Postage Stamp Quilt 2012: Mini-Challenge Number One Begins

February 2012 Postage Stamp Quilt Mini-ChallengeFellow quilters! We have cut fabric charms. We have swapped them with our new quilting friends. Everyone has been playing with these lovely little treasures, dreaming of what they will make. Postage Stamp Quilt (PSQ) fever has settled cheerfully upon us all. Many of us are even cutting more charms for the April Swap. We are ready for more fun with charms, and perhaps a prize or two along the way!

Hopefully, the Lots of Links page will have given you some ideas so you know just what you want to make. If not, do not worry, you can still have fun with us this month.

2012 Postage Stamp Quilt Mini-Challenge #1:

All that you need to take part is a nice stack of small fabric squares, between 1.5 to 2.5 inches each. You can participate in this mini-challenge even if you did not do the January Swap (but you may want to do the April one!) I recommend that you have at least 100 different fabric charms on hand, but more is better. If, like me, you realize the you have over 50,000, you better get going and get sewing!

If you are wondering how many charms you will eventually need to finish a quilt, check out the Let’s Talk Size section on the Postage Stamp Quilt – 2012 Charm Swap Kick Off post. Please do not wait to collect all those charms to consider taking the next steps!

Step One: Pick A Team

Jars of sorted charms.Become a Rainbow Maker!
Did you select number 3 or 4 above? You are definitely a Rainbow Maker.
If you selected number 1 or 6, I strongly suggest you join this team for now.
Rainbow Makers have some really fun planning to do.

Many Chained Quilt Pieces for Chain GangJoin the Chain Gang!
If you selected number 2, you are ready for the Chain Gang.
Did you select number 5? Then you should be a part of this team, and get started.
Chain Gang members are ready to SEW!

Step Two: Get Busy

Rainbow Maker

Check out Playing with Color. Are you sorting by color, by tint, or both? Are you striving for stripes, sunbursts, fading from light to dark, or some other design? This is the time to experiment! Clear off some space and spread them out.

Some ‘patterns’ may develop slowly. You may find that you need to wait until you have several hundred charms before you are able to pull off your plan. I find it easier to hold off on the next step (which is joining the Chain Gang) until I have enough charms to finish my color-blocked project, or to repeat a section of it.

Lovely Color Sorted CharmsOnce you have a plan, sort as needed. You may need to only sort by color, or you may be sorting light to dark. When you are through sorting, keep playing with your squares until your plan comes together. Lay out a section, and take a picture of it, for reference. If you have room, I encourage you to lay out your entire quilt. If space doesn’t allow, try laying it out in sections. These little squares do not take well to a design wall without pinning!

Alright. You have your quilt design all tested, but you simply cannot have it all over the floor for weeks. Pick them up in order, row by row, left to right. Mark the top charm in this stack with masking tape, and label it as RIGHT EDGE or LEFT EDGE (depending on how you picked them up.) Put each row in a sandwich bag, and I label it ROW 1, ROW 2, etc. Keeping them in order means you will be able to reassemble them as you go. While reassembling, you can always refer to the picture you took, above.

Sorting is VERY subjective, as most quilters know. I squint at fabric a lot! Is it light or medium? Does this yellow read bright or pastel? Perfection is unlikely, so at some point, when pondering a charm, just pick and get on with it. Really busy, multicolored prints can be a huge challenge, and you may decide to just sort them as light or dark and work them in throughout your design.

When Rainbow Makers are ready to move on to the Chain Gang, they skip the paper bag system, and match their charms according to their chosen design. That is why it is important to pick up each row and keep them in order. After all your rows are bagged and labeled, move on to chain piecing them, as in the Chain Gang. At the end of each row, cut the chain, and store them back in the baggies. If you cut and press the chains, great, but keep them in the same order so your design stays intact.

While you are sorting, you may want to sing. Hop back in time to the Curious Quilter’s Glee Club’s great tune Shall We Sort? and sing loudly.

Chain Gang

Chain Gang PiecesIf you have tons of charms with no (or very few) repeats or duplicates, just toss them all in a large bag, and mix well. Pull charms out in pairs, and stack right sides together, so they are ready to stitch together in chains. If you have many duplicates, for example four of each fabric, consider using four bags for your charms, so the duplicates are widely scattered.

