Traditional quilt blocks are, specifically, a single quilt block that, some where along the way, someone designed a block and then gave that block a name. Many are very old and became well established as traditional blocks and classic quilting designs.
Many Traditional quilt blocks have more than one name... no doubt due to the fact that several designers created the block in various parts of the country and used it under their name. It was not until notes were compared that the duplications became known.
There are some amazing quilts being designed, today, with new ideas for blocks and just as many new names. One day we may be calling them "Traditional", too.
I became fascinated with traditional quilt blocks when I began reading The Elm Creek Quilts novels by Jennifer Chiaverini. Time after time her master quilter, Sylvia (and the other quilters), would mention a traditional block name. Many of which I’d never heard before. Such as "Turkey Tracks".
It was frustrating!
One thing about it, I was getting an education on the numerous block patterns! One thing led to another, my graphic arts training kicked in and after working on a quilt block to clean it up in my graphics program...
I blew it up and began making the Traditional Quilt Block into single block
quilts. Before I knew it, I had several beautiful single-block quilts.
After making my first (One Block Only) traditional block
quilt, I discovered just how beautiful a single block could be. The
One Block Only quilt gives the fabric a chance to really shine in the design.
Dramatic prints—big bold florals and other designs—make wonderful anchors for the quilt designs. From there, solids and other kinds of prints are added to make every part of the block’s design pop.
When single blocks have to stand alone, the whole design depends entirely upon the color selections and fabric choices. Get them right and WOW!
Get them wrong, boy-o-boy can it get ugly!
A secret to accomplishing this is to use a dramatic center fabric. Then checking the printer’s codes (the dots or squares of color along the side) as a guide, choose fabrics, whether prints or solids, that are similar in colors to what's in the code to coordinate the whole design.
In the first single blocks quilt (above), "Best of All", I started with the pansy prints and a dusty rose solid. There are three kinds of pansy print—a black background, a light background and a blue background for the pansies. It was fun to see these fabrics go together after collecting them the last few years.
The second blocks quilt, "Broken Band", was made with left over fabrics from a quilt called “Blue Ice”. The center is snowflakes, then a light tan background, then a light blue wintery fabric, and a Delft Blue solid fabric. Then a off-white with lots of dots like a snowy day.
The last single blocks quilt, "Mums Garden", started with a fabric with big bold flowers of pink and burgundy—fancy cut—for the center and corners. I had a tan and white chunk of fabric given to me that fit the background (just barely enough!).
I used a medium rose solid and a burgundy solid for the rest of the fabrics. I used the flowers to match the solids.
(This pattern had no name when I found it, just a number. I decided to call it "Mum’s Garden" for a variety of reasons: In Britain "mom" is "mum" and the flowers in my quilt are mums. And my mom gave me the fabrics.)
The traditional blocks were initially designed to make a quilt using multiples of them. Usually the blocks are separated by sashes, sometimes placed side by side, creating multiple block designs.
Once I started blowing up the blocks, though—and making One Block Quilts—I’ve come to really appreciate their beauty standing alone.
The Traditional Quilt Blocks speak beautifully for themselves and are classic in their design. A single block can truly be beautiful all by itself in a "less is more" concept.