Monday, December 3, 2012

6th block

Not long after the Facebook Quilt Block Swap Group started (technically before the group started because before we were a group, we were a mailing list), we started a thing called the 6th block.  As has been covered ad nauseam: we swap in sets of five; you send five blocks you get five back; ideally none of your own.

With each swap, every person has the option of including a 6th block.  They do not get back a block for this one; it goes to whichever member of the group asks for the 6th blocks.  As in all good (& bad) giveaways, there are strings.

  • The quilt or quilts made from these block should go to a person or persons, not a fund raiser.  In other words, it is OKay to give it to a homeless shelter for residents use, but not OKay to give it to the shelter to use in a raffle.  If this seems petty, I'm sorry.  The idea was to eliminate any concern the funds raised would be used for something you maybe didn't believe in.  The real-world example I gave is that while I had no problem contributing mucho blocks to a group that made quilts for babies cared for at a  low-income birth center, I would have been less than thrilled if the quilt had been auctioned or raffled or whatever & the funds used in anti-choice activities (another function of the birth center).  This rule makes it possible to send quilts to a large variety of beneficiaries, all around the world, because we can all agree to help a person in need.
  • Ideally the quilt should go to someone not specifically known to you.  This is almost impossible as often quilts going to say, people in hospice are made by volunteers at that hospice.  There is going to be overlap.  It can go through a national organization like Project Linus or Quilts of Valor.  Or an ongoing local quilt drive, perhaps through your quilt guild or church or some other volunteer venue.  Or even a limited time project like relief following Hurricane Sandy.  What the 6th block quilt should not be is a personal gift from you to a person you know. 
  • The quilt should get where it is going in 6 months to a year after the blocks are forwarded, but in the real world, this is not always possible. Naturally, the quilt should get where it is going sooner rather than later, just so long as it doesn't linger in a UFO pile indefinitely.  To keep things moving, while one 6th block quilt is undelivered, you cannot reserve another set of 6th blocks.   
  • There are not always enough 6th blocks to make a complete quilt & quilting thread, batting, & other materials needed for quilting are not provided by the quilt block swap group.  It is not OKay to ask for that stuff from members of the group on the group page or message group members asking for more materials.  I include this because we once had this problem:  after requesting 6th blocks a former member of the group sent messages asking for supplies or money to buy supplies.  So...when you ask for these blocks do it with the understanding that the balance of materials will need to come from somewhere else:  your stash, your sewing circle, wherever.
  • Finally, I give seasoned swappers first dibs.  I also ask that someone participate in two other swaps before asking to receive the 6th blocks from a swap.  I used to do this because I thought "proven" swappers were more likely to follow through.  After a year+ of tracking the 6th blocks I discovered it did not make all that much difference; there was no real correlation between the length of time with the swap & how long it took a person to follow through.  Now I ask it so a swapper can get a feel for the group & an idea of what they are likely to get back, but in months when someone has an interest but has not participated in two swaps, I don't hold things up.  The only exception is that in order to get the 6th blocks in any given swap, you MUST participate in that swap.
Now the happy side of this.  I find when strip-piecing, I make extra blocks without realizing it & I am pretty sure I am not alone in that.  More than once I have finished a quilt top with a leftover or two.  I call them orphans & throw them in a bag which I clear out every couple years (ideally), either giving the blocks away, or making something (pillows, tote bags).  The 6th block was just a way to head those orphans in the same direction where they could become something for someone in need.

The 6th block is entirely voluntary & more than that, I don't really keep records.  I rarely know from one swap to the next who sent 6th blocks & who didn't, I just keep track of who receives them & cross them off the list when photos of the completed quilt are posted. 

I hope this helps people who swap but not through the group understand what the 6th block is.  If you would like to see some of the quilts made & given away, the easiest thing is to join the group & go through the photos.  They are all there (except the ones that FaceBook ate  *sigh*).

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