NOVELTIES and STRIPES: If you do not want your quilt to have an UP and DOWN to it, turn novelties and stripes in different directions as you set up to chain. If one print faces the seam, and the next faces sideways, etc, they will scatter across your quilt without leaving a UP and DOWN to the final project.

Wind a bobbin, thread your machine, and start chaining these pairs together. If you have a few duplicates, it is acceptable to decide not to chain a matched set together, but otherwise, please let them pair up as they come out of the bag. The randomness adds to the overall effect of the quilt.

When you have long strings of chains, cut them apart and press their seams to one side. Do not worry about WHICH side, either side will be just fine. In fact, I am careful to not always go with the traditional thinking of “press to the dark” but instead I vary my pressing, to keep the randomness going. Stack these pressed pairs up and save for later.

Start to think about which assembly method you want to use. Will you be following my Postage Stamp Quilt Block Demo and using my “Square to Rectangle to Square” method? Or will you be stringing sets of charms into rows, and stitching those rows together? Which ever you decide, you need to start with the chained pairs you are creating during the mini-challenge.

Hmm, perhaps there will be an anthem by the Curious Quilter’s Glee Club for the Chain Gang in the future, but in the meantime, feel free to sing along with the Rainbow Makers.

Step Three: Enter the Mini-Challenge

Sign up nowWell, it IS a mini-challenge, and there are mini-prizes to go along with it! How can you enter to win a mini-prize?

Mini-Challenge note: To be eligible for a prize at the end of this mini-challenge, you do not have to finish sewing all your charms together, but you do have to get started on step two. After all, we want to SEW something with all these fun charms, right? Well, most of us do, at least.

Simply leave a comment here, sharing which team you are planning on joining. Then set a goal for one month, like “I will finalize my design plan” or “I will chain 500 charms together.” Comment deadline is Sunday, February 19, 2012. Winners will be selected randomly from all entries, and announced on February 21st. Two winning names will be drawn from each team’s comments.

Rainbow Maker Team Members: the winners will receive a set of 100 two inch charms, in a rainbow of colors.

Chain Gang Team Members: the winners will receive a set of 100 two inch charms, with over 40 novelties or fussy-cut specialties included.

(If the winners want 1 or 1.5 inch charms, they will have to cut the two-inchers down. Should a winner prefer 2.5 inch charms, we can arrange that.)

So, again, to join the February Mini-Challenge:

  1. Pick a team.
  2. Start on the steps.
  3. Comment here. State your team, and share your one month goal for progress on the steps.
  4. Comments accepted through the end of the day on Sunday, February 19, 2012.
  5. Winners will be announced 2/21/2012.

Have fun! Be ready for something new in March. And keep cutting squares for the April Swap!
Needle and thread line copyright The Curious Quilter at WordPress dot comSignature ©2012, The Curious Quilter,,

About thecuriousquilter

Quilter, sewer, writer, gardener, mother, sister, friend, always learning, always curious.
This entry was posted in PostageStamp Quilts/Charm Swaps and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

73 Responses to Postage Stamp Quilt 2012: Mini-Challenge Number One Begins

  1. Janet says:

    I’m joining the chain gang. I have 500 charms so far. I will try to have 200 of them paired together this month.

  2. I am in the Chain Gang team! I would love to get more of my scraps/remnants of fabric cut and a few blocks sewn together using Mary’s PSQ demo. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. roberta wilson says:

    I missed the last swap and have only been back to quilting for a short time but want to make a truly random no duplicate quilt. I am giving myself 3 years to finish collecting enough fabric so i am loving your challenge to start. I want a king size made of 2.5 inch squares so my goal is to have at least 300 together by the end of February

  4. Sharon Wood says:

    I am joining the Rainbow Maker gang. I have about 500 patterned charms cut so far and need to get started on cutting the white charms. My goal this month is to get 500 white charms cut and my first 64 charm block pieced. I am going to try Mary’s rectangles to squares method for piecing.
    Now that I have written these goals I had better get cutting!

