Sunday, May 12, 2019

International Sister Block

I first came across the African queen block in 2017.
The newest one

I hunted for the pattern/tutorial but found nothing. I drafted the pattern.

First scribble

I made a block. It was midnight. I was dying to share it with someone who could share my enthusiasm.

My first sister block

I called Bernie on the west coast, knowing that she was likely to be awake. True to my expectations, Bernie was a mountain of encouragement.
Bernie:  I'd be happy to sell it in my Etsy store.
Me: You are very kind.

Internal Voice: It is not your pattern. You should not be profiting from it.
Me: I drafted it. I refined it. I perfected it.
Internal Voice: Not from scratch. The idea was someone else's.
Me: Profit or not, I want to make more of thee blocks.
Internal Voice: Go ahead.

By the time RSC2019 came along, the design had been modified, several outrageously loud fabrics and been acquired and I was ready to churn out these lovely ladies on a regular basis.
And I did.

The Ladies in Red
I experimented with various skin tones - freckles and age spots too.
The ladies were received with universal appeal. I beamed with pleasure.

Sunshine Ladies

Even the closed palms were met with approval. I danced with joy.

Aqua Maidens
Here is a sample of what you said.

There were several requests for a pattern/tutorial and the internal dialogue began all over again.
One thing was abundantly clear to me - IF I shared the pattern it would be free.

But I still struggled with the question - Do I share it with the world?
An email from Mary and another from Nikki goaded me.

The final decision came after a phone call with Mari.
These ladies are very popular.  There is no way you can keep them all to yourself, said Mari. 
If you don't share this tutorial, someone else surely will. 

The credit for naming goes to Cathy, who very wisely said "your lady blocks have morphed from African women to International Sisters"

So here it is. Without further dialogue, internal or otherwise, I present the tutorial for the International Sister Quilt Block.

International Sister Block
Showing Finished Sizes

Fabric Requirements

One square 7" side (skirt)
Two rectangles 1.5" by 4" (sleeves)
One rectangle 2" by 2.5" and One rectangle 2" by 4" (headdress)

Face and Hands
One square 2.5" side (face)
Two squares 1.5" side (palms)

Two rectangles 1.5" by 3.5"
Two rectangles 3" by 7"

All seams are 1/4". Press all seams open.

1. Fold the two squares (palms) in half, (wrong sides together)  along the diagonal and press to create a crease. Place RST on the top corners (one aligning with the top left corner and one with the top right corner) of the small background rectangles. Sew on the crease. Cut 1/4" from the crease, discard the corners and press seams open.  See pictures below.

Aligned with left and right top corners





This was the trickiest step. It is all downhill from here :-)

2. Add the sleeves to the palms. Press seams open. See pictures below.
Add sleeves


3. Sew the headdress to the face. Press seams open. See picture below.

Face and Headdress

4. Arrange all the pieces on the board.
Closed Palms
 If you switch the sleeves (left to right & right to left) you will get the open palms look)

Open Palms
You must decide whether you want palms open/closed before you add the large background rectangles to the sleeves. In this case, I am proceeding with an open palms block.

Almost done

5. Sew the left sleeve to the skirt and the right sleeve to the head.
One more seam to go

6. One last seam and we are done.
Yes, please

Press seams open for a neat flat finish. Square the block to 10.5".
Time for a happy dance.

Of course, if you'd rather rest then please let the world know with the closed palms look.
Another time
Thanks to all my quilty sisters - Bernie, Mari, Nikki, Mary and Cathy.  You made this tutorial possible.  Once again, I will be eagerly watching this space for your quilty hugs (translated into comments) :-D

Should you have questions, please ask in the comments. I will respond here so that all can see.

I will be sharing with all my favorite linky parties, including Angela's Scrap Happy Saturday.  See full list on the sidebar.


  1. Thank you, Mari, for talking sense into Preeti!! Thank you, Preeti, for your fabulous tutorial. Your International Sisters blocks are SEW sweet!

  2. I have loved your Ladies ever since you first started showing them, Preeti! Thanks for sharing the block tutorial today! I'm just going to have to become part of the International Sisterhood. :)

  3. Preeti, I love your ladies! Thank you for the inspiration!

  4. Oh yes, I will be saving this tutorial Preeti. Your blocks are amazing. Thanks for sharing with Oh Scrap!

    (I wonder if they could be sized down for a Tiny Tuesday block. I bet everyone would love to include it in this year's scrap sampler)

  5. This idea is brilliant... TY for sharing it,, i can just see me putting "eyes" and even perhaps some smiles on these... Again Thank You Hugs.. GB

  6. Hooray — so pleased that you have created a tutorial for your versions of this block!

  7. Oh, Preeti! Thanks for sharing your block with us. Now I can make my own Wendy block :-D This would be a fun bee block, if I was part of a bee . . .maybe we should all make a block and send it to you, or something. Anyway, I'm definitely saving this!


  9. Oh, how wonderful! It feels like playing dress up with my dolls - which was my first foray into sewing. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Congrats on the popularity of your block. Thanks for sharing a tutorial. It's a great block.

  11. This is just fabulous. I want some African Queens too. Thanks for the tutorial, Preeti. Your ladies are just awesome. Great job! ;^)

  12. I foresee any more international ladies showing up soon. Thanks for the very clear tutorial.

  13. Thank you for a great tutoria;! I love your "International Sisters" so very much!
    You may are my modern day heroine!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this! I just got some African fabrics from Nigeria and they'll be perfect.

