A “Sampler Quilt” is one which has many different blocks, usually separated by sashing strips.
They are very popular with those who like to experiment (or get bored easily), as you only do each block once, and can have a lot of fun trying out something new. Often, they are provided in a “Block of the Month” format. Although sometimes this includes fabric, most people like to make their own choice of colours.
Sampler Quilts are also a great learning tool. Often suggested for beginners, they also make really good projects for more experienced quilters, as there are plenty of more challenging blocks as well as the usual straightforward ones. You can try out new methods, techniques and colour combinations, which will help you to discover which you really like, and want to do more of. If there is a block which you hate, or which proves too difficult – just leave that one out, and replace with another – and you haven’t wasted a lot of fabric.
I was given the opportunity to try out some of the wide range of plain and semi-plain fabrics made by Makower from their Essentials, Spectrum Solids, Spraytime, Linen Texture, PinStripe and Bijoux ranges. They include a huge variety of colours, and as solids and subtle textures don’t go out of fashion quickly, they are so useful to keep in stock. They can of course complement more highly patterned designs, but also look great combined together to give a style which is both classic and modern.
After spending a long time choosing, I narrowed down my choice to a the fabrics above, which could be combined in different ways. I decided to make a selection of Star blocks suitable for a Sampler Quilt to share with you – and to make it accessible for you whatever your skill level, I will focus on a different technique each time, and offer you a mixture of easy and more challenging blocks.
Look out for “Skillful Skyful”, coming soon.
So, how would you go about choosing fabrics for a Sampler Quilt?
There are three broad styles which you could consider:
- Same fabrics throughout
- Completely random fabrics
- Controlled colour palette
I’ll talk through the problems and advantages of each, illustrating this with previous projects:
1. Same fabrics throughout.
This is what I did in my Provencal Sampler Quilt. It gives a coherent overall look, despite the different blocks.
I chose three fabrics – a Dark blue patterned, a Medium blue plain and a Light flowery fabric. These were used in every block, with the Light as the background, the Dark as the main focus, and the Medium as a contrast to both. The sashing and border fabric was then chosen to complement them.
The Provencal Sampler pattern (available in the online Shop for £8) just refers to Dark, Medium and Light, allowing you to choose any three contrasting fabrics in a colour scheme of your choice – the pattern gives the quantities needed. This means that you probably need to buy the fabric specially, but you won’t waste much.
If you are not confident choosing fabrics, have a look at my blogpost about Colour and Contrast, which should be helpful.
I have made another Sampler Quilt which also uses consistent fabrics throughout.
There are three fabrics: Dark (the brown giraffe print), Medium (the orange) & Light (the beige) which appear in every block:
I added two extra fabrics to some blocks:
Can you see the Very Dark (the black) & the Medium Pale (the pale leafy brown) which appear in half the blocks.
Again, all the blocks have the same background fabric, to give a consistent approach.
In another project, I am making hand-pieced blocks using Swiss cottons – again using the same fabrics each time – a bright pink, a navy blue and a paler pink Toile de Jouy.
Having the same background fabric also makes it easier to find a sashing fabric which frames them all.
2. Completely random fabrics
In contrast, you will see many sampler quilts made with a huge variety of fabrics which have been selected with no planning – indeed people are sometimes advised to just put together any sample blocks they have made, or to use up leftover scraps.
As an experiment, I laid out a selection of my orphan blocks to illustrate what they would look like………..
Personally, I don’t like this. Although each block is pleasing individually, I just don’t think they work together. Some are bright, some are more subdued, and there are so many colours which don’t all go together. And it would be really difficult to pick a sashing fabric which supported the range of background colours equally.
Although some quilters succeed in making spectacular quilts this way, I have also seen many which are far less successful. It needs a really good eye for colour and value to make this work. I am a bit of a control freak, so a bit more pre-planning works better for me. However, some of you will think this effect is lovely – so if you do, go ahead! It’s your quilt, so do what suits you.
3. Controlled colour palette
For this option, you need to choose a larger number of fabrics within a defined colour family, which all work together. Then you can pick a slightly different selection for each block. It is still important to select a range of value (Light Medium and Dark), and to have an overall “feel” to give it consistency, as with planning any scrap quilt. See the second section of my Colour and Contrast blog for guidance on this.
This is what I have decided to do with my Makower sample fabrics.
I have a “Pink” set and a “Blue set, both of which range from Light to Dark, together with some neutrals and a contrast (mustard) which work with either (see photo near the top of this blog, and compare it to the “sorted” versions here).
Here is a taster of some of the blocks which will be coming in the Skillful Skyful series.
This should give you an idea of how these fabrics will work together:
I’m afraid the colours don’t always come out the same in the photographs!
Can you pick out the same fabrics in different blocks?
The next post will be about how to choose blocks which work well together in a Sampler Quilt.