(Updated January 2014)
When I pulled out some of the golden oldie block lotto photos a couple years ago, I found that looking back was a lot of fun. For the curious, here’s a brief, illustrated history of the Block Lotto.
2001 one was a year full of change and loss for me. In early February, I put everything I owned into storage in California and drove across the country through snow and sleet and ice (and closed highways) to Michigan. My dad survived a round of heavy-duty chemo that no one expected him to be able to endure and, later in the year, died the same day that his doctor told him that everything was looking great. I was establishing myself in Michigan with a new job, a new home and making new friends. I don’t remember my motivation for starting the block lotto, but, looking back, I suspect it was a way to reach out to old and new friends on the forum on quilting.about.com.
In 2002, the blocks for the lotto were all 12 inch (finished size) traditional blocks, made from Marcia Hohn’s patterns on the Quilter’s Cache site. There were no colorways specified, only indications of where to use the light, medium and dark fabrics.
You can see more of the snowballs, anvils, monkey wrenches, Annie’s choice, stamp baskets, Ohio stars, bow ties, grandmother’s fans, churn dashes, grandmother’s favorites, sawtooth squares and Union Squares blocks and links to the block pattern pages in the 2002 Block Lotto Index. All the photos are also available in my 2002 Block Lotto collection on Flickr.
The two most popular months that first year were when we made star blocks: Annie’s Choice blocks in April and Ohio Star blocks in June, so I concluded that a year of star blocks was a good idea.
In 2003, we made these star blocks from patterns on the Quilters Cache site.
I’m missing some photos from a few months and have no photos at all for the October blocks. I never really thought to hang onto my photos; I wish I had–they can provide some great block and color ideas. Those first two years, I took photos of all the blocks, cropped and resized them and emailed them to Marcia, who created pages like this one, from January, each of which were linked to the corresponding pattern. Later, Marcia would quietly remove all those links … and I would realize that depending on someone else to maintain the archive of block photos wasn’t such a great idea. There are links to all the photos I have of these starflowers, laced stars, army stars, oddfellow’s chain, Amish dahlia, hope of Hartford, Christmas quilt blocks, prizes, arrowheads, whirling star and heavenly star blocks, as well as links to the block patterns in the 2003 Lotto Block Index. All the photos can also be found in my 2003 Lotto block collection on Flickr.
The 2003 block lotto started strong, with a new high of 80 blocks entered in January, but participation waned as the months passed until November, when I found out what happens if you hold the block lotto and nobody plays. In hindsight, I think that many (most?) of the star blocks I chose that year were just too complex, but, back then, I figured that the lotto had run it’s course and the time had come to end the monthly lotto.
I asked the other swap hostesses if anyone had any interest in picking it up and Vicki jumped at the chance. She picked up the lotto in January 2004 with a lot of enthusiasm and fresh ideas, but it seemed to have ran out of steam by August and dropped the lotto. I don’t have photos of those blocks and only remember that they were almost all made exclusively from novelty fabrics.
A year later, in the summer of 2005, a lot of members of the quilting forum were discussing the need for more beginner-friendly swaps. That discussion prompted me to resurrect the lotto as the BEGINNER Block Lotto in August, 2005. For the rest of 2005 and all of 2006, we made beginner-friendly 10 inch (finished size) blocks in designated colorways or themes.
Initially, I set up web pages of the photos, as Marcia had done in the past. Early in the year, I discovered Flickr and switched to posting the photos to Flickr sets. When Delphiforums offered blogs, I set up the first Beginner Block Lotto Blog, then later jumped to another blog on blogger.
In 2006, there was a changing of the guard on quilting.about.com and Janet Wickell became the guide for Quilting. She was very open to working with me to create block patterns and publish the patterns that I created for the lotto which opened the door to new possibilities in 2007. She also promoted the block lotto in her newsletter and on the site. The emphasis continued to be on beginner-friendly blocks, with tutorials for possibly new techniques. We continued to grow and stretch and try new things and make lots (and lots) of beautiful blocks.
In 2008, the logistics of the lotto changed, to make it a little easier to deal with the hundreds of blocks that were frequently being made and entered and, until 2008, all being mailed to me. I also created a group blog on blogspot, so that lotto regulars can become authors and create blog posts for photos of their blocks.
In 2008 we made 6 inch blocks–easier to mail around and versatile to use in totes, table runners and, of course, quilts.
You can find the illustrated list of the 2008 lotto blocks with block names and links to all the photos and the block patterns, here: 2008 Lotto Block Index.
In 2009, we embarked on a year of traditional blocks, sticking with the easy-to-mail 6 inch finished size.
Sadly, by March, the problems with Janet’s lack of interest in quilting and responsiveness in posting the block patterns that I was creating for her and Quilting.about.com site on time for the monthly Block Lotto had grown to the point that I made the decision in March to move entirely to blogland.
By the end of the year, I realized that our list of past blocks in the sidebar had also grown to be too long and unmanageable . . . and so on New Year’s Eve, I started to move those lists into Block Index blog posts, one for each year.
For 2010, we left the traditional patterns behind and began an adventure in free-style or liberated quilting. So many people asked for bigger blocks, so we didn’t stick with one size for the year and played with liberated blocks, large and small.
In 2010, I proved to all just how much of a geek quilter I am when I made two quilts which serve no purpose beyond providing imagery on the web: the Block Lotto banner and badge quilts.
2010 was a year of tremendous growth for the block lotto. We made a total of OVER TWO THOUSAND blocks. We bumped up against the limit for authors on blogger . . . and maybe my ability to keep everyone’s name, nickname and email name connected
Our growth continued into 2011, pushed in part for a mention in Quilter’s World magazine in February. In an attempt to work around the 100 author limitation, we also made use of the posting via email . . . and bumped into the limitations there
I challenged myself in 2011 to choose/create blocks for the lotto that did NOT include half-square triangles and mostly succeeded–the exception is the Modern Clover block designed by Kate. I fell in love with it when she suggested it and I couldn’t say, “not this year, because we’re not doing HSTs).
My (mostly) non-triangle year was a big hit–in 11 months, we made more than THREE THOUSAND, SIX HUNDRED blocks.
The community gave me a much needed break in December and then surprised me with this quilt, made from block patterns based on lotto blocks. They blew me away.
Coincidentally, I’d been thinking about samplers and wondering if others would join me in making a sampler quilt from the 2012 blocks. To make them easier to use, all the blocks were 9 inch squares (finished size). I envisioned this set of blocks as a modern sampler and that they could live happily together in a quilt with a modern setting.
As it turned out, I didn’t make my sampler blocks until January of 2013 … and it is still in the UFO stage, waiting for it’s setting. Oops.
A big change in 2012 was our move to our own web site, Blocklotto.com. WordPress is a new experience for most of us, but we found our way and new quilters continued to find us.
Because I have always loved the proportions of the occasional rectangular blocks we had made in the past, in 2013, I asked why not a whole year of tall blocks? We made these 6 by 9 inch blocks.
It was admittedly a self-indulgent year–I love these figurative blocks, but I know that they aren’t everyone else’s favorite–especially when it comes to basket blocks
In 2014, we are making blocks which celebrate geometric shapes in three sizes: 7 inch squares, 14 inch squares and 7-by-14 inch rectangles. These blocks can be easily joined in 21 inch modular building block units and used to make sampler quilts in various sizes. Along with the monthly lotto blocks (and block patterns), I’m sharing my design for sampler quilts in 6 sizes. I’ll be making quilts in two sizes … and hope that others will join me.