Monday, July 7, 2008

Block By Block Quilts, Getting Started

When quilt historians of the future look at the quiltmaking trends of the late 20th century, the Sampler quilt is going to stand-out. Over the years I have drafted many blocks to the size of 12”. I like this scale in proportion to bed quilts and because it divides easily by both 3 and 4, it’s perfect for 4-Patch and 9-Patch blocks.

In the early 1990s, I taught a block of the month quiltmaking class at a local quilt shop. After the first year, I designed the blocks for the class. In 1995, these blocks were turned into my book Block By Block. The book is now out of print but you can still find it at, eBay and some quilt shops. After Block By Block was published, I continued designing blocks and sold them to quilt shops all over the country for their block of the month classes. The quilt on the left, I called the Desert Sampler and it is comprised of both traditional and original blocks from the pattern service.

I will be offering the blocks from this quilt on these posts. But before we start on the blocks, here are some thoughts on how to choose fabrics. Choosing fabrics can be very scary, especially for beginners. If you've been quilting for a long time, you're used to placing stripes next to polka dots, and after awhile, all fabrics look good together. But if you're new, one of the easiest ways to pick colors is to find one fabric you really like and use it to choose your other fabrics. I call it the bold fabric. The next fabric to choose is your background. This is the place your eye rests and makes the pieces in your blocks standout. After that you can add at least 4 accent fabrics. These should not be as striking as the bold fabric, and will be used to make the bold fabric look good. Don't worry if the accent fabrics don't all go together. They don't have to be used next to each other or in the same block. The main fabric I chose for the Desert Sampler is used as the border and in the large pieces in the blocks. I chose a peach tone on tone for the background, because it was the same shade as the background in my bold fabric. The accents include, brown, royal blue, rust, and a yucky green. They all appear in the bold fabric and I probably wouldn't have thought of putting them together if I hadn't loved the bold fabric. Don't be afraid to add more fabrics to the ones I suggest here. The backgrounds can be many different peach tone on tones. The same goes for the accents. I prefer to use as many fabrics as I can. I, like many of my quilting friends, have a huge stash of fabrics that I like to draw from. I also believe that if you choose many fabrics and one is wrong, it won't show much, but if you choose only three fabrics and one is wrong, you have trouble. Make sure you consider scale and value in your choices. Mix up small scale prints, with medium scale prints, stripes, plaids and geometrics in your accents. Going from light to dark in value also adds interest.

To start the project I've got some free handouts for you. The Desert Sampler is a lap size quilt with 12, 12" blocks. The Layout Chart shows you how to arrange the 12" blocks with sashing and cornerstones to create quilts sized from Wall to King. The second handout is a Fabric Yardage Chart for all the sizes given in the Layout Chart. My next blog will be the first block in the quilt, The Anvil. There will also be instructions on putting the quilt to together and information on borders for the different sized quilts in future blogs.

1 comment:

  1. I purchased your book Block by Block. On page 57 are the instructions for Schoolhouse. The cutting instructions for piece G which is the roof is missing. Where the instructions should be is an empty space. What size is the roof rectangle? I'm sure an experienced quilter could figure this out but I'm new at quilting. You could email me the answer at
    Thanks, Mary