I was really surprised at all the orphan blocks I've got. I shouldn't have been. I remember making the decision to collect them. They have accumulated rapidly from classes, leftovers, experimentation and publishers requirements. I decided to use some in a quilt maybe because I enjoy the challenge of getting them to fit together. Here is how I do it.
Step 1. The more blocks to choose from the better. That way you can choose blocks that coordinate. The 1st thing I do is sort the blocks according to character. I have a pile of 1800 reproduction blocks, and one with 1930's. I also have a pile of scrappy blocks, a small pile of brights and one of batiks. And then there's the rest of them. I sorted those into piles by color, basically, jewel tones or earth tones. So does this count as 5 PhD's?
Step 2. Apparently I have enough jewel tone blocks to make a quilt. Next sort the blocks into piles by size. Oh my goodness! I came up with over 10 different size blocks. I put the blocks on the wall grouping same size blocks in columns.
Try to arrange the blocks either into sections, in columns or in rows that will finish roughly the same length. A few rows usually have blocks all the same size, perhaps one row will have 8" or 10" blocks and another row 12" blocks. In this collection, there are quite a few six-inch blocks that would fit in nicely next to each other in a row with 12 inch blocks so those shouldn't be a problem, except there is only one that is 12".
I found I had quite a few 8" blocks that could be used alone in a quilt, but decided to incorporate them into this quilt. I was able to pick out some that blended in nicely - enough for 2 rows. All that remains is the odd sized blocks.
Step 3. The next goal is to focus on building rows where each block in the row is the same width. Don't worry about the exact length of the rows at this time. Each row in the quilt does not need to be the same width, just the same width from top to bottom of each row. The photo below shows some of the blocks I was considering and the rows I've started to form.
To get the blocks the size I need I enlarge blocks to match the biggest block in the row. There are several options.
Option 1 - Enlarge a block by building the smaller blocks up to the size of the biggest block in the row. This option works great for turning 6" or 8" blocks into 12" blocks or 10" blocks into 14" blocks. I don’t worry if I still have matching fabric. I enlarged the blue block on the left in this way in the bottom set of blocks. You don’t need to follow an actual pattern. Just play with same sized squares and triangles to come up with a plan. In the teal block I found the same background fabric and added a round of triangles. Compare these blocks to the original in the first photo above.
Option 2 - Add a frame to all sides. Either matching or contrasting fabric will work. I make the frame an extra ½" wide and only trim the block on two sides to match the width of the row. The extra length may come in handy when getting the rows to the same length in step 4.
Option 3 - Set a small block on point by framing it with setting triangles. They can be plain half-square triangles or pieced from smaller squares and triangles. I generally plan for oversized triangles then square the block down to size after sewing.
I never forget that I can make another block from scratch to get the color and fit I want. Also, on occasion I have been known to cut a block down to make it fit a row. Do Not sew the blocks in the rows together yet, just focus on making the blocks in the row the same width.
Stay tuned for part 2. Sew long.