The theme for Project QUILTING’s third challenge is “UFOs and Orphan Blocks.” The basic rules are the same as last time in that the project does not have to be a traditional quilt, although it does have to include patchwork, appliqué, or have three layers stitched together (aka quilted) and the entire thing must be conceptualized and finished within the week of the challenge. The challenge-specific rules were that while you could add additional fabric, the main part of your project had to be made using the orphaned blocks or the UFO; and you were encouraged to make something different than you had originally intended. The project must also have a name.
I don’t have much in the way of orphan blocks sitting around. My orphaned block collection consisted of three 9-inch Yellow Brick Road blocks, and twenty four 1.5″ blocks from Summer Love. After some deliberation on what to do, I decided to grab the Yellow Brick Road blocks. I honestly didn’t know what this would become as I started out. My inspiration came from both strip quilts and from “disappearing patch” quilts, and I just had a vague idea of some sort of mug rug or little wall hanging. Thus, I shall name this project, “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.”
Since I wanted 1/4″ strips, I started out by cutting the blocks down into 3/4″ strips. This would leave me with my desired 1/4″ after subtracting the seam allowance. That was the only math I troubled myself with aside from counting my strips and dividing by four to get a rough idea of how big it would finish.
I have never done any string quilts before, so I was just making it up as I went along. About the only thing I know of string piecing is that you typically use a foundation, so I pulled out a scrap of muslin to use for that. I made sure my muslin scrap was at least 9 inches square, and then just cut the largest rectangle I could get out of it… again, avoiding the annoyance of planning and math and such. Totally winging this!
First, I auditioned my strips to get a good mix of colors. Next, I laid two strips right sides together and stitched a 1/4″ seam. When the two strips were stitched I opened them and spritzed them generously with Best Press before ironing the strips open. From there it was a matter of stitch, flip, spray, iron, repeat.
When I was down to just a few strips left I decided to call it done, since the last few strips were too repetitive in coloring for my tastes. I already didn’t really like how the block had the appearance of being segmented in thirds with a lighter strip down the middle, and wished I had been able to make it more scrappy and random. It didn’t turn out badly though.
Now, what the heck should I do with this thing? I picked it up and held it, bent it, and rolled it trying to decide what I should make with it. Mug rug? Pot holder? I liked the way it looked rolled, and the muslin and dense seam allowances made it pretty stiff, should I make a pen cup? Pencil case? Maybe a little zippered pouch? So I dug around in my zipper drawer and found a navy blue zipper that would work well with it, then started digging through the scrap bin for other remnants of the Yellow Brick Road (YBR) quilt to better see what I had to work with. It was at this point I found a few more YBR blocks. Grumble. I could have made it larger or scrappier! Ugh. Mental note: store orphan blocks somewhere other than the scrap bin.
After some contemplation on how I wanted to proceed, I settled on simply cutting the string pieced block in half and then using a navy blue above and below it. It just so happened that this navy blue fabric was left over from what I used for the borders of the YBR as well. Since the string pieced section was rather stiff and thick, I added some fusible fleece to the navy blue sections to even out the thickness and stiffness of the different sections. I also cut the muslin and as much of the extra fabric out as I could along the edges to remove bulk before stitching the sections together. For the lining, I would use the two remaining 9″ orphan YBR blocks that I had discovered hiding in the scrap bin.
Again, I didn’t really trouble myself with math or measurements and just eyeballed the solid fabric when I cut it; after stitching it to the string pieced bit I trimmed it even. After stitching the solid fabric, I removed the fleece from the seams to get rid of the extra bulk, then flipped it open and top stitched just below the pieced section to keep the seams in place and make it lay nice and flat.
Next up I actually measured something! I checked the width of my two blocks, then trimmed a zipper to be an inch shorter in order to leave a 1/2″ space at either end once it was stitched in place. The next step was stitching the exterior, zipper, and lining together. To add a little more color to the interior, I first reconfigured one of the orphan blocks and stitched a scrap of the yellow fabric in. Again, I didn’t measure my lining and stitched it in place and then trimmed it down to match. This was all done in the usual way of making any basic zipper pouch. Once all my bits and pieces were stitched together, I stitched things up around the edges, boxed my corners, and flipped everything right sides out.
To finish it off, I wanted a zipper pull. I thought about making one, but then pulled a little charm out of the closet that has been sitting around for over a decade. I picked it up at a shrine in Japan, probably in 2002, and its age is apparent in the faded string that was once bright purple. It is a green drinking gourd with a bell and a little gold tag that says “saru” in hiragana, which means monkey in Japanese. If you hold it up to the light and peer through the tiny hole at the narrow end, you will see an image of a seated buddha meditating with a monkey at his feet. The vendor had one for each year of the Chinese zodiac, and I chose this one since I was born in the year of the monkey.
In the end I think it came out pretty good for something I didn’t even know I was going to make when I started out, and for not measuring much along the way. The lack of measuring did result in the top solid strip being wider than I would have liked, but oh well. I also wish I had made the boxed corners a little smaller. You can see more photos of the bag in the gallery below.