State Fairs used to be about the rides and the food. Then I became a quilter and it was about quilts–which of my friends had won? Which did I think the best quilt? What new ideas could I get?
This year provided a variation on the quilt theme. The Northwest Quilt Guild has an outreach project called Build A Block for the Fair and other occasions. Members of the outreach group cut triangles, rectangles, and squares ahead of events. The various shapes are in groups of four because most blocks we show require four matching pieces. When people use them otherwise and a pile loses members, the leftovers go into an “orphan” box.
This is one of three tables set up: one for patriotic fabrics, one for child friendly fabrics, and one for “blenders.” People–children too–are invited to lay out a block. They are instructed to pick up a piece of paper to use as design wall–just the right size to hold the pieces that will form a 9-patch structured block–and to select ONE novelty for their center from a box of patriotic centers and another of juvenile centers.
Next we direct them to the instructions for six traditional blocks.
From there we lead them to the table that has themes to coordinate with their center so they can pick up the required pieces. Some follow the patterns faithfully; others create variations. Variations are accepted so long as they fit the design square of paper and the 9-patch structure.
It is interesting to watch people. Some make quick decisions, others place and remove and place and remove. Some even wish for fabrics that are not there because they have gotten a design in their head that they want to replicate.
Participants take their designed block to the people at the sewing machines. We try to get as many sewn up on the spot as possible. Children’s blocks are sewn immediately so they can see the finished product. Often parents whip out their smart phones to take pictures and email them to grandparents. Unsewn blocks go to other guild members to stitch up.
Guild members also stitch tops from the blocks, quilt the tops and bind the finished quilts. Then they are ready to go to the current charity. This year there were two.
Patriotic blocks will become Quilts of Valor.