Last week we had a discussion on one block quilts and a bit of history on how the block style quilt emerged. Now it’s on to two … or more… blocks in a quilt. With more than one unique block, there is the opportunity for even more fun with design. That’s what I want to talk about this week. I’ll also delve into a bit of quilt block history again and talk about sampler quilts. So let’s get started!
Quilt Block History
Back to quilt block history class, continued from last week. The emergence of the block style of quilting didn’t only feature one block quilts, but also quilts with many different and unique blocks. I talked about Baltimore Album quilts as a type of block style quilt that emerged in the mid 19th century last week. Those were one example of the sampler style quilt because their blocks are often all different from one another.
I’ve done an annual block of the week project for the last few years resulting in a sampler style wall hanging as an end result:
These are just wall hangings, but you get the idea. Sampler quilts can have up to 25 to 30 different blocks in them.
Sampler quilts became popular as the block style quilt emerged in the 1840s. The sampler style, which was made up of blocks of the same size but of different design, appealed to quilters because they could work on one block at a time as opposed to a medallion style quilt, with a central large appliqué motif, where they would have to work on a full quilt all at once. This made it easier for several quilters to contribute to a quilt, making it a social event for women. Friendship and album quilts were also made this way with each block made by a different quilter.
In addition, sampler quilts served as a resource over the years for quilters when they wanted to find a certain block pattern. It’s theorized that women passed quilt design patterns around this way, by having a large sample of patterns sewn into one quilt. It’s also been suggested that this was a way that quilters of that time practiced their quilt making. They would hone their skills by piecing a new block design or inventing one of their own. Today, we have block books to page through to look for designs. Perhaps these quilts were their block books!
Fun Tip! Make an extra block for each quilt you make throughout a year or two. Then take those blocks and make a sampler quilt. Not only will it be beautiful, it will serve as a fun reminder of all the other quilt projects you made over the year.
You can also follow one of my favorite tips of making a sample block to test fabric colors. At the end of the year, you may have enough of these test blocks to make a full size quilt, or at least a wall hanging.
Two Block Quilts & More Design Fun
Now on to two (or more) block quilts and the fun you can have. Since I talked about interesting designs you could create within a one block quilt last week I thought it was only fitting to talk about quilts with two or more different block designs. The tip I have for making a fun two block quilt is to pick two blocks that play off each other. I like a block that has a static design, like a star or a churn dash paired with a block that has specific movement, like a nine or sixteen patch block or flying geese block. Here’s some examples.
The star block on the left and the chain block on the right combine to make my quilt, Prairie Sky:
The chain block creates a crisscross design across the whole quilt.
This next type of two block quilt I like to create is one that combines pieced blocks and appliqué blocks.
These are two of the blocks from my quilt, High Prairie Blooms.
If you stand back and look at this quilt, the appliqué blocks create an interesting movement that keeps your eye busy as you look at it. They appear to make a criss cross design even though there are two unique appliqué blocks.
Here’s another way to play with a two block quilt to add interest. Place the blocks on point so they make a different design than if they were just straight pieced. Here are these two blocks:
If you pieced these into straight pieced block rows alternating between the churn dash and the chain block, it would make a pretty quilt and the chain block would create the crisscross design like I showed in the Prairie Sky quilt above. But if the blocks are assembled on point, you get a different design created by the chain blocks:
In Country Dance (above) the crisscross design now looks like a straight grid design. And the on point setting of the churn dash blocks make them look like a block with a diamond shape.
Finally, your two block quilt can be very easy. Combine a pieced block with a plain block framed with strips. I did this for my quilt, Liberty Square. Here are the two blocks:
When you put them together, it looks like this:
A simple secondary design emerges. The plain strip framed blocks make a diagonal chain-like design. At least that’s what I see!
So that’s it for this week. Whether you make quilts with one block design, two different block designs or 25 unique blocks, you are continuing the rich history of block style quilt making.
Sampler quilts have fallen out of favor in the late 20th to early 21st century for more one and two block quilts because some people feel there’s too much “chaos’ in a sampler because the blocks don’t match. However, I think that’s part of their charm. And if you are a scrap quilter, like me, you’re already fine with a bit of chaos. Give a sampler quilt a try!
Leave a comment or ask a question below. You will be entered in a drawing for my quilt pattern, Country Dance.
The drawing will be on Tuesday, April 4th. Good luck! ***We have a winner! Congrats, Eileen Maher!***
I love sampler quilts! And I have a basket full of bits and pieces from past quilts just waiting to be put together. One of these days…😊
Donna S says
Sampler quilts were popular with my guild early on. I like the idea of making an extra block to save for a sampler. Would like to see ideas on how to put together the different size blocks. I love the look of the 2 block quilts with a pieced & appliqué block.
I have several practice blocks from quilts I made but never thought to turn them into a sampler quilt. Great idea. Thank you.
Lorraine Leblanc says
Love prairie sky. But also really like country dance.
Thanks for the history lessons!
Susan Davies says
Thank you for the info. I love how the two different blocks create a secondary pattern and bring the whole quilt together.
Thank you for the information and encouragement for 2-block quilts. They are beautiful! Each provides its own interest. Keep up the good work!
Thank you for sharing information on 2-block quilts. I also love sampler quilts, and love thinking about quilters in the past sharing them and putting them together as an opportunity to visit with friends and neighbors! I have almost talked myself into purchasing the Liberty Star pattern, love yours!
Teresa Romzick says
I’m ready to do scrap quilts with two designs and see what happens.
Scrap quilts are so nice to do to reduce my piles of scraps. Thanks for the wonderful blog!
Eileen Maher says
Some great setting tips!! I made a bunch of stars, and was wondering how to combine them and jazz up the quilt! Thanks for the ideas!
Gale Hutton says
Quilting is so much more than just cutting up squares and sewing them back together again! I thoroughly enjoy your weekly posts, there is always so much valuable information. A sampler has been on my bucket list for awhile now. When is your annual sampler QAL? Would love to join in!
I usually do my block of the week in the summer and it’s usually a 9 week series. It’s in the planning stages now. Keep watching the blog! 😁
Joanna Perry says
I love making sampler quilts because every block is a different and a challenge. I love playing with the fabrics in each block to make them different but still blend with the other blocks. I haven’t used leftover blocks to make a quilt but it’s a good idea. Thank you.
I love the history you share in your posts. I’m actually working on the Farmer’s Wife sampler quilt right now and I read the story that goes with each block before I make it. Such fun!
Interesting article. Thanks for the information. I am currently making a sampler quilt and thinking of using chain blocks to tie it together.