Gypsy Wife Quiltalong – February Blocks and Giveaway

Are you participating in the Gypsy Wife Quilt-a-long? I hope so! It’s a gorgeous quilt and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun putting it together. I’m still hoping to hook in a few more people to join us on this Gypsy Wife Quilt-along; we’re still so early in the process that you could very easily jump in! We’re doing just a handful of blocks each month, so even a couple months from now it would still be pretty easy to join in without being too far behind. (Here is the schedule if you want to see what’s coming and just how easy it’ll be to sew along with us.) As someone with 30+ somewhere-in-progress projects sitting around, I know how hard it is to add another one, but… I also know how very fun it is. (I wouldn’t have 30+ unfinished projects if starting new things weren’t the funnest thing there is!) So why not join us? You can still pick up the pattern from Westwood Acres or Modern Quilter or Queen Bee Fabrics or Vintage Modern Fabrics or probably a dozen other places.


This month we’re sewing one Colour Wheel block and six 4-in Pinwheel Blocks. (Four of the six pinwheel blocks will become 6.5″ unfinished blocks by adding sashing.) Here are mine:

Gypsy Wife blocks - Colour Wheel
Gypsy Wife blocks
Gypsy Wife blocks

First up is Pattern Errata: There’s a tiny mistake on the Colour Wheel block — the bottom centre unit is missing it’s quarter square triangle. Not much of a mistake, just helpful to fill in the lines for when you’re laying out the block; my repair is shown here in blue.


In any case, I thought I’d offer up a few tips for sewing these as accurately as possible.

Colour Wheel block
There’s a lot of seams sewn on bias cuts in these blocks and that can mean stretched fabric and wonky sized blocks. Usually I try to minimize sewing on a bias cut by doing two units at a time (ie. leaving the squares intact and sewing a quarter inch on either side of the centre line, then cutting it in half and getting two units). You can’t really do anything about the about the units in the middle of each outer row/column, but if you’re willing to make your block with only two main colours, rather than four, you can eliminate the potential stretch on the four outer corners:


I’ve skipped over a lot, there, but you’d cut the background and centre fabrics as described in the pattern. The outer corners would be sewn as in my picture, but the rest you’d proceed as in the pattern.

I wanted mine as scrappy as possible, so I did something else entirely: I sewed mine with paper underneath. I didn’t think to take photos of this when I was working on my blocks, so I’m going to show you while sewing some pin wheel units. The principle is exactly the same, the pieces are just a little larger in the Colour Wheel.


I sewed mine onto paper meant for foundation piecing, but you could also use regular printer paper; I just happened to have this in my sewing room. All I’ve done is put my triangles right sides together, laid the unit on top of the paper at the left edge, and then sewed it 1/4-in from the edge. I also dropped my stitch size to 1.5 on my machine – not as small as I’d use for paper piecing, but smaller than I use for regular piecing. It’ll help keep your seam tight when you pull out the paper (though I do that very carefully anyway).


The reason I specified stitching it from the left is this — I like to do several in a row without pulling the units off each time. When I have a longer piece of paper, I’ll do more down the length of the paper first.


When you take off the paper, you want to fold it back against the seam to help break the perforation. Tear in from the edge of the paper to the first hole of the perforation, then holding one side down tightly, pull gently on the other side of the paper so that it’ll pull away. Once that strip is gone, grasp hold of the fabric unit and gently tug it away from the rest of the paper. Don’t pull it up or down from the paper, just tug it gently to the side – that’ll help keep your stitches in place. Press along the seam line with a nice hot iron after removing the paper and that’ll help tighten up the stitches again too.

Another option is just to pin the crap out of it. I know pinning is boring and feels like a waste of time, but any time you’re sewing on a bias cut is a great time to pin pin pin. It’ll help save your fabric from the feed dogs pulling and stretching the fabric out of whack.

