Thursday, December 30, 2021

About those Scraps

In sharing that I was contemplating Another 50 Days of Scraps, there were a lot of questions about my process and 'rules.' I didn't really think I had any, but I guess I did have some very loose guidelines or considerations when I challenged myself earlier this year, so I thought I'd share some of that in case it's helpful for others who are considering a similar challenge.

I'm sure many folks would begin a scrap-focus period with organizing their scraps, and honestly, I don't do that. For me, my own personal scrap sorting method is a very simple one. Like not much at all! In fact, when I first saw folks sorting and organizing their scraps all nice and neat, I was so surprised. I guess that's not one of the things I picked up in my early quilting classes. That said, I do separate my print and solid scraps, and have a small bin of low-volume scraps separated, but it ends there. I do realize that my method means more work for me when I really want to do scrap-sewing, but that's the way it is, and I don't expect I'll be reforming any time soon. The element of discovery as I rummage through the scrap basket is part of the fun for me. 

Soooo.... by 'scrap' I mean single project leftovers [ie. whatever is left from a particular project] or more often for me, purely scraps - prints/solids or a mix - small bits left from a variety of projects over time - possibly sorted by color, or all tossed in a basket like I do. Projects can be of any size. I think this is key, for me at least. I don't have to be piecing a quilt every day. There are many ways I like to use my scraps, and the variety just adds to the fun. Here are a few:

  • Use a quilt pattern - Kitchen Table Quilting's Plaid-ish (see below) or other scrap-friendly patterns; crazy mom quilts' Scrap Vortex or anything in her book, No Scrap Left Behind. There are so many scrap quilt patterns out there, so pick one that appeals to you and suits your scraps.
  • Full-on improv - Just start piecing and make it up as you go! Maybe create your own 'block' as I did in Let It Be (pictured below). Note that changing up the scale is often a detail that adds interest, though of course, is not always necessary.
  • Focus on a shape - Piece a bunch of the same shape over and over - quarter-circles, HSTs, stripes, etc.
  • Inspired by a vintage design - I've really enjoyed doing this in 2021. I have several books with vintage quilts and I just choose one I like and make it my own. Octo (shown below) is just one example.
  • Scrappy binding - Just make it so you have it on hand for a future scrappy quilt.
  • Bee blocks or other project blocks
  • Other small projects - Pouches, bags, pincushions, potholders - the options are limitless. Piecing a big swath of 'made fabric' (pieced from many scraps) and then cutting into it to create something else is often a fun way to go.
  • Let one project inspire the next - Work in a series of sorts, taking the leftovers from one project to create something else, adding in more scraps or fabric if needed. Keep working in this way until you're out of scraps or ready to move on completely.
  • Lastly, don't think that a machine-sewn project is the only way to go! Maybe a portable hand-sewing project feels right. That totally works!

Step one for me is rummaging through the scraps and beginning to gather fabrics I feel like working with. Often a palette begins to develop, which may or may not expand as I work though a particular project. Choosing a multi-colored print and using that as the beginning of your palette is a fun option. And of course I decide the route I'm going with that particular set of scraps - probably something from the list above. I find that including some 'new' fabric from my stash along with the scraps is often inspiring, but not always necessary of course. I also love including a mix of substrates - that's one thing that really makes it fun for me. 

One question was if I spend varying amounts of time each day sewing each day? And the answer to that is definitely yes! In a perfect world, I'd work for a few hours on my project; but sometimes all I have time for is gathering the collection of scraps I wanted to work with the next days or pressing some of the scraps I'd already set aside. My only rule is it had to involve at least some scraps in some way. It's all progress!

Hopefully this all helps you see how fun and flexible working with your scraps can be. I'm working hard on finishing my final quilt project of this year, but I'm thinking I'll be ready to start in with my scraps early in January. Let me know if you have any other questions or need help finding a project to start with, OK? If you're wanting to have your own scrap-focus challenge, just do what makes it fun for you!


  1. Thanks for sharing your 'About those scraps' very timely and practical for me as I'm in a bit of a slump.
    I like the uncomplicated vibe, that works for me!

  2. I think most of my print stash qualifies as 'scraps' when I think about it, although small bits of solids get mixed into those small bins as well. I love that you literally have a scrap basket - just like your newsletter name. :)

  3. Thanks for this - very helpful and interesting and I'll keep track of your work during 2022.

  4. I love the look of Let it Be! I have a scrap or two to play with--maybe I'll try the strata approach.

  5. This is the second time I have read this post. Apparently, I didn't comment the first time. I like your thought process. I think I am moving toward that direction. I see you only had 4 posts before me but don't let that discourage you. Sometimes, people have to be careful about how much time they put into reading blogs or they won't get any quilting done! I am sure you already know that.

  6. This is such a helpful post, Debbie. I separated my scraps by color only because my scrap bin was getting to the point of overflowing, so I'll keep these ideas in mind. You know I love your improv work, so it was fun to see some of them again. Octo is one of my favorites.

  7. I use scraps to make "Family Bands" for family wedding and baby quilts. Each quilt gets a band inserted in the backing. That way every family member gets a little piece of all the previous quilts, plus some old shirts etc. I was able to put a piece of a dress I made for my daughter when she was 8 into her sons' quilts, as well as pieces from her wedding quilt. I made myself an improv quilt and inserted blocks of Family Bands. One block was all grandkids' scraps, the other was kids' wedding quilts. I just keep adding to the band as I go along.

    1. Very sentimental and beautiful idea! Thanks for sharing.

  8. It’s always interesting to learn how other quilters deal with their scraps. You have obviously worked out a process which suits you and as a result you have created some lovely quilts with those scraps. I love your Plaid-ish quilt - you chose your scraps so well. Let it be is gorgeous, pretty colours sewn together in such an eye catching way.