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Quilting Terms: What is a Sampler Quilt?

Updated on October 13, 2012
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A lover of arts and crafts, Shasta Matova enjoys making artistic, applique, pieced, traditional, miniature, modern, and crazy quilts.

Sometimes quilters use quilting jargon to quickly identify quilts, and this leaves the beginner befuddled. A sampler quilt is such a quilting term that can be confusing.

When I go to a new restaurant, I really enjoy getting a sampler platter. It gives me a chance to try out the different dishes offered by the restaurant without committing to any one dish. If I don't like a particular item, it is no problem, because there are plenty of other things to eat. If I particularly like a dish, I can order more to take home.

But what does that have to do with quilting? Is someone giving away quilt samples?

This hub will provide some answers to these popular questions. What is a sampler quilt? What are some things you should know before making a decision about whether to make a sampler quilt?

Sylvia's Bridal Sampler is a book with patterns to make a sampler quilt.
Sylvia's Bridal Sampler is a book with patterns to make a sampler quilt.

What is a Sampler Quilt?

Unfortunately, there are no quilt samples. A sampler quilt is a quilt that is made from a variety of quilt blocks. Instead of making a lot of one block, a sampler quilt will only use each block once. The quilter can make different blocks to learn different skills and try out different techniques, and then put them all together in one quilt.

Sampler quilts are quite popular in quilt classes and for beginner quilters. If you find you didn't like one technique, you will know to avoid it in the future. You only had to spend the time to make one block. If you find that you did like another technique, you can make more blocks that use that technique.

There are books that teach you how to make all of the blocks in a particular sampler quilt. Alternatively, you can design your own sampler quilt by combining quilt blocks that you particularly like.

If you make a sampler quilt using scrap fabrics, then you don't have to worry about running out of fabric. If you run out, you can add something else that will work.

Sampler quilts also make great group projects. Each person in the group can make the same block several times, and share them with the other members of the group. Or each group member can contribute a different block for a quilt that will be a gift.

Advantages of Making Sampler Quilts

Sampler quilts are great because you get to try out a variety of techniques and try out a lot of different blocks, and different ways to make different blocks. You can learn how to make a variety of blocks that use different techniques such as appliqué, templates, curved piecing, paper piecing, chain piecing, and strip piecing all in the same quilt.

You only make one of each block so you don't get bored.

Since each block is generally being made one at a time, if you make a mistake on a block, it is only made on that block, so it isn't very hard to fix it, or make another one.

It is rewarding to make each block. Since each block is different, you can show your progress of each block to your friends on your blog. With a repeating block, it would get boring to your friends to see another block that looks exactly like the one you finished yesterday.

Sampler quilts tend to lend more flexibility than other traditional quilts.

Disadvantages of Sampler Quilts

There are many advantages to making a sampler quilt, and a few minor drawbacks.

Because you are only making one of each block, you may not feel like you get enough practice with a technique to really learn it.

You may enjoy making blocks so much, that you may get carried away with making them, and not actually putting them together in a quilt.

Since you are making one of each block, you generally cannot have any economies of scale. Generally, I find that I only make one block at a time, maybe two. This means that I have to cut fabric for each block separately, sew it separately, press it separately, etc. Making each block separately makes sampler quilts more time consuming than quilts that use the same block repeatedly.

In addition, since each block is made separately, it is quite possible that not all of them will be the same size, making them more difficult to put together.

Choosing a quilting design may also be a challenge, since each block is different. The video below explains some of the challenges and joys of making a sampler quilt.

A quilter tells you about her sampler quilt

Day Twenty-two : Hub #56 of  100 Hubs in 30 days
Day Twenty-two : Hub #56 of 100 Hubs in 30 days

Sampler Quilts

A sampler quilt is a quilt that is made of a variety of blocks that generally use different techniques. They are versatile and allow a beginning quilter to learn a great deal about quilting in just one quilt. If you are taking a quilt class, taking one that makes a sampler quilt is a good value for your money, as you will learn many different skills that you can apply to your future quilting efforts.

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