Okay, and my final tip with this block, and with all the pin wheels: TRIM YOUR UNITS. After you press your units, trim them down to size. There’s not much excess, but any little bit that’s there can throw things off; a little extra here plus a little extra there always adds up to weird sized/shaped blocks. I know because for years I ignored the trimming thing, and then one day I didn’t and things started coming together the way they’re meant to. It’s like angels suddenly singing over your quilt blocks, the way things go together after a good trim.

Pin Wheels
Okay, so there are a lot of ways to make a pin wheel block and I’m going to go over a few of them here. It really depends how scrappy you want your blocks and your quilt to be – I’ve done a couple blocks with only two fabrics, but the rest are at least a little more scrappy than that.


If you want them to be completely scrappy (ie. 8 different fabrics per block), then I’d sew them like I did above – on paper. You can use the four remaining triangles from your Colour Wheel block (you’ll have to trim them down – just cut one new triangle at the proper size, lay it on top of those spare triangles, and trim the larger ones to match the smaller) or cut 8 new squares of fabric, cut them in half, and then start sewing them all back together. Save those other eight triangles for something else or mix them in with still more triangles so that the fabrics get spread around across multiple blocks.


Or you can cut a 4.5 inch square out of another fabric and sew four of the spare triangles onto the straight sides to create another pin wheel worth of units. Likewise, you can use a charm square – there’ll be a little waste in either case, but not too much. This method helps deal with the problem of bias cuts – if you keep your charm square on the bottom, you’ll be sewing on the straight of grain, so there’ll be less chance of stretched block units.


If you use something busy enough (like that orange and blue Amy Butler print) you might be able to make at least part of it look like it’s a different fabric entirely. (That blue and green triangle? Came from the exact charm square shown in the previous picture, same as all the orange/blue prints in the block.)


For a less scrappy block (two fabrics) you have two options. First, you can cut 2 squares in each of 2 fabrics, sew them together on either side of the centre diagonal, cut down the middle of each, and be left with 4 units to make one block.


Or you can sew together two 4 1/4″ squares. You want to throw a couple pins in the middle of this one and then stitch around the outside, 1/4-in away from the edge. If you draw on your diagonal lines, you can stop when you reach the line, pivot and continue around the square. (In fact, you should do this, otherwise you’ll have to do like I did and unpick those couple extra stitches in that last quarter inch.) Next, cut on the diagonal in both directions to create 4 units. They units will be about 1/8-in too large, so you’ll definitely have to trim them down to size.

And I think that’s all the ways I know to make pin wheels. (Except one that makes two blocks at a time, but I didn’t want two identical blocks in my quilt, so I didn’t use it!)

This is kind of a SUPER long post, but I hope there’s been something useful in here for making your own Colour Wheel and Pin wheel blocks! Pop back over in the last week of February and I’ll be hosting a link up and giveaway for everyone’s finished blocks. You can stick photos in the flickr group as you make them – I know we’d all love to see them!

If you haven’t joined up with us because you don’t have the pattern yet, I’m also offering a giveaway of the pattern book this week! Leave a comment below if you’d like to join in and I’ll enter you into the draw. I’ll draw the winner a week from today and get the pattern sent out to you as quickly as possible.


If you’re already participating, that should be reward enough ;D Just kidding… sort of. There’ll be a link up at the end of the month and everyone who links up their completed blocks will be entered to win that giveaway! Michelle has been hard at work lining us up some sponsors: Hawthorne Threads will be furnishing a prize in December and Fat Quarter Shop is providing us with a few prizes to spread out through the year! These are two of my favourite fabric shops, so it’s extra exciting to have them help us celebrate making this brilliant quilt.


65 thoughts on “Gypsy Wife Quiltalong – February Blocks and Giveaway”

  1. thanks for the great tips — I will be putting many of them to use when I start block assembly shortly.

  2. Love all the different ideas on making the blocks, especially using paper underneath bias edges. Brilliant.

  3. I’ve been watching a few Gypsy Wife quilts coming along, and I love the blocks. Somehow the pattern seems a little busy, but maybe that’s dependent on fabric choice too. I’m busy with the Feathers QAL right now, so no time to join this one, but maybe one day I’ll make one. Can’t wait to see how yours turns out.

