Today I want to talk about orphan blocks. Most of us have some laying around. I have them from making test blocks for the Bee Hive and from testing out a new idea or color combo. I also have several that for one reason or another didn’t make it into the quilt I was working on.

So what do we do with these blocks? I don’t want to tear mine apart, although I have done that to one or two when I want the fabric for something else. And I certainly don’t want to through them away; I mean that is perfectly good fabric!

I’ve found that orphan blocks and test blocks are perfect for practicing free motion quilting designs and/or trying out different threads. It’s a great way to improve my FMQ skills and have a useful product at the end. And by practicing a quilt design on a pieced or appliqued block, I get a better idea of how that design will look on a quilt vs just quilting it on a plain practice sandwich. These blocks can be made into mini quilts, wallhangings, table toppers, mug rugs, placemats, etc.

Both of the blocks below finished at a size that was too small to work in the quilt they were made for. So I treated them each individually and they make perfect little mini quilts.

On this first one, I used a silver metallic variegated thread. It complements the piecing beautifully.

Log Cabin Christmas Block

Even though this block was not made specifically for a Christmas quilt, the colors the maker used make this a wonderful Christmas mini quilt. It finishes at about 12″ square, and can be used as a wallhanging or table topper. This isn’t mine to keep, but I would love to have it!

Here’s a close-up of the quilting. I wish you could see just how beautiful the thread is.

Superior Metallic Thread

What I learned by practicing with metallic thread:

  • The thread leaves tiny little shavings in the scarf of the needle. I didn’t notice any on the quilt itself, but because they were on the needle I won’t use metallic thread on a sensitive project such as a baby/child’s quilt.
  • I had to quilt super slow to keep the thread from breaking or shredding. The manufacturer suggests a slower speed and now I know why.

This next block was also too small for the intended quilt. It finished at about 13-1/2″. On this block, I quilted a crosshatch design using a ruler. I love the way the quilting looks.

Crosshatch FMQ Ruler Work

What I learned from the crosshatch design:

  • I love this design, and it’s not the first time I’ve stitched it. My ruler work was much better this time, with more control.
  • I don’t have a stitch regulator on my machine and my stitches are improving every day. I like the way they look here.

In addition to providing FMQ practice, using your orphan blocks allows for some pretty quick finishes. There are days when I really want to quilt but don’t have a lot of time to get into a big project. Making these mini quilts allows me to practice some new quilting designs and gives me a quicky finish. I feel so accomplished when I get a project done! 🙂

Crosshatch Quilting w/Ruler

I encourage you to dig out any blocks you have taking up space in your sewing room and make a beautiful finish. It’s always a good idea to have little things around to give as last minute gifts, and your work really shouldn’t be hidden away. Just because the block didn’t work in a larger quilt doesn’t mean it won’t be beautiful on its own.

My crush for this week are orphan block projects – hopefully I’ll have more finishes to share with you soon. How about you? What are you working on that has you excited to be in your sewing space? I would love to see all your quilty goodness.  You can share any blog post, Instagram or Flickr pic – here’s how:

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