Tu-Na Quilts: Once is Good but Twice is Better

You’ve probably heard this phrase before: “We learn by doing.” Personally, I learn so much from making a quilt once that I enjoy making it again. This allows me to improve and incorporate more ideas into the second one. Having previously made a Little House on the Prairie Quilt (you can view it here) using Amy Friend’s pattern found here on her blog During Quiet Time, I couldn’t resist making another one.


This quilt tells the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder. This story is very popular here in North Dakota as Laura lived for a while not too far away from here in South Dakota.

Since this second one was going to my grandson, I needed to make it more interesting for a five-year-old boy and also incorporate some of his favorite stories from this Little House on the Prairie book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. So I changed some of the blocks.


Instead of the traditional log cabin block called for in the pattern, I adapted this pattern from The Quilter’s Cache.

Log cabin1a

I found fabric that looked like stacked logs and couldn’t resist including some under the window. I can picture Pa coming out of the door and getting some logs to put on the fire.

It was a paper pieced pattern but since I wasn’t feeling confident enough to attempt learning this new method yet, I changed it a bit and added 1/4″ seam allowances before sewing it together.


Another block that was added was for their dog, Jack. The pattern came from Lorna’s Sew Fresh Quilts blog and can be found here (dog #5).


I sewed this top in December and left my “perfect” fabric for this dog at my other house which meant another trip to the local fabric store.

I had to do a little math on the original So Dog Gone Cute pattern to resize it to fit the 14″ block.


Another change I made was adding red mittens: the pattern came from Lori Holt’s book Quilty Fun.


According to my grandson, Laura wanted a pair of red mittens for Christmas and her wish was fulfilled. The red sock-monkey fabric gave the perfect look of knitted mittens.

If you look close, you will see snowflakes on the background fabric. Half of the fun of sewing this quilt was searching for the “perfect” fabric for each of the blocks. This particular snowy fabric was originally purchased for use in my first Little House Quilt window block but my mom said it was too light so another snowy fabric was used instead. However, it became the perfect background for the mittens for this quilt.


Since my grandson spent a night last summer camping out in a covered wagon in DeSmet, South Dakota near The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, I had to include one on this quilt. After all, that’s how Laura moved from one home to another since they didn’t have cars or trucks yet.

Can’t you just see this covered wagon bouncing along this prairie? I can’t remember where I found this perfect background fabric or who the designer was. All I know is that I used up most of the fat quarter that I bought.

I designed this pattern myself. First I tried drawing a side and front view but just couldn’t get the angle right and after fussing for most of a day I decided to just go with the back view.

I adapted the pattern for this locomotive from the Quick & Easy Quilting Magazine, Vol 19. The pattern was applique but I redid it so it was mostly pieced with appliqued smoke and wheels.

 Since Pa worked on the railroad and because the train delivered food to the town during the long winter, I added a locomotive to the quilt.

The appliqued wheels were machine satin-stitched. The plumes of smoke were raw edged appliqued so that eventually during use and washing the 1/4″ edges will fray creating billows of smoke.

My grandson’s favorite Little House story is the one with the kitten and mouse. He says a mouse bit Pa on the ear one night and so the family got a kitten to catch the mice. Only he tells it so much better than I do.


My mom hand embroidered the kitten’s nose and mouth. I sewed on green buttons for eyes after the top was quilted and bound.

So I decided now was the time to try paper piecing. Thanks to Maartje Quilts in Amsterdam for providing the free pattern for the mouse (mouse #3) and the free pattern for the kitten (kitten #4). Since this was my first experience with paper piecing, it proved a bit challenging. However, I look forward to doing more paper piecing projects in the future as Maartje cautioned “it’s addicting.”


The last block I changed was adding a block with books. My daughter-in-law, suggested books rather than blocks to represent Laura and Almanzo’s baby. This baby, Rose, loved to read her picture books and also grew up to become an author so a shelf of books seemed appropriate.



I adapted Melissa Corry’s free pattern found here on Moda’s Bake Shop to create the books on the shelf.


All of the remaining blocks included in the quilt were found on the During Quiet Time blog.


Every time Laura ran to the window that long winter, she saw snow. This was the snowy blizzard fabric I finally found to use for the window.

I tried sewing wavy lines and called this quilting stitch “the drunken path”  Although  “learning to drive” would have been more kid-friendly.


In one of the books, Laura got a job sewing men’s shirts. I put a removable handkerchief in the pocket and carefully sewed on buttons so that the thread wasn’t visible from the back. If I had thought ahead, I would have put buttonholes on the shirt collar. Oh, well, maybe I’ll have to make this one a third time. 

The first couple of rows I quilted were rather straight but finally I found a rhythm that worked. However, I also think drinking a glass of wine or two would have helped.



 Grasshoppers ate Pa’s wheat. Talk about finding the perfect fabric! 

My mom hand embroidered the wheat stems and also the things on the chalkboard that Laura might have taught her students. Thanks, mom!


Laura became a school teacher.


I spray basted the top, batting, and backing layers together with June Tailor’s spray baste that I bought at Joann’s. It kept everything in place and wasn’t stiff. 



More farming woes; the blackbirds ate Pa’s corn crop. Check out that little beady eye.

The pattern provided two ways to make this feather block: paper pieced or template.