    1. It is a really busy pattern, but I’m trying to embrace that part of it! I think I’m usually pretty controlled about things, either sticking to the same line or the same types of prints in a fairly tight colour scheme. It’s nice, but also a bit scary, to just let loose with all this.

    1. I’ve been finding it really hard to find too! I’ve found a few shops, but all in the US and I was hoping to find someone in Canada so that I could have it shipped to me quickly – no luck! The only UK seller I know of (I haven’t tried terribly hard to find others) is selling it for such a high price it might be cheaper to buy it in the US and have it shipped (seriously: 20…. how do I make the pound symbol on my computer I don’t even know… when it’s selling for $23-25 USD — even if you round it up to the higher end of the US price scale, it should only be ~15 pounds). It seems to be a fairly popular pattern, but it’d be nice if Jen Kingwell made it a little more accessible!

      Anyway, best of luck!

      1. I bought mine direct from amitie, Jen Kingwell’s store and even though it’s in the same country, I probably would have been better off buying it from the US. $25 for the pattern and it was $8 shipping :/ a .pdf pattern would be handy as then it’s available for everyone in internetland and no shipping cost!!

        1. Yeah, it would be nice if there were a pdf! I suppose she’s concerned about people sharing it free, maybe, though I don’t think I’ve actually run across that in the quilting world, not like everything else online. (Though I did once stumble across a link to a pirated copy of EQ… something or other. That was so many years ago I don’t even know which edition it was.)

  4. 2. i am trying to resist but i don’t want to. lol i am having a hard time finding the pattern in Canada so to win one would be awesome, thanks for the chance

    1. Yeah, I’ve tried but haven’t been able to find a Canadian source yet. I’m going to call a couple stores in my city today, but they’re all a bit hard to get to by transit, so even if I find a book, I’m not sure I’ll be up to actually acquiring it!

      Best of luck!

  5. (no need to enter me ;-))….great work on the tutorial I love how yours turned out. I can not wait to start mine but alas first my riley blake quilt needs to be finished πŸ™‚

  6. Such great tips!!!! Thanks for posting these! Share tips whenever you have them πŸ™‚ love your blocks. I’ve pulled fabric and I’m hoping to make them this weekend!!! Great job being done already!!!

    1. I can’t wait to see what you do for your blocks! I can’t remember if you’ve shown your fabric or not – I’ve probably commented on it and then forgotten entirely πŸ˜€ (AMH?)

    1. Absolutely! And you must join us! I’m so excited about this pattern, I just want everyone else to be excited about it too πŸ˜€

      Best of luck!

  7. 4. Ooomigah, I hope you pick me!! You’re looks fab by the way — such am awesome variety of fabrics! Thanks for the chance πŸ™‚

    1. Best of luck!

      It was fun pulling out fabrics for these blocks, I used new fabric for the Colour Wheel block, but all the pinwheels and sashings were from my stash/scrap bags, which was fun to dip into and dig around in for interesting fabrics and things I haven’t seen or used in a while.

  8. 6. Great tips! Thanks. Would love to enter your giveaway. Just catching up on reading some blogs and have seen this quilt pop up a few times. Lovely.

  9. 9. Love your tutorial! I am currently finishing the chevron blocks for the first step of Celtic Solstice by Bonnie Hunter and the next step is pinwheels. Your tutorial has perfect timing for me! I’d love to join with the quilt along but would have to win the book-tight budget and all.
    I’ll be following your blog to find more great goodies. Thank you so much for sharing.

  10. 10. Oooh! I haven’t decided to start this quilt yet but I keep eyeing it!!!!!!! πŸ™‚ I would so loooooooooooove to win the pattern!!!!! πŸ™‚ That would totally make my day!!!!!

  11. This quilt is so far out of my comfort zone. A friend has just finished her blocks so I;m interested to see what fabrics she has used.

