Sunday, October 30, 2016

Block Play: Train engine (steam type)

Hello, everyone.

The block has finally been finished!

Here is a picture of the elements, just before the final seaming:

I was going to put up the sketch, but it's covered with scribbled letters and such.

This is an incremental development of the train engine block that is on Pinterest, and possibly also at (I don't remember seeing it there, but it probably is. A lot of blocks are!) The original had a shorter red body section and the two wheels were the same size. Also, though it's hardly an innovation, I decided to make the cow catcher black. It just seemed a little more true to the old-time steam engines' shape.

This is the list of fabric pieces, instead:

The background is blue. The main body of the engine is red. Stack and wheels are black. Cab top can be either black or gray, cowcatcher can be either black or red. Smoke puff is white.
Measurements are in inches. The block overall is in two parts: upper and lower.

List of materials

3.5 square


2.5 x 7.5

2.5 x 3.5


2.5 x 4.5

2.5 x 2.5

1.5 x 4.5

1.5 x 2.5

1.5 x 3.5

1.5 x 1.5

1” square

Opt. scraps to decorate stack

Upper portion:

Stack section:

(Optional: add a bit of ribbon or fabric strip to make a painted stripe on the stack before proceeding with the rest of the stack construction.)
Sew a 1.5” black square to the 1.5” white square and add another 1.5” black square to the other side. Press, trim, set aside.
Sew 1.5” blue squares to the 4 corners of the 2.5” x 3.5” black piece snowball style. Press, trim and set aside.
Sew a 1.5” blue square to a 1.5” black square and add another 1.5” blue square to the other side. Press and trim.
Sew the blue-white-blue strip to the top of the 2.5” x 3.5” piece. Sew the blue-black-blue strip to the bottom. Press and trim. Sew the 1.5” x 4.5” blue piece onto the front end of the rectangle just created. The sub-assembly is now 4.5” square. Press and trim. Set aside.

Cab section:

Sew the gray 2.5” square to a blue 2.5” square. Press and trim. Sew the unit to the long front side of a 2.5” x 4.5” blue rectangle. Sew the other 2.5” x 4.5” blue rectangle to the other side. Press and trim. Sub-assembly is now 6.5” wide and 4.5” tall.
Sew the cab section to the rear of the stack section, press, and trim. Set aside.

Lower portion:

Wheel section:

Sew two red 1.5” squares to the upper corners of the black 3.5” square snowball style. Sew two 1.5” blue squares to the lower corners of the same square likewise.  Press and trim. Sew a 1.5” x 3.5” blue strip across the bottom of the square. Press and trim.(large drive wheel)
Sew two red 1” squares to the top corners of the 2.5” black square snowball style. Sew two 1” blue squares to the lower corners of the same square likewise.  Press and trim.  Sew a 1.5 x 2.5” red strip to the top of the black square. Sew a 1.5” x 2.5” blue strip to the bottom of the square. Press and trim.(front wheel)
Sew the 2.5” red square to a 2.5” blue square. Press and trim. (middle of chassis)
Sew the drive wheel to the rear side of the red/blue rectangle, press and trim. Sew the front wheel assembly to the front side of the red/blue rectangle.
Sew the 2.5” x 7.5” red strip across the top of the wheel assembly, press and trim.

Cowcatcher section:

Sew a 1.5” x 2.5” red (or black) strip to a 1.5” x 3.5” blue strip, placing the red strip crosswise and 1.5” in from the end and using a diagonal seam. Be sure to check the way the pieces will press out before doing any trimming. The idea is to create a 4.5” long strip with an angled seam  that goes from 1.25” up at the front to 2.25” up at the back on a 1.5” wide strip. (Think of joining strips to make bias here!) Press, check to make sure the edges are straight, and trim the back side of the diagonal seam to a ¼” seam allowance. (cowcatcher)
Join the 1.5” x 4.5” strip of red to the back edge of the cowcatcher. Press and trim. Sew a 2.5” blue square to the bottom edge of the cowcatcher assembly, press and trim.

Step section:

Sew a 1.5” red square to the end of a 1.5” x 3.5” blue strip. Sew the end of a 1.5” x 2.5” blue strip on the opposite side. Press and trim.
Sew the step strip to the rear of the wheel section. Sew the cowcatcher section to the front of the wheel section. Press and trim.