  5. Martin says:

    Chain Gang all the way here. I have tons of charms, guess I will shoot to chain up and press 400 of them this month. Love the jars of charms!

  6. Mary Jean Price says:

    I’m joining the chain gang and need to cut and sew 300 21/2 ” squares. I need to get started now!!!

  7. mandy weaver says:

    I’m joining the Chain Gang. I swapped 400 – 2.5″ charms. My goal is to chain them.

  8. I am in the chain gang, although I’m not going truly random and I’m putting a lot of thought into pairing my squares! And I had to laugh when you said 4 squares from each fabric is “many” duplicates… Because some of my fabrics have 20 duplicates! So I guess I fall into a separate category of “tons of duplicates” lol.
    I have already started pairing and chaining. As you know, my squares are in 4 bags, bags 1 and 3 are already sewn into duos, and I’m starting quads on bag one. So my official goal for February is to get all of bag 1 sewn into 4’s and ironed. That’s a little over 900 squares made into quads.
    And I am using your method, which has been really helpful so far!

    • It will be stunning, even with the duplicates. Trade some of them away for new charms in April!

      • Last night I started doing what only a crazy person would do… I’m taking part some of my duos to put in some of my squares from the swap!! I just loved some of them to much to put them into a quilt to give away (crazy AND selfish 😛 ) and it is helping me get take out some of those duplicates. I think I pulled out 44 of the exact same fabric!!!

  9. coloradolady says:

    I am going to jump on the Rainbow maker gang. I am not sure if I even have enough to start as you know Mary….I always go big or go home!!! (Oh,wait…I am home) LOL

    My goal is to plan the layout and then sort what I have. I do have an idea, but I’d like to get it on paper to see how it works.

    I will try and get a layout going and a picture!! I wonder how it would be to start in the middle and work outward?? My mind is going in that direction!!

  10. Allison says:

    Hello! I’m joining the chain gang, and my goal is to sew 50 pairs by the end of February (what can I say, I’m a slow sewer, hehehe) also, I’m using 2.5″ squares for my PSQ, so I’d prefer that size. thank you!

  11. says:

    Hmm…I guess I am a sort of Chain Gang person but I picked number 4 in the survey. I am working on a design using 2-1/2″ squares that I hope will be ready to sew by the end of the month. Right now I am in the cutting stage.

  12. Narelle says:

    Make room for me on the chain gang please 🙂
    My goal will be to join my squares and swap squares (300 in total) into pairs and have a good look at all the links.

  13. Sam says:

    When I started this swap I was thinking of putting white between each one (making me a rainbow maker). But I think I’ve changed my mind and am thinking of putting each set I receive into its own block (chain gang) and maybe somehow putting the swappers first name and/or country on each block??? I’m thinking it will be my very own special “from around the world” quilt. For that I will need to swap a lot of charms to make a decent sized quilt.
    So my goal for the end of February is to have cut at least 20 sets for the next swap. I know that’s not ‘sewing’ but I hope it counts!

    • That’s a really cool idea!

    • coloradolady says:

      How fun! I hope we get to swap sometime this year!! My quilt is a huge one, and it was made from donated fabrics from around the world…literally. I called it my “begging quilt project” because I asked for quilt donations. It is on my blog under begging quilt…..this is a great and fun idea!

      • Sam says:

        I hope we get to swap too and I want a big quilt too! Thinking I could put my charms around the “outside” to get it to the size I want.
        I now have 20 sets cut for April, I’ve reached my goal for February…will go cut some more!

      • Amazing, Sam! I hope you start sewing some pairs together now, it is a blast to see even that little start on the quilt.

  14. Meloney says:

    Good Morning! I plan to join the chain gang. I’m using all those squares I have that are 2″ and just randomly putting them into 16 patches. I like the idea of making the blocks first. I plan on making 10 to 20 sets, depending on how much longer I’m substituting at the school.

