The Creativity and Camaraderie of Quilt Alongs

Laurie Simpson’s blocks in her Minick and Simpson fabrics

One of the best things about social media is its ability to connect like-minded people from far-flung locales. And one of the growing trends in connecting quilters are on-line Quilt Alongs.

Laurie Simpson’s blocks in Bella Solids

Similar to BOMs (blocks of the month), Quilt Alongs (from here on out referred to as QALs) give instructions for blocks at regular intervals, enabling everyone to complete a block before starting the next, with the goal of creating a quilt. If you’re reading this blog then you’re familiar with the Moda Blockheads 2 QAL. It’s the second time for Blockheads and this time 13 designers are designing blocks and sharing them, along with tips and encouragement, via blogs, Instagram, and Facebook. A new block is released each week for 48 weeks, which is a big part of what makes QALs so enticing.

This assortment of Corey Yoder’s blocks includes fabrics from her lines Flower Mill and Sunnyside Up.

“You don’t have to think about what to make or where to start,” says Carrie Nelson, who’s running Blockheads 2. “You don’t have to go through your books and patterns, just pick a favorite fabric bundle, make a block and BOOM! You’re done!”

Randi Hodson pieced Block 10 with a combination of Robin Pickens Poppy Mae fabrics and Grunge dots.

QALs are a great way to learn new techniques. Jan Patek is known for her appliqué skills and her Block 8 featured a pineapple. But it’s also a way to learn how to get a similar  effect with a variety of techniques. For those who don’t take pleasure in appliqué, Corey Yoder offered an alternate pieced pineapple.

Jan Patek’s appliqué pineapple block
Vanessa Goertzen’s version of Corey Yoder’s pieced pineapple

Some of the blocks are simple, taking longer to cut out than they do to sew, while others are definitely more challenging.

Block 5 pieced by Donna Rowe from the Blockheads Facebook page

I got a chuckle out of Donna Rowe’s comment on the Blockheads Facebook page. Donna posted her finished Block 5 and deadpanned “Wow, this was a booger.” In her block she upped the difficulty by adding fussy cutting and log cabin corners, and that gets to another aspect of QALs that’s so satisfying—by varying the fabric a quilter makes her version different than any other, and by altering an aspect of the block, it becomes even more personal. Carrie, who is known for tweaking patterns, says that it’s inspiring to see the range of choices people make. “You see that simple changes can make a difference, and in some cases a big difference.”

Camp Oda May quilt by Mary Andra, one of the seven “counselors” who designed blocks and borders for this QAL

Speaking of making it your own, there’s another QAL that’s been happening this summer with that very theme. It’s the Oda May’s Summer Camp Choose Your Own Adventure. Rather than instructions for blocks, this QAL featured a medallion quilt with a center block and borders designed by seven counselors (designers).

“Counselor” and designer Jessica Dayon’s Camp Oda May quilt on its way to completion.

At each step there were instructions for two different options and the results were as varied as the quilters who stitched them. Blocks and borders were shared via social media and on the counselors blogs and Instagram feeds, as well as on the Moda Bake Shop Facebook page and the Moda Bake Shop blog.

Lindsay Mayland of Happy Hour Stitches drew inspiration from the Camp Oda May Dresden center, but created her own version. In addition, she combined block options in one border and gave other borders her own twist. 

“The finished product was a total mystery and that meant people didn’t have control over the design, so they were going for the experience,” says Moda Bake Shop chief chef Lisa Calle. ‘You might make some blocks that were outside your comfort zone and try something you never thought you would do.”

Kathy Rutter (@cowboyant on Instagram) made her Medallion quilt with a stash of American Jane fabrics. She loves the scrappy results.

Lisa also points to one of the best parts of these online QALs—the community. “It’s exciting and inspiring to see what others are doing,” she says. “Usually when you’re quilting you’re home alone, but this was like being on a retreat without being on a retreat.” People supplied encouragement, answered questions, and shared tips via their posts, and inspiration galore could be had by clicking on Instagram through hash tags like #chooseyourownadventureQAL and #campodamay. Kathy Rutter (her quilt is below) said she made some new friends via Instagram during the QAL. “It was fun following their progress and cheering each other’s successes,” she says.

“Counselor” Sharla Krenzel designed this label for the Camp Oda May quilts.

If you missed out on either of these QALs, you can still join in. While Camp Oda May has had its closing ceremony (along with instructions for a special label to commemorate it), the instructions are available here . And Blockheads 2 still has many weeks to go so it’s possible to join in at any time. You can start with the current block and go back and finish the rest, or begin at the beginning. You won’t regret the opportunity to try something new, meet new friends, and complete a quilt. A comment by Raylene Eichorn on the Blockhead Facebook posts succinctly sums up the quilting and camaraderie—“I tried a few different versions, too! I think that’s the point of this journey. To learn, to discover and to have FUN! Love your colors!”

