Orphan Block Sampler Quilt Recipe

Friday, October 18, 2019


Happy Friday! I wanted to chat a little more about the sampler quilt I posted earlier this week, my Fantastic Quilt Voyage. Let's get into how it came together and how you can make something similar.


There are two big advantages in my mind to making a quilt like this. One, it's perfect for participating in interactive events like quilt bees, quilt alongs, and classes. And two, it can be a long-term, sustainable method for managing your leftover and orphan block stashes.


When I was pulling together a start for my quilt, I quickly realized I already had a couple of orphan blocks in my stash that had similar colors. Instead of starting from scratch I decided to use those blocks as the basis of my quilt for a traveling quilt bee.

I've been in a few virtual quilting bees over the years, and one of the downfalls is that you generally don't end up with enough blocks at the end to put together a big quilt. Knowing how long a traveling bee would last, I also knew I didn't want to wait until I had my blocks back to get started on what I'd need to make. This quilt took five years to make and I made blocks for it for all those five years. Here's some ideas for making this type of quilt:

The Start

Start your quilt with an orphan block or two that you already have, or pull a fresh new color palette to work with. You could also start with a quilt in progress that has a few blocks made already, then you'd be even more ahead of the game!

Join a Quilt Bee (or two!)

If you want, find a quilt bee to participate in and ask members to use your color palette to create blocks for your quilt. For my quilt, I asked the bee members to make whatever kind or size block they'd like, so that I'd get a wide variety of designs.

Participate in a Quilt Along

Want to make blocks for a quilt along, but don't want to commit to making the entire quilt? This is a fun way to participate and add to your quilt at the same time! I made blocks during the Fussy Cut Sampler Quilt Along to add to my quilt.

Test Blocks

This was one of the biggest ways I added to my quilt over the years. Every time I needed to test a new block design or try out a new-to-me block, I made the test block in my quilt's colors. This way I was adding blocks to my quilt and avoiding making additional orphan blocks! Win-win!

Ask a Friend

Depending on how specific your color palette is, your friends may have some orphan blocks that would match your quilt. Turn it into a fun block swap!

Learn Something New

Taking a class or workshop on a quilting technique? That's another great opportunity to use your color palette and add to your quilt!

Block Leftovers

Do you have a stash of leftover half-square triangles, flying geese, etc? Check to see if any of those match your quilt! Personally, these are some of the toughest bits for me to use up, so it felt extra good to include some!

Use up Scraps
Don't forget your scrap bin. Tame your scrap stash and make a few scrappy blocks for your quilt. Another win-win! I kept a small bag of coordinating scraps separate from my other scraps while I worked on this quilt.


I hope this post has been helpful! I'm excited to decide on a new color palette to work from for my test blocks now that this quilt is finished. I've made a few already in all hand dyed indigo fabrics, but I'm not sure quite yet if that will be my long-term palette. We'll see!

Happy Quilting!

9 comments :

  1. Thank you, Jeni. I love your suggestions. And your beautiful quilt. So much meaning in a quilt like that!

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  2. Those are all great ways to add to a scrappy Orphan Block quilt! Long ago, I started making test blocks in Holiday prints for my Guild's BOM program. I've got QUITE the stash of them now and REALLY need to dig the blocks out and get started putting my quilt together! Thanks for the reminder.

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  3. Awesome ideas and quilt! Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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  4. Wonderful suggestions! Thanks for sharing!

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  5. I did the same over a much longer period (browns, purples and greens). I started when I wanted to teach myself to do curved blocks, then added lots of "sampler/try something out" blocks and then I puzzled it together with an African batik print. My title for this quilt will be "Jinny Beyer went to Africa" or something like it, since I used some of her greens and browns and mixed them with my African fabrics. I like your suggestion of starting with a totally different color palette for a similar journey and see where that leads.

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  6. There is lots for thought here. I like the idea of making test blocks in a given palette. I hate wasting things, but get sort of stumped at creating these fun looking "Kitchen Sink" quilts. Thanks for going into more detail.

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  7. Well, You shared many very inspiring ideas to get me motivated.
    I do have a few orphan blocks, and I also unsewed two quilt tops that I was not happy with.... so I have a lot to work with. Your suggestions are completely helpful.
    I feel a little bit more pumped :-)
    happy Week-end

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  8. Another wise friend of mine suggested that any and all test blocks be made using a single color palette - she recently turned many years of test blocks into a fabulous sampler quilt. I wish I had known about this idea back when I started!

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  9. Jeni, What a fantastic quilt! Thank you so much for the tips on how to accomplish one of these.

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Thanks for keeping this blog a positive place, I appreciate the time you're taking to leave a comment! I'll answer any questions here in the comments section!

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