Orphan Block Quilt – – – Finally Finished

I certainly do not win awards for finishing projects in a timely fashion! After starting to quilt The Orphan Block Mash Up quilt, I quickly lost interest and it sat under my Sweet Sixteen machine for months. Languishing… it was started over a year ago. Fast forward to the present : I have a growing stack of quilt tops waiting to be quilted, so I have spent the last two weeks getting it done.

I am not thrilled with it. My quilting is not great so I will not be showing you a close-up. But as I have told students in the past, you can quilt samples or practise on “the real thing” and I chose to do the latter. Most people viewing the quilt in my hallway are not quilters, so they will not scrutinize my work. And if I can keep my tongue in my head and not say “Gee, the quilting is not very good”, I am sure they will admire it. (Sorry for the poor photo – I have no walls big enough to hang a quilt and get away from it to photograph, so it was on the floor and I was on a ladder!)

I must say that I am always amazed when I wash a quilt. It looks so much better and you really have to look closely to see the quilting at all; there’s just a nice texture.

Now that it is done, I can get on with the next project and learn some more.

The Orphan Blocks Mash-Up Middle…

… is done!

This is one of the times I wish that I had a tile floor to measure and check the square-ness of the top, but I did the best I could with the lines in our wood floor. It seems to be fairly even and I hope, as I said before, to be able to quilt some of the irregularities out of the top.

Orphan Blocks Mash-Up Middle!

So now it’s on to redesigning the appliqué. Here’s what I started when it was a different quilt. Now the vines need to grow down one edge (at least) and perhaps over the dark log cabin. I love hand appliqué and haven’t done it for a long time.

Orphan Blocks Mash-Up Border

I’m looking forward to some hand work!

How Will I Piece the Quilt Together?

Perhaps some of you are wondering how I plan to piece all the orphan blocks together. I have made some similar quits in the past and learned a few lessons! This is a quilt I made for Great Nephew #2. I used a lot of novelty circus prints and sewed frames around them. And then I pieced them together. It was not fun, trying to make them all fit together.

Griffin's quilt

This is the next quilt that I made in the same vein. It’s funny animal prints, mostly by Nancy Wolff. This time I framed the animals as I liked with colored fabrics and then used a background fabric to sew them together. It was much easier to do and the neutral fabric hid some of the odd pieces.

My animal's quilt

So that is how I am approaching my Orphan Blocks Mash-Up. I have spent a lot of time moving the pieces around on the design wall and looking at the result and trying for a bit of balance. It can go together any number of ways, but now I am done fooling with it and working on getting this quilt top done! The first section I pieced is on at the bottom right of the quilt top. Early on I decided that the paper pieced flowers and leaf looked nice pieced around the appliquéd heart, and so it began.

Piecing start

And then I pieced the other two squares that I wanted to finish the bottom row. At this point, I took everything off the design wall including the backing, so that I could better see what I was doing. I have taken photographs every time I moved squares around, so I have references and won’t forget what the plan is.

Bottom row completed

And so it goes, trying to fit two or three pieces at a time, like a puzzle. I have been working away, doing a small section each day. I am close to being done, and here’s where it frankly gets ugly. That last row is going to be a bear to piece. I will cut the background pieces a lot larger and trim and measure and trim and …

Ugly piecing!

This top certainly won’t be the flattest one I’ve ever made because of all the partial seam piecing, but hopefully my skillful quilting will save the day. ;-D

Orphan Blocks From The Class Folder

In my search for more orphan blocks, I looked through my file drawer and found a useable group in my Paper Piecing Class folder. I taught this class to many, many ladies in Colorado and Illinois and so I have lots of half sewn pieces. The red bits are the start of another heart; ladies in Paper Piecing classes always want to make hearts and I like them too. There are a lot of fun ways to divide them. The blue pointed bits belong to a square that EQ7 calls Priscilla.  I have also seen it called World Without End. I really like it’s scrappiness.

Rocky Road to Kansas

Here is the EQ7 rendering that I found in the folder. After some fabric auditioning, I decided the middle should be just one fabric. After piecing the four points, it looked  busy enough without 2 more fabrics in the center and…


…I chose one that related to another of the orphan blocks.

Fabric Priscilla

And here is another square that paper piecers are anxious to learn to sew – it’s generally known as a twisted log cabin or spinner. This sunflower one I made when we lived in Shanghai, China for a class I was teaching to some Japanese women. They loved this version and had or make it exactly like mine.

Sunflower twisted Log Cabin

This one I found partially sewn in the folder and finished up the last few rows. It will go nicely in the orphan block quilt.

Orphan Block Quilt Spinner

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When googling around looking for information on several blocks, I came across the most amazing resource! It’s the Quilter’s Design Board on Jinny Beyer’s website. It lists over 200 quilt squares and there are templates for several sizes of each square as well as piecing diagrams. When I began quilting, one of my first purchases was Jinny Beyer’s The Quilter’s Album of Blocks and Borders and it’s still my favorite resource. As I fiddled with the online design board, I realized that it contains many squares from the original book! Needless to say, this site is now on my bookmark bar.


Trouble with Kansas Troubles!

Where was I? With the powder room re-do, the trip to Florida and cleaning the house for the dessert part of a neighborhood progressive dinner, I’ve lost my train of thought on the Orphan Block Mash Up quilt! We also went to Charleston last week, for two days, to visit dear friends and their charming daughter and family. Here’s just one shot – while eating breakfast I could hardly take my eyes off this little darling…

Katie & Charlie

So before I got to my cleaning chores for the day, I thought I’d work on a new square for the quilt mash-up project. This square is a variation of one called Kansas Troubles. I like squares like this, with lots of points and movement. I found it on Electric Quilt 7 for Mac {!!!} and did this coloring. Isn’t this fun to be able to export the image to my computer?

