One block quilts are simply a quilt that is made from repeating one block. I like taking these quilts and finding ways to make them more interesting. You can do this through color choice, positioning of the blocks, and adding borders to name a few things. I will also share a bit of history on the evolution of the quilt into a collection of blocks from its earlier incarnations. So, let’s get started for this week.
A Bit of Quilt History
Early quilts were more of the medallion style quilt. What is medallion style? It’s a quilt that has a large central design. Most medallion style quilts in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were referred to as broderie perse, a central appliquéd motif, sometimes framed by a border. The central design for the quilts of that era was often cut out from a large piece of fabric, like an imported chintz, and was then appliquéd to a plain background. My Picket Fence Blooms quilt below gives you the idea of this medallion style although my appliqué design was created from wool and not cut from another piece of fabric:
Another of my patterns, Rail Fence Blooms, can also fall into this category although some of the central motif is pieced.
You have the idea, right?
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. The more elaborate Baltimore album quilts also emerged at this time. Those quilts were made up of blocks, usually about 25, that were elaborately appliquéd. Often all 25 blocks were unique designs.
So ends this snippet of quilt history. Now let’s move on to one block quilts.
One Block Quilts
One block quilts are great because once you make one of the blocks and it measures correctly, it’s all smooth sewing from that point on. The cool thing with one block quilts is you can make them pop by playing with the colors used in each block. Here’s my quilt, Star Wheels, that has the same block repeated, but the different color combinations add interest.
The addition of the black fabric element to each block gives a bit of continuity among the blocks and adds a secondary design. Now with this next one block quilt, Scrappy North Stars, I just went a bit wild using 56 assorted fat quarters!
By alternating light and dark colors in different places on each block, there is the illusion that the blocks are different. You can also see kind of a circle design appear where the blocks meet.
The next examples build on the secondary design I mentioned above. They show how an element in a block can create another design once they are joined, even though all the blocks are the same.
In Star Struck on the left, the stitch and flip corners of the blocks are rotated in opposite directions to create an illusion of geese flying across the quilt. In Mill Country Sky in the center, the blocks have alternating green and tan corners to create the two-tone quarter-square triangle squares when the blocks are joined. Finally, for Open Windows, brown corners on two sides of each block work with the sashing to make an alternating shoo-fly design.
Another way to make one block quilts unique is to play with the background fabric too, like I did with Marbles & Jacks.
For this quilt, I alternated the background of the blocks between a light tan and a black print. I also changed the center star points to the opposite of the background fabric color. Same block… but this adds interest!
A final way I make one block quilts more interesting is to add scrappy borders or even some appliqué. Scrappy North Stars above has a piano key border created from the fabric left over from the blocks. Here are two more examples:
Two completely different one block quilt interpretations, right? On the left, is Paper Chain where I simply made a pieced border from an element of the block itself to give it the illusion that the quilt goes on forever. On the right, Stepping Stones has the blocks turned on point, a border of plain blocks embellished with appliqué and then finished off with plain border strips in alternating colors.
Well, that’s my lesson of the week. I hope you enjoyed our brief journey through quilt history and my one block quilt lesson. Leave a comment or ask a question and I will enter your name into a drawing for my quilt pattern, Marbles & Jacks.
The drawing will be on Monday, March 27th. Good luck!