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In the Quilting World

Block-Exchange Quilts -- the Reveal

Have you ever participated in a quilt-block exchange? They can be a fun way to get involved with other members of a quilt group or with quilters not familiar to you through an internet block exchange. In the Quilter's World autumn 2021 issue, we featured an article by Annette Plog entitled "Hosting a Block Exchange." Annette has participated in many block exchanges and shared her tips with us. In addition, Annette hosted a block exchange for several of us, and her quilt Snowed In, made using blocks from the block exchange, was patterned in this issue. If you'd like to learn more about Annette, she was featured in our last update.

Hi, it's Carolyn Beam here again; I'm the person who writes this update. Thanks for joining me as I share my thoughts about quilting with you. As always, I'd love to hear ideas and suggestions from you as well.

As I mentioned, there were several of us who participated in the block exchange hosted by Annette. Along with Annette and myself, I invited Quilter's World editorial assistant Palmer Bixler, designer Wendy Sheppard and two quilting friends, Angie Buckles and Chris Czyszczewski to join in the fun.

Before I share our exchange quilts with you, I'd like to suggest a pattern I think might be of interest to you. The Small Change quilt pattern is a traditional quilt in a popular red-and-white palette, but it would look great in any colors. It would be perfect for the upcoming holidays. Red-and-white quilts are also the focus of the upcoming Quilter's World winter issue, so please be sure to check it out for some wonderful designs!

And now, back to the quilt block exchange and the final reveal. The fun part about this exchange is that none of us knew what kind of setting each of us was going to use for our blocks. The surprise ending for block exchanges is always fun! Here's a little bit from each of the participants with pictures of their quilts.

We each made six sets of five blocks using the Snowed In pattern. A set from each of us was exchanged with each member in our group. How we set our quilt blocks was our own individual choice.

Here are our quilts with thoughts in each member's words:

From Chris:
My quilt measures about 70" x 85". I did a basic layout, not wanting it any larger. For the border and backing, I used up the remainder of my plaid fabrics and added a few other odd pieces.

Finished exchange quilt by Chris Czyszczewski -- Click here for larger image Back of Chris's quilt pieced from leftover plaids and other fabrics -- Click here for larger image
Finished exchange quilt by Chris Czyszczewski. Back of Chris's quilt pieced from leftover plaids and other fabrics.

I did the machine quilting on my trusty Bernina 200. The border is quilted with a meandering pattern, and the center is quilted with spirals. It was interesting to do an exchange with a group I don't know, other than Carolyn.

Close-up of Chris's quilted spirals -- Click here for larger image
Close-up of Chris's quilted spirals.

From Wendy:
I decided to sash the blocks and turn them in such a way that secondary designs emerge when the eye looks at the cornerstones. You can see a flower design where four of the snowball units converge at a cornerstone, and a chain design where four of the nine-patch units converge at the adjacent cornerstone.

Exchange quilt by Wendy Sheppard -- Click here for larger image
Exchange quilt by Wendy Sheppard.

From Angie:
I've never participated in a block exchange before so this has been a new experience for me. I learned that I'm much more of a control freak than I realized! I've always been a controlled scrap quilter. So I fussed about what I was getting from everyone else and whether it would work with the five blocks I had in hand. This experience was definitely outside of my box! I found, though, that I liked the blocks I received from everyone, and believe me, I was surprised when the blocks seemed to coordinate all on their own!

I chose to stitch the blocks into rows without sashing. This might have been problematic if the skill levels of the quilters participating weren't so similar. If the blocks had arrived in all different sizes due to different skill levels, I would have used sashing to obtain a common block size.

Angie's finished quilt -- Click here for larger image Angie's finished quilt on a bench -- Click here for larger image
Angie's finished quilt. Angie's finished quilt on a bench.

Of course, I couldn't throw out the leftover half squares from the snowballs I had made. I had enough to make a pieced border (something I really like doing) and then some. They might show up in a pillow or something later on!

Close-up of Angie's border made with her leftover half-square triangles -- Click here for larger image
Close-up of Angie's border made with her leftover half-square triangles.

I did diagonal stitching through the points of the nine patches and snowballs. But don't look too closely! I firmly admit that piecing is my thing and I'm a poor quilter! So, the simple utilitarian quilting was a must. Besides, all those points made it easy to quilt a straight line!

Finally, I washed the finished project in hot water and dried it in a hot dryer so that it shrank the maximum amount. This gave it a rumpled look reminiscent of antique quilts and hides any inconsistencies in piecing and quilting!

This whole process has made me rethink my scrap-quilting personal rules. Sometimes less planning is definitely better!

Quilts make great tents! -- Click here for larger image
Quilts make great tents!

From Palmer:
I really enjoyed this block exchange! As a newer quilter, I appreciated the easy blocks. I also learned what homespuns and shirtings are, increasing my appreciation for reproduction-style quilts.

Palmer's blocks in progress -- Click here for larger image
Palmer's blocks in progress.

When I got my quilt blocks from everyone, I knew I wanted to gift this quilt to my husband. He has been dealing with my quilting for two years. He now knows all about fabrics, blocks, quilting terms and techniques -- he deserves a quilt.

I mentioned to Angie Buckles that I planned to used my offcuts from the stitch-and-flip step to create mini half-square triangles to incorporate into my layout. She saved hers too! We were able to meet up for lunch and swap some HSTs for maximum variety.

Palmer's bonus half-square triangles -- Click here for larger image
Palmer's bonus half-square triangles.

I decided to create blocks that had the HSTs going diagonally across, reminiscent of flying geese. I also decided to keep each participant's blocks together. With my big 8" flannel border, my quilt ended up at 88" x 88". A flange binding allowed me to use the same flannel, but I added a white accent to break up the space. My friend Karen quilted a jalapeno design for my pepper-addicted husband. We love how this turned out!

Palmer's finished quilt -- Click here for larger image
Palmer's finished quilt.

And finally, from me:
I decided to use a totally different setting for my blocks and set them on point. In doing so, I realized that I would need two more blocks, so my quilt has seven of my own blocks. To frame the blocks, I chose a few different red plaids for my setting and corner triangles. I decided to use a totally different color for the binding, so I chose a blue plaid that I cut into bias binding strips. Set on point, my quilt measures 67" x 84" and has 32 blocks.

Carolyn's finished quilt outside -- Click here for larger image Carolyn's quilt on her church pew -- Click here for larger image
Carolyn's finished quilt outside. Carolyn's quilt on her church pew.

I also have a lot of plaid fabrics, and wanting to use more of them, I pieced my backing with several of the larger pieces. In this photo, you can also see the wonderful Baptist Fan quilting design that my quilter, Cara Cansler of Sew Colorado Quilting, did. I wanted a very traditional quilting design for this quilt, and the Baptist Fan is perfect.

Pieced backing of Carolyn's quilt -- Click here for larger image Close-up of the quilting on the front of Carolyn's quilt -- Click here for larger image
Pieced backing of Carolyn's quilt. Close-up of the quilting on the front of Carolyn's quilt.

It has been so much fun seeing how different each of our quilts turned out. I hope you've enjoyed it as well and that this has inspired you to start or join a quilt-block exchange.

Please stay safe and healthy!

Take care,


Carolyn Beam

Carolyn Beam
Editor, Quilter's World magazine

Carolyn has been quilting for over 40 years. She took her first class when her oldest son was a baby and hasn't stopped since. She has traveled the country teaching and lecturing and has had many designs published in books and magazines. Besides making quilts for family and friends, she also makes quilts to donate to the fire department her youngest son works for. Carolyn is married with three grown sons and one adorable grandson.

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