Saturday, November 16, 2019

Rainbows Beyond Borders

Two of my Rainbow Scrap Challenge quilts were finished this week. They were both made from uneven rail fence blocks. The blocks are made using three strips 2.5"x8.5" in the monthly RSC color, and two strips 1.5"x8.5" in the next closest color on the color wheel. For instance, red blocks were made with skinny strips of either orange or purple. These blocks stitched up fast and used up a lot of my stash of scrappy strings!

This first one is laid out in rainbow order with scrappy black strips offsetting the blocks in each column. This makes the blocks kind of wiggle across the rows. I sized the black so that there was no seam matching on the color blocks. Why make it harder than it needs to be?

The backing is pieced together from some fun dog-themed prints. The white background fabric is flannel. 

The quilting is a sort of really large meander that looks a little like a topological map. The binding is rainbow trees on a black background.

The second piece is made from the same blocks on point and surrounded by white setting triangles. I really like the look of on-point quilts, but they are a PITA to make. Because I don't have a design wall and lay everything out on our bed, once the blocks are arranged they need to be completely sewn together before bedtime. Otherwise it's too hard to keep track of how all those diagonal rows go together.

My online guild, Sunshine, received a call from Quilts Beyond Borders to contribute quilts for the Navajo people. The quilts will be distributed in December, so I hustled to finish these two in November. The recipients will be mostly teens and adults, so the quilts needed to be a bigger than my usual QBB donations. In order to get this one the right size, I added a fun green border with a vegetable theme. The red tomatoes, purple eggplants and other veggies picked up various rainbow colors. I didn't have quite enough to extend that fabric into the binding, but found a brown and green dinosaur print that matched quite well, You have to really look closely to see the dinos, and I hope that makes someone smile.

I was in the mood for some fancier quilting with this one, so I did a dot-to-dot four lobed design in each block. It was fun to find matching threads in all the colors. And the texture is super yummy!

The backing on this one is a very cute cat flannel, fattened up with a chunk of green. So one cat quilt and one dog quilt for this go-round.

I think I ended up with only two extras of these RSC blocks, so they are resting quietly in the orphan block box for now. Meanwhile, lots of string scraps were busted with these two quilts, and they have been mailed off to find their forever homes!

Linking up to Angela's ScrapHappy roundup. Click through to see more Rainbow Scrap Challenge fun!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Giving Orphans a Home: Row, Row, Row your Boat

Welcome to part four of Giving Orphans a Home, where we talk about different ways to use orphan blocks in a quilt. Today I feature row settings for your orphans.

If you have just a few blocks in the same design, think about setting them in rows or columns. For Swooning in Pink, I was given the two big swoon/carpenter's star blocks. I knew they would make a great quilt center, but couldn't figure out how to make a medallion out of them. Setting them vertically and then surrounding them on all sides was going to make the quilt the wrong shape.

I had terrible lighting the day I took these photos; sorry about that! But you can get a glimpse of how soft and pretty the fabrics are in the stars. People have donated so many lovely blocks to Covered in Love!

In order to make the swoons fit the way I wanted, I needed rows. Fortunately, the selection of orphan blocks sent to me had some nice choices, like these triangles. Over on her blog, Kat says they came from this baby quilt she made. I'm tickled to find out the origins of these cute prints! They worked really well as a row. 

I also had just enough of the buzzsaw star blocks (no idea if that's a real block name!) for a row and to fill in between the swoons. There were enough pink and orange string blocks for two rows, but not enough for a border all the way around. That's OK, just having matching top and bottom still adds symmetry and purpose. With a little pink sashing, things started tying together and a quilt was born!

In order to make the central buzzsaw stars work, I had to trim them down just a smidge. Can you see that the lighter one is narrower than the purple one? This is an example of my Rule #2 that it's okay to do a bit of trimming to make a block work. After all, all orphans want to be useful!

The backing of this quilt is fun row house fabric in the same pinky-greeny-purpley-orangey colors, plus a strip of the pink dot also used for the binding. The quilting is a simple, loose stipple.

