In their book, Block Party: The Modern Quilting Bee: The Journey of 12 Women, 1 Blog & 12 Improvisational Projects, Alissa Haight Carlton and Kristen Lejnieks chronicled the experiences of 12 online friends who participated in a new twist on the quilting bee. First documented on the blog,, each participant selected designs and fabrics for the other group members to work with, leading to 12 quilts in 12 months. Each of these 12 “fun, funky, and improvisational projects” are now published in Block Party: The Modern Quilting Bee, complete with quilting techniques and advice so you can start your own “virtual” quilting bee.

We love Block Party–not only for the quilts, but the stories behind them and the commitment that each of the women made to each other and their craft. We’re inspired by the idea of sewing something similar yet different every month for a whole year while learning something new in the process. That’s why we’ve asked Block Party author, Modern Quilt Guild Co-Founder and former SMS board member, Alissa Haight Carlton, to join us here at Sew,Mama,Sew! for a Modern Block of the Month (BOM)! Every month Alissa will share a new quilt block, which you can make in whatever fabrics you choose and in your own time. We do hope you’ll sew along each month and share you questions and progress with us in the Modern BOM pool on Flickr. Help us spread the word! If you want a copy of the Modern BOM button for your blog you can find it here: If you’d like to learn more about Alissa, you can find her at her wonderful blog, Handmade by Alissa.

And now, without further ado, the first Modern Block of the Month!

Welcome to the Sew,Mama,Sew! Modern Block of the Month! From July 2011 to June 2012 we will be making a total of twelve 12 1/2” (12” finished) quilt blocks.

If you’ve never done any quilting before, this is the perfect opportunity to dive in and give it a shot! Any beginner can take on these blocks.

There’s a lot of talk about what makes something modern and I’m not going to try to answer that because, like all art, it’s subjective and something that can be discussed and debated at length. So rather than give a strict definition, I’m going to tell you the design traits that I love. Some or all of these traits will show up in many of the blocks that we’ll be making for the Modern BOM:

  • Use of solids
  • Whites and/or grays as neutrals and background/negative space
  • Asymmetry in the design, especially in terms of the negative space
  • Improvisational piecing

Fabric Requirements for One July Block:

  • Fabric A (Kona Cotton Bone) 1/8 of a yard
  • Fabric B (Shot Cotton – Galvanized) Scrap that is at least 9.5” x 3.5”
  • Fabric C (Kona Cotton Butterscotch) Scrap that is at least 10.5” x 2”
  • Fabric D (Crossweave Blue Blue) Scrap that is at least 9.5” x 3”

Block Numbers for Quilts:

  • Large Baby Quilt 48” x 60”: make 20 blocks, Arrange in a 4 x 5 block grid
  • Lap Quilt: 60” x 72” make 30 blocks, Arrange in a 5 x 6 block grid
  • Queen Sized Quilt: 96” x 96” make 64 blocks, Arrange in an 8 x 8 block grid

Cut out all of the pieces for your block. Take care to keep track of which piece is which as you do so. You can pin little paper labels on each piece as you cut them out or you can lay them out (I have a design wall that I do this on) as you go, arranging them as indicated in this diagram.

Assembling the Block:
When piecing together this block use a ¼” seam allowance and press after sewing each seam.
1. Begin by sewing A1, B1 and A2 together. Then sew A3 to the right side of your piecing.

2. Then sew C1 and A5 together as indicated. Sew A4 to the left side of your piecing.

3. Sew D1 to A6 and then A7 to the right side of your piecing.

4. Continue by sewing C2 to A9 and then A8 to the left side of your piecing.

5. Finally, sew B2 to A10 and then A11 to the right side of your piecing.

6. Finish up your block by assembling the five portions of the block, working top to bottom, in this order: A3 portion, A4 portion, A7 portion, A8 portion and A11 portion.

With a cropped photo of one finished block I created some digital quilts to show you how much changing the lay out of this block can impact the end result.

These layouts all require that you make 30 blocks and result in a 60” x 72” finished quilt top, a good-sized throw.

I also sewed the block up in a very different set of fabrics. This creates a completely different look for the block and quilts made with it.

The fabrics that I used are:

Have fun! Let us know if you’re sewing along!