When a bobbin is just a pawn…

Chess set by Sue Astroth

I was recently looking through, okay drooling over, one of our latest books, Sweetwater’s Simple Home. I do so love the “simple” style! And talk about project lust! I’ve already added  2 quilts, a hamper, and a tie pillow to my “make next” list.

I was in serious need of a gift to make and thought this book might be the place to find one. The checkerboard project reminded me of a chess set I saw that used various-sized salt and pepper shakers as playing pieces.  I loved how it was an out of the ordinary gift made with ordinary objects.  I decided to make something similar, but with a sewing twist.

Simple Home checkerboard

Checkerboard from "Sweetwater's Simple Home"

After several early mornings in the studio (and a few afternoons too), here is what I came up with. I have to say I am really pleased with the way it turned out. Here is a breakdown of the chess pieces….

Kings and Queens
These are made from large spools, 3/4″ wood squares, and extra large thimbles. The queens are made from the same materials, but with smaller spools and thimbles.

King and Queen

This piece was made with a small vintage spool and a wooden thread spool adapter (by Nifty Notions), topped with a large snap.


Cute chubby spools, scissors from small sewing kits (spray-painted black to look like the old Wiss pair I learned to sew with), and a small touch of ribbon make up this piece.


Made from bobbins and 1″ square blocks.


My all time favorite!  I made these using a small wooden egg stand and a large red felted bead/ball.  Some yellow pearl cotton, scrap of green felt and single gold/silver headed pins were perfect to make it look like a miniature version of the familiar tomato pin cushion.  Hint – these alone would make some wonderful secret Santa gifts or tree ornaments for this year…just sayin’!


After painting my assortment of wooden spools, I realized that they needed a little something more. From my scrapbook stash, I pulled out some Cosmo Cricket scrapbook paper, which matched the fabrics perfectly. A few strips and squares gave the pieces a more finished look. The gold and silver spray paint was a great way to help identify the pieces for the two players.

My chess board is made up of 2.5” inch squares, a little smaller than the original Sweetwater one, as they were a better fit for the game pieces. I used double-faced flannel for batting to keep the “board” as thin as possible.

Moda Fabric chess board

A big thank you goes out to Prym for supplying most all the notions, to Moda for the wonderful Cosmo Cricket fabric, and to my coworker, Ruthmary Schauer for her fabulous quilting.  I couldn’t have done it without you!

This entry was posted in Free Projects, InspirationComments closed


  1. Posted May 3, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    LAH-AVE it!!

  2. RICOCHON Pierrette
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    fabuleux !!! c’est une idée absolument géniale pour occuper mon mari qui adore le patch et tous ses dérivés . Merci

  3. Janice dinse
    Posted July 28, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I love this chess set. Do you have one for sale?

    thank you.


  4. Posted April 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Could you tell me what the name of the boarder fabric is?! I want :) love it! Thank u Miranda

  5. Posted April 4, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I had to pin this post! What a great idea and a terrific gift! Thanks!

  6. Posted March 8, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Seriously adorable!!

  7. Posted January 14, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    This is amazing! I am featuring this at Dollar Store Crafts on monday!

  8. Posted December 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely Fabulous! I sat in a waiting room yesterday with a chess set on the table–if it had been one like this, I would have found it a MUCH more interesting decorating accent ;-)

  9. Posted December 20, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    You are talented beyond belief. I sincerely hope the giftee appreciates what a special and unique gift they have been given! Thank you for sharing your creativity, Sharyn

  10. Posted December 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    This is such a stunning project!!! congratulations, it’s an inspiring make for sure.

  11. JillT
    Posted December 17, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    My mouth is hanging open, but no words are coming out. . . truly brilliantly creative

  12. Teresa Stroin
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    omg, Sue, this is fabulous. Are you giving it away as a holiday present? I think I’d take up chess again just to use it!

  13. Posted December 14, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Sue, this is a treasure! The colors, the patterns, and the clever use of sewing notions are really unique and charming. Judging from this example, you could have a very successful business just creating custom-made games! Anyway, it’s delightful.

  14. Posted December 12, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Love the creativity!

  15. Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    My husband, a competitive chess player, loves it! (I’m the stitcher.) He’s a fan of the bishop.

  16. Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    How cute is this? So cute. Great use of materials.

  17. Cindy
    Posted December 10, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    So cute and creative. Great job.

  18. Posted December 10, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    very nifty – BUT – the kings and queens are placed wrong. The king should face the other king, and the queen faces the queen

  19. Posted December 10, 2011 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    This is absolutely brilliant. I love it.

    It’s sure to be a hit with whoever receives it.

  20. Posted December 9, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Adorableness squared. Check and mate!

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