Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Summer Challenge!

On Sunday, I headed north to Clayton, New York, right on the St Lawrence Seaway. It was a perfect summer day and the North Country Quilt Guild of Watertown, New York had their quilt show at the Clayton Arena. It was a great show (as always) with beautiful quilts, many vendors, and the opportunity to chat with good friends.

Here's one of several antique quilts on display. This one dates to 1880-1900.
Our party of three - Gail, Marcia, and myself - stopped for a pretty awesome lunch at Bella's. Our outdoor table was ideally situated overlooking the Seaway and a small section of the 1,000 Islands in absolutely perfect weather.

At the show, I was drawn to a table set up along one side where a unique community service project was on display, featuring orphan blocks.

Once I got home, I couldn't stop thinking about the orphan block quilt project. You could say I was inspired to take the idea to my own stash of scrap fabrics and partially constructed blocks. 

It got me thinking that this might make a nice challenge for the summer - for myself, then I thought maybe YOU'd like to join in, too! Are you up for a little summer challenge? Keep reading!

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. Or you are distracted. Life happens. 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. Does this sound familiar?

The guild seems to have created a terrific solution to this common quilter's problem. Instead of lamenting over the cast-off blocks, the guild members decided to collect them. From anyone. No orphan is refused.

The blocks are sorted by color, theme or size. Several blocks that really didn't 'go' together, now 'go' together and become a cohesive quilt project.

Three sample quilts made from "Orphan" blocks

The more orphan blocks collected, the better the chance that blocks will find coordinates. A strip of color is added here and there to complete the quilt top. Members with long-arm quilting machines volunteer their services and the quilt is complete. Ready for community giving.

Isn't this a great idea? Everybody wins!

So, I got to thinking . . . What about my stash? I know I have orphan blocks floating around in there. Some of them leftovers from ScrapTherapy patterns, some of them ScrapTherapy projects that never made it past the drawing board. Some of them are just there, leftover from who-knows-what.

These four-patches, for example. There must be fifty of them! They 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.

Now what? So I was thi
nking. This would make a good challenge for summertime. How can I convert some of these orphans into something useful, if not for me, then for someone as a gift or donation?

You wanna play? Summer starts in exactly one week. Would you like to join in? I'm not very big on rules, but maybe we should set up some guidelines. We'll 'start' officially on the first day of summer, and I'll post photos of my progress. Join in any time!

Guideline number 1. Start small. It's summer after all, and nobody wants to fling a king sized quilt around their sewing table. 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 seam sewn. 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. Nobody needs stress in the summer. No one is supervising you. There will be no quiz at the end of the summer. If you don't make any progress one week or another, that's fine. This is a guilt-erasing, not guilt-creating challenge. 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. Send pictures before you start sewing. And keep us posted on your progress. And I'll post pictures of what's happening on my end. It has been said that one of the tricks to accomplishing goals is to share them. 

Who knows where this will go? Think about it this way, if you turn one orphan block into something each week of the summer, just think how many projects you'll have by September!

Are you up for the challenge? 

Happy Stitching!


  1. Joan, I like this idea, and I think I will take your challenge. I know for a fact that I have a whole tote bag full of orphan blocks (I separated them out several weeks ago). These "orphans" are blocks where I try out patterns and/or fabric choices. I tend to try out new patterns with ugly fabric (oops, I meant to say design challenged fabric). It will be fun trying to turn my orphans into a Cinderella Quilt.

  2. Two years ago I started a dresdan plate quilt...I have 3 blocks made and have misplaced them in my sewing room. My goal is to find them and finished this quilt. Thanks for the inspiration. Karen Ruetz