Saturday, April 17, 2021

A to Z Quilt Challenge: O = Orphan Blocks

 For the month of April, I have taken up Frédérique's Quilting Patchwork and Applique challenge to blog daily (except Sundays) on a quilt topic related to a letter of the alphabet.  

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Do you keep test blocks, extra project blocks and interesting pieced cut-offs from your projects?  

Quilters call these "Orphan Blocks".   If you shop for vintage quilts, sometimes there may also be sets of blocks that were never put into quilts.  Those spare bits and bobs are not useless!  They can be put together to make new quilts, project sections or added into pieced backings.

Back in 2005, my first journal cover was made up of orphan blocks.  Those Flying Geese were my first attempt at piecing that unit after seeing Billie Lauder demonstrate some shortcut techniques when she appeared on a "Simply Quilts" episode.  The heart block was a test of the "Invisible Machine Applique" technique I learned for the second quilt I made.   The Bow Tie block was to test a "3-D center" technique I wanted to try.  The HSTs were extras from a (since abandoned) mystery quilt project.  The rest were fashioned from the scraps of projects I had made or was working on at the time.  

My absolute favorite orphan block quilt was one I got to see in person back in 2011.  Victoria Findlay Wolfe made a quilt she called the "Kitchen Sink Quilt".  

Edited to add:

From her book:  "Playing With Purpose".  See the whole quilt at the "KSQ" link above.

OMG, it is gorgeous and not what you'd think of when talking about leftover blocks!  If you Google "Kitchen Sink Quilt" you will also find any number of links to other quilter's orphan block projects.

So how do you work with orphan blocks?  Well, You Tube has your answer to that!  Once again, do a search of that platform and you will find instruction on using your spare blocks from people like Pat Sloan, Becky Jorgensen and her Patchwork Posse group or this "Learn How To Quilt Encyclopedia" video.  

Kat who organizes the Covered In Love charity quilt drives, even had one of her "Orphan Block Wranglers" make up quilts of orphan blocks for use for her hospice quilt donation mission.  So consider putting your blocks together into a quilt that will serve a good cause.  Maybe you can use your blocks to go into a pieced back like Quilting Daily editor Lori Baker talked about in this reprint of an article from a 2016 issue of Quilters Newsletter (which sadly was its last year of publication😓).  

So don't throw or give away those extra blocks and pieced cuts.  Find a way to incorporate them into a new project.  One day I plan to fill my design wall with my "box of blocks" and I look forward to seeing the project that will emerge from it! 

Do you have orphan blocks?  Have you ever put them together to create a new project?


Vireya said...

For some reason I don't have many orphans hanging around (can only think of one). I heard a tip from someone to make test blocks for projects out of the same fabrics each time, then you end up with a coordinated set of blocks that can be put together like a sampler quilt. But Victoria Findlay Wolfe's "Kitchen Sink" proves that that isn't necessary! It looks fantastic.

Frédérique said...

I have very few orphan blocks. When I practise to try a new one, I use it for the label, or the backing. I like the tip by Vireya! And I know some quilters cut them again in new shapes to make new blocks.