MCM #39 – Using Orphan Blocks

Today I want to talk about orphan blocks. Most of us have some laying around. I have them from making test blocks for the Bee Hive and from testing out a new idea or color combo. I also have several that for one reason or another didn’t make it into the quilt I was working on.

So what do we do with these blocks? I don’t want to tear mine apart, although I have done that to one or two when I want the fabric for something else. And I certainly don’t want to through them away; I mean that is perfectly good fabric!

I’ve found that orphan blocks and test blocks are perfect for practicing free motion quilting designs and/or trying out different threads. It’s a great way to improve my FMQ skills and have a useful product at the end. And by practicing a quilt design on a pieced or appliqued block, I get a better idea of how that design will look on a quilt vs just quilting it on a plain practice sandwich. These blocks can be made into mini quilts, wallhangings, table toppers, mug rugs, placemats, etc.

Both of the blocks below finished at a size that was too small to work in the quilt they were made for. So I treated them each individually and they make perfect little mini quilts.

On this first one, I used a silver metallic variegated thread. It complements the piecing beautifully.

Log Cabin Christmas Block

Even though this block was not made specifically for a Christmas quilt, the colors the maker used make this a wonderful Christmas mini quilt. It finishes at about 12″ square, and can be used as a wallhanging or table topper. This isn’t mine to keep, but I would love to have it!

Here’s a close-up of the quilting. I wish you could see just how beautiful the thread is.

Superior Metallic Thread

What I learned by practicing with metallic thread:

  • The thread leaves tiny little shavings in the scarf of the needle. I didn’t notice any on the quilt itself, but because they were on the needle I won’t use metallic thread on a sensitive project such as a baby/child’s quilt.
  • I had to quilt super slow to keep the thread from breaking or shredding. The manufacturer suggests a slower speed and now I know why.

This next block was also too small for the intended quilt. It finished at about 13-1/2″. On this block, I quilted a crosshatch design using a ruler. I love the way the quilting looks.

Crosshatch FMQ Ruler Work

What I learned from the crosshatch design:

  • I love this design, and it’s not the first time I’ve stitched it. My ruler work was much better this time, with more control.
  • I don’t have a stitch regulator on my machine and my stitches are improving every day. I like the way they look here.

In addition to providing FMQ practice, using your orphan blocks allows for some pretty quick finishes. There are days when I really want to quilt but don’t have a lot of time to get into a big project. Making these mini quilts allows me to practice some new quilting designs and gives me a quicky finish. I feel so accomplished when I get a project done! 🙂

Crosshatch Quilting w/Ruler

I encourage you to dig out any blocks you have taking up space in your sewing room and make a beautiful finish. It’s always a good idea to have little things around to give as last minute gifts, and your work really shouldn’t be hidden away. Just because the block didn’t work in a larger quilt doesn’t mean it won’t be beautiful on its own.

My crush for this week are orphan block projects – hopefully I’ll have more finishes to share with you soon. How about you? What are you working on that has you excited to be in your sewing space? I would love to see all your quilty goodness.  You can share any blog post, Instagram or Flickr pic – here’s how:

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About Beth

I’m a wife, mother of two, and lover of all things crafty. I love to cook up new things in the kitchen and in my craft room, and sometimes get “licking the spoon” mixed up with “licking the fabric”!!

This entry was posted in Free Motion Quilting, Main Crush Monday, Mini Quilts, Practice Blocks and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to MCM #39 – Using Orphan Blocks

  1. I adore the crosshatch! Great ideas for those orphan blocks. Goodness knows, I have a stack that needs to be put to use!

  2. I have been using up my orphan blocks to make pillows lately and practice quilting. Your minis look wonderful, Beth, both of them! I bet you had to be super careful with that metallic thread.


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  4. Susan says:

    Both of those minis are so wonderful – thanks for the good idea and for sharing what you learned. I used to use a LOT of Superior metallic from a cone – I used the variegated silver the most, just love it. I didn’t have problems with it breaking on my Gammill longarm very often, and I didn’t have a metallic needle, just a size 14 regular needle. When you need metallic again, if you aren’t already using Superior, you might try it. I liked it better than YLI or any of the other ones I tried. Whatever you used, it looks really pretty, as does the close cross-hatching. Thanks for the good pictures!

  5. Jasmine says:

    Great use of the orphan blocks. I loved seeing them with both straight and curvy quilting. The quilting style does make a difference.

  6. Libby in TN says:

    I love this idea! It not only utilizes orphan blocks, but bits of leftover batting. This would be a good way for me to test the waters of freemotion quilting.

  7. Julie Stocker says:

    Good idea, Beth. I have a growing stack of orphan blocks, and a growing gift list for the upcoming months. I think they have a future with your little reminder.

  8. Anne Beier says:

    Great idea – to practice FMQ on. Duh!! I am always making practice blocks out of discolored or damaged fabric that was kept in the basement. (Won’t do that again). I will still use that fabric but could use it as backing for orphan blocks. Thanks.

  9. Colleen says:

    I’m never brave enough to work with metallic thread. These minis look great!

  10. Great idea! I have a few of those orphan blocks that I can turn into little mats to use around the kitchen! 🙂

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  14. Kate says:

    Both minis turned out beautifully. It is a great way to convert orphan blocks to something useful.

  15. Cath says:

    There is so much love for your orphan blocks in this post! I won’t be linking in this week Beth, because I have not done a thing with needle and thread all week….instead I have been creating a new look for Design Board Monday at Bits’nBobs.

  16. Your stitches on the cross hatch look beautiful, Beth! I think that using orphan blocks as test quilting pieces is a great idea. I have had a few smaller blocks that I have used as the backs for some of the mini mini quilts I have made recently. 🙂

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