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.

23 comments:

Fiona said...

two great quilts.... you have an eye for getting colours right when mixed up with other and also seeing what else to do with a bunch of blocks given to you.... (not all of us have that skill!)

Hugz

JanineMarie said...

Okay, Louise, this post and the one you did last week look to me like the beginnings of a great book on quilting!! I’m learning so much, that I really think I need to print it out as a handy reference. I have a feeling that a lot of quilt groups will be able to use this as a resource for charity quilt-making. Thanks for the time you’ve put into recording your thinking and approach to making beautiful quilts out of bits and pieces.

Sylvia@Treadlestitches said...

Wow, what nice quilts! Orphans never had it so good. It's like a Cinderella story, from bits and pieces to charming and useful. (And for the record, I don't think your husband has chicken feet!)

piecefulwendy said...

That block on the middle right looks kinda like a "Road to Somewhere-y" but I have no idea where. Ha! Seriously, though, I do agree that this is very helpful information, and interesting to read. I imagine it's much like solving a puzzle, figuring out how to match everything up and make it work. Love the snowballs and chickens!

PaulaB quilts said...

I agree with Janine. You really have a way with those orphan blocks . I have a box full of all kinds of 8 1/2 inch blocks that I’m going to have to deal with so I’ll be using your hints.

Lynn said...

Great job on finding orphans a home and creating whole quilts from bits.

Nicki said...

It's so easy to start some blocks that you just "fell in love with" when you started but lost interest before the quilt ever got completed. I have some unfinished blocks in a bag because that very thing happened to me. I'm keeping a close eye on your orphan block series & will probably be using your suggestions to get those blocks into some sort of quilt in the near future. Thanks for the encouragement & showing us how to deal with those orphans that need a home.

Debbie said...

Great post for any and all leftovers. I keep seeing more panels being used in very creative ways. Love your version with the snowballs.

Vicki in MN said...

As I was looking at your plaid quilt photo I was thinking of how it would make a great quilt for a grandpa! Might remind him of quilts his mom or grandma made and bring a smile to his face. Loving this new series as we all need ideas for scrap quilts;)

The Colorful Fabriholic said...

Each of these is so harmonious, you'd never know it was made from orphans. Well done!

diane said...

Great work at putting those quilts together. Combining chicken panels and snowballs marvelous. Creativity sure can flow when we get going and you showed it today. Have enjoyed all the leftover blocks made into quilts.

The Joyful Quilter said...

Super solutions to your Orphan Block woes, Louise!!! Thanks for sharing these great tips with us. Your completed quilts are evidence that both of these techniques work SEW well!!

Kathleen said...

So many more great suggestions. Its funny that that one block does not come to mine, yet it must have a name! What a labor of love and another great lesson on making things work!

Cathy said...

I am so loving this series of working with orphans! The Snowballed Chickens is awesome, and the ninepatch of nines makes me want to dig into my plaid shirting fabrics! CIL is lucky to have you “on board”!

LIttle Penguin Quilts said...

When working with orphan blocks, I think there still has to be something that "organizes" them (pulls them together), and that's what you've done so well with these two quilts! The sashing and cornerstones pull the first one together and the colors in the chicken panels are perfect with the snowballs. I've only made one quilt from orphan blocks, and it came out sort of improv - looking. Okay, but not my favorite finish, that's for sure!

Bonnie said...

It's so good to pull orphan blocks together and then create a new quilt. I've done a few myself. It might be time to see what is in the orphan block collection.

gayle said...

Interesting ideas and beautiful quilts! Win-win!
I've got a bunch of RSC blocks I've made over the years that aren't enough individually to make a quilt, but might be combined with each other. I've been really enjoying your orphan series!

Kate said...

Two great examples for using it up and making it pretty! Love both quilts. Lots of inspiration and perspiration. A great post!

Sandy Panagos said...

More great quilts. You really know what you're doing!

KaHolly said...

Ahhh, Louise! You are such an inspiration, and your ideas and techniques, so clever. Every quilt you build is beautiful and will provide warmth, security, and comfort to the recipients. Bless your giving heart!

Cynthia Brunz Designs said...

Loving this series Louise! Orphan Blocks are so fun to play with. I look forward to learning more.

Joanne said...

Such determination/creativity has made great use of these orphans. Should we make October an official orphan month in 2020?

For some reason my feedly app has not been putting your posts in my morning feed....i have a lot if catching up to do.

Anne / Springleaf Studios said...

Sticking with the original fabrics and parts was a good call on the first quilt. The fabrics are lovely and you pulled it together in a very cohesive manner by combining some of the parts.