Monday, December 31, 2012

Rainbow connection quilt block swap for beginners

Last year, well this year but it's almost up, I did not do any bigger swaps.  That is, we had no longer lasting than the every other month, nothing needing a sign-up or much in the way of planning.  Well this year, we will have two.  The first, this one, is on the easy side. & so, here are the rules:

FIRST- pick a color red, orange, yellow, green, blue, or purple.  Every participant MUST sign up for their color in the Quilt Block Swap group on Facebook.  I'm sorry but I have wracked my brains & cannot think of any other way to keep it straight.  After the first round of ROYGBP has been claimed, I will open up another set & once that one is filled, etc..  You can sign up for as many colors as you like BUT only one in each set & you cannot sign-up for the same color more than once.  Every time one set of six has been filled I will open a new set & I will do this right up until Thanksgiving, so there will be as many chances as there are people who want to swap, I hope.  Also, there will be a rolling deadline, approximately 2-3 months after a set opens for sign up, through-out all of 2013 & into 2014.  As each new set is opened the deadline will be posted; the deadline for the first set is the last Saturday in March, March 30, 2013.

SECOND- choose a block, any block.  The final block should be 12.5" unfinished but there is nothing wrong with choosing a 10" block & then adding a border to bring it up to 12.5".  

THIRD- get your fabrics together.  You will need at least one fabric in your color choice.  You can of course use more than one fabric, so long as the color you chose & only the color you chose (with maybe, just maybe a bit of black &/or white but NO OTHER COLOR) is in the fabric.  The easiest thing to do is to limit yourself to read-as-solid, but a tone-on-tone pattern is also perfectly acceptable.  You will also need a background fabric; please limit yourself to white (muslin is fine) or a white-on-white print.  This is the same fabric you would use to "border up" if you make a smaller block & need to bring it to 12.5".  You can also use black or a black-on-black print if your block requires something to make it pop, but black should be used very sparingly if at all.

FOURTH- make six blocks.  Keep one for yourself & send the other five in with a stamped, addressed return envelope.  Once ALL the colors from your set have arrived, you will get back one each of the other five colors (yes, I know the traditional spectrum is actually seven colors, but I decided to merge indigo & violet into a single purple).

& that is it.  Naturally, when choosing & working on your block, you should make the blocks you wish to receive, quality-wise.  This swap is open to (designed for, even) beginners who want to challenge themselves, so please reach beyond the usual 4- or 9-patch.

I have included a picture (the traditional rolling stone block) as an example of what you could make.  In this case, the color is obviously BLUE.  The color fabric has several shades of blue & the slightest bit of black but no other colors & the background is a white-on-white pattern. This particular pattern block is already 12.5" unfinished so it would not need any additional background to bring it to size.  As it happens, this block is NOT part of this swap, so don't go looking for it in the blocks you get back; this is just an example of the kind of thing you could make (& honestly, as it is a pattern any advanced beginner should be able to tackle, you could use it as a guide to the kind of pattern you could make).

If you think this swap might interest you, please go to Facebook, find the Quilt Block Swap group & ask to join

Friday, December 28, 2012

Quilt block regatta for June 2013

Every year I try to include one block that can be appliqued rather than pieced (although pieced is OKay, too).  Not surprisingly, this block is often an image block (in the past we have had houses, words, etc.).  For 2013 that is going to be our June swap block. 

For June 2013, we are swapping boat blocks.  You can applique or piece (or foundation piece or embroider or any combination of whatever you wish) your boat.  The final blocks should be 10.5" unfinished & yes, this is big BUT a lot of that is going to be background.  In fact, you can make something smaller, say 6", if you like.

The guidelines are, not surprisingly, quite broad:  
  • Please try to avoid anything too juvenile when choosing your fabrics (& colors), as we are aiming for boat-looking boats.  Yes, I know that sounds silly, but I think you know what I mean; ideally these blocks could be used in a quilt for a grown man or woman, as well as a child. 
  • For your background (this will be the background of your block as well as the border you may need to add to bring it up to size), please use something that is the color of the sky &/or sea.  In the event you choose a block that has a boat sitting on water that is different from sky, please use the same fabric for both.  This uniform setting will help our blocks all work together.  If you should choose an on-point block, please be sure to set it on point, keeping it to the 10.5" square size.
  • Please do not embellish with beads or what-have you.  The 100% cotton fabric only rule still applies. 
To get you started, here are some links to boat blocks.  Not all of these meet our 10.5" x 10.5" measurement requirement, some would have to be sized down, others sized up, but it is a good jumping off point:
As always, we swap in sets of five (5), you send five (5) blocks & get five (5) back.  Blocks are due the last Saturday of even numbered months, in this case it is Saturday, June 29, 2013.  If you would like, you can include a sixth block; every swap one person takes these to make a quilt for a non-profit or community group.  If you would like more details, just ask to join our group on FaceBook (search Quilt Block Swap).

