Fifty State Quilt- The history of a major quilt project!

Back in 1996, I had the opportunity to participate in a huge quilt block swap representing every state in the United States.  I represented the state of Georgia, and my assignment was to design a quilt block and make 50 of them.  This is my biggest quilting project to date.

50 state quilt block swap

This quilt is one of my prized possessions. The process to create this amazing quilt started way back in 1996. I realize that many of you youngun’s were probably in diapers back then, but bear with me. This story is worth hearing.


Back in 1996, I ran across an ad in the back of a quilting magazine from a lady out of Stafford, Virginia, named Teresa Drummond. She was trying to organize the assembly of a quilt that representated each of the fifty states. Her plan was to find one person who lived in each state to commit to designing, piecing and sewing together a 12″ quilt block that represented their state.

Not one block, mind you, but each person would need to create a total of 50 blocks of their own design. Then her plan was to collect the blocks and swap them so that we each would end up with 50 blocks, one from each state.

A glutton for punishment, naturally I signed up right away. I was young and naive at the time, barely out of diapers myself. Ha!

My husband just totally rolled his eyes!

Anyway…Teresa and her partner, Wendy, were amazing. If you have ever been in a swap, you have to know how difficult it is to get a large group of folks to all cooperate with deadlines and promises. Heck, even those with the best intentions are often sidelined with life. Because regardless of what you have planned, life tends to get in the way.

But somehow, those two ladies got 50 people to commit, 50 people to design and sew together 50 squares each; a total of 2500 squares. And then those two wonderful ladies convinced all of us to make one more square each using red white and blue fabric for an additional quilt to be auctioned off for breast cancer awareness.

That’s me, fifth one from the right on the front row.  The one with the big hair.  Ha!

After several years, the project was complete and in the spring of 1998, those of us that could, traveled to Stafford, Virginia to complete the swap. Our task was to go through all 2500 squares and sort them so that each person would receive one from each state.

And then we all sat down and put together the breast cancer quilt. It was an amazing time that I will never forget. The story can be found in this newspaper article.

50 state quilt block swap

 Each square is signed by the designer.

50 state quilt block swap

50 state quilt block swap50 state quilt block swap

50 state quilt block swap50 state quilt block swap

These are just a few of my favorites. South Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, North Carolina, Nevada, Utah…well actually I just love them all.  Each has their own story.

50 state quilt block swap

My square, representing the state of Georgia, is a combination of a pattern called “Country Roads” and my own design of the Olympic torch. You see, the year we began this project was the year the Olympics were in Atlanta. Seems forever ago.

50 state quilt block swap

I pieced all the squares together and created a center square to represent the USA. And I’m currently working on finishing up the hand quilting for each state block. One day, I hope to hang this in the 2- story foyer in my house.

The Nifty Fifty Quilters are still going strong. With Teresa at the helm, they are now working on Nifty-Fifty 30, believe it or not! You can go to this link if your are interested in participating. And if you would like to learn more about Teresa’s charity quilts or some of her other amazing swaps, please stop by the Nifty Fifty Quilters website.

Tell her that Suzy sent you!


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Like quilts and free quilt patterns?  Check out:

Windmills at Night free quilt pattern and tutorial
Summer Jewels free quilt pattern and tutorial

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Teresa Drummond July 25, 2013, 5:38 pm

    My son was at the University of Portland. He was doing searches of Nifty Fifty with the person he was meeting with sent and they sent me the link to your article. I love it!! It was fun reading about our swap and reminiscing about our swap weekend. Maybe we could plan another one…..

  • norene July 8, 2013, 9:41 am

    I remember that wonderful trip to Virginia. It was Lynda’s first plane ride and she was pretty nervous. We had a great time together. It would be fun to do it again some day.

  • AllieMakes! March 10, 2011, 6:07 pm

    WOW! Beautiful! Thanks for linking up to Making It With Allie last week! I can't wait to see what you have for this week!

  • Melissa March 8, 2011, 5:35 am

    That is amazing! Thanks for sharing over at Tuesday Tell All.

  • Jill March 4, 2011, 4:10 am

    What a great story and such an amazing quilt! I can just imagine the organisation it took! Must feel great to be a part of something that special!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a great weekend!

    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  • Christina March 4, 2011, 1:31 am

    WOW great job! This must have taken so much time…and it looks beautiful!

