Test Your Skills Sampler input requested

Okay, we’re in the final stretch of the design of the Test Your Skills sampler quilt. I’ve played (and played, and played) in EQ7 and this is what I have:

Test Your Skills Sampler 6 Final?

Here are my goals for the sampler:

1. Put to use all of the skills covered (or yet to be covered) in the Skill Builder Series, including

  • Fabric Selection
  • Matching Seams
  • Half Square Triangles
  • Quarter Square Triangles
  • Flying Geese
  • Diamond in a Square (aka Square in a Square)
  • 60 Degree Triangles
  • Log Cabins
  • Curved Piecing
  • Foundation Piecing
  • Alternate Blocks
  • Y Seams
  • Setting Options
  • Borders
  • Batting/Backing/Sandwiching the Quilt
  • Quilting
  • Binding
  • Labels

2. Give the quilt maker an opportunity to practice some of these basic components. At a recent Modern Quilt Guild meeting, one of the members commented that she doesn’t really like samplers as teaching tools because you do something once and then move on. She felt that making the same block many times did a better job of fixing that skill in her head. I thought that was an interesting point, so the sampler has both single blocks and a scattering of smaller blocks made many times in different sizes.

3. Be accessible! Does it look too overwhelming? Ideally, even a completely new quilter should be able to start with the first lesson and work his or her way through the entire sampler.

4. Look pretty! Is it too cluttered? Is there too much white space? Does it need a border? Do the blocks flow in a way that moves the eye around the quilt? We made some deliberate choices, but I want to see hear reactions before I explain those choices.

5. Be a reasonable size project, both in time and material. This quilt finishes at 70″ x 86″ and uses about 7 yards of fabric (5 of which is background), not including the backing. I expect that the sampler will last about 3-4 months. We’ve already demonstrated a little over half of the skills and several of the blocks, but each will be addressed individually once the sampler begins. There are twelve main blocks and five filler blocks.

6. Look good in any fabric preference, from ultra-traditional to ultra-modern. Here are a few alternate colorways:

Test Your Skills Sampler Purple Teal Test Your Skills Sampler Charcoal

Test Your Skills Sampler BWand Red Test Your Skills Sampler Red

Test Your Skills Sampler 30s Test Your Skills Sampler Orchid

Test Your Skills Sampler Traditional Test Your Skills Sampler Black

So what do you think? I’m hoping for substantial feedback here because this sampler is a major undertaking on our part and I want some reassurance! I’d love to hear both the positives and negatives so I know if we’re going in the right direction with this. Unless there are any major changes that come up from your suggestions, I’d like to post the first instructions next week (probably Sunday).

Edited to answer some questions:

The finished block size is 16″, but in most cases that includes the “white” space around the actual blocks. The large feathered star just left of/below center is a full 16″ block, and all of the others have background fabric added to bring the block up to 16″ so it can be assembled easily. The other main blocks range from 9″ to 12″ and the filler blocks range from 3″ to 8″.

The main blocks can easily be done in prints. The very small blocks (3″ and 4″) are probably best done in solid or tone on tone (also called “read as solid”) fabrics. The floating effect is achieved by using a single background fabric. All of the examples except the bottom left use solids for the background. The large white example and the purple background example use all solids; all of the other examples use prints in every blocks. EQ7 doesn’t always show those prints to scale so it may look different when actually pieced. You can click on each quilt to see a larger version in Flickr.

Because the blocks appear to float and are different sizes, the sampler will have a more modern feel. Even so, it could look very niced pieced with more traditional color palettes and fabrics. The bottom left example uses a lot of 1800’s reproduction fabrics and the yellow background uses 30s reproduction fabrics.



  1. I love the mock-up in gray, yellow, and aqua! I’m not really a sampler quilt person, though I like following them to learn about new blocks and new construction methods. My eye is drawn to the large and really cool star in the middle (three rows down, second from left). I like the space around it, but some of the areas adjacent to it seem really cluttered to me — most the middle three blocks on the far left. To my eye, they fit in the least. But that might just be me. I look forward to learning from your posts. I’ll probably pick and choose some of the blocks to make 🙂

  2. Sandi: This is really an amazing quilt on many levels. I like the white background which makes the colors pop (but I tend toward using white in many of my quilts!). Do you see this as using mostly solids? Or are you thinking small prints would work well? How large is each block (I’m sure I could do the math, now that I just asked that question!!!). This speaks to me as a more modern-style quilt…so I’ll be interested to see what people do that make it look more traditional. Thanks for your hard work on this!

  3. It’s beautiful, love all of the movement through the block layout. If I can sort out enough background fabric to use I will definitely be joining in.

  4. Well personally I am not big into sampler quilts, because I tend to be a bit more “matchy matchy” with my designs. But I really like the design you have presented, especially in the first rainbow colourway! I don’t think it looks too cluttered. I think overall it looks like it has very good movement and is quite striking.
    I don’t think I could commit to making the whole quilt at the moment though because I am so committed elsewhere – but I will definitely still be keen to follow along with your process and try some of the blocks that I’m unfamiliar with, even to turn them into pillow covers or something. I’d love to make the whole thing but I’d just have to see what time allowed.

  5. This is a really beautiful, interesting quilt. It has a wonderfully modern feel and I Love how the blocks look scattered- like leaves blown over by the wind.