Hold onto your hats, this one is a wild ride! My batch of orphans didn't just include those soft pinks to "swoon" over. No, there were some really vibrant hot hot hot pinks and lots of turquoise, too. Throw in a little yellow and the ingredients for Diamond Glow were ready to sizzle.

This big center diamond arrived as a single piece, along with a slightly smaller sibling. I cut the smaller one into quarters and placed them around the big one to end up with a rectangle. These blocks have fabulous piecing; a big thumbs up to whoever made them! They make a great center medallion. Diamond Glow is kind of a medallion/row hybrid. The diamonds are obviously the central focus, but there's no complete surrounding "frames." Sometimes a few bits of symmetry and lots of bright color can make it work. And when in doubt, add a bit of interesting quilting!

Here are a few of the smaller blocks. Many were not quite standard sizes: 8.25" instead of 8.5", for instance. Some had cut off points. And some were seemingly perfect. I used sashing to get them to size.

The six Hunter's star blocks have very subtle internal contrast, so they give the top and bottom rows nice big blocks of turquoise. I zhuzhed up the texture on those with swirly quilting.

The back is just as wild 'n crazy as the front on this one! There were several blocks that fit the color scheme nicely, but didn't quite work as elements on the front. I think they make the back interesting, though. I especially like the turquoise star. It might have gotten a little lost on the front, but really shines here.

My final example of orphans in rows is much quieter, but my favorite of the three. Serene Neutrals uses a selection of blocks with scrappy neutral backgrounds and bold geometric shapes. Amazingly, each set of blocks was almost exactly the same width when sewn together; I think I only needed to fudge the final sizes about 2-3" to make them fit the longest row, the Majestic Mountain blocks. Also amazingly, the pops of color in all the neutral blocks were either orange, green, or dark blue. That's a great palette, don't you think?

Check out these hexagons! I only needed to add corner triangles to finish them up, and the one octagon in the center was exactly the right size to play along.

These HSTs with the lions and the orange ones at the other end of the quilt are clearly from the same fabric line. I made giant flying geese out of them and used them to add symmetry at top and bottom. They are echoed by the tiny orange flying geese below the hexagons, too. You can also see a little bit of the binding here. It is a VERY traditional blue and beige stripe, ancient of days. But the colors work and I like that it looks kinda scrappy when you can only see a little slice of it.

This row is just the coolest design! I've never seen this pattern of interlocking squares before, and it looks like it was a real challenge to piece. It came to me as an already sewn-together row and I love how it works in Serene Neutrals.

The back is just big chunks of more neutral fabrics. The overall floral quilting is almost invisible, just nice soft texture. And yes, those are VW buses in the upper left corner.

So there you go, three very different orphan block quilts, all using horizontal rows as the underlying design. Do you have any blocks that could work like this? I'd love to hear about it!

If you missed it, here are the first three parts of this series:

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Giving Orphans and Home: Medallions

Welcome to part three of Giving Orphans a Home, where we talk about different ways to use orphan blocks in a quilt. Today I'm going to show you a couple of different medallion style quilts.

Primarily Pineapple. This one big pineapple block was donated to Covered in Love and I thought it would make a sweet center medallion! A large, rectangular block like this is ideal to start building borders around.

I went looking through the big stack of orphans for blocks that had green or yellow like the fruity center, and found lots with red and blue as well. So I decided this one would have a primary colors theme, with just a bit of the green. There were enough of these hourglass blocks to go all the way around the pineapple as the first border. See the snowman peeking out? So cute!

The next batch of blocks that I thought would look great in this quilt are these scrappy ones. I think this block is called Crown of Thorns? The dominant color is red, which coordinates nicely with the reds in the hourglass layer. The creamy neutrals work well with the yellow pineapple, too. However, I didn't have enough of these to make a complete border. But there were enough for two side borders, which is half the battle.

