QuiltCon Block Challenge: Planning Your Block

The QuiltCon Block Challenge is an opportunity to design a fabulous modern quilt block that may be selected for inclusion in a collaborative quilt that will be displayed at QuiltCon and awarded to one lucky attendee.

Thousands of people will see this quilt, both online and in person, so I encourage you to be thoughtful about your process and plan a block that really features your voice as a quilter.

In this post, I’m going to walk through a few steps that you may or may not find helpful in planning your block. Please don’t hesitate to take or leave these suggestions, and/or to modify the order of the steps in a way that conforms to your process.

1. Think about shapes and piecing style.

The challenge guidelines say to design a block that shows what modern quilting means to you. There’s no “right answer” here. It simply means that we’re looking for fresh, beautiful blocks that are, in your opinion, modern.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Would you prefer to plan every part of your block in advance, or do you like to improvise?
  • Would you prefer to update a classic block design, or create a new one?
  • What kind of shapes (triangles, circles, squares, etc.) do you want to include?
  • Do you want your piecing to be conventional or wonky?

2. Focus your color and fabric choices.

The challenge guidelines say to use the colors of the QuiltCon logo. That doesn’t mean that you have to use them all. Think about whether you want to focus on one color, use a few select colors, or include them all in your block. Decide whether you want to use prints, solids, or a combination of the two.

You may want to take a look at my previous post about color and fabric.

Once you know what fabrics you want to use, group them together on your table or design wall. Look at your fabrics and then look at the QuiltCon logo and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do these fabrics read as the color(s) of the QuiltCon logo?
  • Is there a color or print that sticks out or detracts from the overall look?
  • Are secondary colors in print fabrics muddling the color scheme?
  • If you haven’t already integrated a neutral like white or gray, could doing so help the overall look of your block?

Work with your fabric choices until you have a palette that both coordinates with the QuiltCon logo colors and works for you.

3. Consider the size and shape of your block.

The challenge guidelines say to make a block that is 12½” tall x whatever width you want. This means you can make a conventional 12½” x 12½” square block, or many different sizes of rectangular blocks.

Any of these block shapes could work.

Some things to think about:

  • Will your block look better as a short rectangle, a long rectangle, or a square?
  • Are you planning a single piecing design that will take up the entire block, or do you plan to compose a block from multiple pieced units?
  • Could using a rectangle, rather than a square, be an interesting way to update a classic block design?
  • Will negative space play a part in your block and, if so, how will that affect the overall block size?

4. Sketch.

Even if you plan to use an improvisational piecing style, some casual sketching can help to focus your composition. As you sketch, think about the following:

  • What size will the various elements of the block be in relation to one another?
  • Where will each fabric be used?
  • Will the design require any special construction techniques like y-seams?
  • Will everything you’re planning fit into the block size you’re contemplating?

5. Make a practice run.

Does your block include any tricky piecing? Are you wondering how those fabrics will look once they’re sewn together? It never hurts to make a practice block, particularly if you’re trying out a new design.

In a perfect world, your practice block will look just like what you’ve been envisioning. If it doesn’t, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would changing one or more of the fabrics help?
  • Would changing the proportions of different parts of the block help?
  • Does the block seem too simplistic or too busy? If so, what could be added or taken away?
  • Would more practice with this piecing technique be helpful?

And, of course, the final step is to make your block and send it to me! Read all about the specifics of the challenge on the QuiltCon site, here.

I’m so eager to see what everyone makes!

6 thoughts on “QuiltCon Block Challenge: Planning Your Block

  1. Hello! I am a fairly new quilter – I made five quilts when I was much younger (when I was about 11 – 14 years old). I took a long break, but after I discovered the MQG, I found myself really inspired and ready to jump back into the world of quilting! I would love to do this challenge, but I have a (probably stupid) question. Is a finished block just the finished front piece, or do I need to include batting and the back?
    Thank you so much for the inspiration and for sharing your beautiful quilts!

    • A block is just the pieced block. The blocks that I select will be sewn into a quilt with other blocks, so we won’t want any batting or backing sewn to them in advance.

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