Sunday, November 08, 2020

Tips For a Successful Block Swap Quilt

Types of Quilt Block Swaps

So, just what is swapping? It's an organized method of sharing a bit of your fabric stash, in exchange for someone else's. It can be a 'remnant' of a predetermined size, a fat eighth, a fat quarter, 2.5" strips, or a completed block. One big benefit is that the swap allows you to sample a new fabric styles that you might not normally purchase. It also allows you to share your favorite fabric passions with other quilters as well. This is a great way to build your scrappy 'stash'.

Block Swaps


A block swap calls on participants (whether a local Bee or by mail) to each create a quilt block with some common element, such as a theme, color, fabric print or symbol. Each participant sews one block for each person in the group (i.e., if there are 8 in the swap, you would create 8 of the same block). Each person shares her blocks with the group, and ends up with 7 additional blocks with which to create a quilt, and everyone's resulting quilt is distinctly different (& scrappy)!

Strip Swap

Strip swaps are a little different in that you are swapping a predetermined size of fabric. There are a few important factors with strips. Washed/Unwashed, width of strip, and color.  With strips, the most common size to swap are 2.5" strips. The strips will either be the entire width of of the fabric (WOF) or a half width.  Need to be clear on whether the strips have been pre-washed* or not up front.

*You would prewash the larger piece of fabric before cutting into swap sized strips.

Square Swaps

Squares can be swapped.  Usual size is either 6" or 5" square. Of course other sizes might be exchanged.  Usually, these are based on color or theme (such as Valentines, dogs, novelty, brights and so on). More often than not, these will be 'unwashed'.  These swaps were more prevalent before the invention of CHARM PACKS and other pre-cuts.

BlockBuilders Swap Club (Bee)

Our Block-Builder group meets once a quarter.  We meet at the Hostess home, and we bring our blocks to swap along with a covered dish for a pot luck lunch.  Each quarter, we determine what block we want to make for the next meeting, deciding on the colors, backgrounds, theme and so on.  While there are ten of us in this group, not everyone participates in every swap.  We understand that life happens.  We can usually count on at least five of us participating each time.  

Birthday Blocks


A variation on the swaps are Birthday Blocks.   In our Bee, instead of giving birthday presents, each Bee member selects a block that everyone else in the Bee makes for them.  It works best if there is one recipient per month, or a few per quarter.  Our Bee used to have 12 members, which was very convenient to get 12 blocks for a nice sized quilt. 

Pattern for this block is available for purchase at Red Pepper Quilts.

Swap Rules

In order to have a successful swap, you need good guidelines (rules). This is one of the few times where the 'quilt police' are vigilant and will let you know if you don't follow the rules! There is usually a 'swap hostess'. This person is the one where you send your swap item to. She then distributes (or mails) the swaps back out to the participants.  When a hostess is involved, you usually send an extra 'something'  for the hostess like a fat quarter or an additional SET of what is being swapped.

Some basic rules that you should look for:

  • Block or strip size (i.e. 2.5" WOF strip or half width of fabric, washed or unwashed)
  • Size of ONE set (i.e. 10 strips, or 8 blocks in the same colorway).
    You usually decide how many sets you want to send.
  • Fabric colors (see WOW, BITE, ICE)
  • Washed or Unwashed fabric
  • Quilt shop quality fabric - or not (such as Wally World, Hobby Lobby or Jo-Ann's)
  • Deadline for Hostess to receive swaps 
  • Return postage
  • Optional, hostess gift (usually an extra set for her troubles)
  • Blocks, SIZE MATTERS - must meet the size requirements 
  • SET - number of blocks, strips of squares in a unit.It is usually easier to make 6, 7 or 8 of the same block from strips of fabric.  Depending on the number of swappers in your group, you limit the number of the SAME block when you are swapping.

Swap Terminology

    • BITE - Beige, Ivory, Tan, Ecru  (Fabric background color choices)
    • COC - Cream on Cream (fabric)
    • ICE - Ivory, Cream, Ecru (Fabric background color choices)
    • Squishy - Envelopes filled with swap fabric or gifts sent/received in the mail
    • HWF - Half Width of Fabric (approx 20-22" wide)
    • WOF - Width of Fabric 
    • WOW - White On White (fabric)
    • Washed - Fabrics are pre-washed
    • Unwashed - Fabrics are NOT pre-washed

For more Quilty Terms click HERE

Example Swap Letter

Here is a sample letter that was sent out as the hostess for an unwashed 2" HWF strip swap with clear instructions of the size and due date.  We had different colors for each month.


Note from my friend Lynn Roddy Brown (Scrap Quilter Extraordinaire - she is my scrap quilt hero!) 
 
"Remember that just because you got a block in a trade, you don't have to use it. Change out fabrics, take the block apart, or just put it back in the bag."

Important things to remember when participating in an exchange

If you’ve never participated in a quilt block exchange or block swap, there are some basic things to remember. Each group will have their own set of “rules” but these tips will help ensure success and a happy outcome for everyone.

1. NEVER sign up for a swap unless you are completely committed to following through with it. Others are counting on you and are spending their time and talent on blocks for you, so you need to be prepared to reciprocate that effort.

2. ALWAYS do your best work. You want others to be pleased that they spent time on your block, so make sure you do your very best. Not everyone has the same skill level, and that’s okay, as long as you do your best work, your swap partners will be pleased.

3. FOLLOW ALL THE RULES set by the leader. If the rules state that you are only to use a certain kind of fabric, respect that! Go out and buy some fabric if needed, but don’t try to sneak in something and hope no one will notice. They will notice!

4. BE POSITIVE and encouraging to your fellow participants. This might be someone’s first exchange and they may be feeling pressure. Always say thank you and find a way to compliment each block that you receive.

5. BE REALISTIC about your skill level. If you are a beginner quilter, sign up for a nine-patch or four-patch exchange, not a super complicated block that involves techniques you have never tried. Pushing yourself is okay, it’s how we all learn, but jumping in way over your head won’t be fun for you or the group. A little good judgement can be really critical to the success of the group. 

Shadywood Quilts has been in business since 2001. We are happy to help you finish your quilt project. For more information about having your quilt professionally finished, just contact us and ask your questions.


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