To fill out the top and bottom I just needed another set of blocks. The wonderful thing about scrappy quilts is that blocks don't have to be matchy-matchy, they just have to be kinda friendly! These fun crumb/pinwheel blocks certainly had the right stuff to be good friends with the red blocks. While the colors are a little less obviously primary, the reds and yellows seem to jump out because of the other blocks already in the quilt. Don't we all influence our friends like that? I chose bright yellow binding to also carry that sunny color from center pineapple to crumb blocks to the outer edge.

Even though there weren't enough of any one style of block to go all the way around the center after the inner hourglass border, the overall look is still of a surrounded center medallion. I think it helps that the size and colors of the additional blocks are similar to each other. And with 6 of one block and 8 of the other, there's enough symmetry so it looks intentional. Scrappy dark blue sashings hold it together and allow a bit of wiggle room to account for blocks being slightly different sizes.

And because this is the first time I'm sharing these quilts on my blog, I'm including photos of the backs. I like to document the whole quilt this way. This back is pretty simple, just some soft yellow plaid and pale blue paisley fabrics that were given to me by my DH's aunt. I quilted a couple of different fillers, including wishbones, crosshatching and stippling.

Kat provides me with Covered in Love labels to sew onto the backing, and I also add my own satin tag. If I know the name(s) of the block donors, I write them on the label with permanent marker. 

For another great example of using one big orphan block as a center medallion, check out Carole's house quilt over on Sarah's blog: (And notice the fabulous all-orphan block quilt at the end of that post, too!)

Pop of Purple. Here's a way to do a medallion style when you don't really have a big central block: use a group of smaller blocks. The center blocks here are all about 14". That's an awkward size, isn't it? But I had four that all included a pretty, dusty purple so they clearly were meant to be together!

Now if I had six purple blocks, that would make a nice rectangular center, but I only had the four. I also had a bunch of wonky little flying geese and those six log cabins. Small but so sweet! Putting them above and below the four central blocks added a bit of height to keep the quilt from being a square. This is starting to feel like it could work!

All the simple border squares in fall colors were donated to CiL as four patch blocks, so those were a great next layer. But there weren't quite enough to go all the way around. So I added the four "cornerstone" blocks and zip, zip, zoom! This quilt was finished!

Once again, a bit of sashing helps to get the math to work out right and adjust around a few wonky blocks.

The back of this one is super-duper scrappy. The quilting is soft and loose for cuddliness and the binding is an Asian-inspired stripe.

A couple more orphan blocks ended up on the back, too. They were the right autumnal color family, but a really odd size, so they formed their own little secret backing club. I was kind of an "odd size" kid (and a real square!) myself, so I understand the value of having a friend to hang with. 

Here's another fun example of using a group of blocks as a center medallion, from Cynthia's blog. She took four octagonal blocks and added a juicy orange background for this happy little top.

And here's one of Cynthia's with snowball blocks as the center and various other orphans surrounding. Such yummy colors! The black sashing really makes that medallion stand out.

With five of one block and four of another, Cathy made this super nine patch medallion out of red, white and blue star blocks. She surrounded the square center with what she calls "happy blocks" then added extra rows to bring the quilt to a rectangular shape. Such a great use of orphans, all around!

Whether they are the central star or surrounding supportive cast, I hope some of these examples get you thinking about how to use your orphan blocks in a medallion style quilt. Come back soon for more ideas as I continue this series on on how to give orphans a home!

If you missed it, here are the first two parts of this series:

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Giving Orphans a Home: (Almost) Enough Blocks

Welcome to part two of Giving Orphans a Home. Today I'm going to share a few techniques for dealing with a big batch of orphan blocks that are almost, but not quite, enough for a full quilt.

This is Grandpa's Plaid Shirts. When I saw all the blocks for this quilt together in a big ziplock baggie, I knew it was one of the first ones I would tackle. I just love all the soft plaids, flannels and homespuns! These nine blocks are each a nine patch of sub-blocks, and came to me in a combination of completed big blocks and a pile of sub-blocks.

