The 4:25 p.m. Pacific Northwest....

departing Chicago....heading west..come ride with us

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Beyond motive or intent...

Define what you are striving for in your orphan blocks quilt. Is this about being "green"? Are you trying for "interesting"? Or "attention getting"? Or maybe, harmony?
Trust me, there is just NO harmony in this top. It's that one that I showed you back when I began this series of posts. My intent was "green". Didn't want to waste the odd and misfits. Tops like this happen, hopefully not ALL the time. This top has been on a "journey" and has a tale to tell...but not today.
This top is one of Del Jean's from mid April of 2008, I will have to see if I can figure out how to link that post to this one. It is harmonious, well balanced and lovely to look at. That's a lot in an orphan quilt top! One way to achieve harmony is to work within a color group. If you pull together blocks that share one or two particular colors, the color gives a unity despite different sizes and number of pieces. Sometimes you aren't striving for "lovely", but want the quilt to be interesting. Some of us really enjoy whimsy and something really clever makes us smile. Or maybe that is just me. Sooo...more stuff to think about or ponder as you make orphan block decisions. why, motive, intent, green,, casual, focused, harmony, balance, interesting, attention getting, etc. And while you are deciding these things, know with confidence that your orphan blocks quilt will be serving multi-purpose, bring love, warmth and happiness to someone.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Hitching a ride...

Even on the Orphan Train, everything is not an orphan. The 5.5" fence rail blocks are a leader/ender project. It's boring. I have 52 done, do I want to go on, well...?
But I had a "lightbulb" moment while sewing...what if I alternate them with a "crumbs" block? My crumbs are usually 6.5",, but I could stop at 5.5" instead...right? I like this idea!
This last quilt I'm sharing regarding motive and/or intent that I spoke about last time. NO orphans in this quilt either. All of it was dis-card-able fabric. Guild end of the year party(early summer) was a luau that year. The host gals made fabric leis by tying dozens(hundreds?)of short fabric strips to jute. Obviously they were a throw away item after the party. I pondered that on the way home( traveling by tour bus from MN, I had 2 hours to think. I decided to gather up those that had been left on the bus floor. Maybe 5 or 6, don't remember for sure, but enough to share with my local stitching ladies. I handed them out and challenged the small group..."what can you make using just the fabrics in the lei, and ONE border fabric?" In one sentence I established my intent, and my motive... "don't take yourself so seriously". These are fabrics cleared from stashes as "dispensible". Mostly UGLY! Beyond motive and intent, curiosity contributes to the creation of orphan quilts. It becomes the "starter", like yeast. "Can I do it?" "I will make something that can be called a quilt" is your intent. And the motive, very similar to intent, proving something to yourself and others. Expect frustration to happen, it usually does. But also remember "humor". It will probably be there, and if not, it should be.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Where it begins...

In thinking about the "why" of working with orphans, the simplest reasons are usually just that "simple". And depending on how your head works, that isn't a bad place to work from. You like making quilts. There is always a need for simple utility style function quilt for everyday use. Odd blocks, planned overs, too big, too small, too many...they all qualify for such projects. The quilt above is an early work of mine, started in 1984,finished complete with hand quilting just over a year later. It was for my youngest son, who was about 9. It's an odd assortment of leftover stuff, very few actual "orphan blocks", and probably created more from curiosity than need. The math to make it work was very simple, make the blocks a uniform size or divide-able by an even number. No part of making it was hard, except the hand quilting. And that wasn't hard in the traditional sense, just labor intense and somewhat misplaced on that particular quilt. Back then I hand quilted ALL of them! So that's my "why"...not thought about at the time, just "playing with stuff".My motive wasn't given much thought. I hadn't yet come to realize about "intent". I would say both motive and intent was "casual" with very little mental process involved. With 30 years and multiple attempts and orphan quilts behind me, my opinion is that it is as simple or complicated as you want/need it to be. Tomorrow took a bit longer getting here than intended, but...that's life. If you want to explore beyond the simple part of "why", think about motive and intent. Can you pull those 3 into a cohehsive unit? If not, they may fight all the way home.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Where's the starting line...?

