Donation Quilt Pattern Selection

Someone asked in a comment how I select patterns for a donation quilt. This is an interesting question and I am so glad the commentor asked. I never thought of the topic and it is a great one!

The biggest issue to consider for me is what kind of sewing I want to do. I have to judge my mood and my interest level. After that there are a couple of things I think about when selecting a pattern.

First, I have some go-to patterns. I use these patterns over and over. At least I am still using them. Even though I have made several tops using the patterns, I am still interested. One is a 16 patch, which is a basic, easy block that the guild always encourages.

This is a good pattern for all levels of quiltmakers and can be made from pre-cuts. You need 8- 2.5″ foreground squares and 8-2.5″ background squares to make the block. 16 blocks with no sashing make the quilt size we donate to the NICU at Stanford. It works very well with the leaders and enders technique.

There is also a lot of opportunity for creativity and variety. The photos above show quilt tops as well as blocks. There are a couple from the guild that I did not make. Sometimes I have a lot of fabric in the same colors (just finished a quilt), so I’ll cut up the leftovers into a usable size and make a set of blocks in those colors and put it together into a donation top.

I also will just pick random squares in a variety of colors and put them together into a block. I always want to be working on a leaders and enders project as it makes my productivity so much more.

I am also cutting 1-2 2.5″ squares from each fabric I was and press so I have a variety of squares to use as donation block leaders and enders all the time.

These blocks can be set together in a variety of ways as well: sashing, no sashing, on point, straight set, etc. If I make scrappy blocks, I sometimes have a hard time finding a suitable sashing color, so I might use scrappy sashing.

Sometimes I add borders, sometimes I don’t. I don’t think I have begun to explore all the possibilities for setting the 16 patch blocks.

Second, the T Quilt Pattern is another go to pattern that I keep returning to. Peggy, one of the Charity Girls gave us this pattern at a Charity Sew Day. It is easy and it makes a good break from the 16 patches. Again there are quite a few options for variety that can be employed with this pattern. I do think the T design discourages sashing (what would be the point?), but scrappiness works very well.

Cutting Corners Donation Top
Cutting Corners Donation Top

Third, as with the Cutting Corners Ruler, trying something new is a good opportunity to make a smaller piece until I feel comfortable or know I want to commit to a larger piece. The Cutting Corners donation top is one of those tops. I wanted to try out the ruler and making a donation top was a good option.

Fourth, very occasionally I will have orphan blocks. If they don’t get used for journal covers, they are donated to the Charity Girls to make into donation quilts or I will make them into donation tops. Most often, I just want them out of my hair.

Black & Grey Donation Top Complete
Black & Grey Donation Top Complete

Fifth, rote sewing. Sometimes I need a project that allows my mind to wander into non-quilt territory. The Black & Grey Teenaged Boy Donation quilt was a good example of just sewing something that required few decisions.

BAMQG Mystery Quilt
BAMQG Mystery Quilt

Sixth, tops or blocks sometimes don’t quite work out. I don’t mean they are ugly or unusable. I meant that they didn’t work out for *ME* for some reason. These pieces can be any fabric, any pattern, any design, any layout. Anything. As I said in the blog post, I like the fabrics in the quilt above. I also like the pattern, but together they didn’t work for me.

Seventh, fabric that didn’t work out. A lot of times I will use fabric to make a donation quilt that I don’t want to use for my own quilts. This doesn’t mean it is crappy or fabric. It might mean that it isn’t my style anymore or the color is just off enough to make it not fit with other fabric choices. It could also mean that I bought a lot of it, because I loved it, used it a lot and suddenly didn’t love it anymore.

Star Donation Quilt
Star Donation Quilt

Eighth, periodically the Charity girls will come up with a block of the quarter (or of the month). For a time they will collect blocks in that design and then the group will make a series of quilts in that design. The Star donation top (above) is a great example. I put the blocks together and made the back. I didn’t make the blocks. Although, it has been awhile, I am still inspired to make more of these blocks and put them together in another quilt.

Ninth, too many scraps is a good reason to make donation blocks. They can be mosaic pieced like the journal covers, trimmed to size and then put together in an appropriate size and layout. They can be made into Sawtooth Star blocks or other blocks with a large center. The microscopic scraps I use for journal covers would take too long to sew together into blocks.This works better for donation tops with larger scraps.

I also cut larger or smaller squares into usable sizes and shapes, depending on what I have, and make a top from those. If I use smaller sized pieces, such as a 2″ square, I try make a whole top or enough blocks for someone else to make into a whole top. I try not to leave the Charity Girls in the lurch by making just one block, though I have known Peggy to run with one block and come up with a great top.

Also, if one of my scrap bins (I sort them by color) is overflowing I will cut a bunch of squares or other shape and make some blocks or a top.

Stars & Stripes blocks
Stars & Stripes blocks

Tenth, sometimes I will start a project with great enthusiasm. This often happens with class projects. At some point (too late to abandon) I will lose interest or realize I don’t like the results. It is a good opportunity to turn it into a donation quilt.

It could be that the fabrics are just fine and the technique makes me cringe. The above Stars & Stripes blocks were made using paper piecing. Not my favorite.

I was kind of surprised at the different ways I choose patterns to make donation quilts.

I do my best to use patterns I like and try very hard not to make ugly donation quilts. The beneficiaries of these quilts don’t care about matching points or perfect layouts. I am sure they are looking at the pretty fabrics and softness of the object they have been given. Everyone deserves some beauty in their life.

Author: Jaye

Quiltmaker who enjoys writing and frozen chocolate covered bananas.

8 thoughts on “Donation Quilt Pattern Selection”

  1. What a great, informative post, Jaye! Thanks for taking the time to give a full answer to my earlier question. I’m book-marking this one for future reference.

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