Starburst super-nova for April 2013

In college I had a favorite sweater; it was alternating stripes of an eye-searing neon blue & a purple that would do Barney proud.  The only improvement that could have been made would be if the stripes were of variable widths.  My roommate called this my "hurts the buzz" sweater & it could bring a hungover frat boy to tears.  I loved it.

Why is this relevant, you ask?  Well, for our starburst super-nova you will need two (2) fabrics. Neither one has to be particularly bright or ugly or whatever, but the combo should make you Take Notice.  All I ask is that you not use either white or black (too neutralizing) & if you want to use something patterned, make sure there is very limited color/value contrast within the piece (a dark purple, dark red combo would be lovely: I myself own an orange & pink paisley that will be perfect).

In keeping with the overall contrariness of this block, you know how I often say the block is easier than it looks?  Well, this one is a bit trickier than expected, mostly because the final seam is all bias, both sides.  I suggest pinning your brains out & easing it all under the foot with as little tugging as you can manage. 

This block is also our "component block".  In other words, this block x4, plus some strips & a stones makes the Cross & Crown block (also known as goose tracks-I think the difference is something to do with the width of the strips&stone).  Rather than re-invent the wheel, I am instead going to refer you to the directions on Quilter's Cache.  Again we are making only the corner squares for our swap.  When you get your swapped blocks back, you can go on to finish the overall block as you like.

These blocks are due the last Saturday in April, which is Saturday, April 27th.  We always swap in sets of five (5), you send five (5) blocks & get five (5) back.  If you can, think about including a 6th block-this one goes to whichever member of that swap has volunteered to make a quilt for her community.  If you would like more details, just ask to join our group on FaceBook (search Quilt Block Swap).

Red, white & blue plate special for February 2013

 A couple years ago, we had a red,white&blue swap block that was one of the more difficult we have ever had.  The result was not great for everyone, especially as the red,white&blue swap is one of the most popular with beginners.  So this time, in the interests of making things easy but still interesting, I have come up with Red, White & Blue Plate Special.  Although I am describing making one block, you should find this is very easy to scale up & chain piece.  Because there are no seams to match, I would call this easy-beyond easy HOWEVER you need to pay attention & make sure the borders are paired correctly so that you end up with a square & not a rectangle.
  1. Begin with a 6.5" square of red &/or white &/or blue, the busier the better.  In the interest of accommodating hybrids, shades of purple (blue & red overlapped) & pink (red & white overlapped) are also perfectly acceptable.  While an all black block would be gloomy (so please avoid), the reality is many many fabrics have some black & that is Okay (but please: no green, no yellow, you get it, right?)

  2. Using 2" strips of a red or blue or black border all four sides.  This looks sharpest (best) when it is a dark, reads-as-solid fabric but so long as there is NO WHITE (this means also no off-white or cream or beige) in this fabric, almost anything red &/or blue &/or black will work.

  3. From a white or reads-as-solid white-on-white cut four strips:
    • one 2" strip
    • one 2.5" strip
    • one 3" strip
    • one 3.5: strip

    Separate them into pairs that total 5.5".  That is, pair the 2" strip with the 3.5" strip & the 2.5" strip with the 3" strip.  I found it was very easy to get these strips mixed up, so after I had remeasured them a few time, I put one large sharpie dot at the selvage edge of the first pair & two dots at the end of the second pair & then I pinned each pair together.  If you ever do get them scrambled just take out your ruler.  Each strip pair will always add up to 5.5"...until it is stitched up of course.  In fact, if you are feeling adventurous, you are welcome to cut strips of any width (so long as none are less than one inch wide) that add up to 5.5" across the pair, & so long as NONE of the strips in any given block are the same width.  The idea is for the color block to bounce within the over all block.

  4. Taking the one set, border either side of the bordered square.  That is border one side with one strip & the opposite side with the other strip.  Trim, press & then using the second pair, border the other two sides, one of the strips one each side.  While all the strips are different widths, the block will still be square. 
 & you are done.  The bordered red/white/blue square you began with will be slightly off center, but the completed block will be roughly 14", unfinished.

I do not have a picture of this color version made up into a quilt, but I do have the first quilt I made using this block (& a narrow sashing with cornerstones made from the same fabric as many of the 6.5" squares) here.

As always, we swap in sets of five (5), you send five (5) blocks & get five (5) back.  Blocks are due the last Saturday of even numbered months, in this case it is Saturday, February 23, 2013.  If you would like, you can include a sixth block; every swap one person takes these to make a quilt for a non-profit or community group.  If you would like more details, just ask to join our group on FaceBook (search Quilt Block Swap).

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*).