One block quilts are just what the title implies. They are made up of only one block design. Sounds boring? Well, they don’t have to be. By choosing fabric colors, background fabric, interesting layouts and blocks that create secondary design when joined into rows, these quilts can be beautiful and not boring. One of my favorite things to do is adapt traditional blocks into new designs. When I choose a one block design, then I like to use the things mentioned above to make it a unique design. Let’s get started!
The Original “One Block” Quilts
These quilts were pre-mid 19th century. They were referred to as medallion quilts because there was a central design or block, surrounded by a border of either pieced blocks or appliqué. My pattern Rail Fence Blooms was inspired by this time period.
Another quilt of mine inspired by this time period is my Star Gazing pattern from my book, Blooming Patchwork.
As you can see, both of these quilts are dressed up with the “scrappy” look I like in a lot of my quilts.
In the mid 19th century, the block style quilts that we know today began to emerge. Prior to this time, making quilts was reserved for wealthy women who could afford expensive imported fabric. As fabric began to be produced domestically the prices lowered and more women were able to a buy it to make quilts for fun instead of for necessity only. The earliest block style quilts were friendship or album quilts usually made for someone leaving a community to move west. Friends and family being left behind would sign the blocks as a remembrance for the traveler. These were mostly simple pieced blocks. These were block style, but often in the sampler style: meaning many different blocks.
One Block Quilts
The one block quilts I will talk about today are created by several of the same blocks joined into rows to make a quilt. If you make them all from the same color with the same background fabric, the quilt will be pretty but a bit “quiet”. To make these quilts a bit more exciting, here are some of my tips based on quilts I have designed.
Tip #1 – Playing with Fabric Colors: The first way to make these quilts stand out is to make each block a unique color combination. I did this with my quilt, Scrappy North Stars.
All the blocks in this quilt are the same, but I used a large variety of fat quarters to make them. I also switched a fabric’s positioning in a block from where it was in another. By doing this, it gives the illusion that you are using more fabrics or that the quilt is made up of different block styles.
Here is another example, Star Wheels, that is a bit less chaotic looking, but still with the same concept of making the same block over and over but just in different color combinations.
Tip #2 – Adding in Sashing: Another way to create interest with a one block quilt is to utilize sashing. This can be done to spread out the blocks for a calmer looking one block scrap quilts like in Reunion, below.
The small black corner stone squares add a little pop to the quilt and match the color of the border. You can also use sashing to create a secondary design like I’ve done with my small wall hanging, Summer Bouquets.
It looks like a two block quilt, but it’s not! The star units are all created by the sashing pieces.
Tip #3 – Blocks that Create a Secondary Design: This is a fun way to make a one block quilt more interesting. If you choose a block that has interesting elements and join those blocks together in rows, they often create a secondary design without any sashing. Here’s a block with a unique element and the quilt created with it:
The side of the block with the stitch and flip corners help to make a cool flying geese pattern once the blocks are joined into rows. It almost looks like the flying geese are traveling across the quilt!
Below are two more quilts that utilize this idea. The one on the right actually uses both the quilt block pattern and sashing to facilitate the design.
Tip #4 – Play with Background Fabrics: Another way to make a one block quilt interesting is to play with background fabrics. One of the easiest ways to do this is to change the background of individual blocks and set them together in a quilt. I did this with Marbles & Jacks.
I made half the blocks with a light background fabric and made half the blocks with a dark background fabric and then alternated them in the rows of the quilt. There’s not a lot of different colors in this quilt, but the background changes make in more interesting than if all the background fabric was the same.
Tip #5 – Change the Layout: Instead of just straight rows, try putting the blocks on point. The blocks themselves take on a completely different look and, with the quilt on the right, the on point layout can actually create a secondary design different from one that is created if the blocks are pieced into straight rows.
So are you inspired yet? I hope this post helps you to look at one block quilts in a different way. Pull out a pattern for a block, start making a stack of them, and then play with the layout. I bet you will be surprised at what you come up with!
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The drawing will be on Monday, December 11th. Good luck!