The Robin Block, Secret Garden

It is both exhilarating and sad to finish the Robin Block for the Secret Garden project. Happy/sad time. I adore making the story blocks and pour my heart into them!

In the book Secret Garden, which the quilt is based upon, there is a Robin in the garden who is critical character to the story. While others who made this quilt (you can see lots of fabulous versions of it in the Esther Aliu FB group) chose to make all manner of intriguing birds, I decided to stick with the Robin.

What did I know when started this block? I knew I wanted bright flowers, I knew the Robin would be gray and coral (which would also pick up the coral in the first block) and I knew that I wanted two tone stems. I knew that the blue bells would be the dark, intense blue that was in my cornerstone blocks. I knew that my batik that looks like rocks would be used. I knew that I wanted “dirt” in the pot at the base of the flowers. I start with I know I want and improvise from there.

With all that in mind, I decided to go with pale and light neutral/natural shades for the flower pot. I wanted these shades to anchor the block and not compete with the flowers or the Robin and to provide a nice background for the bluebells.

This required a fair amount of rummaging through my stash and after a false start, I selected a basic brown blender for the dirt. Next was the pot and I used a bit of a fat quarter that I love but have only used a tiny bit of. It is a light flesh tone with pale blue drips and metallic spots. The rim of the pot is a flower print gold/tan batik. I used a double-double blanket stitch to define and highlight the area between the pot and the dirt and the dirt and the rim. Double in that it goes both east and west and double-double in that it takes each stitch two times. I left the width at the standard 4.1 and reduced the frequency of stitches down to 1.5.

The pot!
Close up of the double-double blanket stitch!

The dark stems came next. I used a new technique for making skinny stems that I found on YouTube. In this video Elsie Campbell shows you a wonderful skinny stem for machine applique.

A half inch bias strip is folded in two and stitched down the middle along your placement line. I stitched my tiny stems before adding the bias strips.
Get your best tiny scissors and trim your raw edge to less than 1/4″. Fold the folded edge over the raw edge, press and pin. I stitched my marked lines for the stems to make them easy to see before placing and stitching the stem strips.
Stitch using a small blanket stitch and you have a 1/8″ stem! I stitched both sides for a nice finish. I will definitely use this technique in the future!

The lighter stems were made with my smallest bias strip maker and added. The dark leaves were added next. And then two of the flowers and then the Robin. I found some peachy printed batik scraps in my applique fabric bin and added them to the flowers to reference the Robin breast. The Robin breast is a bit of Stonehenge fabric. The Robin has the only non-batik fabric in the block. I used the double double blanket stitch here to add some coral to edge of the Robin’s gray feathers. A rose gold metallic chain is carried in the Robin’s beak.

All stems completed!
Adding my large leaves. Dark stems and leaves were applique with a purple/teal variegated Superior Threads Fanstatico.
trying out my bluebells!
Bluebells stitched, first two large flowers added. Adding robin components.
Mr Robin holding a rose gold metallic chain. Double-double blanket stitch used here on the feather/breast join and head body join to add hints of color.
Completed block.
The applique threads! I love the stitching process, so I try to be patient with thread and bobbin changes. I am using 50 wt threads with a fresh #12 top stitch needle.

Here are all four of the SG story blocks together!!

My four story blocks. It is exciting to see them together!

What comes next is equally challenging, because it is NOT “all planned out” and the more repetitious and technical phase of applique quilt construction begins. (Like making sure that all my components can fit together!)

Quilts like this can have their own opinions so I have lots of conversations in my head (and out loud) as I draw and trace and count out pieces, measure and re-measure and measure again, do calculations, and argue with the quilt about fabric selection.

Happy sewing and quilting to all!



  1. Hi, oh my how you make those block’s sing. You story how they go together makes it come to life. I can’t wait to see the next part . I have saved the link for the skinny stems thankyou. Till next time Sandra

    Liked by 1 person

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