The Never Ending Sampler Quilt

This is a long, long story because this quilt has a long, long history. In dog years, it is quite ancient. I started this quilt in the late 1980's or early 1990's after I purchasing a calendar that had patterns for many of these quilt blocks on it. I lost, threw away or misplaced the calendar so long ago so I really do not know what year it was.

I made quite a few of the blocks but discovered to my disappointment that they really were not all coming out exactly the same size. This meant that the setting squares would not fit. Since I had decided I was not all that wild about the setting blocks that was OK. I had the Blockbuster Quilts book by Margaret J. Miller in my collection. The book is about non conventional settings that can be used for odd blocks. I drew an elaborate design based on the ideas in the book. In fact, the design was so elaborate that I was reluctant to tackle it.

I put everything away for a few years and went my merry way making lots of other quilts, very few of them traditional and most of them appliqued, not pieced! Now that I think about it, I might be able to blame this quilt for putting me off piecing.

Every now and then I would pull out the blocks and think about what to do with them. I liked them and wanted to use them. Although I tried some different ideas for putting them all together, I could not seem to make any progress. I did get so far as to add some purple borders/sashing around them. I even added a new block or two to the collection over the years.

Finally, in 2008 I figured out what to do with my orphan blocks as a result of my guild's annual challenge. The challenge began with everyone who wished to participate making a block from "scraps" and exchanging blocks. The challenge was to make a quilt or quilted object that included the block one received from the exchange. The rest of the challenge involved using materials on hand. At right, you can see the very nice, well made block I received from Elaine Boyd, a guild member.

I tried using scraps to make some blocks to go with the exchange block. In fact, I made enough blocks to begin at least two other quilts, which are now brand new UFO's. I used the layout or color scheme of the original block to make the extras hoping to tie the blocks together. However, they just did not work with the original block at all. So I found another lonely orphan applique block in my UFO pile and put that in the center of some of the new blocks. At least that oddball applique block (actually a very nice design from Kumiko Sudo's Circles of the East book) was out of the way. The borders and quilting of this one should make a good winter project. I am just not sure WHICH winter.

At left, you can see the blocks I made that did not work with the challenge block and how I made use of them anyway.

Still determined to finish the challenge, I kept working. I came upon my poor old sampler blocks and thought they didn't go too badly with the challenge block. Adding Elaine's challenge block to mine, I had 13 blocks and 6 quarter blocks. If I could turn the quarter blocks into whole blocks I would have 15 and could arrange them 3 blocks x 5.

Of course I still needed a way to put all of the blocks together. I could not just sew them block to block because of the purple already around each of my old ones, so they needed sashing. In a book, I found a "garden maze" sashing that I thought I could make work because it used a consistent color around each block (my purple), separated by a strip of another color. I searched my stash for the perfect print to go with everything and found it! A beautiful batik with aqua and blues and a little bit of purple. According to my calculations, I had plenty.

At right, one of my favorite blocks, before quilting.

Unfortunately my calculations were way, way off. I had about half of the fabric I needed. I really did not have any other fabric in my stash that I thought would look even halfway decent to go with the sashing strips I had already completed. Since I had already made a whole lot of sashing strips, using up most of this great batik fabric, and with little triangles sewn to each end, I did not want to start over if I could avoid it.

I looked at local stores. I looked online. Nothing. Finally with little hope of actually finding the fabric I needed, I put an ad on www.missingfabrics.com. I announced the ad on the QuiltArt list. In less than two days I had a reply from Jerri Riggs who very generously provided the fabric I needed to complete the quilt. Thanks again, Jerri!

One of the blocks, quilted, can be seen at left.

The backing was not scrappy, but it did come from my stash and had no other purpose in the foreseeable future. It had been intended as a backing for another quilt that I had sent to a long arm quilter. The backing as a few inches too small. Since I really do no make a lot of large quilts, I was glad to get a chance to use it.

Challenge quilts are always due to be hung at our guild show in early October. By the time I had completed the top and had it basted, it is early September. Even though I quilt by machine, I am not a fast quilter. The last big quilt I quilted took me about 12 years. Granted, it spent most of that time in the UFO pile with basting pins in it, but yep, about 12 years. Of course that was queen sized so I could reasonably expect to be done in a mere 6 years for this twin size.

At right, another block.

Anyway, I did get going and quilted the sashing first while searching for some designs to use in the blocks. I had my heart set on feathers to keep up the traditional theme. I wanted the feathers symmetrical rather than free form. Block by block I got it quilted. I used 5 different feather designs each repeated three times. The binding was finished the night before the quilt was due to be turned in for the show. It won't ever win any prizes but I think it is very pretty and it's done!!!! But I am going to be reluctant to use it on the bed because my cat likes it TOO much.

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This page was designed by Susan Brittingham
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Created on : 12/05/08
Last Updated : 01/26/11