This is a top I patched together, thinking to "save" the leftovers. It was years before I built my "Orphan Train, heading West" quilt that spun off this blog. I could just say "I didn't know what I was doing", and leave it at that...but this top has a longer tale to tell. That story isn't the focus today, but leads me in. Over the years I've talking to a few of you about orphan quilts and making them. It's highly personal and there is NO direct pattern, nor do I think there should be. If someone writes a pattern or book, be warned. The directions may be accurate and wonderfully helpful, but you won't have YOUR orphan quilt at the end. Just another quilt that used up those leftover blocks. And I'm going to talk about that. I feel I need to put this out here. In the past I've tried many times to give you guidelines for YOUR orphan quilt. I think there are have been some smashing successes, and a lot of frustration. All I could do at that time was tell you about method, types of approach to sorting the blocks, possible generalities to follow. "Think in term of rows, horizontal for example. One row of one thing, another row of something else." Or"begin with a medallion, a larger specific group of blocks(or just one) in the center and build around it." "Let color lead you to finding harmony between orphans". All good information, but lacking. Sooo...having spent much time thinking about this, I'm going to tell you what I think it takes, on your part, to "make the grade", "climb the mountain" and "arrive on time". And I'm going to start today by asking you "why", why are you thinking about taking on this particular task? Almost any answer is right, if it's true for you. More tomorrow.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Unused train tracks...

Those old iron tracks that rumbled and rattled with the weight of passing iron horses are silent in many areas across America. Perhaps in Europe too, I don't know. The tracks I have made across Blogland have also been silent for awhile. But I'm back and ready to dive into some orphan blog re-construction! I have LOTS of candidates to work with. And you know what, I'm going to shrug off the doubts I have about what I do with them, ignore the idea that it might be time better spent creating from stash, and rise to the challenge that working with mis-matched parts creates. I've only recently mastered this new computer enough to upload new pictures, but for todays post, I'm showing some oldies. The first one...scraps! I have lots of raw material to work with. This is a small sample. And in the second picture, a "begun" quilt that I saw for the first time at a guild meeting. It's a 4 patch variation block, being made from someone's Dads work shirts. I've loved this quilt for years and years, and want to re-create it from my recycled plaids. I'll be cutting for that one soon! The third picture has a special personal meaning *VBS*. I'm going to be a great-grandma in January, Lord willing! How could I not be excited about making burp cloths, and flannel blankets, and a special quilt or two?? That picture is of some of my extensive baby flannel stash! So, if you've got time, hop on board and see the USA with me!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Checking in...

And a happy 1st of February to all who track the Orphan Train. I've been ONE BAD conductor and engineer this past year. Time for wake up and get busy call! Lots of Orphan blocks awaiting attention...wanna join me??

Friday, July 20, 2012

Extreme Makeover-Orphan Block Style....

 Here we are back at the semi-completed quilt top I showed you a couple of days ago. That was the last time it looked like this. A bit of time spent with my trusty new Clover seam ripper...
 and it became THIS ! I was even smart enough to NOT remove the thin olive green sashing...hoping it might just work out to be enough to fill the needed spaces and stay with the original quilt top. In this picture, you'll notice the change in carpeting? Yup, using the kitchen floor today for the photo op *VBS* I left a bit of space in between the rows so you can see how this is going to come together(I hope).
Here are the removed setting triangles which give me the 4 parts I need to make that needed 9th block. The triangles will all be "waste"(so to speak, since I waste very little), and there will be 2 extra of the 9 patch variation also. Only one of the side triangles had the green lattice added...I'm hoping against hope that it will fill in where it is needed as the outside of the missing block! Wish me luck!
As to where the quilt goes from here????...well, I'm trusting my instincts will  lead me to a way to complete it, minimum, a snuggle size quilt.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gathering steam.....

 and moving ahead, slowly at first, but moving. This is the next orphan donation I'm going to help find a new life. I apologize to its maker, but I don't remember who donated it. It came in a box with other orphans, I do remember that much.( Let me know if it's yours, please!)

 So once again I stand in that doorway of "what to do". And that's not a bad place to stand...
it just requires looking at what you've got and seeing what is possible. No additional parts came with this one, and it's plain to see that 4 corners made of pieced parts would have completed the design. All of the setting triangles are bias edged(never good in my book!) I have none of those fabrics, altho that's not the end of the world, but I would have to be REALLY creative if I went that route. So sat and had me a think this morning, and I had an idea. The blocks are 12" with the 4 put together that way. Hmmm...I checked for what were the 'long' seams that joined the rows and they run along the green lattice.
Soooo, the plan is to take the top apart into sections, use the parts of the setting triangle blocks to make one more block, and set them 3 X 3. A total of the nine blocks with odds and ends of background left over. It still will need additional stuff to make it big enough...but that's do-able! Happy frog-stitching Finn !

