28 Nov 2015

Fact or Fiction? The Salt Water Taffy Story

Salt Water Taffy quilt block
The tale goes, that back in 1883 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a candy shop owned by David Bradley, was near the ocean. A big storm hit one summer day and the boardwalk and the shops closest to the ocean were flooded. Mr. Bradley's entire stock of taffy (a favourite of the locals) was soaked with the salt water and he figured it was ruined.

Once the storm had cleared, a young girl entered the shop to make a purchase and Mr. Bradley joked that all he had available was some "salt water taffy". The girl bought some anyway and upon sharing it around, others began requesting the new treat called salt water taffy. True or not, the story continues.

The Salt Water Taffy quilt block is an easy five patch to construct. Although salt water taffy actually comes in a rainbow of colours, I chose to use the colours of the beachfront at Atlantic City. What colours would you choose?

I couldn't find any specific quotes about salt water taffy so instead, here are ...

Some thoughts about the seashore.


  • I could never stay long enough on the shore; the tang of the untainted, fresh, and free sea air was like a cool, quieting thought.
    ~ Helen Keller

  • The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.
    ~ Isak Dinesen

  • I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
    ~ Isaac Newton

'Salt Water Taffy' quilt block image © W. Russell, patchworksquare.com


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19 Nov 2015

It's all in the family

Auntie's Puzzle quilt block image © W. Russell, patchworksquare.com
Auntie's Puzzle quilt block
Today's featured quilt block is called Auntie's Puzzle. This five patch block is an easy one to construct. I choose to make this block (and many other blocks as well) as an uneven nine patch, rather than sewing as five rows of five patches, as I prefer to work with "chunks" rather than several rows. This is just a personal preference so feel free to construct with your own method.

By using 90 degree rotations when placing the block in your quilt you can achieve all sorts of interesting variations.

Download the free quilt block pattern.

And speaking of family ...


  • "You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them."
    ~ Desmond Tutu

  • "The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege."
    ~ Charles Kuralt

  • "Family is not an important thing. It's everything."
    ~ Michael J. Fox

  • "The family is one of nature's masterpieces."
    ~ George Santayana

'Auntie's Puzzle' quilt block image © W. Russell, patchworksquare.com

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11 Nov 2015

Lest We Forget

image © W. Russell, patchworksquare.com
Frederick Johnson
1939 - age 17
Each year, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we take a few moments to remember countless fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who gave up their lives for their country in one of the many, terrible wars the world has suffered. Around the globe, this day is known as Remembrance Day, Veterans' Day and Armistice Day, but what's in a name?

My dad was a veteran of the second world war. He lied about his age to join the army, but when it was discovered that he was only 17, he was sent packing. Not to be discouraged, he joined the air force as soon as he turned 18 and, as a rear gunner, flew on 21 different missions. His plane was shot down on two occasions, and in one of those crashes he was the lone survivor. These events were the seeds of what was then known as "shell shock", which for him, lasted for the remainder of his life. Today we know this as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD -- one of the "invisible" illnesses.

image © W. Russell, patchworksquare.com
Mom and Dad
A love story during the war years
My dad spent over a year in hospital in recovery. During that time he met my mother who was one of the nurses tending to all of the "boys" in the ward of 32 soldiers. After the war, they married and it lasted for over 63 years, until we lost him.

Dad never once spoke to us about his time serving for his country. Any information my family knows is from the few things he would tell my mother over time -- sometimes while babbling and shouting during a nightmare, from which he would wake up shaking in a cold sweat. We, as children, witnessed this many times.

While Dad was in hospital those many years before, one day Mom had offered to stay after her shift to write a letter to his family for him, since he was unable. He told her -- not until over 60 years later -- that he had fallen in love with her that very day, because she was the only one of all the staff in the hospital who treated him as a person, rather than just another patient.

image courtesy http://www.utnrotcalum.org/alumni/FlandersFieldsStory.htm
Tyne Cot Cemetery in Flanders Fields, Belgium
Your family likely has a story of love, loss, courage or compassion too, whether it is from long ago or a recent event. I hope you will join me in thanking all of those men and women who fought in any war, or worked tirelessly to care for the wounded. Let us never forget their sacrifices for our freedom.


Johnson family images © W. Russell
Tyne Cot Cemetery image courtesy http://www.utnrotcalum.org/alumni/FlandersFieldsStory.htm



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6 Nov 2015

Quatrefois -- or Four Times

Quatrefois quilt block image © W. Russell, patchworksquare.com
Quatrefois quilt block
Since my French language ability dates back to high school (let's just say it was a few years ago ... um ... quite a few..) but I was able to guess that quatrefois means four times. (Actually it should really be two words ... quatre fois ... but this is the world of quiltmaking and we take liberties with words.) So, I can only guess that this quilt block was named Quatrefois as some of the patches are repeated four times. (As a side note, this is quite common in quilt blocks, but who am I to judge about what name is given to a block?)

Anyway, one of the patches in this nine patch block could have been constructed differently, using rectangles and flying geese units, but I thought, just for a change, I would introduce you to the "flip and sew" method for the triangular pieces in those patches. The added bonus of this method is that there are fewer seams, thus reducing bulk.


Common phrases we stole from the French

  • Crème de la crème: "the best of the best"

  • Au gratin: "with cheese"

  • Au jus: "with juice (or gravy)"

  • Art nouveau: Style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries

  • C'est la vie: "That's life"

  • Faux pas: Literally, this means 'false step' but we generally use this phrase to mean that we have made an error.

  • Joie de vivre: "joy of life"

  • Fait accompli: a "done deal"

  • On ne change pas une équipe qui gagne: (I'm guessing that this translation is a "Yogi-ism") "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

  • Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup means: "Eat well, laugh often, love abundantly."


'Quatrefois' quilt block image © W. Russell, patchworksquare.com

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2 Nov 2015

Remember to Remember

Once the pumpkins have had their day, it is time to focus on the poppy. The poppy has long been a symbol worn in November, so that we remember to remember. The official date is November 11.

Poppy quilt block image © W. Russell, patchworksquare.com
Poppy quilt block
I saw a picture a while back of a quilt with similar pieced blocks, so I created this Poppy quilt block pattern for those (like me) who are not keen on using appliqué as a preferred method. (A side note -- I am in awe of those who love appliqué and produce such beautiful quilts, but being a "math nerd", I prefer the geometric, pieced blocks.)

Download the free quilt block pattern.

Remember to Remember

  • "Praising what is lost makes the remembrance dear."
    ~ William Shakespeare

  • "Each man is a hero and an oracle to somebody."
    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • "Valour is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul."
    ~ Michel de Montaigne

  • "The most persistent sound which reverberates through men's history is the beating of war drums."
    ~ Arthur Koestler

  • "One lives in the hope of becoming a memory."
    ~ Antonio Porchia


    and lastly ...

  • "The living owe it to those who no longer can speak, to tell their story for them."
    ~ Czeslaw Milosz - from "The Issa Valley"


'Poppy' quilt block image © W. Russell, patchworksquare.com

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