Please join me in welcoming today’s guest blogger, Tricia Lynn Maloney, as she shares with us the journey of how she became known as the Orphan Quilter. I’m really inspired by Tricia’s story. One never knows what opportunities are awaiting each of us.

When I found my way to the Quilting Gallery website, I was ecstatic and immediately wanted to be part of it, so I contacted Michele to find out how to be a guest blogger AND how to sponsor a weekly contest. So, here I am, guest blogging. I will be sponsoring the scrappy quilt contest the week of 11 April 2011. Two lucky winners will receive a signed copy of my new book, Orphan Block Quilts, so hurry and get your scrappy quilts completed!

Greetings! I am the Orphan Quilter, or more familiarly known as Tricia Lynn Maloney. I am called the Orphan Quilter because I rescue orphan quilt blocks (antique/vintage and contemporary) and I give them new lives in completed quilt projects. A lot of people ask me what orphan blocks are and the answer is very simple – orphan blocks are simply any quilt blocks not already in a finished quilt. Here are some orphan block examples:

I’ve been quilting for about 15 years now, although I guess you could say that I fell into quilting through the side door. I grew up surrounded by a close-knit family that dabbled in antiques, collectibles, and hand-crafted items. Due to opportunity and lots of encouragement, I became a collector of antique and vintage textiles, among other things. Only after I had earned a degree in history and worked at a local historic house museum, did I finally decide to teach myself to quilt.

Becoming a quilter was only the beginning for me, though. Since making my first quilt in 1996 (fondly called my "Ugly Quilt"), I’ve explored quilting in many different ways from working in quilt shops to teaching classes to learning free motion quilting to designing and selling my work. Unlike other hobbies that sometimes bored me over time, quilting kept getting more interesting the more that I learned. Quilting even brought my two best friends and me together.

After returning to college to get a Master’s degree in education and teaching young children for a number of years, my world turned upside down in 2006. Literally. Of course, I still had a strong interest in antique and vintage textiles – now mostly quilt-related – and added items to my ever-growing collection whenever I could. One Friday in May, my mother and I went to a local garage sale that listed antique quilt blocks in the ad. I was quite curious, but cautious due to different interpretations of the word "antique". Once at the sale, I couldn’t contain my delight and excitement – there was a whole room filled with neatly organized bags of orphan blocks and scraps and stacks of individual blocks. I bought almost everything.

At home, I opened every bag, examining each scrap of fabric and every single block. What a treasure trove! Needless to say, buying that collection changed the direction of my life, although I didn’t know it at the time. I found out that all of the quilt stuff I had bought had belonged to the grandmother of the woman who had had the sale. The grandmother’s name was Louetta and she had died in 1981. Louetta’s collection spanned more than 100 years.

I spent a lot of time with the fabrics and blocks (and a few unfinished quilt tops) and wondered about the woman who had owned them all. I say owned them all, because they were not all made by one person. Louetta quilted for other people who might have given her their unwanted pieces and she might have inherited her mother’s or grandmother’s stash. I stopped to visit the granddaughter, Nancy, a few times, and she shared information and photos with me. It was at this time that I began wondering what I could do with this great collection.

I finally decided to make a small doll quilt with four patch blocks from the 1930’s (see photo above), but I didn’t have any large pieces of vintage fabric to use for the border so I used coordinating modern 1930’s reproduction fabrics. It was so fun and satisfying that I made another and another until it dawned on me that there weren’t any books out there about combining new reproduction fabrics with antique and vintage quilt blocks, which I began calling orphan blocks.

Ever since I had been a small child, I had wanted to be a writer so I began to think seriously about this idea, but didn’t know where to begin to make it a reality. Then one day, the perfect opportunity happened. At a going-away party for a mutual friend, I sat and talked to an acquaintance named Cheryl about her recently-published work and our conversation eventually got around to my orphan quilt book idea. Cheryl liked my idea and said she’d talk to her editor. Two days later, her editor called me. Two years after that, my book, Orphan Block Quilts: Making a Home for Antique, Vintage, Collectible, and Left Over Quilt Blocks (see photo below), became a reality and debuted September 2010.

Writing a book expanded my quilt world even more. My work began to appear in popular quilting magazines including McCall’s Quilting (Jan/Feb 2011), Quiltmaker (Jan/Feb 2011), and Quilter’s World (April 2011) and while promoting my book at Fall Quilt Market in 2010, I met up with Northcott Fabrics’ design director. Recently, I signed a contract to design quilt fabric for Northcott Fabrics.

Watch for my first fabric collection for Northcott, Louetta’s Garden, inspired by Louetta’s blocks and fabrics as well as the gorgeous flower beds that surrounded her Pennsylvania farmhouse.

Being a quilter has been an exciting journey. I can’t wait to see what new quilt adventures are right around the corner, waiting for me.

If you are interested in purchasing a signed copy of Orphan Block Quilts or booking me for a lecture, workshop, or trunk show, please visit my website To stay in touch, follow my blog or find me on Facebook.

How will you transpire your orphan blocks?

Guest Blogger: The Orphan Quilter

3 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: The Orphan Quilter

  • March 30, 2011 at 9:18 am

    I’ve been waiting for a long time for the right idea to help me find a “use” for the vintage squares in my stash (rescued from a really awful “ugly” quilt top I bought at a fabric sale for $10. I adore the vintage repro fabrics. I am so inspired. I WILL look for your book. I am sure I NEED it!

  • March 30, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Your book has inspired me to complete some quilt tops for a friend. A few years back she gave me her mother-in-law’s and grandmother-in-law’s fabric stash. It contained quilt blocks that I was asked to make into quilts. I have since finished the tops (grandmother’s fans and a sixteen patch), and they turned out great. I have to get them quilted now. But to save my friend’s family heritage is something more precious than the fabric itself. I have pictures of the tops on my fackebook page.

  • March 31, 2011 at 9:52 am

    I have several orphan quilt blocks that I have collected. I haven’t done anything with them, yet, but, I’m working on plans for them. Thanks for the ideas.

Comments are closed.