Tuesday, April 21, 2015

String Block Swap Challenge

I've been working on a quilt using string blocks I received in two swaps, one with our guild quilt show committee and one with 6 members of the Education Team that comes to Houston for Festival.  Here is the finished top:

45" square
I used the larger blocks in the center and some of the smaller blocks for a border, I have lots of small blocks left for another project.  I'll quilt it simply by machine, a good chance to practice free-motion quilting.  I'll also use it to practice stitching the applied binding in place by machine.  I usually hand-stitch the binding in place but there is a time when machine stitched binding makes sense, like baby quilts and donation quilts, so I want to work on that skill.

While working on this project I came up with several points to consider when working in a swap group.  Here are the positives:

1.  You will receive a wide variety of fabrics, many of which you don't have.
2.  People work with color differently so you may see color/fabrics in a new light.
3.  Each person puts their own mark on the quilt and it's a great memory project of people and a time in your quilting journey.

Here are the challenges:

1.  You may get fabrics you don't have for a reason, you won't love them all.
2.  Each person sews differently and has their own interpretation of the guidelines.
3.  Some of the blocks may not be useable depending on your design idea.

Tips for working in a swap group:

1.  Set clear guidelines and a deadline.  (Those who miss the deadline need a gentle push.)
2.  Keep it Simple--the more specific the design, the more variation you will get.
3.  If you are persnickety about your fabrics and design, you should sew your own quilts.
4.  Do not complain publicly about what you received, you won't be invited to join again.
5.  Use the blocks you can, and those you can't can be added to your "orphan blocks" stash to use for fun pieced backs or simple donation quilts--someone without a quilt will love those blocks.
6.  Use quality fabric and try your best to provide the fabrics requested.  Do your best work.
7.  Meet the deadline.  Follow the guidelines--ask if you don't understand something.

Paper Piecing Tips:

1.  Use lightweight paper, like telephone book pages.  Do not use vellum or heavy copy paper.
2. Use a small stitch, 1.5 or 16/inch--this makes taking the paper off a breeze.  Regular size stitches make taking the paper off an ordeal--and pulls out stitches at the beginning and end of each string.
3.  Be sure you trim seam allowances down to 1/4" if you sewed with a larger seam--before you add the next string. 

A group swap can be a fun experience but it's not for everyone.  Enjoy what you receive and make something useful with the blocks. 

Other projects I've been doing this week:

Stars in a Time Warp, Ombre

Four Patch Leader/Ender project

The four patch blocks are my latest Leader/Ender project and were sewn together as I worked on the String Block quilt.  I'm not sure if I'll put the tan/cream backgrounds in one quilt and the white backgrounds in a different quilt or use them in the same quilt--what do you think?  I have a large stash of four patches I've been making as leader/enders so it was time to figure out a use for them. 

We had a baby shower for my daughter-in-law and baby Stella will be well-supplied.  Here is a photo of the two happy grandmothers and our mama-to-be.  The next time we see her, Stella will be here:

Check out Judy L's blog to see what others are doing.

Let's quilt!



  1. You bring up some really good points to consider when doing swaps, and you've made a wonderfully bold, graphic quilt with your blocks.

  2. How fun to be preparing for baby's arrival! Nice swap guidelines. I hope my boldness on my blog concerning the doll swap guidelines wasn't too brutal. I didn't name names, but felt I needed to be very clear.

    1. You were right on point and the photo was proof. Not everyone should join a swap!