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:


  1. Louise, these are just fabulous !!!!

  2. What super quilts, Louise, and great tips for helping disparate blocks play well together. I’m struggling here not to squirrel off to my orphan blocks and play.

  3. What a great series of posts! I missed the first two but clicked through from here. I love reading about your creative process and your design strategies to get those orphans into a proper quilt. The quilts all look pretty and inviting.

  4. Great ideas for using the blocks and finding other friends for them.... they look really good.... I do love scrappy quilts best of all so they really appeal to me...

  5. I’m saving all of your Orphan Blocks tutorials for future reference. Thank you for sharing your methods. Definitely food for thought.

  6. This has been a super series. I’ve been trying to collect all of my orphan blocks in one location (they’re scattered) so I can attempt to take all of your advice and put them together for a community quilt. As always, you are such an inspiration.

  7. This new series is just packed with such useful information. I'm really enjoying reading how to make odd/orphan blocks work together. Thanks so much for your help & encouragement. It sounds like a lot of us are needing a series like this to get us motivated to use up our stragglers on some much needed charity quilts.

  8. So good to have you describe the starting points and how you made them come together. Great quilts and really helpful steps. Thanks for the inspiration

  9. Great post Louise. I probably wouldn't think to use a single orphan block as the center of a medallion quilt. I like the idea.

  10. feedly app picked this up for a change. I can use some of your orphan techniques to build out a square flimsy into a throw sized grayeful for your tips!

  11. I love the way you chose blocks to border the pineapple that make the yellows pop. That is such an appealing quilt! Pop of Purple is great, too, with its lovely fall colors. Thanks for all the tips and inspiration, Louise!

  12. Great post and a wonderful way to use up odd blocks Louise. Great ideas here, thank you.

  13. Louise, you make it look so easy to combine these orphans into cohesive families, but I have a feeling that it takes a lot of consideration. It’s a real talent. The quilts are absolutely beautiful, and thank you again for such a helpful series of posts.

  14. Another great orphan block post. Thanks for featuring a few of my quilts. I love to make medallion quilts this way.

    Here is a favorite of mine.

  15. You gals are so clever!!! I love the backs, too, Louise!!

  16. You are doing a wonderful job. And, explaining how you do it has to help other folks who have UFOs. Thanks for sharing and I am always so impressed with how much you get done!

  17. You are such a whiz with these Louise! When I decide (and also find, because renos ugh) my orphan block stack I will be back here for inspiration! As always LOVE the boat shots, ahhh. Thank you for doing these posts.

  18. Wonderful examples of how to go scrappy medallion. Thanks for the orphan block series, lots and lots of good ideas. (Not that I need any other items for the bucket list!)

  19. One of the Stashbusters found and reposted the link to your blog. (Nice to meet you.) Thanks for the design ideas for orphan blocks. I've made several Spare Parts quilts and of course have enough for more!


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