Back when I started quilting, I didn’t like scrappy quilts. I had encountered too many that were a mishmash of colors and fabrics. Since then, I have developed an affinity for scrap quilts; I just require some order when storing and using them.
Here’s my approach ...
1. Establish some rules.
Some people treasure every bit of scrap fabric they produce, and that works for them. I find keeping everything to be overwhelming, so I’ve set some parameters for my collecting: To me, scraps can be any size from a 2.5-inch square up to a quarter yard (fat or skinny). Everything that’s smaller than a 2.5-inch square goes in the recycling bin. Everything that’s a quarter yard or bigger goes into the stash.
2. Sort by color.
I have a big plastic bin, minus lid, filled with my scraps. (Once upon a time, the lid still fit on top!) I sort everything by color and place each color in its own Ziploc bag(s)—it’s not a pretty system, but it works. The key for me is that all the bags are transparent. That way, I increase the likelihood that I can find a needed scrap without opening a bag and rummaging through its contents.
There are some exceptions. Alison Glass fabrics and Anna Maria Horner fabrics get their own bags, and I occasionally throw scraps from a particular project in their own bag. Breaking the rules is fine as long as it helps me use the scraps in the future.
Every so often, this scrap bin of mine becomes unwieldy, its contents piling up precariously. That’s the sign that I need to spend some quality time with my bags, so I visit each one, tossing any too-small or unusable pieces and ensuring everything is in order.
Taking stock isn’t enough, though; these occasional reviews of my scrap scene are more productive—and fun—if I give them purpose. To that end, I choose some quilt patterns, or design a pattern myself, that is conducive to using scraps and start collecting for those projects. (I talk more about my current pattern lineup below.) One go-round with my scrap bin might not be enough for a particular project. That’s fine. I can always dip into my stash to accumulate the needed fabric or let the project marinate for a few months. A needed scrap may not be in my bin right now, but after four or five months of working on other projects and creating more scraps, I may be in luck.
4. Know when to let go.
Sometimes I lose my love for a fabric. For example, I have always adored Denyse Schmidt’s Hope Valley collection. After buying and sewing the collection in fats and using up yardage on top of that, I was done. I had made a quilt with it. I had made a Jane Market Bag with it. I had made a tote bag and heaven only knows what else with it. Hope Valley no longer sparked my creativity or captured my interest, so I gave my remaining scraps of it away.
I encourage you to leave that option open, too. You can take a pile of scraps to a guild meeting or post them to social media. (I’ve done that, asking that interested parties pay only shipping.) I recently started posting lots of yardage and scraps to FeelGood Fibers, too. (Heads-up: FGF has suspended sales for the time being because of the coronavirus emergency, but you can still upload things to sell at a later date.)
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I like scrap patterns that use up a good chunk of scraps and have a rhyme and reason to them (no scrap vomit allowed!). Here are three projects that I sorted fabric for during my recent review of my scrap bin ...
The quilt at the top of the post is one that’s been on my radar screen for six years. I originally saw it on Tracey Jacobson’s Instagram feed and found the pattern in the November 2014 issue of American Quilter. I discovered almost all of what I need in my scrap bin (background fabric will come from my bolt of Bella Solids in white). I just need a few fats in hot pink and magenta, which will likely wait until I can enter a quilt shop and get the right color match.
Fire Truck Quilt
I came across Erica Jackman’s Fire Truck Quilt, a free tutorial on her Kitchen Table Quilting blog, and knew it would help me bust through red scraps. The required 750 squares to sew the quilt top—in red, gray, white, blue, and yellow—are taking me a while to accumulate. The end is in sight, though, and I look forward to sewing this easy kid quilt in the next few months.
When I attended QuiltCon last year in Nashville, I received a freebie copy of the April 2019 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting, and it was love at first sight between me and the cover quilt, by Erika Bea. The pattern calls for 20 fat quarters, but I am not going to buy 20 new fats for this project. While culling through my scrap bags, I set aside any sizable chunks of solids, without any thought for overall palette or worrying whether they would meet the yardage requirements. It’s the first small step in the fabric pull for this project. I look forward to seeing where it ends up. (Spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure I won’t use a stripe in between the main blocks.)
What works for you when it comes to organizing and using scraps? If you’ve never dove into your scraps and created order, I recommend signing up for Shannon Fraser’s 7-Day Scrap-Sorting Challenge to tame your scraps. She helps you take baby steps to getting everything sorted and organized. : )
Linking up to Oh, Scrap! ...