Orphan blocks

A few years ago I saw a collection of quilts that set vintage blocks in a modern setting. The quilter took blocks of unfinished projects and appliquéd them on solid backgrounds. The combination of the antique blocks set with modern quilting in the negative space sparked my imagination. Of course I wanted to try it!

This quilt style uses orphan blocks from unfinished projects, blocks begun for a quilt, then put aside for whatever reason.

I can easily imagine the quilter gathering fabric, drafting the templates, cutting the pieces with the sewing basket at her side. I can see her matching the edges, threading the needle and meticulously stitching one piece another. She finishes several blocks. The time comes to sew the blocks into the quilt of her imagination only to discover the blocks don’t fit well and it does lay right. Maybe she she decided was taking too long. Maybe she thought she’d make something different. She packs it up and puts it in a closet intending to finish it later. Maybe life got in the way. Maybe the chosen quilt pattern was too much.

But it’s just sewing a straight line, right?

Yes, unless the template get shaved while cutting the fabric, or the cut is along the bias and the piece get pulled out of shape, or if there is an inset seam that look like a Y, or if the pieces are curved.

When I began quilting my Grandma Ruth told me her favorite quilts pattern was Grandma’s Flower Garden, which uses hexagons, and six pointed stars. I agreed they were beautiful, and at the time I was still trying to get my seams to match so I was not inclined to try anything that wasn’t a square or triangle. The beauty did not deter her from attempting a quilt of six pointed stars on her sewing machine.

Eventually she handed me a box partially completed blocks with a bunch of cut pieces with her hand drawn paper template from her closet. This sat in my closet until I saw how they could be used in a different way.

When Stars Begin to Fall

I searched online for other orphan blocks, the finished blocks of an unfinished quilt. The ones I find the most are those like Grandma’s, hexagons and diamonds that never quite came together right.

I think I know why, at least in part.

When working with a set of small hexagons blocks I noticed the quilter began and finished the seam at the edge of piece. Sure, the block laid flat, but sewing two blocks together didn’t work because she didn’t stop a quarter inch from the edge to create space to inset the point of one hexagon into seam of the other.

While I have enough blocks to finish a small quilt of the original pattern, I have other ideas that bring these blocks out of the back of the closet and into a finished quilt.


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