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Even frogs can be orphans.....

 and come wandering down the road, lookin' for a home. A year or so back, Julie, of Julie K Quilts, included these 12 little medical Frogs, with a first border of red, in a package of orphan blocks. And I wondered, "hmmmm, what to do with 12 frogs?" Then, this past spring, in a moments impulse, I added 2" muslin strips to those blocks...but still not big enough to do much with, and still, NO they sat. And then last occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, since the Frogs were then 8.5" instead of their original 6.5"...just maybe they would work with these....
 ...the 8.5" scrappy 16 patches I've been making all winter from odds and ends! So I gave it a "shot" and sure enough, they look pretty darn good together. And if I could arrange them right, the 12 blocks would come out "even"!
So I did, and they did...and I feel both liberated and scrap happy!! I dug in my drawer of green fabric and found a yard of this awesome green(almost an exact match for the frogs)and best of all, it was polka dotted.
So the top is complete at about 46" square. It will probably be donated 'as is' for a volunteer to finish.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Quilts are for giving....

is a new blog about the quilts we make and donate. It's so nice to have a place to read about what other donation quilters are doing!! I haven't quite finished the red, white and blue orphan top I showed you in June, but I went ahead and began working on this one(again). When I limited that top to red, white and blue, I also limited what I had to work with. I'm closing in on a finished size now, but not quite. I'm going to share some "section" pictures of this orphan quilt for a reason. It's rather like the soup or casserole you make with all the 'odds and ends' from the frig.
If you had a bunch of orphan quilts started, you would eventually have enough orphan blocks of any color or size to do a whole quilt. Mostly we don't have that luxury...not even me, with many donated blocks to play with. I guess beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder and this is NOT a beautiful quilt top...I will be the first to say it....BUT, it is an interesting one! If I had to choose, I would choose interesting over beauty any day *VBS* That row you see to the far right? Yup, just a single row of 4.5" blocks, sewn to run vertically, bringing the final width up to 52". I had thought to stop at 48" but it needed a bit more. That's one way to get "more" and not add borders, since it doesn't need the length.
 I think you probably can see just how many orphan blocks, bits and parts and pieces joined together to make this top. If you've got the patience, they will make a whole NEW thing for you. If you only love beautiful children, this method is NOT for you. I'll be happy to take the orphans you don't want. Recently I got a small bundle from Cathy in Ireland *VBS*, what a nice surprise that was!
Here is the completed flimsy. It measures 52" X 72". It will not be having borders as my roll of batting is 54". The wonderful "HA" was donated by friend Betsy. After borrowing my WI Quilts book, she made an entire H.A. quilt. It was wonderful, bright, and happy. Her youngest daughter loved it. Do you see your donated blocks in there?????

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Orphans and scraps and pieces, oh my!!

 Yes, it does look like a mess, doesn't it??? This is a new donation, and it seems to be all(or nearly all) 2" strips. They were packed way beyond tightly in one of those heavy plastic bags that new sheets come in. I'm thrilled to get them, as I have several tops started using 2" strips!
 These orphan blocks are from a couple of different donations. I had set them aside until I had enough of something similar to make another Orphan Train quilt. Today I pulled out all the various red and white parts I had and began. The larger red squares in the picture were cut down to match the pile of navy 3" squares from a different donor.
This is about all the further I had gotten on this particular project earlier. Some of the orphans are mine, and many are donated ones. At this point the width is 48", which isn't bad for a donation type quilt. I'm going to see if I can get to about 60" in length. Not sure if it will get tied, machine quilted or donated as a top. I've decided it's high time for me to get busy with these again, and quit messing around in endless 'playtime'...unfortunately, it's something I do VERY WELL!
I have several other new donations to share with you, soon. But I'm going to try and finish this one up FIRST.

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Quilt on the Orphan Train....

from our own Del Jeanne. She has created this lovely quilt for a dear friend. I'll let her tell you about it. "It's been awhile since I've written to you. The attached quilt was made for a friend when she lost her mother. Several contributed orphan blocks for it. She had told us she liked earth tones, but also bright colors. When I had all the blocks, they were pretty well divided between the two colorways, so I did an every other block layout, which worked out great! I found backing fabric combining the two major colors (red and earthy green)".
Del Jeanne
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Re-Printed from August 23, 2007...what we should remember..

