Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Swap Blocks for Confident Quilters--Even if You're Not

Planning for our next quilt show, Fanfare 2015, is just getting underway and the committee has expressed interest in having a quilt block swap. 

If you have ever participated in a block swap, you know that most people have a "personal" 1/4" seam allowance, and the more complicated the block, the more likely blocks from several people will not fit together--that is, those blocks don't play well with others. 

After a few of those experiences, a new idea came up among a small group of my friends some years ago.  Now we try to find "units" to make that can be trimmed to the desired size by the recipient, and the owner then puts those units into her own quilt.  It worked very well with 3 separate groups I worked with.

So, here are some ideas for our next swap, which will involve about 20 quilters, most of whom are very experienced:

1.  X Block--this comes from Sharyn Craig's book Layer 'Em Up
Top I made with the last swap I did with these units

Size possibilities:  8" or 3" finished blocks
I am very partial to this small size, here in an antique top I bought recently 
2.  Sixpence blocks--I call them this because they use 6" squares to start with:

Quilt I made with swapped sixpence units some years ago
The unit, very fast to sew and the pressing and trimming is done by the owner, not the person who sewed it
3.  The Japanese X and + blocks--all over the internet and Pinterest--I love this but it requires a lot of different fabric to be most effective.  That makes this a great swap block:

Completed block

Top in Progress
The plan:  only the 4 outer corner "wedges" are sewn by the group.  The owner chooses her own center rectangle and squares and sews the block together, so it should fit.

A test block I sewed--notice I sewed the corner "wedges" in the wrong orientation--OOPS! 

Here's another layout for those "wedges" or X units:

4.  Last option:  String Blocks, another one that needs lots of fabrics to be effective:

String blocks sewn to paper--like old telephone book pages
So those are the 4 choices I'm presenting to the group.  We'll select the one that most appeals to people and I'll write up the rules.  I'm good at rules and that's the best way to have satisfied quilters at the end of the process, clear rules.  Everyone knows what is expected and agrees to do their best sewing and use first quality cotton fabrics. 

Each of these units will have their own very specific size and sewing rules and the number of units to make will be defined.  Each person will sew as many as she receives--the beauty of such a swap is the wide variety of fabrics that one gets in their blocks, without having to buy it all.  And each person gets to determine what colors she wants, old reproductions, 30's, batiks, very bold Modern fabrics, whatever she wants. 

I already know I'll have a hard time choosing which to do.  I hope the others like these choices.  Stay tuned as this project gets going.

Let's Quilt!



  1. What a great, informative post. Think this would be fun to do with our Education team. I especially like your last sample...string piecing. Thanks for such good ideas.

  2. Love this idea Barbara. What fun blocks to choose from !

  3. Yay!! Great variety to chose from, Barbara -- should be fun swapping!! :)

  4. Hmmm, can't decide between 2, ,3 or 4....