This month, we introduce “It’s Not a Square” an exciting new program we know you’re gonna love! It’s a 12-month Club by reproduction expert Carol Hopkins, with AMERICAN SWATCH BOOK prints by Judie Rothermel. Best of all, we timed the fabric production to coincide with Carol’s new book, The 4″ x 5″ Quilt Block Anthology: 182 Blocks for Reproduction Fabrics (Martingale, March 2017). We chatted with Carol to uncover some of the interesting backstory that led to this exciting Club concept:
- The rectangular shape of the blocks is a big feature of the book. What brought that about?
I’ve been a part of a block exchange group for about 25 years. Four of us had just finished a year-long exchange of 6” weather vane blocks and were looking for an easier, and less time consuming, block. We decided to frame a 3” x 4” rectangle with a 1” border—easy cutting, two fabrics, done! However, on her way home from our lunch meeting, Linda Koenig had a brainstorm which she followed up on with a note to all of us, suggesting that instead of just framing a plain rectangle, we create designs that would fit inside a 4” x 5” rectangle. She tempted us by enclosing a set of four blocks she made and we jumped in, not realizing just how challenging it would be to come up with block designs that weren’t square!
- Your new book is titled, “The 4” x 5” Quilt Block Anthology: 182 Blocks for Reproduction Fabrics”. How long did it take to amass such a variety of designs, and how did you know you were “done” at 182?
We each agreed to design four blocks a month for a period of nine months. Since we make identical blocks for each person in the group, that meant we each sewed 16 blocks a month. That’s a lot of sewing, but the good news is, we each had 16 new blocks at the end of the month! When Linda showed our blocks to members of another group she belonged to, they, too, decided to design blocks; however, they did not exchange blocks.
At the end of nine months, 182 different blocks had been created. The quilt on the cover of The 4” x 5” Quilt Block Anthology, contains all of the blocks designed by the two groups, and was made by Linda, who, sadly, passed away shortly before the book went to press. Other quilts in the book and its companion on-line photo gallery vary in size from wall hangings to bed quilts and showcase a variety of fabric designs and colors.
- Tell us about the color palette – any special significance?
In our block exchanges, my group always uses fabrics that look old–Civil War reproductions, pink-and-brown prints, blue prints with shirtings, plaids /checks/stripes, and red-and-green combinations. Linda suggested the 1880s color palette of red, blue, black, pink, and shirtings because it was one that we had not used before.
While we were able to select fabrics from our decades-old personal stashes, I was concerned that there was not a fabric collection in the marketplace that captured the look of the blocks in the book. Martingale’s Chief Creative Officer and I approached Pati Violick from Marcus Fabrics about the possibility of asking Judie Rothermel, the pioneer designer of reproduction fabrics, to create a fabric line in our color palette. Thus, the collaboration between a book and fabric company emerged, and I had the rare opportunity to help curate a collection of 22 prints from Judie’s personal collection of antique fabrics that resulted in the AMERICAN SWATCH BOOK line.
I’ve taken the book and fabric collaboration a step further to create the It’s Not A Square Club that will debut in quilt shops this summer. Using the American Swatch Book fabrics, The 4” x 5” Quilt Block Anthology book, and detailed monthly block guides, club members will make six different blocks a month to create a 57” x 78” sampler quilt of 72 rectangular blocks.
- Aside from quilts, how do you see quilters using blocks of this size and shape, either individually or grouped together?
I envision quilters using individual 4” x 5” blocks for things like mug rugs, purses, fabric postcards, and even pockets on clothing. A grouping of just a few blocks could make unique doll quilts, basket liners, table runners, wall hangings, or mini samplers. One of the most fun things I can think of is getting a group of friends together to work on blocks for themselves or to swap with other quilters. The book includes tips and guidelines to help you set up a block exchange or organize a club.
Looks like one you’ll want to add to your project list this summer! And to get one lucky winner stared, we’ve again teamed up with Martingale to offer this book-and-fabric bundle. To enter the random drawing, subscribe to our blog (at right), and tell us in the COMMENTS what you would love most about making this quilt… Comments received by next Wednesday, April 12, 2017 are eligible for the drawing… Go!