    My only real comments are tiny- the black on the feathered star in the first colourway is too strong, and this coupled with the amount of white space around it makes it too much of a focal point. Your eye is drawn too directly to it. Maybe the star could be slightly larger and the black made purple..?

    My other suggestion would be that you need something tiny in the quilt’s top left. The white space here makes the corner feel a little empty and unbalanced compared to the rest of the quilt. Even a single square of a strong colour (the purple, maybe, referring again to the first colourway) would balance this out.

    Hope that helps! 🙂

  6. I do not like sampler quilts….all the soilders lined up like little kids in the halls, waiting for something to happen. BUT there is something about the flow of this quilt that does not shout SAMPLER and there are things happening..

    The not balanced aspect of this quilt is probably what makes it look so modern. Fact is sampler quilts are not usually hung on walls. I think the background would have to be solid or read as solid to keep the flow going.

    Someone commented on the feather star and the eye going there first – well, in my mind the eye SHOULD go to a feather star first – it is the nature of the block and the work that goes into such block deems it worthy of such focus. In fact it got me thinking – why not make the feather star 18-20 inch block and some of the blocks that would frame it 12-14 inch squares or rectangles as needed….??? to keep the logistics in the end.

  7. Wow, I really like this quilt. I love that the blocks float and the overall look is not matchie=matchie. I have made many sampler quilts and struggle with how to set them for many of the resons stated above. I like the white background but am really drawn to the yellow and the black ones. However, if I were to do this I would do the red but use orange with the b/w blocks or maybe black with orange and white blocks. You have given me food for thought.

  8. As an utter novice, I can’t offer valuable insights like the previous posters, but I can tell you how excited I am to make this quilt. I’ve only done the simplest piecing and the simplest items, and I’m very grateful for your clear, clear instructions that will let a beginner like me try her hand. I love the design for its movement and beauty as well as for all the lessons you’ve somehow managed to pack inside. I especially like the mix of large and small blocks. Another feature I especially like is the size — most of the samplers or quilt-alongs that I see tend to feature small-ish wall hangings. The color ways have given me more to think about — I’d thought about solids on white, but the b&w on red really grabs me. Choices!

  9. Oooh I haven’t read the comments above. Sorry. But, I just wanted to say that the Big Star (three rows down, second one from left) is well…a Big Star and no matter what composition I keep seeing it. I believe it is called a Feathered Star. In my mind I feel like everything else is radiating from it and I want to balance it out with something else that is big. No, I don’t have an answer as to how unfortunately. I am just one of those annoying people who points out what she sees as a problem and leaves it at that. 😦 But, there are no problems just creative opportunities?? Can’t wait to tackle this one ladies!!!

  10. I really like your idea of using smaller versions of blocks along with the bigger ones…it makes it seem less like “practice” of a sampler quilt and something more cohesive. I’ll join in if you can just not rush the process…ie give enough time between blocks! Also, a problem that I really have is determining what fabric looks good with what. So, if I pick a background color of pale gray or even navy blue for example, how can I get a cohesive look (not scrappy) with my colors? Where do I find fabrics online that go together? Many of the fabrics I see in the blogs are quite feminine…yet I’d like to make a quilt or two for my older sons…where do I look for that sort of fabric? Do I need to buy a fabric jelly roll, etc. or what? This is where I could really use your guidance.

  11. I think it’s an interesting quilt and you’ve obviously put a lot of hard work into it but to me it feels like there a few elements that don’t want to work together and shout “Look at me, look at me” and then I hear another saying “No look at me” and then “No over here” etc.
    To my mind the blocks that don’t play nicely are the wonky block on the top, the block on the left one up from the bottom and the one on the left one down from the top. Having said that there are some colours they work better in. Also some blocks work really well in solids and not very well in prints. My feeling is that by trying to please everyone and make it work in all colours and fabrics you’re sacrificing the impact of the design. I don’t think there is a quilt sampler around that would look good in all colours and all fabrics. Perhaps this is the impossible dream. In which case I think you did a fantastic job and it’s probably the best combination you could have. Well done!

  12. I like the whole quilt in general, but the feathered star stands out a little too obviously. In the sketch that you posted last time, it didn’t seem to do that as much. I’m not sure why it’s different now, but I would like it better if the star blended in a little more. There’s just too much white space around it. I really like the modern feel of the quilt though; not many samplers have that.

  13. Sorry, I just wanted to add that the top right corner also looks slightly empty. It’s not balanced well with the other, busier corners.

  14. This is a beautiful design with lots of color possibilities which folks can use to personalize their own quilt. It also does a good job of following your outline of “how to do” various things. I love the big feathered star as a centerpiece, and also appreciate the idea of having smaller versions of blocks to reinforce techniques, as well as add interest. I agree with Munaiba Khan about the wonky block – wish there was a balance to that elsewhere in the quilt. My only other suggestion (and it is purely personal) is to add some internal lines – not sashing around each block, but perhaps a few small sashing-type lines around selected areas, and perhaps an internal border. These wouldn’t have to be even in width necessarily, although that might complicate things. I just like to have some “grounding(!)” in my designs – if everything “floats” I get nervous!!

  15. I believe I will be following along with this quilt. I think I will choose a bright colorway minus the black. I actually love the “floating all over” look. The only change I might make is in the upper right corner. I will probably put some space between the pinwheels and the block below them. Thanks for offering this!

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