Background of Block of the Month Project
OK, here we go on TO's first ever Block of the Month project. (Hereinafter referred to as "BOTM"). I'm not completely sure how this will work out, not having done such before, but I'm going to give it a try.
First, let me make some comments about sampler quilts. There are three ways to go, the easy way, the harder way, and the hardest way. I am going to shoot for the harder way, or medium level of difficulty.
If you study a lot of block patterns, you will quickly see that it isn't too hard to select a group of blocks that are all different, but similar. They all have the same number of squares and will easily end up all the same size. Often you can do them in only two basic colors, using only one piecing variation or element and things come out very well. This is the easy way, but the finished quilt can look a bit bland. Here is a picture of a quilt top I did some years back. I did it to force myself to learn to make half-square triangle blocks, and you can readily see that all of the blocks in this quilt use only that element and simple squares.
The photo is not great, but you can see that this was done using only 45 degree half-square triangles and squares, with several shades of green prints. I learned how to do half-square triangles, but I never finished the quilt because it looked too bland. Incidentally, all of these blocks are based on 3 squares by 3 squares or 4 squares by 4 squares and will work in our BOTM project, if you prefer them to the ones I will be showing introducing.
You can also select a group of blocks that have different numbers of squares and may end up being different sizes. If you have blocks that are based on an even number of squares mixed in with blocks that are based on an odd number of squares, you are going to end up doing some challenging math. How would you like to work with squares that are 2.666" on a side? You can work in several different colors and different sewing techniques, such as 45 degree half-square triangles, squares, rectangles and triangles that are not 45 degrees. You can use all kinds of sewing elements and techniques, such as patterns that require insets. You can mix colors wildly, or in a very organized manner. All of these factors can be varied and can tremendously increase the level of difficulty and challenge. I'll call this the hardest way, and we aren't going there.
Like Goldilocks, we are going to aim for an approach that is, hopefully, just right. There will be some different sized blocks, but they will all be based on an even number of squares. That will require some not too difficult special treatment to bring them all to a standard that will permit easy assembly. The variety of blocks permitted by this approach will make a more interesting quilt. I will also provide alternatives as to color, and you can use your own preferences and color sense to add this variation to your approach. However, I will not introduce any piecing elements that require angles other than 45 degrees, or curves, or insets. This still leaves a tremendous number of usable blocks, far more than you are likely to put into any one quilt. If you made the TOBE blocks we have dealt with to this point, you will be able to do this quilt, no matter how complex the individual blocks may look. It's just a matter of applying the same elements more times per block. This is the medium difficult way of doing things, and the way I will be presenting.
There is the possibility for tremendous variation in individual approaches on a sampler quilt. Perhaps you have seen a block pattern you especially like. Don't hesitate to not use one of the blocks I present, but use your favorite instead. By the same token, if you want a larger quilt, don't hesitate to do some math and make the blocks larger, or to add additional blocks. The purpose of this project is to lead you into doing a sampler quilt, learning some new block patterns and challenging you a bit while at the same time showing you how much you have learned from the previous TOBE exchange program.
Our sampler initially involved 12 blocks, but additional blocks will be offered, three per month, so that those who wish to can make up to a king size quilt. The plan originally called for basic blocks of 12" (12 1/2" with seam allowances), which would be bordered up to 14". Initial efforts showed that bordering to a minimum of 15" (15 1/2" with seam allowances) looked better. Each block will have a structure of six 2" squares by six 2" squares, or four 3" squares by four 3" squares. The third block of each month will be a bit more difficult than the others, and may involve other arrangements. Each block will produce a 12" basic block. I will provide instructions on a very nice way to build these up to 15" in such a manner that you will be able to compensate for any variations in the size of your finished blocks. This will also provide an element you can use to "set" each block in a frame, with a contrasting color. Even if you used wildly different colors for each block, this could be a unifying element. This is not the sashing, but a part of each block. Naturally, those with more experience may prefer to simply make the 12" blocks and sash them, adding additional blocks to make a larger quilt.
