Monday, March 22, 2021

Tips For a Successful Block or Fabric Swap Quilt

How To Have a Great Block or Fabric Swap

Fabric (squares or strips)  and quilt block swaps are one of the best ways to build your stash*.  I have been swapping blocks or fabrics* almost 30 years.  Traded everything from fat quarters, to strips to quilt blocks.**



5 inch swap squares

Rules and The Quilt Police

You have heard about the quilt police and that it does not apply.  Well for a successful fabric or block swap, you need RULES.  Your swap hostess is the Quilt Police.... and should be feared........

Really.  For a successful swap you need rules (or more gently put - guidelines).  However, to keep everyone happy these guidelines should be hard and fast.  A good hostess will make sure everyone adheres to the agreed upon guidelines.

Swapping BLOCKS or FABRIC Pieces

Whether swapping block or a specific sized piece** of fabric, the rules/guidelines are the same. Good quality fabrics are always a must.  (I have NEVER seen a swap requesting 'cheap/crappy fabrics'... Just sayin')

On the other hand, I have participated in UGLY swaps.  This can either be using the same ugly fabric in a project, or a dare.  Send me your ugly fabric.  Ugly is in the eye of the beholder.  And the old quilt adage... "If it is still ugly, you just haven't cut it small enough".  

Guidelines are Good!

The reason for strict guidelines is so that everyone is happy.  Whether it is the quality of fabric or the precision of the piecing.  If YOU go to the trouble of buying $12 a yard fabric and you get $3 fabric from Wally-World, YOU aren't going to be happy.  Same thing with piecing.  If you are piecing 6.5" unfinished blocks and you get a 6" block, you are not going to be happy. Guidelines should include everything from fabric quality to timing of completing (and mailing)  blocks in a timely manner.

Swapping Blocks or Fabric Pieces

There is a difference between swapping pieced BLOCKS or a specific fabric size.

Fabric Size - A specific size such as 5" square, 2.5" square, 2" or 2.5" strip etc.

WOF - width of fabric or width of a Fat Quarter

Washed or Unwashed  (has the fabric been laundered or not)  When swapping fabric pieces, the only difference is whether the fabric is washed or unwashed.  Blocks are usually considered unwashed or not specified.***

2 inch swap strips
2 inch swap strips

The strips that I received in the photo above had these requirements:

  • 2" WOF strips
  • GRAY fabrics
  • Due date
  • Quilt Shop Quality
  • Unwashed
  • One SET per baggy  (Snack bags are awesome for these)

In this case I was the hostess  There were eight swappers, and they sent in ten SETS ( ten strips= one set) of strips. Everyone sent me however many 'sets' of strips that they wanted.  As hostess, I received all of the strip sets from the swappers by a certain date. (Some sent six, eight or ten sets of strips). The photo above shows what someone would have received back. Because some only sent in six sets, the gals that sent in ten sets got a couple of duplicate sets.  Not a big deal when you are building a stash of scrappy fabrics.

UGLY fabrics

Sometimes this is choice.Sometimes this is a fabric that you thought you liked, but later on thought "What was I thinking".  Kind of another ones trash is someone else's treasure.

Trading Blocks

  • The block that uses the ‘ugly' fabric you would've never bought or that burnt orange you can't stand may be what turns a boring quilt into a great quilt.
  • Trade blocks that are easy to piece.  Making a lot of 4-patches is a better option  for new swapper than an intricate 12" block.
  • Pick blocks that can be used in many quilt patterns.  Four patches, Nine Patches, Churn Dash HST (Half Square Triangles) and so on.
  • Define the 'values' to be used.  Such as a definite contrast between the 'light' and 'dark'.
  • Decide if fabrics should be 'matchy' or 'scrappy.  (Define fabric choices such as RWB (Red White Blue),  Plaids, Solids, Novelty, 30's, Reproductions.
  • Don't expect that you are going to receive blocks that are going to make that 'perfect' quilt.  Keep an open mind, and remember that just because you received a block that you have to use it. 

In the Christmas quilt shown below, I swapped blocks online with about 11 or 12 other ladies.  I sent the swappers the Background fabric and a little bit of the red and and green fabric.  For the most part, what I got back was great.  One lady used a TOTALLY different fabric (I think it was the Bells on the 2nd row).  I painstakingly removed the stitches and re-appliqued it to the background I wanted. (that was MY choice, but the other fabric REALLY stood out)  I re-made two of the blocks because they were not large enough.  Then, I made a few more blocks because I wanted a larger quilt.  Even with the changes, I love this quilt and the history behind it.  It happily resides at one of my daughters home.




Other Swaps


This was a recent swap from our Blockbuilders group.  In this swap, we used a pattern from Missouri Star called Two Step.  We had a due date, all used ICE* for the big square and anything goes on the strips.  I made (and received) 90 blocks.  Lesson learned on this swap, was that it 'needed' the parameters for fabric choices. There was everything from 'Brights' to dull fabrics.  When putting blocks up on the design wall, it was so overwhelming, that they eventually got sorted into three manageable groups.   I ended up making three quilts for charity with the blocks.

So, there are many ways to grow your stash of fabrics or blocks.  Start a group locally with your friends, join a Facebook group or search online!  


*Quilt Stash  A quilters accumulation of fabrics (patterns and quilt blocks) not specifically for a particular project   See More About Quilting Terms & Definitions

** Blocks in this article might refer to whatever is being swapped - a piece of specific sized fabric or a pieced block.

*** Old , batiks or 'cheap' fabrics might need to be laundered to avoid the colors bleeding or fabric shrinkage.

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Tips For a Successful Block or Fabric Swap Quilt

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