Sew the upper section to the lower section, press and trim. Final size of the block is 10.5” square.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Just for pretty: Butterfly

Hello, everyone.

DH is still fully engaged on the big project at the Olde Homestead. The quilt block has had only a small amount of progress since yesterday morning.

But! I found a picture from the Edinburg Birding Center that y'all might like.

Butterfly beauty for the weekend. The purple flowered thing is not actually ageratum, it's a native Texas shrub that needs a little extra water in our area, but is amazingly attractive to the monarch family of butterflies.

(Link is to a summary of the genus on Wikipedia. I don't know which of several blue-flowered ones this is.)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Just for fun: Fish

Hello, everyone.

Today is a "just for fun" post, as things are somewhat busy at the Olde Homestead this week.

This fish is a Rio Grande Cichlid, which eventually grew so big that he owned a 30 gallon fish tank all by himself.

The quilt is still in progress, but the current block is fairly intricate to put together and with the other things going on it may not be assembled until tomorrow.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Block Play: a more classic pieced block

Hello, everyone.

A few days back there was mention of combining some four patch blocks into a 6 inch block for the baby quilt.

Here, the bluebonnets print blocks combined into a traditional form:

The larger gold squares really stand out, more than expected at the beginning, but it goes with the general color and theme of the quilt--this is, after all, a Texas baby quilt.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Block Play: Safety helmet

Hello, everyone.

What child, pretending to be an engineer or a miner or a builder, doesn't need a bright safety helmet?

The angles done snowball style.

Completed hardhat!
This is a 4 inch block. It has blended nicely into the developing scheme of the current baby quilt.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Block Play: Turtle

Hello, everyone.

Today there is another block for the baby quilt.

This is the third attempt, the first two were disasters. I even threw the picture files away.

This is not a sea turtle. Y'all will notice that the feet are bigger than sea turtle feet. I was aiming more at the red-eared slider type of turtle. This block was to fill a spot for an 8x8 block in the baby quilt.

Now all I need to to decide what to do about a 10x10 spot, and turn some 4-patch blocks into a 6x6 block. And then lay them all out and see how it's going.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Just for pretty: birds

Hello, everyone.

This is from our visit to the Birding Center in Edinburg, last March:


Anyone who knows for sure if these are the right names for these birds is welcome to chime in in the comments!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Walk report: Yturria Brush

Hello, everyone.

Yesterday we took advantage of the cool front's arrival and drove west to do some walking around.

We passed our destination in order to go to the McDonald's in Rio Grande City and eat. They served us probably the best breakfast burrito ever--fresh, tender tortilla with egg and so on wrapped up inside, and coffee.

Then we drove back the way we'd come and found the wildlife refuge area.

Sign in the small parking area.
Bottom edge of mapped tract is on US 83.

A view of the walking surface.
Brush is too close to path for wheel chair use to be practical.
Bikes, etc. are not allowed.

There were a lot of skippers around that day.

This native hibiscus is called Tulipan.
The cool front had brought rain with it the evening before, so there was no dust on the paths, and the parts of the trail that were on dirt road were too muddy to mess around with.

We saw: silvery leafed cenizo in bloom, the naked twigs of ephedra shrubs all over the place, ebano, the above-pictured tulipan, some yellow lantana, Mexican oregano with its tiny white blossoms, ojo de vibora with its translucent white berries and black seeds, a few tunnels that could have been from ground squirrels or tarantulas, and a lot of nervous green caterpillars that threw themselves down silken threads when their branches were disturbed. Also there was one noisy bird on a branch, whose calls seemed to be keeping almost all of the wildlife in hiding. We weren't able to identify the bird but it looked bigger than a dove and smaller than a turkey vulture. (For what that's worth!)

We hope to go back again when the ground is a bit drier and we can proceed farther into the brush. It's beautiful.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Block play: Doggie with blanket

Hello, everyone.

This is more block play--a new design. As we all know, Texas Aggies say they "bleed maroon." This block is a tribute to their mascot. (H/t to's quilt blocks.)

Doggie with blanket (Tribute to Reveille)

Doggie almost completed

Materials list

2.5” square

1.5” x 2.5” strip

1.5” square


1 7/8” square

2 7/8” square

1.5” x 3.5” strip

1.5” x 4.5” strip

2.5” x 3.5” rectangle

4.5” x 3.5” rectangle

5.5” x 3.5” rectangle

Black scraps for eye and nose

12” square
Doggie sketch. Dotted lines are seams
between pieces of the same color..

