Adinkra Block for QuiltsUnscripted

Text on Quilts: My Improv Adinkra Block

Want to learn this technique in an online quilt class?

I will include a workshop on creating text for quilts  in the Modern Quilt Academy, a membership program with online quilt classes, live events, webinars and more.  To find out more about MQA’s  online classes, webinars and more, click HERE!

Modern Quilt Academy online quilt class logo

The Design Prompt

I belong to QuiltsUnscripted, a virtual Bee group.  Every month, the Bee Leader provides a design prompt and color palette.  (Read about how we began here.)

For November 2023, our design prompt included the following:

  • STYLE: create a block using the ’tile quilt’ approach with fusible applique with raw edges
  • SYMBOL: include a symbol that had importance to us
  • PALETTE: A color palette of gold, warm browns; lime greens; red/pinks and an offwhite background

Tile quilts are an antique style that has graphic elements arranged with background fabric showing.  You can see examples of antique quilts that inspired our Bee Leader  here and  here. So this will be a modern traditional quilt design.

My Symbol

I chose an Adinkra symbol because I wanted to use an AfroModern approach in my block.  Adinkra originated in the culture of the Gyaman people of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.  Adinkra represent aphorisms or complex philosophical concepts.

The symbol is Nkyinkyim and it has these meanings:

  • The twists and turns of life
  • Changing one’s self/playing many roles
  • Resilience and perseverance needed to navigate life’s changes

I chose Nkyinkyim because I have made many, many changes in my personal and professional life as new opportunities have opened to me.  Sometimes these twists and turns have been challenging and difficult–such as the deaths of my parents in my 20’s.  Other twists and turns opened up exciting professional and personal opportunities that I greatly enjoyed.  Through it all, I worked hard to maintain optimism, resilience and faith.

Fabrics and Fusible

Here are the fabrics that I pulled for my block–all were in my stash and from various manufacturers.  We always work with solids.

I cut out smaller rectangles and ironed my fusible onto the fabric.  I used Steam a Seam II although any fusible would be fine.

My Process: Cutting out and Placing ONE shape at a time

I cut ONE shape at a time because I was building the block element by element.   These are some of the leftover bits.

Originally, I decided to draw the shapes on freezer paper for the block.  Our leader wanted us to use organic shapes.  I decided that the freezer paper ‘planned approach’ would be a bit too time consuming.  So I decided to go improv all the way.

First, I printed the Adinkra on regular copy paper.  Then I trimmed it down, and glued the copy paper printout onto freezer paper.  Next, I ironed the printed symbol onto the brown fabric, and cut it out. I removed the freezer paper, and placed the cut out fabric symbol on the background.  I ironed it down because I was sure of the placement.  I did not want it to be centered–I wanted it off center.

Next, I cut out my first organic shapes and placed them around the Adinkra.  These shapes were cut freehand and trimmed to fit in the spaces.  Notice that in this photo, the bottom pink element is touching–I trimmed it down before I ironed these shapes to fuse them onto the background.  My goal was to keep the background spaces at about 1/4 inch.

I continued cutting out shapes by eyeballing the approximate size that I needed.  Sometimes, I had to recut an edge to make them fit.  It was fun to just go for it!  Here you see more shapes have been added.

I continued working on adding shapes to keep an improv and organic look to the block.  It measures about 14 inches square.

You will notice that there is bright yellow piece in this photo.  I checked with the bee leader and this color was outside of the palette, so I removed it.




Pinning Shapes

As I continued to fill out the block, I started using pins to hold them in place.  I didn’t want to iron them down until I was satisfied with the overall layout.  I have my wool mat underneath the block.

When I was satisfied with the completed layout, I ironed one area at a time.  I used a piece of parchment paper to keep my iron clean of fusible in case a bit leaked out from the edges of the shapes.  You can find parchment paper in the bakery aisle at your local grocery store.  Any generic brand will work fine.

A Tip for Working With Paper Backed Fusible

Paper backed fusible is usually my preferred method when I need to cut out shapes or letters.  But the challenge is how to remove the paper and avoid un-ravelling those cut edges.  Since this is raw edge applique, I have to treat the fabric a bit carefully to preserve those edges.

Here’s how I remove the paper AFTER I fuse the fabric and after I cut out my shape.  Here’s a shape that I cut out.  The paper is  still on the fabric–it was fused before I cut out the shape.

To remove the paper, I first use a sharp pin and carefully score the paper side.  I am careful not to scratch the fabric.







Next, I bend back along the score and usually a bit o f the paper will pop up.  I then start peeling away the paper along the scored line.  I continue peeling away carefully until all the paper is off.


Using this process means that I don’t have to try peeling away the paper along that outside edge.  The edges remain mostly intact.  If there are any loose threads, I can carefully snip them away.





Finished Block

Here is the finished block that I mailed off to our Bee Leader.  After receiving the blocks from out members, she will add her own block and create a layout.


Our Quilts Unscripted Bee has been very prolific and some of our completed quilts have won awards at QuiltCon and been exhibited in other shows as well.

Follow us on Instagram:  #quiltunscripted



Thanks for reading!


Scroll to Top