UFO’s And Orphaned Blocks – Perfect for Machine Quilting Practice! And, Surprise! A Funny Story and a Giveaway, too!

UFO’s. Orphaned blocks.

We’ve all got them. Some of us have A LOT of them. Other’s, only a few. But, we’ve got ’em.

Maybe one of your UFO’s began from a new block a member shared at your quilt guild meeting. Or, you saw a quilt in a magazine and decided to give it a try, only to find out that you really didn’t like making that block.

Maybe, you’ve been given blocks or quilt tops by a friend who was cleaning out Great-Aunt Bessie’s closet. A precious gift, to be sure, but, the blocks or quilt top don’t lay flat, and the fabrics in the blocks don’t match your décor.

I have several blocks that I made as far back as 20 years ago when I first started quilting.  A few are blocks that I made for my husband’s quilt. It took me about 3 years to design all of the blocks and assemble them into a top. Well, I had learned a great deal in those first three years and my piecing skills had improved tremendously. So, mistakes I had made in those early blocks, just jumped out at me. I just couldn’t leave those blocks in the quilt!

I made new blocks and replaced the old ones, which I kept.
Sort of as “Look how much I’ve improved since then!” reminders.


What on earth do you do with the orphans?

I had created a few different layouts for, hopefully someday, making a “Sampler” quilt out of them. I took photos of my ideas so that I could remember what I did. All but one of the blocks in these photos are more than fifteen years old. They still have not become a “Sampler”. :/

And then I thought, “Why not use them for machine quilting practice!?”

Most of them are the perfect size to maneuver under the needle. The largest ones are sixteen inches square. The smallest are six inches square. You could sew a few together to make a larger size that you can easily hold on to. Using blocks like these helps you to get the feel of machine quilting before learning to maneuver, (or sometimes wrestle with) a large quilt. If your first machine quilting attempts make you cringe, don’t toss them. Use them for a rag when you buff your car. Place one under the pet’s food and water bowls to absorb any splashes. Zig-zag several together and use it for a rug in the laundry room.

Just don’t quit!

Every master craftsman was once a beginner. Yep, anyone who is any good and doing something was once a beginner. They didn’t give up. They kept at it, and slowly they improved.

You don’t have to have a plan for a block before machine-quilting it. Just use it for practice. Three of these blocks have several seams where you can use either a walking foot or a free-motion foot to stitch-in-the-ditch. (Stitching right along the seam line.) And they have some open areas where you can practice meandering, loop-de-loops, zig-zags, or anything you’ve been wanting to try on a large quilt.

You can use a free-motion foot to stitch 1/8 away from the edges of appliqued designs.

Then fill in around each appliqued piece with stippling, (Really tiny meandering that is close together.) so that the background recedes and the applique motifs really “POP”!

That’s what I did on this Gnome Place Like Home tea cozy.

On it’s wall hanging counterpart below, I stitched 1/8 inch around the words, and then, quilted loop-de-loops and an occasional butterfly.

Using orphaned blocks that you’ve had hanging around for years and they STILL haven’t made it into any quilt, can be a great way to practice machine quilting.

Today is a good day to make a plan for orphaned blocks!

And, now……

It’s time to tell you about the giveaway!

I have a copy of Fons and Porter’s Quilter’s Complete Guide to give away. It’s a wonderful book FILLED with photos and instructions to help you make awesome quilts and quilted projects!

Everyone who leaves a comment on this post will be eligible to win. I will put all of the names in a basket and on February 21, 2020, randomly draw a name and announce the winner! You can then email me your address and I’ll mail it right out to you!

Now that I’m near the end of my post, I thought I’d add a funny story that I shared a couple of months back on our Lookout Mountain Quilter Facebook group page. We’d love to have you join the group! Just click here !

Now, it was a quiet evening, just relaxing with my sweetheart, watching a little TV, and doing some hand-quilting. When…. Then, this is what I posted.

So, I’m sitting here in my jammies, hand-quilting, and I see something black run across the front of my left shoulder. I thought it was a spider. Do I calmly see what it is and brush it off? NOOOOO! I freak out, my hands fly out, and then I start smacking at my chest with both hands! I missed and it ran down inside my shirt! By this time I realize it’s a carpenter ant. The sucker bit me! I’m still flailing at my chest. Now I can’t find it. Shaking my shirt, the quilt, searching everywhere. Nothing. I’m beginning to come to my senses when I realize that I was just beginning a new line of stitches when this episode began. Where’s my thimble? Where’s my needle!!? My thimble landed on Rick. I still haven’t found the needle. Found the ant. Now it’s DEAD!
So, how’s your evening going?

Now that you know my MO (Mode of Operation, panic first, think logically later.) just be prepared for ANYTHING when you’re around me.

You have been warned. 🙂

Have a great day!


And don’t forget to leave a comment to enter the giveaway!

18 thoughts on “UFO’s And Orphaned Blocks – Perfect for Machine Quilting Practice! And, Surprise! A Funny Story and a Giveaway, too!

  1. Roseanne says:

    Hi Diane! Well, come on . . . who won’t freak out with a potential spider crossing in front of your left shoulder?! That sounds like normal and expected behavior to me. But that pesky needle . . . you know you’re going to find that puppy sometime when you least expect it. Probably a bare foot will be involved, possibly a wee small one might discover it should they visit but it won’t be a simple, oh here it is, kind of find. Great idea about using extra blocks for FMQ practice. I will definitely borrow this suggestion. ~smile~ Roseanne

  2. Denise Davies says:

    It is true we all have orphan blocks, some times they sure do pile up. I like to use some of them on the backs of my quilts.Thanks for all your ideas.

    • lookoutmountainquilter says:

      You’re welcome! Giving orphaned blocks a home on the backs of quilts is a great way to use them, thanks for sharing!

  3. Cindy J Holcomb says:

    My orphan blocks are piling up! Thank you for the tips. Your talent is amazing!
    Keep sharing your thoughts and ideas. And keep telling those stories!

  4. Bev Culbreth says:

    Always love your tips, blog and just love your stories. I want to be you when I grow up! Every time I start to do some hand sewing I think of how you bring your hand work to meetings etc. you can sew and be a vital part of the meeting at the same time. Thanks for sharing your sewing journey with us.

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