Dog: tan. Blanket: Maroon. Background: Light blue.
The dog is divided into three sections: Middle, Back, and Front.
It is a good idea to starch and iron all the fabric before beginning to sew. It makes the stuff stiffer so it will hold still. 
It is important to press seams and trim to square before sewing any crossing seam. Small errors can add up to a wonky mess.

Middle of dog:

Using 3.5” x 3.5” square of maroon, Sew 1.5” square tan to each bottom corner snowball style. (Blanket) Press and trim. Sew to 1.5” x 3.5” tan strip.

Assemble section: Sew 4.5”t x 3.5”w blue rectangle to bottom side of tan strip. Sew 4.5”t x 3.5”w blue rectangle to top side of maroon square. (Midsection with blanket—12.5” tall by 3.5” wide)

Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Set midsection aside for now.

Back end of dog:

Tail section:

Sew 1 1” tan square onto corner of blue 2” square snowball style. Press and trim. (Upper curve in tail)

Make 2 1.5” half square triangles blue/tan. (Tail tip and tail base) I use the quick piecing method and do two sets right away. To do this, place the 1 7/8” squares on top of one another, right sides facing in, and mark a diagonal line from corner to corner. Sew ¼” away on each side of the line. Be sure these stitching lines are straight. Cut on the line and press the two half-square triangle squares open. One of these squares is the tail tip.

Sew 1 tan short edge to 1.5” blue square. (Tail tip and upper background piece) Sew rectangle to 2.5” blue square with tan pieces touching. (Tail tip rectangle is now 2.5”t x 3.5”w)

Sew second half square triangle square with 1 blue short edge joined to blue 1.5” square. (Tail base angle)

Sew 1.5”x2.5” tan rectangle to 1.5”x2.5” blue rectangle, forming a square. (Body of tail) Sew tail base angle piece to tail body piece. (Tail base rectangle is now 2.5”t x 3.5”w)

Sew tail tip rectangle to tail base rectangle. (Tail section is now 4.5”t x 3.5”w)

Rump section:

Sew 1.5” x 3.5” blue strip to 2.5” x 3.5” tan rectangle. (Haunch is now 3.5” square)

Rear leg section:

Sew 1.5” x 4.5” blue strip to 1.5” x 4.5” tan strip.

Make another 1.5” half square triangle square in tan/blue using the last two 1 7/8” squares. (You will have one bonus 1.5” half square triangle square at the end.) Sew to 1.5” tan square on tan side. Sew to 1.5” blue square on blue side. Sew 1.5” tan square to bottom of blue square. (Leg and foot)

Assemble section: Sew leg rectangle assembly to haunch assembly. Sew tail assembly to top of haunch assembly.

I sewed the midsection to the rear section right away and it was a great encouragement to see that it was already looking “doggy.”

Front of dog:

Front leg:

Using a 2.5” square of tan, sew 1.5” square blue to tan square snowball style, press and trim. (Elbow)

Sew 1.5” x 2.5” blue strip to 1.5” x 2.5” tan strip. Sew to bottom of elbow square. (Arm rectangle is now 2.5” w by 4.5” t)
Sew 1.5” x 3.5” blue strip to 1.5” tan square. Sew rectangle to brown side of arm rectangle. (Adds front paw to leg)

Sew blue 1.5” x 3.5” strip along bottom of front leg.

Sew 5.5”t x 3.5”w blue rectangle to front of leg assembly. (Lower front quadrant is now 6.5”w by 5.5”t.)

Head section:

Make 2 x 2.5” half square triangle blue/tan using the 2 7/8” squares. (Ear and back of neck)

Sew one of the 2.5” half square triangle squares to a 2.5” square of blue, with blue edges together. (Back of neck)

Cut a 1” square (true) out of the black scrap fabric. Fold one of the 2.5” tan squares in half to locate the center. Fold three edges of the black square under ¼” (press!) and pin with upper folded edge on center line and unfolded edge at edge of square. Baste edges together. Sew folded edges down onto tan square. (Eye) Sew this tan square to tan edge of second 2.5” half square triangle square.

Sew the back of neck piece to the eye piece, being careful to match the diagonal seams.

