15 unexpected uses for a single quilt block

Posted by on October 17, 2013, in quilting & sewing, ,

Squirrel wall hanging from The Quilter's Home Fall
"Use me! Use me!"

What’s that? It’s your stray quilt blocks calling! We’re betting many of you have an assortment of lonesome quilt blocks nestled in boxes and closets. Maybe your blocks are left over from completed quilts, or perhaps they were the beginnings of something wonderful…that never quite panned out. Maybe you stitched up a block to test a color scheme, practice a new technique, or experiment with specialty fabrics. However they got there, now’s the time to find your singleton blocks a home.

Check out the following 15 ideas for using your extra patchwork quilt blocks and random bits of appliqué. Then gather your blocks and make them into something useful, or simply display them as the beautiful things they are.

1. Pincushion

Turn your small blocks into quick and pretty pincushions. Just stitch on a backing, leaving a hole for turning. Then turn your piece inside out, stuff, and stitch the hole closed. For quilterly appeal and extra dimension, layer contrasting buttons at the center and tie them in place with embroidery floss.

Pincushion from Four-Patch Frolic
Find the pattern in Four-Patch Frolic.

2. Wall quilt

No one ever said a quilt has to be big. Maybe one block is all you need to make a charming wall hanging.

One-block quilt from The Civil War Sewing CircleFind the pattern in The Civil War Sewing Circle. One-block quilt from Twice as NiceFind the pattern in
Twice as Nice

3. Hot pad

Call them hot pads or pot holders, they certainly come in handy in the kitchen—so why not make yours with fun patchwork blocks? Whether you take it easy with a four patch or get fancy with some fluid appliqué, you’ll enjoy the splash of color every time you see your pot holder in the kitchen. In her pot holder (below) from The New Handmade, Cassie Barden pairs insulated batting with a layer of cotton or wool batting to get the proper level of heat protection.

Pot holder from The New HandmadeFind the pattern in The New Handmade. Pot holder from Sew DecorativeFind the pattern in Sew Decorative.
Pot holder from Quilting Those Flirty '30sFind the patterns in Quilting Those Flirty ’30s.

4. Baby quilt

Okay, maybe you don’t have any giant blocks hanging around the house, but you can oh-so-easily whip one up! You can find patterns for super-big blocks here, here, here, and here, or pick a favorite block and resize it.

One-block quilt from Quilts Made with LoveFind the pattern in Quilts Made with Love. One-block quilt from Large-Block QuiltsFind the pattern in Large-Block Quilts.
Free one-block quilt from Sew One and You're DoneDownload the pattern for free here; see more like it from Sew One and You’re Done here. Butterfly quilt from Lickety-Split Quilts for Little OnesFind the butterfly quilt
pattern in
Lickety-Split Quilts
for Little Ones.

5. Pillow

Swiftly update your decor—and put spare blocks to use—by making pillows. Keep them simple by adding a quick border, or play with decorative binding, ruffles, or prairie points to spruce things up. If you’re after a coordinated look, stitch an extra block when making your next bed quilt, and then turn that block into a matching throw pillow.

Pillow from Bed and Breakfast QuiltsFind the pattern in Bed and Breakfast Quilts—the eBook is on sale for only $6 through October 20! Pillow from Simple GracesFind this Kim Diehl pillow pattern
and matching pieced pillow case
Simple Graces.
Pillow from Bloom Creek QuiltsFind the pattern in Bloom Creek Quilts. Pillow from The Quilter's Home SpringFind the pattern in The Quilter’s Home: Spring. Pillow from Christmas Is ComingFind the pattern in Christmas Is Coming.

6. Tote decoration

Turn edges under and appliqué a block to a premade tote. Or make a tote from scratch, piecing the lone quilt block into the design.

Daffodil tote bag from Nature's Beauty in Applique
Find the pattern in Nature’s Beauty in Appliqué.