How about you—did you participate in these or any other QALs? What have you enjoyed about it? Would you do it again?

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22 thoughts on “The Creativity and Camaraderie of Quilt Alongs

  1. Sorry to admit it, but way too busy right now to quilt along, but I printed the instructions and intend to piece them later.

  2. I am loving the Moda Block Heads 2, in fact I’m doing two different colors ways. I’m usually finished with my blocks by Friday and can’t wait for Wednesday to come for the next block to be revealed. It is very rewarding to see all the blocks together on my design wall. Thanks for doing this for all of us.

  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE the QAL and going to CAMP. I can’t say enough how wonderful everyone has been and seeing all the variations has been amazing. Thank you Moda!

  4. I participated in BlockHeads 1 but didn’t get very far. I think I have about 8-10 blocks finished. I have all the patterns printed out and plan on making the ones I like most, then finishing it into a small wall hangng for my sewing room. I am following BH2 and enjoy that FB group so very much… but haven’t started yet. We are small biz owners so that keeps me busy doing payroll, etc. as well as making baby quilts for our local NICU. (I’m using some of your blue “feed-sack” fabric for a WeeOnesQuilt Linzee! Love it!!) Wish I had more time to sew. But I do what I can as I’m able!! I’ll jump into BH2 as soon as I figure out what fabric to use!!!

    1. Aw, that’s so lovely to hear! I worked with hospitalized babies many years ago and know how much parents of NICU babies appreciate contributions like yours. And I love knowing that some of the quilts will include Feed Sacks: True Blue!

  5. Moda team and Moda Bakeshop team, you are the best! I truly look forward to your Quiltalongs and tutorials. I had so much fun with last Christmas’ Countdown to Christmas and loved the Choose Your Own Adventure QAL. I really can’t wait to see if you do anything this Christmas! **hint, hint** Love ya!

  6. I love these Quilt Alongs. I did the Blockhead 1 and and working on Blockhead 2. I also did the summer camp (which I finished – yeah!). Please continue to do these, they are so much fun.

  7. I LOVE what Moda is doing with the QAL’s! I started quilting in 1985. Quilting has served me well through the years…it’s lovely to see how Moda has brought us into the 21st century! Who would have thought?! I am finishing piecing both path a & b for summer camp. The challenge for me will be the beautiful applique border of path A but I am sure up to it! That’s what is so great about seeing everyone else accomplish these things…gives you confidence to go for it! Thanks Moda and all the wonderful designers…and the fabric!!!

    1. Hi Renee, I’m looking forward to seeing your finished MBSQAL. I Love appliqué and so totally enjoyed being a camp counselor. The best part for counselors is gearing campers enjoyed themselves. Heartfelt thank you for letting us know you Camp.

  8. In this post there is a photo of a bloc by Donna Rowe bloc #5, would like to find the pattern to this to print & make. Any suggestions where I can find?
    Thanks, love all your postings.
    Ellen T

  9. I have had QAL fever this summer and I’ve loved hosting my own and attending “camp” here! I’m so excited to continue the fun with friends as we quilt our Choose Your Own Adventure Quilts over on my blog! Come join us!! 🙂

  10. Love the Choose Your Own Adventure. I finished one top and am currently working on the second. I was able to keep up until the orange peal blocks. I hand appliquéd the Dresden plate blocks and decided to needle turn the orange slices. It’ll be a couple weeks before I complete #2. I am so happy with both!

  11. I like QALs and BOMs because they give me a chance to try new blocks and piecing techniques, besides being a change of pace while working on other projects. Blockheads are great because they are quick to make. Now, getting them all set together is another story!

  12. Thank you Linzee for including my quilt in this blog posting. It’s humbling. Being a counselor at Oda May Camp was so inspirational for me. It was my privilege to be able to participate.

  13. I’ve loved the choose your own path QAL this summer and the ability to make choices. This online group has been great and so positive and encouraging through the weeks. I particularly liked that this one had fewer weeks to follow. If they take too long, I tend to lose interest because I want to finish! This is the perfect way for me to be part of a “retreat” since I work full time outside the home, and have precious little time to actually go to a retreat.

  14. I absolutely loved the Oda May Summer Camp QAL! I am working on two versions-a cabin/camping themed one and Christmas one but since summer is always so busy I’m only about half done with each. I loved the mystery aspect of the quilt & the sense of community created with the sharing of progress, ideas & troubles along the paths. The only thing I’d change is to be able to do it in January-March when the winter weather keeps me in the house more.

    1. I agree, Diana. It never fails to amaze me how the same pattern can look so different depending on the fabrics and colors used.

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