  12. 11. Me please! I arrived here courtesy of Sarah Schraw’s blog, who’s caved in and decided to play along πŸ™‚ I’d love to too, as it looks so fresh and modern without there being bold geometic shapes – the patterned fabric really works a dream.

  13. 13. It’s a superb quilt! I haven’t purchased it, cos I’m jobless. I really can’t afford it. Would looooove so much to win a copy! xx

  14. 15. whats the difference if you have 10 or 20 projects waiting in the wings right? I love this pattern. So vibrant and colorful. would love to win a pattern………..

  15. 16. I love this pattern and would really love to be in the running to win it. Thanks for the chance..

  16. I am so excited to be doing this quilt! Though I am still waiting for my pattern to arrive but I am itching to get started! Great tip about sewing on paper! I definitely try that!

  17. 18. I love this quilt but had decided it was too much for me right now….HOWEVER, winning the pattern would be JUST the thing that makes me join in!! Oh darn…NOT!! πŸ™‚

    1. It is a pretty complicated pattern, but if you break it all down into bits it’s not nearly so bad as all that! Most of the individual units are pretty simple.

  18. 19. I would love to join this QAL, but its so hard to get these awesome patterns in Australia. Thank you for the chance to win it πŸ™‚

  19. Yes, thanks for all the great tips, I hadnt started on mine because I didnt know there was a group, I love the pp sewing technique………Now I feel confident..

  20. Thank you Krystel for all the wonderful tips! I get SO CONFUSED by HST so this will be a good time to attack that fear! ON that example of sewing the triangles to the edges of a square…do you then cut the base fabric on the diagonals and then trim before sewing the squares together? Also how do you know how big to make those triangles??? Thanks!!!

    1. Hey Cat! That’s exactly what I did when I sewed the triangles to the square — just cut on the diagonal, press open (or to the side, whichever you rather) and then trim down to size. I figured out the size by measuring from corner to corner on a square the size the pattern recommended – that length is what size the square needs to be on each side, but I made mine a little bigger than necessary. I’m not very good at the proper math for triangles, so I don’t have a formula or anything! That’s probably not the most helpful thing description ever, but in general I aim to make things like that a little larger so that I can cut them down, rather than trying to get them exactly right to begin with.

  21. Kristel, Once again I appreciate your help so much! A couple more questions. How do you get the two triangle bias edges to be perfectly lined up before stitching them together. I used your paper piecing method which I like but still had to line up those edges/points. And hopefully my last question re: color wheel block…I cut some of the pieces a bit larger in order to square up, but when you “square up”, which sides do you cut???? (gggrrr to that 3 triangle one) And I squared up the color wheel blocks to 3.5 inches since the middle block is 3.5 inches. is that right???? Thanks!!!

    1. For the bias cut triangles, I just laid them one on top of the other and kind of smoothed it over with my finger so it was as perfectly aligned as possible — hopefully they should be the same size, but if one is bigger, put it on the bottom and line up the bottom edge (the longer edge) of the triangle and one of the corner points. I don’t know if there’s a particular reason for it, but I usually line up the one that will go under the needle first, I guess so that if any of the fabric gets pushed along, it’ll stretch to cover the excess space rather than stretching to hang off the edge, if that makes sense? (I don’t know… I’ve been sewing for a long time, so sometimes I can’t tell if I do a thing for a particular reason or if I’ve just gotten in some weird habit with it :D)

      For squaring it up, I don’t know if you use the lines on your cutting mat or on your ruler, but I use the ruler— so most rulers will have the 45 degree angle lines marked in kind of awkward places… I guess I’m lucky because I have a little 3.5″ square ruler with the 45 deg angle marked in both directions. My longer and wider rulers have it starting 1 or 2 inches in from the bottom, which does make things more awkward. What you want is to have the place where the 45 deg lines cross right in the centre of that block – so you’ll line up the longest seam with one 45-deg marker and then side it around until the other 45-deg line lines up with the smaller angled seam. If you only have larger rulers, that will put the entire piece under your ruler, which kinda stops you from trimming anything πŸ˜€ Hmm… I’ll have to think about this one because I’m not actually sure how this’ll work.