7. Place mat

Imagine a beautiful quilt block under your plate! Start with a rectangular block to get the right shape, border a large square block on two sides to make a rectangular mat, or combine smaller blocks.

Place mats from Double Take
Find the pattern in Double Take.

8. Quilt label

If you admire striking quilt labels, fashion your own from a spare block. To get words on your label, try printing onto fabric with an inkjet printer, writing with a permanent fabric marker, or embroidering by hand or machine.

Selvage quilt label from Bloom Creek Quilts
Notice how this block label from
Bloom Creek Quilts is bordered with selvage fabric? It’s Vicki Bellino’s cool idea for documenting the fabric line used in the quilt.

9. Medallion quilt

Border a small block again and again, medallion style, to make a utility lap quilt, a picnic quilt, a beach quilt, or a quilt to have in the car for just-in-case moments.

Medallion quilt from Fast and Fun First Quilts
Find the pattern in Fast-and-Fun First Quilts.

10. A quilt lover’s banner

You’ll need several lonely blocks for this idea. Add backing, sew almost all the way around the edges, and then turn inside out. Stitch the blocks to a strip of bias tape to make your banner.

Floral Pennant Banner from Cool Girls Quilt
Find the pattern in Cool Girls Quilt (it’s also available as an ePattern).

11. Armrest storage pocket

Do you enjoy doing a bit of hand sewing while watching television? Store your remote and your stitching tools right at your elbow in an armrest storage pocket. Use a colorful quilt block for the front of the pocket, and then stitch a bright pincushion strip across the top to make it extra useful.

Armrest storage pocket from 25 Patchwork Quilt Blocks
Find the pattern in 25 Patchwork Quilt Blocks.

12. Coaster

Got some tiny blocks, leftover pieced units, or squares of a favorite fabric? Then you’ve nearly got yourself some coasters. Just add backing and batting, then bind ’em up to finish.

Coasters from Everyday HandmadeFind the pattern in Everyday Handmade. Coasters from The Quilter's Home SpringFind the pattern in The Quilter’s Home: Spring. Coasters from Twice as NiceFind the pattern in Twice as Nice.

13. Framed art

Your quilt blocks are pieces of art! Frame one of your beauties as is, or add triangles to each side to set it on point. Just one framed block would be lovely—but the more the merrier! If you’ve got multiple blocks looking for a home, stitch them into a row and then display them in a handsome rectangular frame.

Framed quilt block from Simple Graces
Find the pattern in Simple Graces.

Framed quilt blocks from A Cut Above
Find the pattern in A Cut Above.

14. Ornament

Christmas tree looking a little bare? Need a quick gift? Combined with a backing and a simple ribbon loop, any quilt block can become a handmade holiday ornament.

Quilt block ornament from Folded Fabric Fun
Find the pattern in Folded Fabric Fun.

15. Rice bag

Whether you’re looking to warm your tired muscles or your fresh-baked bread, a heated rice bag does the trick. Line your block with flannel or batting, add backing, stitch almost all the way around, and turn inside out. Fill your bag with aromatic rice and then stitch the opening closed. Simply microwave your rice bag for one or two minutes to warm it up.

Quilt block rice bags from Time to Quilt
Find the patterns in Time to Quilt.

How do you use your leftover quilt blocks? Got any great ideas we missed? Share your suggestions in the comments!

35 Comments (leave a comment)

  • Guild members direct their orphan blocks my way and I create place mats from them for our local Meals on Wheels program. We gift these to the lady responsible for organizing the delivery of meals at Christmas time. She sees that meal recipients have a new place mat with their Christmas meal, on their birthday and any other special days during the year. One recipient immediately had his place mat hung on his wall for him as it was too beautiful to spill on. He wondered if he would be able to have another "more serviceable" place mat next time they were available. It warms the heart to hear these stories and to brighten people’s lives in a very small way. Guild members are starting to take the cue and are turning their orphan blocks into place mats before they are brought to the meetings. Love the team work.

