Roxanne O'Connell

Writer, Textile Artist, Plantswoman

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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.

Garden Notes: Mother’s Day

There’s a rose flowering outside my studio door! It’s not a great looking rose—I think those that are still buds right now will be nicer. But still—there’s a rose outside my door!

So I’m posting a “Status Update” garden gallery here having gone around the back garden with my phone taking pictures so we can compare them to what we will see a month from now. Working on the reusable masks has taken up quite a bit of time—I try to keep that project to days when it’s gray and cloudy but that doesn’t always work out. Yesterday, I went into the greenhouse and did some pricking out and potting on, especially the Cape Gooseberries. Twelve seedlings came up and they were just at the point where the roots might get hopelessly entangled. I also pricked out the rest of the basil. I already gave four away small pots away to a neighbor who has a poly tunnel and will really enjoy planting them with her tomatoes.

I’ve never successfully raised tomato plants from seed before. I would either forget watering them or have them on a windowsill, all spindly craning toward the sun. I generally ended up getting plants from the garden centre and growing from there.

This year is different. I have three varieties that I’ve pricked out into pots and, much to my surprise, they are magnificent! I’m going to wait until Memorial Day weekend (May 25) and put the best into large pots to grown in the green house. I’ll try a couple outside as well in the front garden where there is sun all day. And I might try Gardener’s Delight in hanging baskets outside the kitchen door.

Another surprise is that the summer fruiting raspberries are setting blossoms. Not all the canes, but a few are showing signs of flower buds. We didn’t expect to see any fruit on those until next year. The blueberries also have little bell like flowers on them. I doubt we’ll have many fruits to pick because the birds will get to them first. But maybe that will convince Robbie that we need to build a couple of berry cages.

All the potato bags and drills have sprouted and we are only a day or so away from hilling up with more compost or straw. Robbie’s watercress has really taken off and is growing madly down our little brook to the pond.

My last garden task yesterday evening was planting out the sweet peas all around the Bird tree. It’s really a tall stump of a tree that died some time ago — long before we got here. It is the perfect edifice for the bird feeders and also is the anchor for our clothes line. All around the bottom we’ve planted primroses and laid rocks to keep the grass and weeds somewhat under control. I didn’t have much luck with sweet peas last year but I’m willing to try again. I’ve ringed the Bird tree with bamboo cane to give the peas something to climb on. Another experiment.

Here’s the Gallery of photos taken on May 9.

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.

Usually, I write something about the past week… but, as this is Beáltine, I thought I would give us 30 seconds of being sonically surrounded by Nature.

Garden Update: last week of April

I’ve splurged on gardening—plants, compost, manure and, now, window boxes.

Back in 2017, I bought a few blue plastic window boxes and filled them with red geraniums and all manner of small plants to set those off. Last year I planted, in those same boxes now faded to gray, pink geraniums with lobelia. The flowers were lovely but the containers were really showing signs of wear—some had cracks in them and wouldn’t hold water.

This week, Magda at my local garden centre suggested these lovely wicker containers that were lined with plastic and, if I remembered to bring them in to the toolshed and store them over the winter, should last me years and years. They certainly cost more, but the difference in how they look and how well they suit our old cottage, they are definitely worth every penny.

I’m posting an image of the way they look today, freshly planted. And then I will add another image in a few weeks and at the end of May, so you can see for yourselves… sometimes you just need to splurge!

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:

9-Patch Challenge Fabric Request

  • Indicate the number of fabric packages you want to start with.
  • Select at least one color preference for your package(s) of fabric.
  • Please include your Eircode
  • How would you like to collect your Fabric package?
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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: End of Easter Week

The weather has been wonderful up until yesterday. The sun, the air, the warmth of the soil, the plants in the greenhouse—all contributing to a deep sense of well being that evaporated yesterday afternoon as the skies darkened and the air grew chilly. Thankfully, we got the potatoes in. We’re trying a “no dig” method, although we actually had to dig because of all of the rocks and roots. Even that felt good. At one point I was beginning to feel a bit low but an hour of forking over the strip between the hedging and the raspberries had me feeling lighter at heart. The very air itself felt tingly and sweet.

The “no dig” method has the seed potatoes (properly chitted) planted and covered with compost instead of with the heavier garden dirt. The hilling up will also be compost and mulch and the hope is that the harvesting will be a simple matter of pulling up the stems. At least that’s what Charles Dowding says.

We have two long drills, an early variety ‘Orla’ and a main crop ‘Cara’. We also planted up three potato bags with varieties you can’t buy in shops here like ‘Setanta’ and ‘Maris Peer’, and ‘Yukon Gold’ which is common in the US but not in Ireland.

I had my first disaster. In the joy of the warm weather, I planted out my ‘Blauhilde’ climbing beans and they seemed to get on really well for a couple of days. And then I came out and they were all shriveled and unhappy looking. I was worried about leaving them in the greenhouse because they were getting a little too tall for the shelves… so I planted them out. I really should have put them in the cold frame for a full week or two to harden off. Lesson learned. I’ll sow some more and be more careful. Everything else that looks ready has been moved to the cold frame where it will stay until at least next weekend (May the 4th be with you, little seedlings!)

Things are slowly shaping up. I’m seeing great signs of beauty to come. The peonies are pushing up, the transplanted Heuchera looks happy in its new home, the climbing roses are leafing and budding, the valerian in the stone wall is just about to flower, and the jasmine has wound itself around the greenman on the gable end of the shed. And May is less than two weeks away!



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