      Okay, the centre point of the block should be where the short angled seam meets up with the long angled seam, and that point should be 1.75″ in from any direction. So line up the 45-deg line on your ruler with the long angled seam on the block, with that meeting place hitting the 1 3/4″ marker on your ruler, and you should be able to trim off the edge from there, then rotate the block and do the same thing again. Does that make sense? I tried to take a picture with my triangle unit to show you, but it’s too difficult to show with it sewn into the block!

      1. Yes it does and thanks so much!!! I have a 3.5 square ruler and was not even using the diagonal line! Well too late to ix these blocks but will do so the next time and thanks so much!!!!
        From your grateful student, Cat

        1. It’s no trouble at all πŸ˜€

          The nice thing about this quilt is that there’s so much going on that no matter what, any little flaws are going to blend in to the chaos πŸ˜€

          On Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 1:19 PM, Work-in-Progress Girl wrote:


  22. Wow, I’ve been quilting for quite a while but never heard of your technique to sew on paper to prevent stretching the bias side of a unit. Thanks for the idea. Wish I could “linkup” and be entered in the giveaway. but I don’t even know how to do that!…. But I will make my blocks and post them on Flickr. That much I can manage. Thanks for the correction and the tips.

    1. Susan I’ve been a bit MIA lately so I haven’t posted about itbut the link-up is being hosted by Jo at Riddle and Whimsy… I’m at work and can’t check the URL but she may have commented on this post — it’s something like — when I’m home I’ll check and send you the proper link if I’ve gotten it wrong.


      Sent from my iPhone


  23. Hi Cat! I bought the pattern, but I loved your post because it really flushed out how to attack it all. I’ve joined the flickr group and hope to be as successful in my post as I was making my squares πŸ™‚

  24. Hi – I’ve made my first round of blocks, but they all seem to finish larger than thr size onthe pattern. Should I then trim them away, or is the finished size the size it should be once all the strips, etc. are sewn to it?

    1. Hi Annette — the pattern lists the finished size, so how big it should be once it’s sewn into the quilt, so as long as your blocks are currently 9.5 (colour wheel), 6.5 (pinwheels with borders), and 4.5 (pinwheels without borders), then you’re doing perfectly! I’m not sure why the pattern listed finished sizes because pretty much no one writes patterns that way and it’s confusing…

      1. Thanks Kristel. I was in ‘put the blocks away’ mode and trimmed them all back, so last night was spent unpicking the final border ready for me to re sew today! It’ll be worth it in the long run but was very frustrating today. Am loving doing the quilt and reading everyone’s notes.

        1. I spent a while making a spreadsheet with all the Gypsy Wife blocks and included both the finished and unfinished sizes (with all the accoutrements added — it’s a bit weird to me that the pattern doesn’t always tell you what size they’re going to wind up once you start adding borders or putting pinwheels into the centre of Square in a Square blocks or whatever), so if that might be helpful to you, you can find it here.

          Hopefully the stuff you had to unpick today will still be useful somewhere else down the line! There’s some skinny borders in this quilt (I think in the courthouse steps style blocks) so maybe they still will be even in this project.

          On Sat, Mar 8, 2014 at 2:32 PM, Work-in-Progress Girl wrote:


          1. Krystal – this is fantastic. Thank you. You have done so much work, and it will make it easier for continuing on. The quilt is a lot of fun, and it’s tempting to work ahead – I need to slow myself down and work in with the group. Thanks again.

            1. It’s so tempting to work ahead with this one, it’s kind of nice to have a lot of different things to make (all those many, many Square in a Square blocks notwithstanding) so you do just want to shoot ahead πŸ˜€ Pretty much the only thing that’s held me back so far is having so many other things to work on as well! (I’m doing the Pantone Colour of the Year Quilt Challenge… it’s due in a few days and there’s still so much work to do!)

              On Sun, Mar 9, 2014 at 4:06 PM, Work-in-Progress Girl wrote:


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