Posted by: jinniver | July 15, 2008

The block swap blues

The results of my first block swap are in!

Until this swap, I hadn’t done any quilting in months.  The last quilt I made, in fact, was for the birth of my niece, Stella…and she’s about to celebrate her first birthday.

Stella's quilt

I’m just the type who, when I pick up a new hobby, sort of get completely swallowed up by it.  It happened with my writing, it happened when I started quilting, it happened with Hawaiian shirts…and then it happened with knitting.  So everything else, including quilting, fell by the wayside.  Which makes it rather ironic that it was a knitting/crocheting community that got me quilting again.

When I first joined Ravelry, I was more than a bit intimidated by the groups and forums.  There were the 6 main forums that everyone is automatically subscribed to, and as of last count, there are 6546 groups (not all of which are active).  Since I originally signed up for the database functions, I avoided the groups for awhile.  Eventually, I got curious…and now I’m a member of 21 groups, covering everything from:

sports (NASCAR and Washington Redskins)
to politics (John McCain)
to merchants I like (Little Knits and Castlefibers to name just two)
to my LYS (Knotty Girl)
to special knitting situations (lace and bust lines)
to military (Navy and military wives)
and more.

I think one of my favorite things about the Ravelry groups is that someone can click on my profile and, in scanning through my groups, learn a lot about me.  Including the fact that I’m a quilter, since I belong to the Quilters Knitting group.  It was there that I signed up for my very first block swap.

I was more than a little nervous about participating.  I’m not the world’s best or most careful piecer.  I’d learned some time ago that the special 1/4″ stitch that my sewing machine does is not 1/4″.  Not close.  And I’d learned roughly where to shift the needle so that it was.  But since I was usually the only one using the blocks, it didn’t matter if one was off because they were all off the same amount.  For the block swap, I needed to be sure my blocks were at least 12.5″ (if they were a little bigger, they could be trimmed down).

As I usually do, I picked out my fabric before I picked out a pattern.  It was a Blues Block Swap, but we weren’t limited to only blue or all-blue fabrics–the block just had to read as blue.  I wasn’t comfortable with trying a print, and batiks are my favorite fabric, so I found two blue batiks, one light and one dark (and the dark one had a leaf print in the same light blue).  Then I found a yellow and purple batik that was sprinkled with tiny light blue dots.  I love yellow and purple together, and I love yellow and blue together, so that fabric was perfect.

Then I pulled out my quilting books.  Actually, I pulled out one quilting book: 5,500 Quilt Block Designs by Maggie Malone.  I figured if I couldn’t find a quilt block in that collection, I needed to withdraw from the swap.  I did have some specific requirements:  it had to be relatively simple and it needed to be something I could do with quick piecing methods (I’ve got too many other WIPs with deadlines to try piecing triangles or scrap blocks); and yet it had to be visually interesting and a good representation of my quilting skills and tastes.  After all, a 4-patch would be easy and quick…but a little boring.  And I’m capable of more than that.  I tried to find an appropriate block with the word Texas in the title, but none of the ones in my book spoke to me.  I finally narrowed it down to two:  Chained Star* and Honeymoon (#235 and #237 respectively, both on page 26 of 5,500 Quilt Block Designs).  I’m partial to stars, which they both are, and with squares that could be strip pieced, half-square triangles, and quarter-square triangles, every part could be quick pieced.

I settled on Chained Star for two reasons:  I liked the juxtaposition of the diagonal star points with the solid, straight lines of the 4-patches in the corners and middle; and the 4-patches could be strip pieced, making this block easier than Honeymoon with all the triangles.  There was only one potential problem.  Chained Star calls for four fabrics:  a light background, dark star points, and two different medium fabrics for the diagonal chains.  I had three fabrics…

…but I did have four colors.  The third fabric had both yellow and and purple.  Using them seperately, so that I had a yellow chain on one diagonal and a purple one on the other, meant doing some fussy cutting, which reduced some of the time savings I expected to have.  But once I thought of the idea, nothing else would have satisfied me.  I was a little nervous about my choices, because even though I was allowed to use colors other than blue, I was concerned the fabrics I’d chosen would throw off the color of the overall block.

This was the result:

my blues block

I was pretty durned pleased with it, to be honest.  I changed the value placement from the original diagram, but I liked how the light star points stood out from the background but started to blend with the light/medium chains.  And my fears about the overall color of the block were unfounded.

So I packaged my blocks up, shipped them off to the swap organizer…and then realized that making the choices for my block and putting it together were not the only hard parts.  The waiting was agonizing.

My wait ended today, and here’s my future Block Swap Blues quilt:

blues block swap

The name is a bit of a misnomer, because I don’t have any blues about the swap.  On the contrary, I’m thrilled to see what my fellow knitting quilters came up with.  It’s funny now to think of how worried I was about my color choices when I see how daring some other swappers were.  I love the sun print in the block in the upper left corner, and I laughed when I realized that both of the log cabin blocks (made by two different people) had the traditional red hearth center square.  I also enjoyed seeing what blocks others were drawn to.  Counting mine, there are 3 different star blocks, as well as 2 Log Cabins and 2 Holes in the Barn Door.  My nostalgic favorite is the Shoo Fly variation (2nd from left, bottom row) because in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, where I’m from, there’s a wonderfully tasty pie called Shoo Fly Pie.

I haven’t yet decided how I’m going to finish this quilt, although I think sashing strips will be a must.  The blocks are so different in style, coloration…and, I have to admit size, that they need some separation to allow each of them to show off their own unique style.  Plus, if I frame each of them individually, I can then trim so that the final blocks are all the same size, even if the ones I have now aren’t.  I think I’m up to that challenge…but it’ll have to wait for another day.

*Some quilt block names are regional, so don’t be surprised if you run across a block or two that is listed under a different name than the one you know.  Hole in the Barn door is also known as Churn Dash, and Shoo Fly is also called Monkey Wrench, for example.



  1. Your quilt is going to be beautiful!!!


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