Transforming Orphan Blocks into Oh WOW!!

Tis the season for holiday celebrating, caring & sharing.  Each year, the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association hosts a holiday party for the membership.  It is a relaxing evening where members come together to spread some holiday cheer, partake in some seasonal snacks and support a local organization.  For this year's holiday party, we will be supporting the Learning & Loving Education Center, an organization that provides "educational opportunities and outreach to low-income immigrant women and their children who are living in south Santa Clara County."  Members are invited to donate items from the center's wish list (published in the newsletter), monetary donations and/or contribute one or more 12.5" quilted/squared blocks that will be assembled into donation quilts for the center.

I have a small collection of orphan blocks (leftover from quilts and/or random blocks made in workshops).  There I found a group of six matching blocks made in my early experimentation with foundation piecing back in 2010/2011.  My inexperience showed as the center seams are a bit wonky, the centers don't lay nice and flat and at least one of the units was pieced with the wrong side of the fabric up!!  But still, they were bright, colorful and most importantly, 12.5"!  I gave each block a good pressing so they would lie relatively flat.  I found a coordinating pink & green print in my stash to use for block backings, and raided my bin of batting scraps to make the block sandwiches.
Orphan Blocks & Backing Fabric From My Stash
Once my sandwiches were pin basted, I was ready to transform these blocks with beautiful quilted texture.  I decided to challenge myself by stitching different motifs & designs into each block.  I began by stitching the light yellowed centers with matching Aurifil 50 weight threads.  From there, I moved onto quilting the pink petals, in attempt to complement and/or enhance the yellow centers.  The process continued through the green leaves and finally the cream colored background.  This exercise really pushed me to consider new combinations and ultimately resulted in six gorgeous blocks!!
Blocks Transformed with Quilted Textures
And while each block is unique, you may recognized some similarities when you look a bit closer. Take for example the pairing below...   
Both blocks actually use very similar fills in each of the pieced areas:  figure eights and loop de loops.  However, in the left block I outlined each section with gentle arcs and c-curves, whereas in the right block, the same areas are outlined with straight lines and chevrons.  This simple variation totally transforms the design!

In two of the blocks, I began with a basic shape that I then reworked and repeated to fill each section.  See if you can identify the basic shape for each of the blocks below...
In the left block, I reworked the basic loop de loop to fit into different shapes & sizes, including a loop de loop meander for the background.  In the right block, I experimented with different spiral shapes:  question marks in the yellow centers and leaves, spiral flowers in the pink sections and my favorite, escargot in the background.  

All these blocks are constructed with two basic individual shapes:  triangles & pentagons.  In some cases, I focused on these individual shapes and how best to fill them in.  These shapes combine to create new shapes:  octagons, a ring of petals, kite shaped triangle leaves and backgrounds.  
In these two blocks, I had fun creating abstractions of the various flower anatomy:  center, petals & leaves  The left block has recognizable petal shapes, stamen and surrounding leaves stitched into the design.  The right block is more modern and abstract, but hopefully you can still recognize the floral parts.

In case you couldn't tell...I had so much fun transforming these orphan blocks!  I must confess that I did briefly consider keeping them all for myself.  But alas, they will be turned in at the holiday party, where part of the festivities will involve laying out all the donated blocks to be later assembled into donation quilts.  I am excited to see how they will all turn out!!

I am very much looking forward to all the other festivities planned for the holiday party.  I will be hosting one of the fun activities.  And while I don't want to ruin the surprise; there just may be some fabric prizes in store (hint-hint)!!  That is all you are getting out of me!!  You will just have to come to the shindig and see what holiday merriment awaits!!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Jackie...I think I may just have to raid my pile of orphan blocks again just to continue the quilting fun!!

  2. Mel, your transformation of the blocks is stunning. Your quilting is magnificent! Your blocks will be the shining stars of any quilt they go into.

    1. Thanks Barbara...I just enjoyed doodling away on each of the quilts and trying not to repeat designs. Just one color/one section at a time until all 6 blocks were complete. I will try to get pics of the quilt layouts and/or finished quilts to share!!

  3. Oh, I can see why you were tempted to keep them. What great clases these would make. I like the pairs: literal vs modern/abstract, variations on a theme. I hope you teach them sometime soon and nearby!

    1. Thanks Ann. I am thinking about adding a FMQing workshop to my offerings...will mull this as a possibility!!


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