    Thanks so much for linking to "20 Below Thursday"! 🙂

  • Elizabeth March 3, 2011, 6:29 am

    That so SO neat! I love that idea! I made my first quilt this past summer (well..sorta…I still need to do the binding!). It's blues and yellow and just a simple pattern with different sized rectangles to form a block. I would love to do another someday and I would love to learn how to do more stuff by hand. I think it would be really neat to make a quilt block for every place you've gone on vacation or something like that, too. You've inspired me!

  • Krafty Kat March 3, 2011, 2:41 am

    Whoa, that's so cool! Thanks for sharing this at Gettin' Krafty with It!

  • shopannies March 1, 2011, 8:47 pm

    what beautiful quilts

  • Handy Man, Crafty Woman March 1, 2011, 1:15 pm

    wow, that's so nice. Love it! That looks like it took a lot of work.

  • Harvest Moon by Hand March 1, 2011, 12:54 pm

    What an amazing quilt and inspiring story!


  • Beth March 1, 2011, 5:50 am

    What a great idea. The quilt is beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing this post.

  • March 1, 2011, 2:21 am

    wow! what an amazing story! Makes me wish I were a quilter!
    thanks for sharing @ ccc

  • SewHappyGeek February 28, 2011, 9:33 pm

    I just love this quilt and the whole idea behind it! Thanks so much for linking up on my little blog!

  • Sasha February 28, 2011, 8:48 pm

    This is amazing. I don't know how to quilt but just the time and effort put into this is astonishing. Thanks for linking up to Creation Mondays @ ~The Life of Me~!

  • Kassi @ Truly Lovely February 28, 2011, 5:25 pm

    I love this idea!!! I bet it was so fun and interesting to get to share the blocks with everyone else!!! We featured you today from the Fancy This Fridas link up, FYI! 🙂 Hope you'll check it out and grab a featured button!

  • Lisa February 28, 2011, 2:07 pm

    What an amazing story and keepsake! It's gorgeous!

  • Leslie February 28, 2011, 1:32 pm

    I'm a new follower from Polly Want A Crafter link party.

    What an amazing story! That is truly amazing.

  • Undeserving Grace February 27, 2011, 6:23 pm

    How beautiful is that! My mom and grandma are quilters and my grandma has always sold sewing machines, fabric, and now quilting machines so this brings back memories. I was out searching for some inspiration and thought I'd tell ya about an opportunity to share your etsy store w/ others…
    Undeserving Grace Monthly Features
    lots of inspiration at your site too!
    Have a great week!

  • Teresa February 27, 2011, 10:43 pm

    I also love the stars you have used in your sashing. That was a great idea for a 50 state quilt. I just posted your Nifty Fifty Quilt on my blog….

  • Teresa February 27, 2011, 8:52 pm

    Hi Suzy,
    I love your center block!!! It is beautiful. I see that you were one of the lucky few who got an original Rhode Island quilt block. Do you remember the story behind our Rhode Island swapper? And do you remember Jeri from Oklahoma who came to help us sort the blocks and she told us it was her first swap and she had bought and cut out enough fabric for 2500 blocks instead of 50….she thought she had to make 50 for each state. She was such a good sport. I still keep in touch with her. She is on Facebook. Did you find our Nifty Fifty Quilters Facebook page? And here is my Nifty Fifty Blog It is so great to hear from our original Nifty Fifty Swappers.

  • Jensamom23 February 27, 2011, 2:34 pm

    I found you through Tatertots and Jello. What an amazing thing to be a part of! Quilting has always fascinated me.

  • Happier Than a Pig in Mud February 27, 2011, 12:17 pm

    What an amazing project, congrats for being a part of it-enjoy:@)

  • Hartwood Roses February 27, 2011, 11:21 am

    I live in Stafford, and I remember this story in the newspaper!! How wonderful to be reminded of this amazing effort and it's so cool to see your quilt all assembled. Your center block is beautiful!

  • Annie February 26, 2011, 12:22 am

    That's one fantastic story! I can't wait to go to the Nifty Fifty Quilters site!

  • Ani February 25, 2011, 11:49 pm

    That's a lovely quilt, and quite the project!

  • Karen February 25, 2011, 2:44 pm

    This is amazing. Love it.

  • The Cat From Hell February 25, 2011, 2:39 pm

    What a great quilt and what a great story!

  • Lynne February 25, 2011, 2:28 pm

    Can't wait to see it finished. Maybe it will inspire me to actually one of mine.

  • Sheetal Ahlawat February 25, 2011, 10:40 am

    Wow, what an interesting story. I don't commit to swaps ( oh how much I want to), because I cant complete anything on time 🙁 . really an interesting read. Thanks for sharing Suzy.

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