Cut a 1” x 2.5” strip from the remaining black scrap fabric. Lay it on a 2.5” tan square with right sides together and raw edge of black strip ½” from edge of tan square. Sew the strip down with ¼” seam, press and turn the black over and press down. Black edge will be even with brown edge.  Trim the brown fabric underneath leaving a ¼” seam allowance. Sew 1.5” blue squares to both of the corners of the black strip snowball style, press and trim. (Muzzle)

Using a 3.5”t x 2.5”w blue rectangle and a 1.5” square of tan, sew the tan square snowball style to bottom left corner of blue rectangle. (Forehead)

Join forehead piece to muzzle piece, being careful to match diagonal seams. Sew a 2.5” blue square to bottom of muzzle. (This section is 7.5” tall by 2.5” wide.)

Sew 1.5” tan squares onto corners of short edge of other 2.5” x 3.5” blue piece in “house” shape. Sew to long edge of 3.5”t x 2.5”w tan rectangle. (Shoulder and front of neck with jaw)

Sew ear/eye assembly to top of shoulder assembly. Sew to muzzle section. (Head quadrant is now 6.5” wide by 7.5” tall.)

Assemble section: Sew front leg section to head section.

Assemble dog: sew front section to middle section. Dog block is 12.5” square.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Block play: Pickup

Hello, everyone.

Because we
Texans love our pickup trucks:

This one was easy. Somewhat tricky on the tires, though.

Looking over the blocks that have been made lately, it seems like this fall is an intensive practice season for matching up 45 degree angles.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Native plant: Anacahuita

Hello, everyone.

For a change, a couple of pictures of a native small tree in our area:

The glorious blooms of the anacahuita tree. 
 If there is no freeze, this tree can be in bloom all year long. It produces a whitish fruit, about the size of a large olive, which has a husk. Ground squirrels eat the seeds, I hear, and if not the tree will produce many, many little trees where the fruit fell to the ground.

Another name for Anacahuita is Wild Olive. This is because of the resemblance of the fruits to olives. It is not actually an olive tree, as you can see by its leaves.

At Rancho Lomitas, up the road a ways from here, the naturalist Benito Trevino has made a fascinating video that, in part, discusses the uses of the Anacahuita fruits.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Block play: boats and boots

Hello, everyone.

Yesterday there was a lot of block play in different colors.

A single-masted boat.
 After assembly, I decided there is not enough contrast between the hull and the sky and the water.

Double-masted boat. 4" block, unless I add more around the sides.
 Tried again, using a less-busy "sky" fabric and a darker "wood" hull. Aggie Maroon for the sails, too!
The current boot block collection: 6" blocks.
The oldest boot block is on top. The colors are OK but there are a lot of seams that aren't really needed.
The next one is on the right: one less seam. Jury is still out whether the peafowl feathers are too busy a background. (They certainly didn't look right for the boot itself!)
Most recent is on the bottom. Aggie Maroon boot, mottled warm-gray background, and the blue blender for the heel. I think the less-busy background works better.
Might try a rearrangement of the seams one more time with the next one: there is availability for a half-square triangle to be the vamp and toe of the boot, instead of the stacking diagonal seams. The diagonals are somewhat tricky to line up and it's taking too much time.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Rocket Block, new version

Hello, everyone.

The rocket block has been prototyped already.

Today's block is a modification of the basic block, to fit a 4 x 8 spot in the baby quilt.

Trying a different way to make the nose cone
 I did get a little bit forgetful while lining up the bits and pieces to make this block. At the end, the nose cone row was too wide. But all the excess was in the blue sky fabric, so no problem.

Here I drew a stitching line on the lighter fabric--love those automatic pencils for this!--and sewed a piece of sky into place. Press, trim, and good to go.

The main rocket body here, with the top part of the fins.
 The main rocket body is 3 inches tall. The fins reach below the base--obviously, this rocket is what is left after jettisoning the first stage.

The flame from the rocket engine.
 The flame was just going to be basically house-shaped, but there were these little bitty triangles lying around, and real rocket flames aren't shaped like houses. So I stuck the tiny triangles onto the other corners of the red piece. (The top corners here were done "snowball fashion", that is, a square was sewn onto the corner of a larger square. After pressing, the same was repeated on the adjacent corner of the larger square.)
And our intrepid astronauts are on the way to someplace!
A note on the quilt: after making the navy and gray plane, I concluded that it was too dark and dull for a baby quilt. Babies like brights! So instead of navy, the darker backgrounds will be more like this one.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Native plant, but not in South Texas

Hello, everyone.

