Thursday, June 21, 2012

The GREAT Summer Orphan Block Challenge!

It's summer, and it's time for a challenge. Are you ready?

I'm kicking off a season-long challenge to encourage you to use orphan blocks located in your stash right now. I mentioned it in my blog last week, and now it's time to roll up your sleeves and dig in!


 - It'll be fun!
 - Finally find a home for orphan quilt blocks that are stuck in your stash.
 - Get lots of ideas over the course of the summer to motivate you.
 - Win a terrific PRIZE PACKAGE awarded as summer fades and the leaves start to turn.

Keep reading for some background, a few guidelines and rules as well as a new project I created from orphans in my stash to get your creative juices flowing.

The Back-Story

So, what are "Orphan Blocks?" You start a quilt with all the best intentions, you finish a few blocks, then lose interest in the project. With only a few blocks complete, the project falls off the to-do list. And all of the sudden you have blocks that really don't belong.

These four-patches, for example, were leftover 2" strips from samples I made years ago. At the time, I sewed two strips together, cross-cut them, then made four patches, and stowed them. Handfuls of them have fabrics that match, some are scrappy. None of them are doing anybody any good in their current form. I must have about fifty 3-1/2" four-patch blocks!

The GREAT Summer Orphan Block Challenge

Now what?
I decided this would make a great summertime challenge. How can I convert some of my own orphans into something useful? Then I thought YOU'D like to play, too. And, what if I sweetened the pot with a wonderful gift package awarded at the end of the summer, as the leaves start to turn?

But first, some Guidelines -- some thoughts to get on the right track.

Guideline number 1. Start small. Start with one something. One block, One collection of four-patches, one . . . ?

Guideline number 2. Whatever becomes your inspiration or 'orphan' block must have at least one sewn seam. Examples: a half-square triangle unit, a four-patch, a completed block or a partially completed block. You can start with more than one of any of these, but whatever 'it' is has to have come out of your stash with at least one seam already sewn. Exception: if you really don't have any orphan blocks, make something from your scraps, a four-patch for example - the key is to start with something you already have. Adding new fabrics is allowed! Using stash or scraps, even better!

Guideline number 3. Make it fun! Start any time. This is a guilt-erasing, not guilt-creating challenge. Choose a favorite technique. Fun tools. Try something different. Even if you make one new thing from one abandoned quilt block, that's one more than you had before summer started!

Guideline number 4. Share. I'll post pictures of what's happening on my end. I'd love to share your projects, too! It has been said that one of the tricks to accomplishing goals is to share them. 

An Incentive

I'm in the process of assembling a REALLY TERRIFIC prize package for the most innovative and pleasing use of orphan blocks to be awarded at the end of summer. Enroll in the weekly eZine or watch these blog posts as summer heats up to see what's in store for you to win! It's going to be phenomenal!

I have an independent mystery judge all lined up--she is an internationally known expert in the quilting field

To be considered for the prize,
 - You must use at least one orphan block as defined above.
 - Submit two good quality, low-resolution digital photos and one SHORT (no more than 200 words) story about the project. The first picture needs to be a photo of the orphan block or blocks (stacked up, if necessary) ready to sew. The second picture is the finished project. Finished means quilted and bound if it's a quilt, ready to give or use if it's anything else.
 - Enter as often as you like, but only one submission per finished project will be counted.
Entries will be judged on creativity and industrious use of orphan blocks.
Submit your project via email here.
Questions? Comments? Just ask.

Some Motivation
Here's something to start your creative juices flowing.

This week, I started with my orphan four-patches (pictured above) and decided to make some pin cushions!

I picked out four matching or sorta-matching four-patch blocks. The four-patches were made from 2" squares, so they are all 3-1/2" square.
Since I really love embroidery and beading, I decided to add a little handwork to one of the four blocks. The embroidered/beaded block will be the top of the pin cushion.

Then I cut two of the plain blocks up into four 1-1/2" x 3-1/2" rectangles.

I sewed one rectangle to each side of the embroidered four-patch block, starting and stopping about 1/4" away from each edge. Alternating darks and lights.

Then, I sewed the remaining uncut four-patch to the other long side of each trimmed rectangle, leaving one long seam partially unsewn for turning later. I made a total of four seams (including one partial seam), and starting and stopping 1/4" away from the edge each time.

I sewed the short rectangle sides too, each time starting and stopping 1/4" from the ends. Basically making a squatty fabric cube.

I turned the pin cushion right side out, then stuffed it with leftover wool batting scraps through the seam opening. You can also use fiberfil or crushed walnut shells. I like using the batting because I already have so many scrap pieces.

Once the pin cushion was stuffed nearly to its limit, I closed the opening by hand. Then sewed a tiny decorative button through the middle of the pin cushion, one on top and one on the bottom.

Ta-da! These were so much fun, that I made three of them! That means twelve orphan four-patch blocks have now become finished projects. Yay!

I might just have to make a few more!

Feels good! A little progress is better than no progress at all!

Now it's your turn.  Pull up an Adirondack chair, or choose a nice spot in the shade. Grab a needle and some thread, and get sewing!



  1. Besides the cute pincushions, there is your beautiful embroidery!! I recognize the stitches from Christmas!! Janine

  2. How CUTE are these??? What a great SCRAPTHERAPY idea!

  3. Still looking for my orphan dresdan plate blocks in this sewing room. Hopefully soon I will find them so I can enter your challenge.