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In the Quilting World

Big Block Quilts Are Trending

Let me introduce myself: I'm Carolyn Vagts, editor of Quilter's World magazine and writer of this update. That's my day job, and at night, I'm an addicted quilter. I tend to eat, breathe and sometimes sleep with my quilting. I have a beautiful studio with my work space right in it. How convenient, since I work at and with quilting. As editor, I am very hands-on with every issue. I'm also very hands-on with this update. I love to share my experiences with other quilters in hopes it will inspire them to explore the endless possibilities available to them.

With each update I select a book or pattern to accompany it. It's usually something that I feel goes along with the content of my update. This time my suggestion is My Stars. It is a pattern that can utilize scraps if the quilter would like to, and it also was my inspiration for the blocks I'll be making in this update.

My Stars
The My Stars pattern may be purchased at AnniesCraftStore.com.

I never know where I'll find my inspiration. I love to check out Pinterest on a regular basis to see what other quilters are pinning. There are some very interesting trends happening these days. One of the trends I've been following is "Barn blocks," that is, quilt blocks that have been painted on the sides of barns (and other buildings). It seems that there is an interest in pinning the photos of these painted quilt blocks found on barns across the country. There are places in the U.S. and Canada where you can even take a scenic tour through the countryside, following a map to view these works of art. On a recent trip to Annie's corporate offices in Indiana, I made a detour to Shipshewana in LaGrange County. It's an interesting place known for its Amish community, antiques auctions and vast flea market. Not only are there lots of barns with painted quilt blocks, but many of the shops and buildings in town have blocks on the exteriors. I found that several of the traditional blocks were of interest to me for a variety of reasons. I guess you can see a block over and over but not really see all the possibilities. One of the blocks I saw reminded me of one I had made before in the My Stars quilt featured in this update. The center was different and the colors were too, but it got me thinking about revisiting that block.

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Two of the buildings in Shipshewana, Ind., with large painted quilt blocks on them.

For the My Stars quilt I had designed a 16-patch unit in the center of a Sawtooth block. I truly loved that block and the colors I'd used to make it, but what else could I do with it? I decided to blow it up to a 20-inch block and play around with the colors. I have tons of scrap fabrics. So, I took my original block drawing and changed the size in my EQ (Electric Quilt) program. That was done with a couple of quick clicks on the computer. The nice thing is that you can also change the colors that quickly using this program.

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My Sawtooth block variation in two different colorways.

With all the newfound interest in big blocks, I thought I would play around with my own version. Not having a clue what I would do with the blocks when I started, I simply selected fabrics I had a lot of and went from there. My stash and scraps are full of blues, pinks and purples, and I rarely use them, so this was the time to dig deep. I found a white and a light print for the background fabrics and decided on a nice royal blue and a fuchsia for the star points. It seems I have to make more than one block. Not sure why, but two is always bettern than one for me. I guess I need to have choices.

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The fabrics I selected for the backgrounds and star points for two blocks.

Following my cutting instructions for a 20-inch block, I cut out the star part of the blocks, one pink and one blue.

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The pieces for the outer part of my 20-inch blocks cut out and ready to stitch.

Then it was off to the fun part. I love to play in my scraps. I started to sort for both blocks at the same time. I knew I wanted 16 different fabrics for each so I wouldn't have any repeats. Once all the fabrics were selected, I took them to my ironing table.

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Scraps I selected for both blocks.

I cut one 3-inch square of each fabric for a total of 16 pieces for each block. These would compose the centers of the blocks.

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All the pieces cut out and ready to start stitching.

Before I began to assemble my blocks, I laid out the 16 (3-inch) squares for each one and moved them around until I liked the way each of the 16-patch centers looked.

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Auditioning the positions of my fabric choices.

Once I was happy with the arrangements, I headed to my sewing machine and began to sew them together. I then stitched together the rest of the pieces to make the sawtooth border.

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Stitching the units together for both blocks.

I was so pleased with the finished blocks that I have decided to put them up on my design wall for further consideration. I'm thinking I may use them in a quilt made of the same block pattern but in multiple sizes. These two are 20-inch squares, but I could easily make the same blocks in 10-inch squares or maybe even 5-inch squares. Wouldn't that make a fun quilt? Well, I might make two quilts. Fortunately, I have plenty of the background fabric for both, and the scraps are absolutely no problem at all. I'm thinking this is the perfect rainy-day project, so I'm off to my computer to resize a few different options to go along with these Sawtooth blocks. I want to have things ready when I have the time to work on it.

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