Friday, June 12, 2020

Ideas for Working with Donated Quilt Blocks

Special Post from the North

Early last winter I received a mysterious package from north of our border. I recognized the addressee, a quilty blogger friend, Karen, from KaHolly. She had sent quilt tops in the past to be used in the Gnadenhutten Quilt Project, and those quilts were donated to a local shelter for families experiencing domestic violence.

Carefully packaged and stacked within were these 16 handmade blocks. I believe the letter read they were re-discovered in a clean out, but added to during a power outage. Handwork saves the day, and Karen's handwork was extraordinary! 

How would I finish these blocks into a usable charity quilt? They were on and off the wall through the winter. You can see the blue light of winter and early spring here. I rearranged this way and that. I tried scrap blocks cornerstones donated by another friend, and everything seemed to feel good about it. More color was good.

Then I added sashing in a leafy green that seemed to ground it, and also seemed to be appropriate to the fabric periods. All was hunky dory until I discovered the discrepancy in sizes of those cornerstones. Scrap that thought. I should have measured.

It took a short time to cut newly donated fabric for these cornerstones, and an hour or so to make. In the end it made me happy I had kept at it. I turned each one a different direction for interest, and keep the eye moving. It's done and hung on the rack waiting its turn to be quilted now. Thank you, Karen!

What to Do with Off-Size or Untrimmed Blocks?

First let me say, these blocks were not off-sized, but they were untrimmed. My mom did them all, and I'm very grateful for all the sewing she does for the quilt charity. Thank you, Mom. But we had a possible mix up in communication when I gave her two colorways of fabrics, hoping the blocks would be half and half. Instead, she didn't dream anyone would put green and purple together, so used the purple exclusively. 

*I'm going to take a quick minute to say there are no wrong colors. We all have our loves and hates, and that goes with combinations too. Colors positively are influenced by the eras we've lived through! Mauve and peach are on my yuck list, but I adore avocado green and harvest gold. Boo for blue, in general, and the same for purple. So my idea to temper the purple with green made it okay. (One of our neighbors had gorgeous green shag carpet once!) And along with those color memories, we attach emotion, as you just heard. So I had to figure out how to remedy the all purple blocks for me.

Bring on the color wheel, and seriously, yes, I use it a lot. I won't go into a primer on how as there's so much out there already, but it deserves a place on your studio wall. At a glance, we have color remedies without endlessly throwing fabric on our design wall for look-sees. A violet blue was one step off, and I had some in my stash.

Creative Grids Flying Geese Ruler

Besides my 6.5" x 24" ruler, my flying geese ruler is No.2 in necessary rulers. Use the inverted V edge to cut the corners for a square-in-a-square block. Yes, there will be bias edges on the sides of the blocks, but these stay very square because the batik has such little stretch. If you want to take an extra step, cut strips and then squares, and use the HST or 'wings' edge to keep the bias on the inside of the block. When you're all done, square it up. 

Floating a center block inside makes it a good way to use up those donated blocks that vary so much in size. Things like this make for excellent Leaders & Enders. Charities often get things that aren't quite right or difficult to use. See it as a challenge to know how to make it usable, but understand it's sometimes easier to just make it right the first time.  

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


  1. Love your donated blocks quilt! FYI, 4-patch blocks are easy to trim down to a uniform size, and you could have just trimmed your sashing strips to match. We have that problem all the time with donated stuff and have discovered lots of "life hacks" to make them work. But your solution really does make the quilt shine!

  2. Lots of food for thought- and eyes.
    Which flying geese ruler? Thanks for sharing.

  3. Karen is a wonderful person. Can't wait to see it all quilted up. Have a great weekend.

  4. It was truly my pleasure to send those blocks to you. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat myself again, you were able to turn 16 so-so and ugly blocks into a quilt of beauty, just like I knew you could. It delights me to no end to know that someday these blocks-turned-beautiful-quilt will bring comfort and warmth to someone special and in need of a perpetual hug. Thank YOU, Julie!

  5. You made great use of those blocks!

  6. What a great transformation of those blocks into a wonderful quilt for somebody in need of that 'perpetual hug'! I know what you mean about emotions being attached to color. It's a very real thing. Love how you turned the purple into a very pleasing block.


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