When we were in Illinois, I was struck by this plant we saw at Pere Marquette State Park.

This is a mayapple.  Actually, either a pair or the start of a clump! This was along the walking path on a hill.

It's possible that mayapples grow in East Texas, but down here there is neither enough water nor, I suspect, enough winter chilling.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Just for pretty: flower and landscape

Hello, everyone.

Wild passionflower (native plant in South Texas)

Ranchlands of Starr County, Texas

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Today's new block: an airplane

Hello, everyone.

After whipping out the little windmill yesterday, I decided to try something more complicated. This is my first time for this block, and it went reasonably well.

Here is how it went together:

Plane color: gray
Background color: navy
Measurements in inches. To convert to metric, multiply inches by 2.54.

8x8 Plane block     

Overall plan: have a base of 2 x 2 squares. Add corner bits as needed for diagonal seams, as in Snowball block. Instructions are based upon creating sub-unit squares and joining them to make the whole block. No inside corner seams are used.

The diagram of the block. 

Nose tip and tail tip:
Cut 1 each: 1 7/8 x 1 7/8 in background and in plane. (This will produce 2 Half Square Triangle  (HST) squares.)

Mark diagonals on lighter fabric, place on darker fabric with right sides together, and sew 1/4" away on each side of the drawn line for 2 half square triangles. Cut the sewn triangles apart along the diagonal line. Press them and trim "ears." (These will be the airplane propeller) 

Cut 1: 1.5 x 2.5 piece in background color.
Cut 2: 1.5 square pieces in background color.
Cut 2: 1.5 square pieces of airplane.

For the tail tip, join 1 plane 1.5 square and 1 background 1.5 square to make a rectangle. Press.  Join unit to 1.5 x 2.5 background piece. Press. Square up.

For the nose tip, join 1 HST and 1 background 1.5 square. Press. Join 1 HST and 1 plane 1.5 square. (Note that the plane-colored triangle points away from the plane-colored square.) Press. Lay out the rectangles so 1 HST + background will be on top and 1 plane + HST will be on bottom. Join to form a square with the HST pieces diagonally across from each other. (See the diagram.) The color of the propeller should be on the upper part of the HST. Press. Square up.

For tail wings and rear fuselage:
Cut 3: 2.5 x 2.5 pieces in plane.
Cut 6: 1.5 x 1.5 pieces in background. Sew background pieces to opposite corners of plane pieces.
Join tail tip to one wing piece. Join other wing piece to rear fuselage piece. Press all. Join wing-fuselage piece to tail-wing piece. Press. Square up.

For front wings and front fuselage:
Cut 4: 2.5 x 2.5 pieces in background.  
Cut 8: 1.5 x 1.5 pieces in plane.

Sew plane colored pieces to two “top” corners of background pieces. The diagonal seams should meet in the middle of the background piece edge. Press and square up.

Cut 3: 2.5 x 2.5 pieces of plane.
Cut 4: 1.5 x 1.5 pieces of background. As with the rear fuselage, sew the background pieces onto opposite corners of 2 plane pieces. (Third plane piece is fine as it is.)
Join 1 mostly-background piece to one mostly-plane piece. Top right plane colored corner of larger background piece should adjoin the top left corner of larger plane colored piece, creating right wingtip. Press and square up.

Cut 2: 2.5 x 4.5 pieces in background color. 

Join the right-wing rectangle just created to one of the 4.5 x 2.5 background pieces. Press and square up.
Join this square to the tail square. Press and square up.

Repeat this step in mirrorwise fashion: Join left wingtip piece to background piece with top left plane colored corner of background piece adjacent to bottom right corner of wingtip piece. Press and square up. Join unit to second 4.5 x 2.5 background piece, press, and square up.

Join third plane colored square (the one with no odd colored corners) to background piece with the plane colored corners adjacent to the unadorned square. Press and square up.
Join nose section to last background piece with plane colored corner square adjacent to plane colored triangle and HST adjacent to unadorned part of background square. Press and square up.
Join front fuselage section to nose tip section. Unadorned plane colored square is on left bottom of new square. Press and square up.
Join this square to left wing square. Press and square up.
Join with tail section rectangle. Press and square up.