  15. merrie says:

    i am in the rainbow maker group…i have already sorted the 400 squares i got into color groups and have sewn the like colors into rows of 6 which i will then sew into 6 rows by 6 rows–about a 9″ square..when i have all the squares done i will sew them together hopefully in a kind of rainbow pattern with no other color between…what i need when the swaps are all done i will take out of my own stash..but right now only using the ones i have gotten in the swap therefore i have no completed blocks other than the ones with white backgrounds..i may not include them in this ….i may come up with a different project for is so much fun to think about..

  16. Lee says:

    Joining the ‘chain gang’ for sure. I like random no-mind sewing. Also it doesn’t bother me if there is a duplicate or two. In a month I hope to get some sewn together. I have some random 4 patches already so maybe I will continue to add to these to make a 16 patch. However, we are beginning renovations and I am not sure how much time I will get to sew.

  17. Angie says:

    Joining the rainbow maker gang. I am a new quilter and have always dreamed of making a postage stamp quilt – one of my favorites! My goal: cut at least 100 squares to trade and for myself (200 total) or maybe more!

  18. Mindy says:

    I am going to join the rainbow maker gang. My original goal was to make a watercolor style wallhanging quilt, but, now I am loving the traditional style postage stamp quilts as well so I am sure I will eventually make one of those as well with the charms I don’t need for the watercolor. For now I have chosen a painting by Thomas Kinkade that I would like to follow–maybe not exactly–so I need to sort all my charms by color and hue. I also plan to go ahead and buy some more in the colors I need off of e-bay/etsy instead of just hoping to get them in the trades . So 1) Sort 2) buy 3) cut more for the swap in april 4) start trying to arrange the ones I do have into my watercolor…maybe start with a small section that I already have lots of that color (like greens).

  19. Anastasia says:

    I will be joining the rainbow maker team. I plan to make hexagons out of the stamps so I don’t know if I qualify really for a postage stamp quilt. My ultimate size is to be a lap size so I too will be in the “market” for more stamps! Oh darn to the store I go again! The hubby will love that!!

  20. Astrid says:

    I’ll have to wait until I receive the charms from my partners, hopefully within next week. These days I’m working on another PSQ; rectangles – if that counts as PSQ. Over the last days I have ironed and squared up more than 400 four-patches. 🙂

  21. Alberta in N GA says:

    I am joining the chain gang… I know what I want to do which will be making the blocks on the diagonal with red squares going diagonally like one of the pictures I found on your links. I think I have figured out I will need over 4,000 plus my red squares… more swapping, swapping, swapping… i guess I better get to cutting again. I would like to put the layout/design in EQ7 to see how it will go as I think I will have to sew it together one row at a time all the way across….I know I am a glutton for punishment. but oh so much fun we are having

    • Alberta, are you planning on the red as every other square, or a few rows apart? You can do the square yo rectangle etc way, just chart out how many 4 patches need two red squares kitty-corner from each other. For instance, with two inch squares, there are 64 charms per square foot of quilt. That means 16 four patch units.

      If you want one row of red going diagonally across from corner to corner, four of the units will need to have red squares set diagonally from each other. To expand that into a quilt, just make each 12.5″ block that way.

      Have fun!!

  22. Pingback: » I’m in a Chain Gang! - L & R Designs Quilting -

  23. Karolina says:

    I think I would like to arrange my squares in groups and colour cordinated so I guess that places me in the rainbow maker team.
    My goals for februari is:
    1. sort the fabrics I already have (and the ones I´m waiting for) in colours.
    2. Deside on a layout. I´m still looking for inspirations. Maby squares on point, like the old military stamp quilts in wool, maby with whites in between or just blocks of colours…. This is what I will deside on before february ends, and hopefully I will begin sewing atleast one block in that chosen design to see how it looks.
    3. Cut more fabrics in the colours I want more of and for the next swap.

  24. Amy says:

    I’ll join the rainbow makers. My goal will be to cut charms from the fabrics I already own this month and hopefully have enough extras to participate in April’s swap!

  25. Judy Purman says:

    I am definitely in the chain gang – random is best for me!
    my goal is to piece 1 – 8×8 (8 – 2″ charms x 8 – 2″ charms) squares each week. so 4 total blocks completed. also, to cut 100 more charms.