If you really want a large quilt, but don't want to make so many blocks, you can change the dimensions of the block. Base your blocks on 4" squares and 6" squares and you will end up with a 24" basic block, instead of 12". In this case, you would forget the extra "setting" pieces that we will be adding to the 12" blocks to make them 14". Instead, you would just sash with 4" sashing on the verticals and 2" sashing on the horizontal, to end up with a quilt that is 88" x 103", which works for a queen size, or a double with plenty of hang-down. On a queen, the 88" dimension may be a bit mingy, so you could put 4" outside edges instead of two, to get to 92". The possibilities are endless.
The sashing for this quilt in the regular form should be 2" wide. With a structure of 3 blocks by 4 blocks, this will provide a quilt that is 50" x 66". That's a good size for a toplet or comforter. If you want a bigger quilt, but not up to the queen size described above, add blocks, or add border.
I am going to simplify the instructions as much as I can, showing you a finished block, and discussing the elements and techniques involved, rather than giving you a complete, step-by-step photographic lesson each month. I will always refer back to the TOBE block that taught the techniques used in each block. As always, read ALL of the instructions, ALL THE WAY THROUGH, more than once. Plan it in your head. If you have the least bit of trepidation, or trouble, go back to the referenced TOBE block instructions and practice a bit.
If you like, you can do this quilt in the standard manner, sewing a top and later quilting it. However, I will also present it in such a way that you can quilt the individual blocks month-by-month and later join the pre-quilted blocks using the technique we developed for our Sunbonnet Sue quilt.
To belabor the obvious, this is a quilting project. All materials should be 100% cotton, and should be washed in hot water and ironed prior to cutting.
While you may choose to do otherwise, depending on your vision of the quilt, I recommend either white or cream for the background. I would get a lot of thatů maybe 3 yards.
Sampler quilts are a great way to use up a stash. Depending on your color choices and your stash, you may not need to buy any fabric other than the background. Let's consider some color possibilities.
Each block is going to require at least one color in addition to the background. That one color can be "scrap", i.e. a mixture of twenty or so different colors and/or prints. It is probably best to avoid large scale or theme prints. The pieces you will be working with are not going to be large enough to show off large scale prints. Stick to small and medium prints or solids. Sort your scraps by value, i.e. light, medium, dark. Some blocks will present the opportunity to add variation by balancing these values.
If you want to have a scrappy look, but not total anarchy, you can select a number of fabrics, three or four, of different values, and use these in all the blocks. This gives a scrappy look, but the quilt is still "tied together", color-wise.
Finally, there is the possibility of an all solid approach. This type of quilt can be done as an Amish-style quilt, i.e. all solids in the glowing Amish color choices. Some of you are well aware of this quilt type, others will want to dig into the books and see some examples. If you go this route, you will want to use a black or purple background and at least four other colors.
For the record, and so you know what to expect, I am going to do mine as a 1930's reproduction print quilt. This is essentially the totally scrappy approach, with the prints being used as if the finished product were a two color quilt, i.e. white background and scrap prints. I am sacrificing a lot of potential dramatic variation in the blocks, but I happen to have a ton of 1930's reprint on hand, and Ann likes the effect. I will use a very slightly off-white background. Our membership includes some very, very experienced and talented quilters, award winners, actually, in addition to the many folks who never quilted till they joined Treadle On. I am going to ask that if you fall into the experienced category and do this project, you try to get your blocks done as early in the month as possible and send me a picture with your comments. I will set up a special page so that those with less experience can see the possibilities, rather than only seeing what I am doing. For those who are perhaps a bit timid, you can wait a month and work slightly behind, having the benefit of seeing what a few other folks are doing before you commit yourselves.
Sometime early next year, perhaps in February or so, we can have a show of finished quilts.