Thursday, August 23, 2007
Messages from the past....remember me...
As I read the comments about my last post,far off in the distance, I could hear the sounds of an old stream drawn train. The long lonesome whistle calls at the stations and crossings, the clicky-clack as those steel wheels inched their way West. I was amazed and moved by comments left regarding ancestors who rode the orphan train. Excellent factual information was provided and a link to a wonderful website that I'm adding to our sidebar. We, the little group participating in this orphan blocks challenge, know what our challenge is about. If there is blame to be placed, is for me. I'm the one who called my quilt 'Riding the Orphan Train', and it was an 'honoring' of same when I did. A sharing of knowledge about those trains, and the stories of the children and the families then created is a much bigger thing.
I wrote to Ann and asked permission to share her comments more publically. She graciously agreed and thanked me.
Ann said...
"My grandmother, Marjorie Peterson, was an orphan train rider. She was indentured as a nanny by a family in MN at the age of 8. The family changed her name from Mary to Marjorie. In her middle years, Grandma wrote her autobiography, which my family knew, but it remained private until her death in 1991 (age 93). I made a quilt in Grandma's memory and use it when I read from her autobiography and tell her heartwarming story to audiences (including quilt guilds!) across the US. An article that I wrote about the orphan trains and her story was published in "Quilters Newsletter Magazine," Jan/Feb 2005. Read the article, see my "orphan train" quilt and learn more on my website at My book "They Named Me Marjorie" was published in June 2006."

Interesting note: The term "orphan train" is somewhat misleading because Charles Loring Brace/Children's Aid Society and other placement agencies never used this term for their placements but rather The Home Finding Department or Emigration Department. Almost one-third of the children from the CAS may have been placed in New York and never rode a train. The Foundling Hospital sent out "baby" or "mercy" trains. The term orphan train may have been coined as recently as 1978 when CBS aired a miniseries called "The Orphan Trains." Nonetheless, the period from 1854 to 1929 (75 years!)and the adoption/indenture/foster care placement of an estimated 250,000 children was the most significant movement of children in the US and was the genesis of American adoption and foster care programs.

August 19, 2007 9:03 PM Ann's website is

Evelyn of Starfishy Quilting mentioned that Anne in Anne of Green Gables might have been an orphan train rider. From what I remember, Anne came from an orphanage, but I don't think she would have been on the train, as the story is set on Prince Edward Island. The Orphan Train was used in the United States.
Annie, of Little Orphan Annie, altho not an orphan train rider, could have been. The story is was set in the 1920's in New York City. The setting would have been a fairly typical orphanage. There are many examples of how little value these children had in society. One of the American Girl's stories...Samantha, is set about 1904 and deals with a girls orphanage. Again, the conditions are similar to the other stories. The Little Princess is another, And Cider House Rules comes to mind.

We don't have orphans as such, in America anymore. In the dictionary sense, a child is an orphan if there are no parents to claim and take responsibilty for the child. In today's world,it takes a bit of time,but a child left without parents becomes a ward of the State. This "ward-ship" stands(as parent)to the child until they are legally adopted, either by family members or someone who wants them. Three of my chlidren were surrendered to the State of Wisconsin. Two were surrendered to the ward-ship of a private agency.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Climbing those mountains.....

 takes a full head of steam from the old Orphan Train. Mostly it's a 'slow-go'...but progress is being made. This "begun" has grown...
 into this over the past week. The parts in use are mostly from Em. Sometimes I dis-assemble or partly dis-assemble an orphan block and it becomes something else. That's the case with the little tan house in the lower left corner. And the row of pinwheels.
 This humble beginning, mostly Em's...has been growing quite nicely also.
As of this morning, it looks like this. This top has parts from Sara, Em, San,Betsy and my pineapple passion bonus HSTs. There isn't much of anything you can do wrong working on an orphan blocks and bits quilt top. No rules to follow, not many suggestions. Working row by row, is perhaps the easiest. All you need is the materials; orphan blocks and leftover parts. Fitting them together usually involves "fillers" or odds and ends of scraps. Keeping the row the same height is about the only challenge. Some of your rows might be 12" high while others can be 6". When you reach the width you want, stop or chop off the extra...easy peasy! Give it a try during your play time.
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