Here's one of the blocks that came to me completed: nine four patches set on point. If you look at the finished quilt, you can see there were also finished big blocks made up of all flying geese, all rail fence, and all whatever that block is in the far right of the middle row. (Anybody know the name of that one?)

Also in the baggie were a bunch of sub-blocks, but fewer than nine of each: windmills, pinwheels, broken dishes, four patches, nine patches, and more. I think the intent was for there to be 12 big blocks, each made of a single style sub-block, and someone gave up two-thirds of the way there.

What to do? One option was to try to make more of each sub-block type until I had nine each of 12 types. But I have almost no plaids in my stash and wanted to get this quilt finished quickly. I decided the plaids were busy enough that no one would really notice if a big block was made of, say, four windmills and five broken dishes. So I started combining all the little pieces together, figuring as long as some symmetry was maintained, it would be JUST FINE. And you know what? It IS! It isn't as quite as big, but at 60"x60" is a good size for Covered in Love. And it's a finished quilt, ready to comfort a family rather than muttering and mumbling pieces in a ziplock baggie.

The cream sashing, which was a yardage donation to Covered in Love, plus some pale blue cornerstones, corrals each block into just enough scrappy plaid goodness, allowing me to use every single sub-block. I was short just one. A gold star if you can find the chunky churn dash in "close enough" fabrics! Edited to add: Since I wrote this post, I've learned that the plaid shirt blocks were made by Holly. Big thanks to Holly for making such fun pieces and donating them to Covered in Love!

And because this is the first time the quilt has been documented on my blog, here are a few more details. I quilted it with a simple loose stipple and bound it in the same light blue plaid as the cornerstones. 

The back is a combination of a pretty blue swirly paisley that was donated to Covered in Love, and a panel chock full of fish. I thought that might appeal to the kind of guy who wore plaid shirts. The fish fabric was given to me by Cynthia of Quilting is More Fun than Housework.

Next up is Snowballs and Chicken Panels. Those are my DH's chicken feet underneath. This one is an example of how to use a panel or two (or four!) to fatten up a group of blocks that aren't enough for an entire quilt.

Approximately 120 finished snowball blocks were donated to CiL. Each one was either a dark center with light corners, or a light center with dark corners. They were beautifully made, very evenly sized and all the corners were properly pressed to the dark fabric. I knew stitching them together would go so smoothly! In addition, a big batch of centers and precut corner triangles were donated. For a brief moment, I considered finishing up the rest of the snowballs. Then I sat down and had a cool beverage until that thought went away. I KNEW my snowballs wouldn't be as precise and it just sounded....tedious. Surely 120 was enough for an entire quilt? That's so many blocks! But at 4.5" finished block size, it wasn't going to be enough for a CiL quilt.

Chickens to the rescue! This panel is called Three French Hens, and it has the same sort of old-fashioned, farm house vibe of the scrappy snowball fabrics. By using a combination of trimming the panels and adding skinny borders in light blue, I made them equal to five snowballs in width, and three in height. This allowed me to use all the premade snowballs plus only a handful more of my own.

And as I predicted, those snowballs were super easy to sew into rows and columns. I do love the way the center section looks with the alternating dark and light blocks, and maybe someday I'll make an entire quilt of this style. But for today, they are playing with chickens and hopefully bringing a little comfort.

The back and binding on this one used up the last of the blue plaid from Grandpa's Plaid Shirts. Once I start cutting up yardage, I'm often motivated to just use it up completely. Does that happen to you? 

So the plaid blocks became a complete quilt by combining them differently and reducing the size from the original design. And the snowballs got plumped up with some fun panels. Another option that always works is to add simple borders. If there had been a few more snowballs, I might have just added a few rounds of coordinating blenders as inner borders and a nice floral outer border. 

Adding top and bottom rows of different blocks can also stretch a set of "not quite enough" blocks. For a great example of this, check out Cathy's bright, happy flimsy here.

Have you used any of these techniques to stretch some orphan blocks? Let me know in the comments!

The next installment of Giving Orphans a Home will explore some medallion style options. And if you missed it, here's the introduction of this series.