  26. Susan says:

    I am going with Team Chain Gang. I want to make a totally random throw-size quilt. My first quilt ever. (I am in awe of people who are planning to make bed-size quilts!) My one month goal is to acquire more 2.5 inch squares and chain-piece at least 100 squares together.

  27. Pam says:

    I’m joining the Chain Gang! I didn’t join in the swap, but am planning on the one in April. I’m working with 2.5″ squares and plan to string my sets into rows. We just moved to a new city and I’ve found a quilt shop and 2 fabric stores, so I’m anxious to “visit” these places and start cutting charms!

  28. rutigt says:

    I´m absolutely a rainbowmaker. Have always wanted to do something in the watercolourtheme. I think it´s so beautiful. So now I just have to cut more stamps and sort them out in piles. That´s my goal for february. Hopefully I´ve got me a sewingtable in Mars, where I can lay all this tiny blocks in a beautiful pattern.

  29. anne says:

    Chain Gang for me! My goal is to chain at least a 100 pairs and to complete at least 2 blocks of 64 2 inch squares. This is fun!

  30. kimr says:

    I had planned to be random…..but then became a rainbow maker! LOL Heck, I have all of my buttons sorted by color, all of my ribbons sorted by color, all of my fat quarters sorted by color…it was only a matter of time before I sorted my charms by color! LOL

    So, they are already sorted. I am hoping to make a queen…so I don’t even have a drop in the bucket! I don’t know if I will even end up doing the quilt by color, but I do like them sorted that way for now. Once our guest room bed is cleared off I will take them in there and play around with designs. My goal is to also finish cutting up my scraps for the April swap. (That is part of what is cluttering up the guest room bed–the four bags of scraps I received at my last quilt guild! So pressing those and getting accurate 2 inche charms cut is my goal.) Is this acceptable for my goal?

  31. MissLane says:

    I really want to try to make PSQ. I am new to quilting and umm…. sewing as well. So I don’t know what team that makes me, but GO TEAM!

    • Welcome to the addictive hobby!! This is a great beginner project, really. Easy sewing, forgiving if all the seams aren’t perfect, and no right or wrong if you go with random.

      I would go with chain gang, and start sewing pairs together as soon as you have a 2-300 charms. If you are cutting charms now, be sure to cut extra sets to swap in April!

  32. Hi! I am just getting back into quilting after a long hiatus. I always admired postage stamp quilts but felt intimidated. Now between having a friend who is working on a postage stamp quilt and following this blog, I think I can do it. Put me on the rainbow maker team! I only have 42 different fabrics so far, but have cut out several hundred squares. I’m interested in doing some watercolor or colorblocking type work but for now am concentrating on making a nine-patch out of each of my fabrics alternated with off-white. My goal is to continue collecting interesting fabrics to make squares. I try to pick prints with lots of colors so I can get squares that look different!

  33. Martin says:

    Oh I am sewing sewing sewing, keep those bobbins rolling, Chain On!

    Nothing like the theme from Rawhide in your head while you stitch.

  34. Lucy says:

    Well, I am definitely Chain Gang, but I like the ideas and think I will probably start saving up for some rainbow projects. That could be SO fun. And, HEXIES!!! I have been gathering some pieces for that hand project.~


  35. Cath says:

    I am a newbie to this whole quilting game, but am ready to throw myself onto the chain gang! I’ve started setting my 2″ squares aside into 2 piles. One of unique ones for my own little doodle and a few of each fabric that I work with for a possible swap – if I can gather enough for the April swap. Wish me luck

    • Welcome to the fun! Sounds like a great start to me.

      I have been hearing from many new quilters, with small stashes, and am figuring that the April swap Ned’s to have an option just for people like you. Perhaps a special ‘newbie swap’ with sets of 50 unique fabrics? Suggestions welcome!

  36. merrie says:

    the newbie swap sounds good to me..i am by far not a newbie but would love to help out any newbies by sending them pkgs of 50 without a trade…..just to help get them started…just a thought…

    • Cath says:

      Wow!! Merrie that would be amazing. Yeah!!!

      Here’s my pledge to ‘pay it forward’ as I become more experienced. Additionally, I am new to this whole blogging thingy, but I have loaded pics of my pieces (just a few) onto Picassa so that I have a record of my progress. I think if you look you may be able to find them. Your comments and suggestions are very welcome!! 🙂

      (Private email deleted to prevent phishing.)