  15. One quilty hug coming right up :) Hope you receive lots of love and enjoy making more "sisters". xo

  16. Perfect, Preeti! I was able to get mine half made last summer between other projects, but ran out of time, so will finish it up this summer. I know everyone will just eat this right up! Well done!

  17. I have some lovely aboriginal fabrics my friend got me. Can't wait to make these ladies. Thank you for sharing the pattern with us.

  18. Thank you, Preeti, for this awesome tutorial. The quilty blogland is a sisterhood of talented, caring and awesome women.

  19. Thank you for sharing your story and struggle to share this tutorial! You are indeed a courageous and honorable woman! I love your version of this block and am sure it will bless many in the years to come!

  20. Oh YESSSSSSS!!! Thank you so much for providing this for all of us. You are a rock star! Ladies, start your (sewing machine) motors!!

  21. Well IMHO, you did the right thing. Selling it would have been wrong, so thank you for sharing your figurings and time with us in the true sisterhood of quilters, and you sure did try hard to find the source, as did your friends, so no one can accuse you of profiting unless they would steal your sister quilters who appreciate this. :-) What a terrific name for it, a terrific block that has certainly become a much-loved and symbolic one. It makes me think so much of Mma Ramotswe, of 'The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' series) both in style of dress and in generosity of sharing. :-)

  22. Hi Preeti! I agree with Sandra - you did the right thing before someone else did the wrong thing. I do wonder what Paul's thoughts were on this?? He usually has a conversation with you that you share with us, and he is very wise. International Sister - they perfect name for this block that shall spread like wildfire all over Pinterest. At least you can get credit for spreading the joy! And well earned joy it is. {{Hugs}} ~smile~ Roseanne

  23. Sharing your pattern idea as a tutorial is awesome. I struggle with some of the patterns people are selling as "original", but what a great thing to share this with everyone. The sisters are wonderful!

  24. You're the bomb. Thank you so much for sharing.

  25. What an amazing block---thank you!!
    I'm in a stash bee and will be the queen in the fall. I've been trying to decide what block to ask for from the hive. With your permission, I'd like to ask for this block! One of our sisters is from Australia(I think), so it would be international!!

  26. Oh how splendid! I love the sisters! Thank you so much. Helping friends for the next two days, but watch out Thursday, at least one sister will be made!

  27. Oh Preeti ! I stumbled upon your blog via a link from Molli Sparkles' blog, which led to this brand new post. These blocks are SO darned cute! I recently picked up a bag of smaller cuts of aboriginal-look fabrics from a LQS for a whopping $5 ... I'm pretty sure I can make at least one block from each fabric. I think it will turn out to be a very lovely International Sisters quilt. This couldn't have come at a more opportune time for me. Thank you for taking the time to draft this pattern and sharing it and the tutorial with us. LOVE IT!
    ~Diana from Toronto

  28. I love how you share your conversations, in your mind and conversations with others. Love hearing your thought process. Such sweet sisters. Thank you for sharing!

  29. Love, Love, Love these international sister blocks. Such a "sister" thing to do, to share. Thank you for drafting and then sharing.

  30. What beautiful ladies! This is a great block, thanks for sharing your tutorial. Now I'm thinking of all the prints I have that would make great dresses for these sisters!

  31. Love these! I might have to make some up as I have the perfect fabric for them - thanks for the tutorial!!

  32. Fabulous block and tutorial! I have loved your "international sister" since you first shared making some. Very happy you decided to share the tutorial. Thank you.

  33. Love the block. Thank you for the tutorial!.

  34. International Sister is a great name for the block. Love the bright and fun fabrics in the dresses.

  35. Thanks for the great block. I like how you showed us the whole process of your work, from start to finish.

  36. Lovely block, thank you so much for sharing the how-to!

  37. I love the International Sisters, and I am so glad you decided to share them with your quilting sisters.

  38. What a wonderful block, I hadn’t seen it before. Thank you for so generously sharing your tutorial Preeti, it was kind of you.

  39. Preeti, somehow I missed this post when it first went up. What a great idea to share as a tutorial. I do think of this block as yours - you have made it so popular and it has your own touch. Love it - the block looks like it comes together easily - wonderful!!!

  40. Just popped over from Karen's blog.... thank you for the African Queen Block tutorial...

  41. So very cute! And don't many of us struggle with sharing our work... or not? When we've been inspired by someone else to make something, do we credit them forever? When does the work become our own? I understand your torment. I've been making a quilt with a selvage block design that I came up with on my own. No one's asking for the pattern, but I'm thinking to do a tutorial on it anyway. Just to share. When in doubt, give it away. Right? You're very generous, as we should all be... unless we're making a living from it, which I am not. :-) Linda

  42. It's a wonderful block, and a wonderful story. This would make great swap blocks for international swapping. Thank you for the pattern and the well-documented tutorial.

  43. Preeti, your talent is enormous and your generosity is immense. I love your International Sisters and you are sew kind to share your tutorial and pattern. Thank you.

  44. Beatiful, fun, bright, colorful, inspiring!!!!
    Thank you so much for sharing the design and tutorial!!

  45. Oh, what a wonderful block! (I found out about it on KaHolly's blog just now. Super, super. Thanks!

  46. Preeti, Thanks for sharing
    These ladies are going to definitely become international,they have now this moment having found your site and this one .... arrived on the UK shores, and like their beautiful generous Momma will be loved

  47. Oh my!!!!!!!!!!!!! Came here from KaHolly's blog - I MUST make one of these gorgeous ladies!!! Thank you so much for the great tutorial!!