Friday, March 17, 2017


What is it about samplers? They are intriguing but can seem outdated at the same time. I tend to think of traditional samplers as so old-fashioned, and even the term sampler just feels uncool in my mouth. But really, they're such an integral part of the quilting culture. Many quilters get their starts in samplers; I know I did. The first quilt block I ever sewed was part of a neighborhood sampler (I never finished it, consequently), and the block of the month program at a local quilt shop is what really got me started in earnest.

The first Saturday Sampler I did at American Quilting, my local quilt shop

What's not to love, right? It's so satisfying to finish a block, to pick individual fabrics for a block, to have a stack of interesting and different blocks. Sewing a single block is much less time commitment than an entire quilt and can be much less overwhelming. It gives you the opportunity to make a variety without getting burned out on a single technique or block pattern.

The second Saturday Sampler I did at American Quilting

Of course, samplers aren't always amazing. When you are just aimlessly sewing blocks, when do you stop? And not all samplers look cohesive, especially if the blocks aren't all designed by the same designer or in the same style or if the quilter doesn't pick a cohesive color scheme. Sometimes you don't really need a theme or style, but they can quickly turn disjointed without one. And then there are decisions to be made about settings...

A mini sampler I made for the Mini Challenge group on Flickr

It's a mixed bag, of course. But samplers seem to be a big thing right now, and are experiencing a wave of popularity (not that they're ever really unpopular) with many sampler sew alongs going on online. I haven't truly participated in any, but I have dutifully downloaded blocks just in case. Last year there was Moda's Sampler Shuffle and The Splendid Sampler, and Gnome Angel hosts lots of quilt alongs, including a 100 blocks in 100 days sew along using Tula Pink's sampler book, Farmer's Wife, and now a Long Time Gone quilt. There are block of the month programs that various bloggers do annually: Amy Gibson (who also just released a sampler book), Meadow Mist Designs, and the Fat Quarter Shop's annual fundraising block of the month. And many others, I'm sure. Clearly, we quilters love samplers. And sew alongs.

I started yet another sampler project recently. I currently have a few in progress. The first one is one I've really abandoned: a Vintage Quilt Revival sampler in solids. I have 5 or 6 blocks that have really been abandoned, and that's okay. I don't really consider it a WIP because I'm not sure I'll come back to it. It's okay. (Even though I've abandoned the sampler project, it's a really great book and I've made 3 or 4 projects from it.)

The second is the Mode Sampler Shuffle, which I've really renamed in my head as my six-inch sampler. I finished the 30 sampler shuffle blocks and now intend to supplement with more blocks from the same patterns or from the Splendid Sampler project. I've taken a break from it to work on other things, intending to come back to it with fresh eyes and new ideas.

I also started the Patchwork City Sampler and I'm sewing it up as a travel quilt with travel prints from favorite destinations. But, a few weeks ago, I paused all the things I was working on (except for my leaders and enders project) to work on yet another sampler project.

The Chip mini is obviously not part of the sampler... ;-) The 7 blocks are from Patchwork City
Sweetwater (my favorite design team) hosted a contest from Moda during their 12 months 12 contests promotion. The Sweetwater designers decided to host a contest on Instagram for making six-inch blocks in their fabric. Of course, I jumped in! And after a few blocks, decided that I wanted to make a lot of blocks (I really wanted to win!) and that I would work towards two sampler projects. One Christmas table runner (I have a lot of Sweetwater Christmas fabric and just love it) and a Sweetwater sampler quilt. 

My goal became one block per day (I reasoned in my head that this would probably put me close to 10% of the blocks) and would give me a decent shot, plus it would mean I'd have a decent number of blocks for a sampler. I hoped I would get more than that done, but I thought about 30 would be doable. I blew that out of the water and ended up with 40, including 8 Christmas blocks.

Here are some of my favorites. They said on their blog they would be looking at creativity and use of fabric. I thought I got some pretty creative ones! And I made it a personal goal to use as many different fabric lines as possible, and to mix them as much as possible in each block.

This is my winning block! Funny story: when I finished it, I told my husband that it was my winner. I knew it could win, and I was pleased to be right. There were a lot I thought could win, including the house ones above that I think are pretty creative. But I knew this one was awesome.

I thought this was my most creative block: It's a cross section of a neighborhood--can you see it?

I also thought this one had a good shot. It's from The Splendid Sampler.

This is one I saw on Instagram over a year ago and have wanted to make it ever since. I think I pieced it differently than whoever originally made it, and I like how it worked out.

I can't even say how excited I was to win! And I really love that I have a really good stack of blocks, waiting to be made into a project. Of course, I'm taking a bit of a break from six inch blocks...

What's funny is I'm not really enamored by sampler quilts. I've sure enjoyed making these, though. And I hope I actually finish them! Also--confession time--I'm really considering starting the block of the month on the Bernina blog. I just can't help myself. It's a beautiful quilt!