prevent it from knotting and tangling as you sew.
  • Steam iron for pressing seams. You will almost always press the seam to one side, the darker side so that you don’t have “shadows” of dark fabric on the front of the block.
  • A ruler — for INCHES. While you can certainly do metric conversions for your own quilts and blocks, if you are contributing to a group effort, everyone should be using the same measuring method and all of the blocks I will be posting will be in inches. A gridded transparent plastic ruler is ideal.
  • Cardboard or flexible hard plastic for templates.
  • A box for your supplies — excellent way to use up one of those USA biscuit tins left over from Christmas!

Nice to have materials and equipment:

  • Thimble – nice for piecing, essential for quilting.
  • Seam ripper with unpicked – for the inevitable mistakes. We all make them… it’s how we learn.
  • Fabric markers – pens or chalk. One light, one dark. This will be for tracing the seam line on your pieces. Experienced sewers may be able to just trace the cut line and eyeball, but if it’s been a while, you’re better off knowing exactly where your needle needs to go.
  • Tape measure or yard stick with small fractions.
  • A sewing machine for piecing blocks, if you are comfortable with its use.

Like lots of folks, I’ve been staying home, gardening, baking, cleaning and—finally—going through boxes and boxes of stuff shipped over when we moved to the village. Until now these stayed pretty much unpacked and stacked up in cupboards and spare rooms. Who had time back then?? The contents of these boxes were mostly quilt fabric, old needlepoint projects, and knitting yarn. I have no idea what I’ll do with the yarn for now but the fabric—sin scéil eile ar fad! (For the backstory on why I tackled this mess, see my Garden Notes for the week before Easter.)

Decades ago, I taught Patchwork and Quilting in our town’s Adult Ed program, and later at the Franklin Mill Store. I came across the handbook I used for that class in one of the bins of fabric, along with several quilt blocks I used in the class as demonstration pieces. I will be updating and adding to these materials to provide a resource here for anyone who might be interested in creating their own quilt.

I’m definitely going to get busy either finishing some projects I had packed away during one of my moves from house to house—or starting new projects. As I went through my stash of fabric (it took almost two weeks to wash, line dry and iron all that I had stashed away!), I kept coming across pictures of projects I really wanted to do. At this rate, I could be doing two full sized quilts a year and still not get to the end of my wish list! However, my first project, starting now, is to get this 9-Patch project underway and to provide this collection of posts as a resource for all of us that are looking for a new challenge!

If you have fabric already and just want to jump in, here is a PDF of the Quilt Block Templates used in the four blocks pictured above.


Construction method: The order in which pieces are assembled and sewn to create a quilt block.

Patchwork: The art of combining pieces of fabric together to create a new “fabric” design.

Quilt block: A set of pieces (usually geometric shapes) sewn together, arranged into a pattern that can be repeated or alternated.

Quilt fabric: Usually woven 100% cotton fabric, pre-washed so as to control shrinkage. Fabrics come in a range of colors, both prints and solids. The use and placement of dark, medium and light colored fabrics are the most important consideration in your quilt project. Each time you sew two or more pieces of fabric together, you are in essence creating a new fabric in color texture and design.

Quilting: The art of sewing together multiple layers of fabric, usually a top–batting–back or lining, to secure the layers.

Template:  A piece of cardboard or plastic that can be traced to create the pieces assembled together in a quilt block.

Tying: The art of using yarn or embroidery thread to securely tie the layers of a quilt together.


Block Patterns: If you want to find more 9 Patch quilt block patterns, there is an entire library of them at Patchwork Square, a site by Wendy Russell. Some designs are variations from those that I have learned, e.g. Weathervane—Wendy’s has a “flying geese” triangle in four of the patches. Be aware that there are lots of little “ads” buried in the site. To drill down to the actual pattern just keep clicking on the IMAGE of the block you want to learn.

Quilting Tutorials: Jordan Fabrics in Grants Pass, Oregon, have loads of YouTube quilting videos. In case you were wondering how to complete your patchwork project quickly and easily, hand tying is a great way to make sure your three layers are securely fastened for years of washing. Donna Jordan demonstrates how to quickly tie a quilt from her UFO (Unfinished Objects) bin—an “Around the World” quilt she made years ago using florals from Concord Fabrics, which is, alas, no more. Lucky for me, I have a lot of those fabrics in my stash!

Making and Using Templates:

Templates – Making and Using | Lessons



Garden Update: The Week Before Easter

Wow! It’s been 10 days since I last posted anything here. Where did the time go? In fairness, the weather has been so good that being out in the garden or the gazebo has been the main attraction. We had our first picnic meal of the season out under the gazebo a week ago Friday — fresh hake from a Duncannon, Wexford fishmonger who sells from his van in the nearby SuperValu carpark. Getting there early is key and I was, for some reason, up with the birds, and out to the shop for the OAP time slot because we needed a few things to get us through the weekend. Add to that, salad made from our own spring onions and lambs lettuce (and a tin of peas for Robbie—because it’s fish, after all), and you have a feast!


I tackled the first of many small garden paths—this one in brick because it follows the clothes line and it’s critical to have a solid, dry path to follow when you’re hanging laundry in the winter months.

I had plenty of beautiful old bricks, (from Mark at Landmark Salvage) and just enough sand for the small strip that will eventually feed into the main path, yet to be dug out and currently marked by a lot of blue cardboard. With all of the paths, we want to have them look like they’ve been there since the house was built over 200 years ago. I have left myself with a problem as there’s quite a drop off at the end where the main path will be gradually sloped. It will be fine in the end but, for now, I have to mind myself so I don’t step out into thin air while hanging on to a clothes peg!

