Designers Lynn Roddy Brown and Tammy Vonderschmitt share their best tips for holding block swaps and using traded blocks in quilts.

Lynn's Top Tips:

"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."

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.


Tammy's Top Tips:

A block swap is a great way to gather scrappy blocks. One variation on a block swap is an exchange of smaller units, such as triangle-squares. Designer Tammy Vonderschmitt's Winning Combination quilt was the result of one such swap (you can buy this pattern here). "This was my first exchange ever," Tammy says. "I loved the modern, traditional, bright, and dull blocks. For what I did they all worked."

1. If you're leading the swap, clearly spell out the details, due dates, and other guidelines.

2. Know ahead of time how many units or blocks you will be expected to make (or not!). "I never would have participated if I knew I'd have to make 1,400 triangle-squares," Tammy says. "But now I'm so glad I did!"

3. Use your best fabrics. You will appreciate receiving the same. Many swaps specify that blocks be made from quilt-shop quality fabric only.

4. Follow the swap rules. For example, if you've agreed to removing the paper from foundation-pieced blocks, follow through.

5. Pay attention to fabric placement guidelines, such as using a specific color or light, medium, and dark values.

6. Do your best work, which goes hand in hand with start early! It always takes longer than you think. If you aren't rushed when sewing, your workmanship will be better.

7. Set yourself up for success by using a foolproof method of making your units, such as oversizing them and then trimming them down.

8. Some groups have participants pay a fee ($20–25) when they sign up for a swap. Money is refunded to each person when she submits her swap blocks/segments. This minimizes no-shows.