Quilt Block Exchanges & CompuServe

I have been thinking about quilt block exchanges, which used to be a very popular activity for quilters. My friend Louann reminded me of the Christmas one I ran in Evergreen Colorado and ever since I have been looking for it! It’s somewhere but I don’t know where.

Flash back to 1990’s. I was weaving and spinning and dyeing. When my DH Peter informed me that we were moving to Singapore, I realized that big floor looms were not going to be reasonable items to move around the world. So oh gee, I started to learn how to quilt. I was so lucky that  Karen Buckley lived nearby and I took a lot of classes with her. And bought a lot of books. And began a subscription to the now defunct Quilters Newsletter Magazine. And collected all the supplies I felt I needed and in 1993 we moved to a small apartment on the 21st floor.

Before we left for Asia, Peter showed me the CompuServe Forums on our computer. I was not much interested or impressed. It took quite awhile to upload and I didn’t see the need for the content. Flash back to Singapore! There I was all alone and I realized that CompuServe was just the ticket! I joined the quilting group and it was wonderful. We were from all over – the U.S., expats like me in various countries and “real” foreign quilters. Paying for dial-up was very expensive for us and in China we had to apply for a license to even have a computer. It was such a treat to take my morning coffee to the computer after Peter left for work and download the forums. During the day I would read and reply to them and upload them at night. Most parts of Asia are 12 hours ahead of the U.S. so it worked out well.

The quilting group was full of organizer types and someone came up with the idea of a block exchange. The first one I participated in was Christmas blocks. There were two groups – one which made 12.5″ blocks and the one I chose, which made 6.5″ blocks. (And it was so much fun, that I did it for two years.) Though the rules can vary, generally each person makes a certain number of blocks, sends them to the organizer who divides them all up and returns them to each participant. So for instance, I made 12 blocks (plus one for me which I kept), sent them to the organizer nad she sent back 12 new blocks. It’s sort of like a birthday gift. I must say that the blocks varied in quality and if you were buddies with the organizer, you could persuade her to send you the “good ones”! After receiving the squares and choosing the ones I wanted, it was great fun to try to put them together to make a nice design.

The next exchange I participated in was called “Near and Far”. Each person was supposed to make a block (12.5″) that represented where they lived and had to include some green and white fabric. This is one of my favorite quilts as it reminds me of all the fun ladies I “knew” for a time. And even without knowing the people involved, I am sure you can tell where they lived at that moment in time. We did it two years in a row.

For the first year I made Singapore Island maps.The fish are stamped and the island is pieced and then hand appliqued.

The next year we lived in Shanghai and I appliqued a flower that looked like some cut paper pictures that I’d bought.

In Tokyo, I organized a quilt block exchange and it did not go well. When we lived there, somehow a group of Japanese quilters tracked me down. We got together often so that I could teach them what I knew. They thought the quilt block exchange was a fun idea and were eager to participate. Somehow, despite having a good Japanese friend who very carefully translated, the ladies did not understand. This was a Japanese American exchange, with the theme being flowers and I co-opted some of my American quilting friends. Each American quilter dutifully made and sent me 6 squares.  From the Japanese ladies I collected one, or two or three squares…. What a mess! The Japanese ladies were still confused but pleased to have a few squares and the American quilters were annoyed to have a few squares. I still have done nothing with the few I kept and mine is not among them. I made a lot of my design to compensate for the lack of Japanese ones and I can’t find any. There are some real beauties in this bunch.

Peter and I were talking about CompuServe recently, and he reminded me that CompuServe was not “the Internet”! I’d forgotten that detail. It was such a wonderful spot for me and the women I “met” online were so helpful and supportive. Here is an interesting article to remind you of how great CompuServe was.

Have any of you done quilt block exchanges? Or were you pioneers on CompuServe? Any interest in a quilt block exchange?