I have to confess, I rather like hard landscaping. You really get to see what you’ve accomplished by the end of the day. Plants, on the other hand, take a while to settle in before filling in the spaces you’ve left for them to grow into. It’s slow and takes patience.

COVID Distraction

Speaking of laundry, the major distraction of the past week is COVID-19 related. A little over a week ago, I read a report in The Guardian suggesting that everyone should be wearing a face mask because you may be carrying the coronavirus—indeed, are your most infectious—for up to a week before you even experience symptoms yourself. This is disquieting. So, my first notion was to see if there was a way I could help people out by supplying them with bits of fabric from my (it turns out) humongous stash of quilt fabric… everything from small pre-cut squares to 9 yard swathes intended for backing bed-sized quilts. I didn’t BUY all of this fabric. Bins of it was gifted to me by my friend Delia who was moving from a grand Victorian in Newtonville to a tiny apartment in New York. No room for her to quilt, let alone to stash fabric.

9-Patch block alternated with Hourglass block using scrap fabric.

That had to have been 20 years ago or more and I’m only now appreciating how much fabric she gave me. While Delia’s interests shifted way from quilting to writing and NYC cultural diversions, my life took a turn with a change in jobs, a jump to a 70 hour work week and a return to Grad school. The quilt I was working on at the time got rolled up and stuffed under the bed where it stayed until the son for whom it was intended, decided to get married. A new wedding quilt in the works meant taking THAT quilt off the frame and folding it up to be continued at a later time—and place. That turned out to be here, in Ireland, in our new home where it graces our bed in the winter time.

Back to COVID. The mask idea was not a great success. The no-sew versions didn’t work really work with quilt fabric and the ones you could sew really needed specialized fabric and elastic that, while I know I have yards of it somewhere, I simply cannot find. Besides, I didn’t want to get involved in the manufacturing of face masks given that there’s no guarantee they would prevent the spread of the virus. They are just another of the many precautions that help. If it was at all feasible, I thought I could offer my friends and neighbors something to do while they were on “lock-in,” if they were so inclined. But now I was knee deep in the fabric I had dug out of boxes and bins, washed, line dried and ironed—yes… IRONED! I, who have avoided buying any clothes that require pressing of any description for the past decade, have spent hours every evening of the past 10 days ironing yards and yards of fabric.

The Challenge

Well, I’m deep into it now… stacks of folded colorful fabric all over the sitting room. My husband says our house smells like an industrial laundry—which is not a bad thing. There are certainly worse! I’ve always loved the smell of laundry fresh off the line after a day of sunshine. Ask anyone who’s been a neighbor of ours over the past 40 years.

Here’s my little confession: I think I was just waiting for an opportunity to get all those sewing and quilting things sorted out so I could get started on a project. Clearing the decks, visually organizing what I have to see if there’s an idea buried in there. It’s difficult to see ideas if everything is in a box buried deep in a cupboard. That goes for writing a book, making a garden, or designing a quilt.

I willingly gave up on the mask idea, but when I admitted that to our Community Virus Response leader, Richard, I also mentioned that I thought it was too bad we couldn’t make a community quilt. He seemed to be intrigued and, when I told him I used to teach Basic Patchwork years ago, he suggested I put a plan together. His idea was that we could make something to hang in the Heritage Centre. My idea is that whatever we make could be raffled off to benefit Tidy Towns or some other charity. Richard suggested I put together a plan and “directions” and he’d put it up on Facebook to see if anyone is interested.

The basic 9-Patch quilt block. Notice that this is one of the two blocks in the quilt shown above. *

I went back to the premise of my first Basic Patchwork class: a Sampler quilt based on 9-patch construction. Any block design that can be constructed from 9 equally sized squares will follow the same construction method: Three squares per row, three rows per block. Each square can be constructed from other shapes: triangles, rectangles, squares. As long as each of the 9 squares finishes at 4″ and each block is 12″ plus 1/4″ seam allowance all around, you can combine all different kinds of 9-patch blocks into a harmonious quilt top. Of course, other construction methods work too… but this is about learning simple techniques that get progressively more complex while using the same basic framework.

I started doing research from my library of quilt books and magazines (when I wasn’t washing, hanging out on the line, ironing, or gardening) and found over 60 different quilt blocks and a few lovely variations that were roughly the same as another block but carried a different name. The original course I taught was 12 weeks long so we concentrated on 9 patches and the last few weeks were focused on assembling and fastening the quilt layers. The original patches included the simple ones, each week learning a new design:

  • Row 1: 9-Patch, Shoo Fly, Monkey Wrench,
  • Row 2: Ohio Star, Variable Star, Swamp Angel,
  • Row 3: Tulip Lady Fingers, Quatrefoils, Weather Vane.

Not everyone wanted to move on to the more difficult squares so they were able to do variations on the easier blocks by reversing the lights and darks of the fabric pieces. It never ceased to amaze me how the dullest or most garish of fabrics, when combined with others into new patterns yielded something beautiful—it was a magic revelation with each new piecing.

So I will put this together and start a new category on this blog called 9-patch Quilt Challenge. To be frank, even if no one is interested, I will start creating one of each of the 65 different “9 patch” quilt blocks I found. I have a head start. At the bottom of one of the bins of fabric I found two completed blocks, Shoo Fly and Pinwheels, and lots of squares and triangles already cut!

Back to the Garden

However, this is a GARDEN post, so here are a few images I collected over the week… and my intention to make something out of all the “garden” titled quilt blocks I’ve found.

This week in the garden…

* Note that the sample blocks are grayscale. The color value of the patchwork piece (from light to dark) gives you an idea of how the block is set up so that the maker can decide whether to follow a simple monochromatic design (all the pieces in different shades of blue) or a polychromatic design (two or more hues of varying shades.)

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