  37. Alberta in N GA says:

    reading this again and it is great to see how many are really starting and also already cutting for April… havent started cutting yet but hey, we have a whole month yet before April, so I couldnt resist, I had to start sewing; especially since I decided and charted what what I wanted to… of course if I had followed the chart the quilt would have been “gnormous” so changed it a little… still it is probably going to be around 95 x 105… wonder when it will be done… since today is Valentine’s day, I am doing what I want to do and this happened to be sewing on my PSQ.. I am very happy with it.

    Mary, are you going to have a place/area where we can put pictures of our progress so that we can upload them?

    • Yes, there will be a flickr page starting next month!

      And I am glad that you are actually SEWING! Some people really can’t start yet, but if you can, you should. Just chaining tons of pairs now will help speed the construction over the next weeks.

  38. Pingback: Thanks to All My Quilty Valentines! | The Curious Quilter

  39. GA Quilter says:

    Well I am a chain ganger as i have already made my 56- 8 inch blocks(which used 9 for each block) plus using 8 per rectangles to border each 1 of the blocks.So i have 7 rows x 8 rows together.Now have to add a 1 1/4 inch border and then make 288 chevron blocks for next border so will be using over a thousand 2 inch lights in this border.It is called 9 patch in the middle from Bonnie Hunter.I am a night time person so some nights have sewn until 2 in the morning.(get sewing Alberta if you want to catch up,also remember we have to get our BOTW done)Cutting for the April swap ,as I have another quilt in mind for these squares.

  40. Rockgranny says:

    I am definitely in the chain gang and my goal for this month is to sew as many pairs as I could
    Also I’m cutting next batches of 100 charms for April swap
    Love the idea from merrie to help newbies

  41. Diane says:

    I am also a newbie to quilting, but a long time fabric collector – guess it is time to do something with all that fabric!!! I am planning to make PSQs (not sure what size yet) for both my daughter and son, using identical fabrics but in random placement. I think they would have fun playing “can you find this square on your quilt” type games. I am truly a planner by nature, but for this project I am going totally random and joining the Chain Gang! I have started cutting my 2.5″ squares and sorting into two identical piles, so my goal for February is to start sewing pairs.

  42. Raelene says:

    Hi Mary,
    Not only do you organise an awesome swap, but also a challenge to get us to sew them. You rock girl!
    Please make room on the chain gang I’m heading on over. (Now I can sing “Chain Gang by
    Sam Cooke,
    My goal will be to chain about 200 charms into pairs. I only have a few days so I must get onto that tonight.

    Hugs from Australia

  43. Jeanne says:

    I just ran across this, so I’m a little late … but I do have PLENTY of scraps that can become charms 🙂 I chose #4, so I’m in the Rainbow Group — still need to do some brainstorming, but I know I’m an organized thinker, so there will be some color theme or order to my project. Off to do some planning …

  44. I’m in for the chain gang…though I do tend to group by color…however, I never have a plan and am not meticulous whatsoever in how my projects turn out (though I am meticulous in the quality of sewing that goes into them). I will make something small, probably landscape or a bag or a placemat. We’ll see. I never really know until it is done.

  45. Raelene says:

    I have uploaded a photo of my charms, that I pieced this weekend on my blog


  46. Lyn Smith says:

    I think I’ll have to be part of the chain gang. Not sure yet what I’m making other than a whole lot of pairs. I’ve just received my second lot of swap squares so it is now onwards & upwards to more squares going together.
    Happy stitching from Downunder.

  47. Genevieve says:

    I am joining the chain gang.
    I chose number 2.
    Joined the swap here in January and got some lovely little bits. I plan on swapping in April again. I commit to sewing 500 pieces together using your block, rectangle, block tute.

    Oh well I missed the cut off date to join in the mini challenge, but there I am anyway…LOL

  48. Pingback: February PSQ Mini-Challenge Winners | The Curious Quilter

  49. Pingback: Postage Stamp Quilt-Along Update | Lemonwood Clock

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