    —Audrey on October 17, 2013
  • I have a box of homeless blocks. Now I have some good ideas to start using them up.

    Cynthia on October 17, 2013
  • When ever I make a quilt or wallhanging I try to make at least one extra block from the scraps of the quilt….then I turn the extras into sampler quilts…I am just finishing my 8th of this millennium….since 2000 I have made 8 scrap block quilts….I love quilting and knitting….and try to combine them in a day everyday…..have a great day.

    —Darlene Krystal on October 17, 2013
  • You can also use orphan blocks as the basis for doll quilts. After all, all discriminating dolls need quilts of their own.

    —Barbara Y on October 17, 2013
  • great ideas!

    —Tonie Peterson on October 17, 2013
  • Some good ideas here. I have also used some C&G samples of Seminole piecing to wrap around a Kilner jar and secured with a button. Add a pincushion to the lid, fill with sewing notions or a small kit and you have a pretty gift for a stitching friend.

    —Lynn on October 17, 2013
  • Audrey – thanks so much for sharing – that is such a terrific idea!!! I did noon meal deliveries when I worked late and I know how much it means to home-bound individuals to have a little extra attention. I’m sure the placemats mean far more to those folks than you will ever know. Thanks for adding that special touch for the meal recipients, and thanks for sharing the idea for those of us who can do the same locally (and hadn’t thought of it).

    —mary on October 18, 2013
  • I found the idea of placemats from Audrey fantastic! I live in a small village in northern Germany and will suggest this to our quilt group the next time we meet. As for me, I’m now looking thru my boxes to see what I can find.

    —Victoria on October 19, 2013
  • I started donating my extra quilt squares to my Quilt club to make pillows or small quilts for an organization that we make things for at Christmas.

    —Louise B. on October 19, 2013
  • Thank you… my head is churning with all these quick gifts.

    —Suz C. on October 19, 2013
  • What wonderful ideas! I just cleaned out a few bags of scraps and found several blocks I had discarded. Now I have several ideas to use them! Thank you!

    —kim d on October 20, 2013
  • Our quilt guild have made numerous charity quilts with donated orphan blocks. I have used them when making tote bags, quilts, donated or have exchanged quilt blocks with other quilters. I still have some about which I am thinking of their future. Happy Quilting:)

    —Sheila Ivany on October 28, 2013
  • One of my Guilds collects orphan blocks to be made into charity quilts. For my own use, I make pot holders from them or using heat batting, I make tea or food warmers or table covers for bowls holding hot food. Trust me, I have very few orphan blocks.

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on November 2, 2013
  • Wonderful ideas, Thank so much. I do have a box of orphans blocks , now they will becoming something useful and pretty.

    Matilde e valle on August 13, 2014
  • I have started to make pencil cases with lone blocks. All you need is a matching scrap for lining and a zipper.
    Makes some stunning little bags and you can use it for money, carrying sewing supplies, makeup…. Anything you can think of. Makes great gifts too.

    —Christine on August 13, 2014
  • I use the extra blocks to make a bag to store the quilt when it’s not in use. I make it in a shape to encourage rolling the quilt rather than folding it.
    All my quilts are for charity – sick/injured individuals.

    —Wendymphx on August 13, 2014
  • How about zippered cosmetic pouches / pencil cases / phone accessories, phone cases, small notebook covers and mug rugs. Also blocks without batting can be used for lavender sachets (or other scents)

    lisa shepard stewart on August 13, 2014
  • Thanks so much for all these great ideas. Now to find the time to make a few!

    —Phyllis on August 13, 2014
  • My neighbor gave me some very big blocks she was going to put together for a quilt, but they ended up being different sizes. They might be best made into baby quilts with big borders. The hard part is, they were quilted as she went. I have been ruminating on those from to time. Now I have more ideas!

    Thank you!

    —Mama2eight on August 13, 2014
  • What fantastic ideas. Can’t wait to start with my extra discarded blocks? Please keep these ideas coming.

