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Tips For a Successful Block Swap Quilt

Designer Lynn Roddy Brown shares her best tips for holding block swaps and using traded blocks in quilts.

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"Everything I know about scrap quilts I learned by trading blocks," designer Lynn Roddy Brown says. "Using other quilters’ blocks is a challenge, but it can make you grow as a quilter. The block that uses the ‘ugly’ fabric you would’ve never bought or the burnt orange you can’t stand may be what turns a boring quilt into a great quilt." 

Top Tips:

1. Trade blocks that are easy to piece and can be made accurately. Making 200 Four-Patches is a better option than a few hard-to-piece 12" blocks. (See patterns that are perfect for a block swap here.)

2. Choose blocks with many setting options, such as those with diagonal lines, which can use all the Log Cabin settings (Barn Raising, Light and Dark, etc.).

3. Make multiple quilts from a single trade "When I get blocks in a trade, the first thing I do is put them all on the design wall in a straight set," Lynn says. When the blocks are on the wall, you can see which colors stand out, how much the blocks contrast, and what patterns you see in the blocks. Many times, you can arrange blocks into one quilt that's more planned in its design and value, then use the blocks that don't fit in a scrappier second quilt.

4. Remember that just because you got a block in a trade, you don't have to use it. Change out fabrics, take the block apart, or just put it back in the bag.

5. Go into swaps with realistic expectations. Keep an open mind and consider it an opportunity to learn.