Kansas Trouble Variation

Although I like this square, I don’t like piecing all the small half square triangles together and trying to get everything even, so I printed it out from EQ7 as a paper piecing pattern. After fooling with fabrics for a bit, I sewed one quarter of the square to see if I liked the coloring. I did and so I labeled the backs of the remaining squares. Labeling is key because it’s easy to forget where you are when paper piecing.

Kansas Troubles coloring

And off to the sewing machine I went. Ha! It pays to pay attention and not get dreamy or something like this happens. I seem to find it very easy to do – despite – careful labeling.

Trouble with Kansas Trouble


Orphan Block Mash-Up Quilt Borders

I’ve been looking at the design wall and thinking a lot about some of the decisions that need to be made. First one, not a big deal really but will dictate some of the other squares I make is that orange gets to play in the quilt top but purple doesn’t. I love purple but my stash of that color is not good. I must remedy that!

And then I’ve decided to use the squares border all around the quilt. I am not good at designing pieced borders and very few of my quilts have them. It seems that I don’t do them unless I have them in the original design idea. Funny. This is my favorite pieced border and it was a bear to do. I saw it on a Japanese quilt at a show in Tokyo and quickly sketched out the design on the pad in my purse as I walked out the door. My math skills are abominable and in the end, Peter had to figure out the math for me as the nine patches on point constitute very wonky math. Now that I think about it, I could have made it all a lot simpler, but Peter came through and it all worked out.

Tokyo Bright Lights

There are two designs of the black and white squares, I thought and then I came across another one, which had yellow in the middle – for the corners, I’m assuming. I fiddled around with possible combinations and what size the quilt would be and decided that 7 squares on each edge will be big enough. The outside size will be about 56″ square and the inside, about 40″. I spent the last few days piecing them and here are the four border pieces finished. It is very dark and heavy…

Orphan Block Mash Up Borders

The one border has a hand appliquéd vine and that may stay on just one border or may grow to other areas…we’ll see.

Applique on border

Next I need to piece some more blocks to fill the middle and think some more!



And So The Planning Begins…

Here is the latest look at the design wall. The zinnia and sunflower are in a spare bedroom waiting to be quilted and now the design wall is freed up. I keep finding squares that might work for this project, but these are the latest. It turns out that most of the blocks on the design wall are “stitch-alongs” from classes that I taught. The heart and leaf appliqué squares are from a Baltimore Album sort of class and the black and white checked border went with that project. I was designing my own blocks and I do remember getting bogged down as some of the designs weren’t turning out as I had planned. There is an appliqué vine started on the one border. I am debating whether to use the border; it seems heavy, though I do like it…

Design wall for mash-up

The paper pieced flower squares (upper left) are from classes I taught on that subject. The Dresden plate and the flower basket are from a Quilt Drafting class I was teaching. The tiny flowers and stem are about to go back to a bin. They are from a machine appliqué class that I took from Sue Nickels. I don’t think they can be washed, so I will save them for something else.

The squares are pinned on a black and white backing which I discovered in the black and white fabric pile. I don’t recall what it was for! How nice to have the backing for the quilt already pieced. I removed the borders  from the appliqué squares and I also removed the middle of one square whose design I never liked.

Since all the squares have a black and white background, I will continue on with that. I have a large shelf of black and white and white and black fabrics. (I often use the white and black ones for over-dyeing.) I tend to buy small bits of these fabrics and did not have enough for a background, so I had to look for some more. ;-D I googled around online and found  fabric.com – they have 20 pages of black and whites should you need any!!!

Here’s what else I am debating:

  • Most of the squares are red, blue, yellow and green. Can orange and purple play with the group?
  • Am I going to use the black and white border? (It’s a lot of piecing and I know I threw out the scraps…)
  • What new squares do I need to sew for a nice mix?
  • It’s clear that I need to choose a size for this quilt to be. I think this decision will depend on whether I use the black and white border. It has a pattern and the size will be determined by that.

And when I can, I am working on the house quilt, though is a favorite spot for Gizmo to snooze…

Gizmo resting

A New Project: Orphan Blocks Mash-Up

I have been trying to decide what quilt to piece next. Perhaps in the spirit of the New Year, I have been sorting through bins and a few boxes and looking over UFO’s. And orphan blocks. I had one idea, which I was all ready to work on and tell you about, but then I started digging around some more. There were fabrics that went with the blocks I wanted to work with and I couldn’t find them. They are some of my favorite primaries and though I did {horrors!} throw out a good bit of fabric when we moved, I knew I would never have thrown those away. So I kept digging.

Eureka! As I did more and more excavation, I found a bin of class UFO’s and there was the fabric. And as I contemplated the mess of fabrics and quilt squares scattered around me, the project idea solidified – “What about a mash-up?”.

If you take classes and don’t finish the project, or if you start your own project and then don’t finish it, perhaps you feel guilty, like I do. I won’t take a class unless I like the project, even if I want to learn a particular technique or work with a particular teacher. If I like the project, I do intend to complete the piece, but I often don’t. Peter and I move frequently enough that I do “thin” the UFO’s, but I still have more than I would like. But what to do? Some of these guys are really old and I seriously have no intention of following through with the original idea, so mashing them up seems like a great plan. So –

The UFO’s fall into three large groups color-wise. Crayon colors with a multi colored background. Crayon colors on black and white. Jewel toned colors, mainly batiks, on multi backgrounds. The largest group of squares are the crayon colors on black and whites, and here they are! It’s an interesting assortment and I am hoping to create something very fun and unique with them. I hope you’ll follow along, let me know what you think and perhaps be inspired to make a mash-up of your own! {If you do, let me know and we can link up.}

Orphan block mash-up