Make Unique Tree of Life Quilt Blocks Using Your Scraps

May 22, 2022 12:45:00 PM / by Erica Bottger

The GO! Tree of Life-14" Finished Die is one that takes a classic block and makes it so easy to create! I’ve been having so much fun with it!


There are fantastic, and FREE, downloadable patterns available on AccuQuilt. But I started to think about making a scrappy version and seeing how that would work out. Since I happen to have a few (a-hem) scraps available, I jumped right in!



GO! Tree of Life-14" Finished Die



What Is "Scrappy?"

First, let’s talk about what “scrappy” really means. As quilters, we toss that term about quite a bit, but if you had to define it for a non-quilter, what would you say?


Saying it’s a quilt with a lot of different fabrics is only the beginning, and there are several different ways to work in a scrappy manner, too! Scrappy can mean:


  • Making a quilt entirely (or mostly) from scraps leftover from other projects.
  • Using a variety of fabrics within each color represented in the project rather than just one.
  • Taking a pattern designed for just a few colors and including several more.


Contrary to popular belief, developing a scrappy style or project doesn’t come easily! The urge to "match" things is strong for many of us, making it difficult, or at least uncomfortable, to work with random fabrics.


Personally, I was that quilter who would spend a lot of time selecting fabric for my projects, often agonizing over my decisions. I would then need to visit many different stores to find just the right look.


So, when I decided to challenge myself to make a scrappy project, it was a big deal! I practically had to put my cut quilt pieces in brown paper bags to keep from trying to "match" them up!



Erica's Scrap Jar



Scrappy Tree of Life Blocks

If you struggle with how to “do” scrappy looks, here are three different blocks I created with the GO! Tree of Life-14" Finished Die that just might spark your creativity - even if you aren’t normally a "scrappy" sort of quilter. After all, the more projects you make, the more scraps you’ll have!




Pink Tree of Life Block


Using One Color

This Tree of Life wall hanging was a collaboration between Pam Heller and me. We combined our pink scraps and used a solid background for a friend dealing with breast cancer. The symbolism of the quilt block made it the natural choice for us. I love how it turned out and we look forward to it bringing comfort and strength to the recipient.



Cutting Fabric for A Pink Tree of Life Block



PRO TIP: When working with scraps, we found it easier to cut the background and tree pieces separate from the "scrappy" leaves.



Using All the Colors

Here’s a look at my next scrappy project with the GO! Tree of Life-14" Finished Die. Here, I went with a solid background and a constant brown for the tree trunk. Even when going scrappy, I always try to make sure that your eyes have a place to “rest” when you look at the project.


I admit to having some doubts about how this block would look, but I really forced myself to dig into my scrap jar and use what I found without overthinking each fabric choice.



A Tree of Life Block Made Using Colorful Scraps



In the end, I really love how this block turned out! I’m still debating my next move with this block. Should I:


  • Keep going and make a throw quilt?
  • Make three more blocks for a medium-sized wall hanging? Maybe with a white border made with the GO! Strip Cutter-2 1/2” (2” Finished) Die and a scrappy binding?
  • Use this block as the center for a scrappy medallion quilt?
  • Stick with the one block as a mini quilt?

There are so many choices I can use this block with, so I'm still mulling over my options before making any decisions!



Switching It Up

Staring at my block and trying to decide its fate got me thinking about switching things up - like using a solid dark color for the background with scrappy, low-volume leaves. As soon as got this idea, I just had to try it out!


Like a good, thrifty quilter, I used what I had available! A piece of solid black became the background, and brownish Essex linen became the tree trunk.


I dove into my low-volume fabric baskets and cut a variety, forcing myself to use both whites and creams with various patterns. I sewed like a quilter on a mission, and here’s the block.



A Tree of Life Block Erica Realized Had A Mistake In



I knew it didn’t look quite right, but it was late, so I took this picture and went to bed. Lying in bed, staring at the picture of the block, I discovered that I had a flipped a piece around - oops!


I also decided that one of the white fabrics had a print that was just too bold to fit with the piece (the one with the plus signs), so I would be un-sewing in the morning!



Fixing the Tree of Life Block Erica Made A Mistake In



With those changes made, here is the newly finished block. I love this version as well. I started referring to it as my “Ghost Tree” - since it made me think about making another scrappy version with Halloween fabrics...



Reverse Tree of Life Block



Making this final block taught me two valuable lessons. First, I should have taken the time to use GO! Quilt, a free design tool on AccuQuilt's website, when totally changing the look of a project. I found myself flipping pieces around quite often as I made this block since I was substituting black for white and white for green using the pattern on the packaging. Utilizing BlockBase+ Software also would have been helpful.


The second lesson is to stop sewing after 9 PM because my brain just doesn’t work as well by that time of night!



A Quilter Is Always Learning

I feel like a learned a lot from working on these blocks with the GO! Tree of Life-14" Finished Die. Although I already loved the block from working with it, and learning more about the Tree of Life block's history from Barbara Brackman, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for it with these different scrappy looks. 


Watch Barbara Brackman's Tree of Life Quilt Block History:



As hard as it was for me to start making scrappy projects years ago, it's safe to say that they've become some of my favorites along the way. I can't wait to try another scrappy project, but this time I might use an applique die instead of a Block on Board (BOB) Die.


If you make your own scrappy Tree of Life quilt, use the hashtag #AccuQuiltBuilt and don't forget to tag us @AccuQuilt on social media. We can't wait to see what you create using scraps, quilters!

Topics: Tutorials, Tips & Tricks

Erica Bottger

Written by Erica Bottger