Charm Square Rules

The Lebanon Quilters Guild has been exchanging 5” fabric squares for many years.  This is a voluntary activity and a fun way to quickly expand your fabric collection … especially if you want to make a “Charm Quilt.”

History of Charm Quilts:  While most quilts derive their name from the design of a block, or from the technique used in construction, a Charm Quilt is defined by its one-patch construction: each piece cut from a different fabric.   A large number of shapes can be used to make a one-patch quilt. The shape must tessellate; it must fit patch-to-patch without spaces between.   Squares, right triangles, equilateral, and isosceles triangles, diamonds, hexagons, and octagons are the most common. Other shapes work well, too, including the Ax (or Spool), the House, Tumbler, and Kite.

You may participate in the Charm Exchange as many or as few months as you choose.  If you participate each month, at the end of the year, you will have 320 5″ charms!  Charms also are great to have on hand to make a quick child’s quilt or one for charity (or for the Guild’s annual Exhibition).  If you plan to participate in the exchange, please follow the directions below.  Any questions, please contact:   Please check the current Charm Co-odinator in the list of committees on the back page of any month’s newsletter.

Each month’s exchange follows a color theme.  Use printed fabrics – no solid colors.  Pre-wash and iron the fabric, then carefully cut eight (8) 5” squares from each of the four fabrics (no selvages!).  Make 8 identical charm sets of the four different fabric squares and put each set into a separate self-closing plastic sandwich bag.  Put your name inside each bag so the bag can be reused (an address labels works well).  Put all 8 charm set bags into a gallon zip-lock bag and write your name on that bag in permanent ink.  (This is your “travel bag” to use each month that you participate in the charm exchange.)  Bring your travel bag with the 8 charm sets to the guild meeting and sign in at the charm table.  Remove the 8 charm sets from the travel bag and place them in a stack on the gridded numbered plastic sheet. Sign in on the corresponding number on the tablet and leave your travel bag next to the charm grid.  At the meeting break, you may collect your charms after they have been sorted by the Charm co-ordinator.

If you like exchanging charm squares, here are some thoughts on how to use/buy your fabric wisely:

Most of us seem to have an abundance of fabric from which to cut our charms. However, sometimes, we need to buy one or two or more fabrics to fill out the colors we need so the question is….how much fabric should we buy?

Firstly, one should take into consideration that whatever length you buy will be shortened a bit by uneven cutting, washing and slight fraying. Now, ….is one fourth yard enough? After you cut your 5” squares, you have approximately 3” or at most 4” left. If a third yard is purchased, then you have approximately 6-7” left. A half yard? Then you would have approximately 11-12” left……all reasonable cuts depending on how you visualize your fabric and whether you buy randomly or with a plan.

Here are some ideas:
When buying fabric for charms, buy enough in colors you like to actually do something with the fabric. For example: if you only want to purchase a quarter yard, why not use the remaining 3-4” to make strips for a log cabin or another quilt requiring you start with strips. If you buy a third yard, the remaining 6-7” can be very productive if it is in colors and pattern you would actually use. If you buy a half yard, you can cut off a fat quarter for another project and still have enough left to get eight charms for exchange, one charm left over to use another month in the charm lottery or save for yourself, plus an 18” long 2-3” strip. A very productive way to use a half yard of fabric! Even though the charm colors change every month, you can gear your color choices to fabrics you can use or other projects—brights, pastels, jewels, muted….flowers only, geometrics only, etc.   You get the idea. Buy your fabric wisely and get the most out of every inch!

Want to make a charm quilt?

Just look at all the ‘scrappy’ patterns available and fit your favorite colors into the patterns. Not difficult.  Traditionally, charm quilts were just simple one-patch quilts but today…there are many shapes that can done as charm quilts—a scrappy hexagon quilt, an apple core, tumbler, spools, tumbling blocks, clamshell and a host of other patterns are all ideal for making charm quilts.  You are only limited by your own imagination.

Some patterns for you: /T/TumblingBlocksBlock.html

Interested in how charm quilts originated?

See below for some short histories of ‘Charm’ quilts:

Charm Quilt Books

There are quite a few ‘Charm’ quilt books* out on the market, all filled and brimming with photos and ideas of how to make charm quilts using the variety of collected 5” charms. I bet you had no idea there were this many devoted to the simple 5” charm square!! Read the details about the books at

1. CHARM QUILTS by Beth Donaldson Or too much fun with a stack of squares and one template! This about says it all.
2. CHARM QUILTS by Susan McNeill
3. THREE TIMES THE CHARM by Leisure Arts
5. CHEERFUL CHARM QUILTS by Martingale Press
6. COUNTRY THREADS GOES TOP CHARM SCHOOL: 19 little quilts from 5” squares by Mary Tetherington and Connie Tesene
7. BACK TO CHARM SCHOOL: More Fun Quilts from Country Threads (That Patchwork Place) by Mary Tetherington and Connie Tesene
8. CHARM QUILTS WITH STYLE by Bobbie Aug, Sharon Newman, Barbara Smith & N Kay Jesse
10. BEYOND CHARM QUILTS: The Ultimate Challenge by Catherine L. McIntee and Tammy L. Porath
11. NICKEL QUILTS Great Designs from 5-inch scraps By Pat Speth and Charlene Thode
12. MORE NICKEL QUILTS: 20 New Designs from 5-Inch Squares by Pat Speth
13. AMAZING NICKEL QUILTS: 11 New Designs from 5-Inch Squares by Pat Speth and Roxie Speth
14. NICKEL QUILTS & BORDERS: 7 Quilts & 260 Borders from 5-Inch Squares by Pat Speth and Roxie Speth
*all these books available at your local quilt shop or at

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