An orphan block is a block that didn’t get used in a quilt – it could be one leftover block or it could be many. It could be a block that was used to test out a design, size of pieces or a set of fabrics and colours to see how they looked together. I’m pretty sure we all have had orphan blocks lying around in our sewing studios at one time or another. I often find them at the bottom of my scrap bag when I take the time to empty and sort it into my scrap bins that are organized by colour.

The other day I actually went looking for orphan blocks in my bins and I found many. Way too many! And as I write this I can think of some others that I have that I didn’t even consider as orphans until now. I can see a few quilts being made this summer with all of them – a creative venture and challenge to use them up.

What did I find?

Orphan Blocks #1 – LeMoyne Star

multi coloured stars on blue background and 4 patch blocks
Stars, 4 patches and other pieces

I found these LeMoyne star blocks that are teeny tiny – I don’t usually work with blocks this small. And there are 13 of them. Crazy what was I thinking. They were all created back in lockdown time of the pandemic which means they have been hiding in my scrap bin since 2021.

The idea was to put them on a quilt as a border but I didn’t like how they looked so I abandoned that idea. I did use one of my favourite fabric lines – Grunge from Moda so it’s not like I don’t like the fabric.

I tried creating something else with them and made some 4 patch blocks to go along with the star blocks. Now I have at least 13 of them as well in the same bag as the star blocks and some pairs of fabrics that haven’t had anything done with them yet.

Hmmmmm… what to create.

Orphan Blocks #2 – Intertwined

several blocks in a colour palette of grey, black and yellow
Intertwined blocks that didn’t quite fit together as they should have

These blocks are leftover from my Intertwined pattern. I was making the table runner and placemats to test the pattern. I had the bright idea that if I made the block a little bigger and cut it down to size then I wouldn’t have to cut the angles on the pieces. Haha, that didn’t work at all. The blocks did not line up. I guess I had a momentary lapse in geometry rules. Angles needed to be cut. The result 12 blocks that need a new home.

Oh and then I had to create more of the blocks to do some more testing to make sure the angles were right and now I have 8 of these ones.

blocks made with black, grey and white fabrics
The test blocks

Hmmmmm… what to create.

Orphan Blocks #3 – Take Time

a variety of coloured blocks
Take Time test blocks

When I was working on my Take Time quilt for the ANPT magazine a couple of summers ago I had it in my head that I wanted a light background and brighter pieces to pop on the background. I ended up using 4 different sets of fabrics and created 4 blocks in each.

The last set of blocks I just put the pieces side by side and didn’t sew them together. None of them were working for me so I have 12 blocks that were test pieces and didn’t get used.

fabric pieces
Another colour way

I also have a couple of blocks left from the fabrics that I finally chose to create the quilt with. Much, much different from the fabrics above.

Brown, teal, purple and cream fabrics sewn into blocks
The fabrics that made the Take Time quilt

Hmmmmm… what to create.

Orphan Blocks #4 – Curved Piecing

variety of green and red fabrics create the curvy blocs
My oldest orphan blocks – about 25 of them

These blocks have been sitting around in my stash since I lived in Yellowknife. They are well travelled – went to Australia and back plus they have been in the trailer with me every winter since 2017 and I have done nothing with them. Nada. Not a thing. I think it is time they were incorporated into a quilt.

Hmmmmm… what to create.

Orphan Blocks #5 – Improv String Piecing

Colourful fabrics make up these improv blocks
Bright and funky blocks

Last but not least I have these odd shaped pieces I made back in 2017 – kinda string pieced, kinda improv – great shapes and wonderful colours. What was I going to make with them – no idea really, but something. They to have travelled in my trailer every winter with me and were ignored. Time to create something with them.

Hmmmmm… what to create.

The Challenge – To Create Something with my Orphan Blocks

I’m giving myself a challenge to create a few quilts using up the orphan blocks. Maybe a series or maybe just one offs. And I have a bit of a push to help me get started with this challenge. The push is the Conquer Your Fabric Scraps Summit in August. I will be presenting a workshop on what to do with your orphan blocks. More about this summit in the next couple of weeks. You can mark your calendar to save the date for August 15 – 18, 2024.

I’m really excited to be creating something using my orphan blocks as well as scraps and yardage. Who knows what I will create but there are already ideas swirling around in my head for all of these orphans that I showcased above.

I’ll do a series of blog posts about what can be done with orphan blocks and the progress of the challenge I have set for myself with my orphan blocks. I’ll share what I am creating so that you can be inspired to create something with your orphan blocks as well.

I don’t think I will even consider counting my UFO’s with all these orphan blocks I have. The UFOs can wait for next year.

Until next time,

Happy Quilting