First Snow: Free Christmas Quilt Block Part 3

Now that it’s officially fall, are you itching to skip all things pumpkin spice and jump right to peppermint and hot cocoa? Well, then you’re in the right place! We’re offering four free block patterns from Tina Curran’s Christmas quilt First Snow to help you get started on your winter holiday celebrations.

First Snow by Tina Curran

First Snow by Tina Curran

When Quilters Newsletter debuted First Snow as a series quilt in the August/September 2014 issue, the block patterns were released online on a weekly basis for free download, but only for a limited time. We’re bringing back four of the 15 house blocks and making them available as free pattern downloads—it’s our early holiday gift to you!

We’re presenting each free pattern with a new version made by a Quilting Company editor. This week we’re sharing House Block #13, which was remade by features editor Mary Kate Karr-Petras. If you missed the patterns we’ve already released, you can get House Block #1, and House Block #10 by checking out the previous blogs in this series. Be sure to come back next week to download the full-size foundation pattern for the fourth and final block in this series!


”The sun is shining, the grass is green, the orange and palm trees sway…”
—prologue of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”

Similar to Lori Baker’s First Snow block, my block remake was inspired by my family home. I chose to make House Block #13, the first house in the bottom row of Tina Curran’s original quilt, because it reminded me the most of my parents’ house in North Hollywood, located in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. This is not the house I grew up in, but I lived there during college and afterward before moving into my first apartment, so it was “home” for many years.

I decided to set my house firmly in a warm clime where you never, ever, don’t-even-bother-hoping-for-it have a White Christmas. Too many people in Southern California and other parts of the country—nay, world! I’m looking at you, Australia!—can feel like they’re missing out on Christmas if there’s no snow. But it really is possible to have merry and bright holidays in an environment that doesn’t look like a Currier & Ives print.

I started with a fabric pull, including an ombre handpaint for the background and prints featuring orange trees and palm trees for fussy-cut appliques. (Not shown here is the perfect Spanish tile roof print I’ve been hoarding for years.)

Mary Kate’s initial fabric pull for her Los Angeles-inspired First Snow block

Mary Kate’s initial fabric pull for her Los Angeles-inspired First Snow block

Even though the pattern was written for foundation piecing, I pieced mine with traditional methods. Since almost all of the patches in the block are squares and rectangles that finish at easy-to-measure increments, it was no problem to adapt it for traditional piecing. I did this for two reasons:

1) I wanted to insert a narrow window next to the front door to reference my parents’ house, and doing so would have required foundation piecing that portion of the block in a very different order that I couldn’t quite get my head around.

2) I wanted to fussy cut the handpaint fabric to maintain the gradation of color. Because I’m not an expert-enough foundation piecer to ensure I’d get everything to line up the way I wanted it to, I rotary cut square and rectangular patches for everything except the pitched roof section. For those patches, I traced them onto freezer paper to make templates I could position and press onto my fabrics.

Freezer paper templates, traced from the foundation pattern, then positioned on the fabric and pressed in place.

Freezer paper templates, traced from the foundation pattern, then positioned on the fabric and pressed in place.

I cut out the patches with ¼” seam allowances and kept the templates in place while I stitched to ensure correct placement. It worked really well. Note that if you use this technique with prints, you will want to press the templates to the wrong side of your fabric since you will trace templates from the foundation patterns in reverse.

I did not make a freezer paper template for the background strip on the right side of the block. Instead I rotary cut a rectangular patch, and then trimmed it to be even with the angle of the pitched roof before joining the final “sky” patch.

 Mary Kate joined a rotary-cut patch to the right side of the block unit, then trimmed it even with the angled patch to achieve the desired shape.

Mary Kate joined a rotary-cut patch to the right side of the block unit, then trimmed it even with the angled patch to achieve the desired shape.

To complete the piecing, I trimmed that right-hand patch when I realized I’d cut it too wide, and then joined additional “sky” strips to the left and top edges of the block to give me a little more room to play with applique and embellishments.

Mary Kate’s pieced First Snow block, ready for embellishments!

Mary Kate’s pieced First Snow block, ready for embellishments!

Next up: the appliques and decorative stitching!

Mary Kate’s embellished First Snow block is still a WIP, but it’s getting there

Mary Kate’s embellished First Snow block is still a WIP, but it’s getting there

I’ve been having a lot of fun embellishing my block but I don’t think I’m done yet. I tried and tried but could not get the orange tree print to work as an applique in this block, so in my mind there’s an orange tree in the backyard of this house. What the heck, I’m going to imagine an avocado tree back there and a pool, too, just because I can.

And yes, I know that saguaro cactus don’t grow in Los Angeles, but I couldn’t resist adding a succulent strewn with colorful lights to my scene. I got that motif from a Charlie Brown Christmas print, along with a hat-wearing Woodstock, who sits in his own Christmas tree at dusk, already on the lookout for Santa. I think I’ll decorate that one palm tree with some decorative stitching and perhaps add the evening star to the sky with metallic thread or perhaps a crystal—embellishing these little blocks can be addicting! (I’ve also got embellishments on my mind because of work I’ve been doing on an upcoming issue of McCall’s Quilting, so stay tuned for more on that.)

That’s my First Snow mini-Christmas quilt, though I should come up with a new name for it I think. “A Very NoHo Christmas?” “NoHo Holiday?” I’ll keep working on that, too.

Wherever and however you celebrate the holidays, I hope you’re able to enjoy them with family and friends (and a little sewing!).

Happy Holidays to you,
Mary Kate


Instantly download your free pattern for First Snow House Block #13!

Want to make the full version of First Snow or any of Tina Curran’s other amazing Christmas quilts?


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