The Indian told Pa that a long winter was coming or as my grandson tells it “heap big snow, many moons.”

Since I had not yet tried paper piecing (this block was made before the kitten and mouse), I used the templates. It was easy but now I am curious about making one using paper piecing.


This Maple Leaf block is the only block in the quilt that is identical to the first one I made. It worked well for that quilt and worked well for this one.


The Ingalls family tapped sugar maples and made maple syrup.



Laura saw many stars in the prairie sky especially an extra large one.


Several of the blocks told the story of Almanzo whom Laura grew up to marry.


Almanzo raised a milk-fed pumpkin and took first prize.



This barn represents the several barns on Almanzo’s family farm.



Almanzo’s dad challenged him to get all the wool into the loft of the barn before they finished shearing the sheep. He won. You’ll have to read the story of Farmer Boy to find out how he accomplished that.


I added shiny shank button eyes to this sheep.


Here’s another example of finding just the right fabric. Again I used up most of the fat quarter that I had.


This horse could represent either Almanzo’s or Pa’s horse.


That button eye along with some embroidery floss for horse bangs, added after quilting, gives this horse some personality. By the time I got to this half of the quilt, my quilting was much smoother.


This last block, the music note, was offered as either paper piecing or with a template. Again it was sewn before I attempted the kitten and mouse so I chose to use the template. I would like to sew another one using the paper piecing option. There just might be another Little House on the Prairie Quilt in my future if I can find another Little House fan.


Music was an important part of Laura’s life; Pa played the fiddle, the family sang together, and Laura and Almanzo took singing lessons while courting.


I backed the 66″ x 82″ quilt with blue flannel with brown circles. I challenge you to find the seam down the middle. I worked hard to match those circles.


I machine stitched the striped binding to the front and hand stitched it to the back.

edge 1a


Now, this is one very happy boy who finally has his quilt!


What I Learned Today:

  1. Repeating a project opens up lots of possibilities for creativity.
  2. Wrapping a child in a quilt is like hugging them in your arms forever.
  3. It takes many creative people  (fabric designers, pattern designers, sewer, quilter, and a mom—Thanks, mom!) to make a quilt, especially this one.


Question: Are you a “do it once and throw away the pattern” or a “make it again and again” person?

Linking this week to Beth for Main Crush Monday, Lorna for Let’s Bee Social , Linky Tuesday at Freemotion by the River, Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts and Show off Saturday at Sew Can She.

24 thoughts on “Tu-Na Quilts: Once is Good but Twice is Better

  1. Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts

    I love that you changed up the pattern and personalized it to the person who would receive the quilt. He looks like a happy little guy! 🙂 I have made many patterns more than once, some because I wanted to and some for clients. I usually enjoy it, but I have so many patterns I want to try! You did a wonderful job on this quilt – those logs under the window on the log cabin block is genius! 🙂 Thanks for linking to MCM!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bonnie in Va

    Neat quilt. I like how you changed it up. I have made some quilts more than once but generally it’s one and done. Although, I seldom get rid of a pattern, especially one I like, because I “might” want to make it again!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alice Samuel's Quilt co.

    Very neat and gorgeous! Well done wonderful Grandma 🙂 I usually make something ones but lately I’ve had to recreate some things and I never plan to remake them so I hardly take note…now i’m wishing I did at least for the ones I didn’t follow a written pattern for.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sandra

    I’m a bit of both; I have remade patterns, although I might change the size (my stack ‘n whack ones, or my own Blue Skies & Sunny Days pattern, for example) but the majority of my quilts are a one-only. Karen I just LOVE this quilt; I grew up on the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. My sister and I read and re-read them, talked about them, played them, watched the TV series, and I read them and watched the TV series again with my own girls. I never thought to start Brady on them! Thank you for this inspiration. I believe he will have a quilt like this in his future; I make him one every year. He LOVES quilts. What you said, “Wrapping a child in a quilt is like hugging them in your arms forever” made me all teary-eyed. So true. Wonderful post. Just wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tamihttp://sewmuchforfreetime.blogspot.com

    This is just wonderful!! Here in Wisconsin, the land of the Big Woods, and Laura’s first home, in Pepin, we are BIG Little House fans, too. I loved hearing your little guy’s favorite stories. Interesting to me how he has such different favorites than my girl’s did at his age. I love that you personalized this quilt and made changes to reflect what he will remember. The blocks are perfect. I really love your covered wagon. Now you have me thinking about what I would include. This would be really fun to make. I might have to put it on the long term list!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Connie Kresin Campbell

    I enjoy making the same quilt more than once also! You are very creative in the way you added different blocks and designed them to fit correctly! Beautiful quilt.


  7. Alycia

    How fantastic! I love that it is personalized for the recipient!!! What great ideas. There are a few quilts I love to make over and over, but sometimes I like to take a part of what I learned and add it to a new quilt


  8. Paige

    Karen, what a special quilt for your grandson! I enjoyed reading about your design process for each and every block,, what attention to detail! I also like your quilting choice with the organic straight lines and how you perfectly matched up that backing! Outstanding!


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  10. lapaylor

    It would have to be a very fast pattern for me to make more than one. Yet I keep the pattern. That’s why its so cluttered in my studio. Love the fabrics and patterns chosen!!!


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