Give Traditional Quilt Blocks a Modern Twist

I've been back from International Quilt Market and Festival in Houston for a few days now, and my head is still spinning from the artistry, enthusiasm, and information I experienced there.

mayflower quilt block
The Mayflower quilt block, featured as part of the
Sampler Quilt in the book Vintage Quilt Revival.

You would think that everything you could do with fabric, fibers, and shapes had been done before. But from art quilts to modern quilts to traditional quilts, each one offered a new experience in fiber art.

I was struck, once again, by how many different ways you can interpret traditional quilt blocks. By changing the scale, the fabric, the orientation, or the use (such as block quilting an entire bedspread or featuring one block as a pillow cover), a quilt block can look completely different.

Coincidentally, the book Vintage Quilt Revival: 22 Modern Designs from Classic Blocks was on my desk when I returned from Houston. In it, authors Katie Clark Blakesley, Lee Heinrich, and Faith Jones show the possibilities for using vintage quilt blocks to create unique works of art.

Of the 20 quilt block patterns they feature, my favorite has to be the Mayflower block. It's the simplest one, and I like simple. Yet, there are so many ways to interpret it.

mayflower quilt block in miniature
The same Mayflower quilt block pattern, this
time in miniature on the New World Pouch.

For example, in Vintage Quilt Revival, the Mayflower block is shown in two incarnations: as a large block in the Sampler Quilt and in miniature in the New World Pouch.

"Patchwork projects are a great opportunity to experiment with changing the size of your quilt blocks," writes co-author Katie Clark Blakesley.

"A block that might seems fussy or overdone when repeated in a quilt may be striking in a project with a large single block. Conversely, the repetition of a very simple block, such as the Mayflower block, may be more pleasing to the eye than a single large block."

The next time you want to play with quilt blocks, consider all your options. If you don't want to commit to a full-size quilt, consider making just one block that becomes a hot pad or pillow. Play with fabric, color, scale, and size. If you're stuck for ideas, there are plenty of them–plus advice, history, and how-tos–in Vintage Quilt Revival.

P.S. What's your favorite quilt block? Leave your comment below.


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