Finding a home for your Orphan Blocks

I don’t know about you, but I have a whole bin full of orphan blocks. But it wasn’t those blocks that inspired me. It was not finding a potholder when I needed it. But that should never be a problem for a quilter. And is there one of us who has no leftover blocks or extra binding strips or small pieces of batting? Here’s what I did with some of my orphan blocks–and everything I used was a leftover or recycle item:


Some of my Orphan blocks

The first step was to take a clean but stained old wash cloth. You can use old or new wash cloths or towels. I got the idea from thinking about the fact that when you can’t find a potholder, you use a towel. My husband plays softball so I buy white wash cloths by the dozen. After a couple of trips to the ball field, even Clorox won’t get the red dirt stains out of them. They’re clean, but stained.

An old wash cloth


The next step is to choose a block and layer it onto the top of the wash cloth and cut the wash cloth the same size as the block.

Trim washcloth to fit block


Take an old scrap of batting and layer it beneath the block and washcloth. Using an air erasable pen, draw a square around the block and washcloth that is 1-1/2 inches larger. Then cut around the marked lines.

Mark and cut batting square


The next step is to cut border strips for the block. Leftover binding strips are used that are 2-1/2 inches wide. Cut two strips the length of the block and two strips that are the length of the batting.

Cut border strips


The next step is to machine stitch the border strips to the block. The sew and flip method is used and it is stitched through all four layers: border-block-washcloth-batting.

Sew and Flip


This is how it looks after adding the sew and flip strips and pressing. You can see that it needs to be squared up. Using a ruler, square up the block evenly all the way around. It really doesn’t matter how much you trim. What you want is for it to be square and to have a nice size border and to be about the right size for a potholder.


Next, cut a backing that is the exact same size as the potholder front. Then you will layer the backing and potholder with right sides together and stitch around with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, leaving an opening to turn. The 1/2 inch seam allowance is important if you don’t want to do any hand stitching. Before turning, be sure to trim the corners so you will have nice sharp corners.

The photo below shows the stitch and flip seam lines as well as the final stitching.

Underside of potholder showing stitches after everything has been sewn together


The only thing left to do is to turn it right side out, press, and top stitch. You can use seam glue or Elmer’s School glue to close the opening and then top stitch 1/4 inch away from the finished edge so that all seam allowances are included in the top stitching. That means there is no hand stitching required. And your potholder is finished.

Finished pot holder

4 Replies to “Finding a home for your Orphan Blocks”

  1. Our guild is busy making quilted items for our annual fund-raising boutique. I just took 4 orphan butterfly blocks that were left over from a block swap years ago and sashed and bordered them and now have a lovely table runner!

  2. If you’re interested in finding homes for your orphan blocks (and maybe your friends’ orphan blocks) check out my book, Orphan Block Quilts: Making a Home for Antique, Vintage, Collectible, and Leftover Quilt Blocks.

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