    —Pauline wright on August 13, 2014
  • I have a multitude of orphan blocks that I made up for samples when I was teaching classes. I plan on selling them for $1 at our next garage sale. Hope they will be gone, but now I can make suggestions on how to use them. Thanks

    —Susy Jones on August 13, 2014
  • We live in an independent-living senior community. Most of us have a decoration of some kind on our doors. I use a single block, appropriate to the season of the month as the decoration on our door.

    —Evelyn on August 13, 2014
  • I feel sad, as i have no orphan blocks to use for these fantastic ideas…… i am obviously not quilting enough…..
    Thanks for sharing all the wonderful ideas, i may have to make some orphan blocks now & have a go at some of them…

    —Suzanne Keal on August 13, 2014
  • OMG! The idea for the placemats for Meals on Wheels is the best ever! I have so many extra blocks that I have gotten through the years and just never had the right idea for. I cannot wait to get started on making placemats for my own area Meals on Wheels. I best get started…

    —Jill Hogan on August 14, 2014
  • I am going to start saving my orphans for an Orphan quilt to remind me of the quilts I have made for my grandkids and for the KidsQuilts club held at my local library – they donate quilts to our local hospitals, fire depts., etc. That way I will actually have one to keep for myself.

    —Janet on August 14, 2014
  • These are such good ideas! I have used most of them at one time or another. The last time I covered the advertizing on my fabric shopping bags for the grocery store. (I figured if they wanted me to advertize their store then don’t charge me for the bag! They are much cuter now)But what I wanted to add was, that when I make a quilt I use an extra block for the label and stash some extra fabric under it for future repairs. That way it has been thru the same number of washes and repairs blend in better. With grandchildren stuff happens!

    —Linda Pyke on August 14, 2014
  • What fantastic ideas! And all I’ve made so far is hot pads…I must branch out. Thanks, everyone.

    —Cathy Slabaugh on August 15, 2014
  • I take orphan quilt blocks, add fabric as needed plus cording and make bags for Samaritans Purse. They are filled with marbles, little cars or dolls, beads or hair barrettes. Kids no matter where they live needs places to keep their treasures.

    —Sylvia on August 17, 2014
  • I love the ideas! Especially the placemats for Meals on Wheels! I’m with a church group that makes all kinds of things for various local organizations, and that would be a wonderful addition!

    I did use a pair of my orphan blocks for a tote bag: I lined them, and used them for pockets. One other lady appliqued hers on some totes.

    There are many other wonderful ideas, thank you!

    —Kathy in IN on August 18, 2014
  • Our little quilt group was just discussing bringing our orphan blocks to a meeting to share and to see what could be done with them. Great ideas and the timing is perfect.

    —Sherbie Tollefson on August 19, 2014
  • This summer I had some orphan blocks and made them into small quilts that will be given to hospitals for the neionatial units for covers

    —Shirley on October 3, 2014
  • What is your phone number?

    Hi Faith, you can reach us at 1-800-426-3126. –Jenny

    —Faith VanZanten on June 24, 2015
  • I have some vintage quilt squares that I was given about 1970 and they were made years prior to that. They are hand stitched. Have about 19 Sunbonnet Sue, 18 star squares, and 48 6″x6″ bow tie squares. Is there a demand for these old squares? They have not been washed.

    —Kathy on August 13, 2015
  • Where could I find the small metal display holder that the pineapple quilt block is on?

    Hi Mary Ann, those cute quilt holders are made by our friends at Ackfeld Manufacturing. Thanks for your question! –Jenny

    —Mary Ann Udoutch on June 30, 2016
  • Where did you find the squirrel pattern for the wall hanging at the top of this post? It is beautiful – I would love to try one for a couple that loves squirrels! Thank you

    Hi Amy – you can find the squirrel pattern in the eBook The Quilter’s Home: Fall. Thanks for your question! –Jenny

    —Amy on February 19, 2019

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