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Quilting and Sewing with Scraps of Fabric

Use quilt scraps to make new creations. Get tips on how to organize and plan new quilts from your stash.

Quilting and Sewing with Scraps of Fabric

Every time I purchase a fantastic piece of fabric, I want to use it in at least two quilts. For some reason that seems to justify the purchase, in my mind.

Once I shifted to that mindset, I started trying to use all my fabrics in at least two quilts. This meant saving and storing fabric scraps and finding useful quilt ideas to incorporate scraps.

Learn about Quilting and Sewing with Scraps of Fabric by taking a look at the sections down below.

Table of Contents
Storing Fabrics
Choosing a Quilting Design
Go with High Contrast
Quarter Square Block
Planning Your Scrap Placement
Bonus Seams and Larger Pieces


Storing Fabrics

Scour the internet, and you'll find many ways to sort your scrap stash. Honestly, all of them will work. The trick is finding a storage method that works for how you'll intend to use and access your scraps. Three popular methods for organizing fabric stashes are:

  1. Color
  2. Value
  3. Size

Storing Fabrics
Storing Fabrics

Personally, my scraps are sorted by color family into gallon size zip-top bags and those bags stored in one clear storage container.  Once the bags are full, it is time to focus on a scrap quilt.

For size: My own scraps are generally wider than 1-1/2". Determining your smallest size will again depend on how you work. Are you an up-close detail person? Keep smaller sizes. Are you a trim-down for accuracy person? Keep larger sizes. It will vary.

Quiltville's Bonnie Hunter has many great ideas for sorting and storing fabric scraps.

Choosing a Quilting Design

Any quilt pattern can be a scrap quilt pattern. It sounds crazy, but it is true. Work with these two parameters to select your pattern to suit your scrap collection:

Color: Find a two- or three-color quilt. The pattern may suggest "3 yards red; 1-1/2 yards aqua; 1/2 yard grey." Dive into your assorted colors and use any and all reds for the red requirement, any and all aqua, and all grey. The quilt, when finished, will read like the original pattern but have more depth in the variety of fabrics.

Value: Many quilts are designed with a light, medium, and dark value system. Use the "black and white filter" on your smart phone to photograph your scraps and sort them according to value. Similarly, you can use a red plastic filter or scanner/copy of the fabrics to accurately assess value.

Here's a word of caution:

Scrappy Star Quilt

This scrap quilt above was made using a variation of AnneMarie Chany's Rising Star Quilt Block. The block looked fantastic and scraps could coordinate in each of the star corners.

My fabric scrap problem arose when I realized I needed more background fabric than scraps. For me to efficiently use my own fabric stash, it would have made more sense to have white or cream stars and have a totally scrappy background.

Pay attention to the scrap volume, and be prepared to supplement with newly-purchased pieces if you get mixed up along the way.

Go with High Contrast

Scrappy Zigzag Triangle Quilt

If you are not looking to plan to terribly much, a good rule of thumb is to work with high contrast. To create high-contrast, make sure fabrics with touching seams are much darker or much lighter than each other.

Every single "dark" fabric doesn't have to be the darkest thing available, and every "light" doesn't have to be the lightest. In many cases, in the quilt above, medium tone fabrics are mixed in, but your eye is tricked into associating it with light or dark depending on the value of the seam-neighbor.

For the Zig-Zag Triangle Quilt, the fabric scraps are stitched together to create larger fabric pieces. Triangle templates were then cut from the larger pieces of stitched fabric. Victoria Findlay Wolfe uses this method in her 15 Minutes of Play book.

Quarter Square Block

Quarter Square Log Cabin Scrap Quilt

After rotary cutting actual pattern pieces of yardage for planned quilt projects, I found that a portion of my scrap stash consisted of long rectangles.

The quarter-log cabin pattern was a perfect whimsical fit for those shapes. Start with a four-sided cornerstone and simply add rectangles to two sides of the cornerstone. Continue building this wonky, anything-goes log cabin until the block is greater than 12-1/2". Trim to size.

This design is quite forgiving. If you find you do not have long enough rectangles, sew two together from the same color family. Trust me, no one will notice. If you'd rather have larger blocks to create a larger quilt; no problem. Just keep adding logs.

The most important thing to remember when creating this quilt block is to trim them accurately, to a consistent size. Although the quilt appears quite chaotic, it is created by simply joining pairs of blocks to form rows and joining the rows to form the quilt top, just as any other traditional quilt top.

Planning Your Scrap Placement

Planning Your Scrap Placement

If you are making a quilt pattern with specific sizes and cutting directions, but using scraps there's a great trick to quilt quickly. Cut out the required shapes in cardstock, poster board, or template plastic. Yes, templates. By having a template at the ready, you’ll be able to audition it on each fabric scrap to ensure the piece is larger enough. Once that is determined, press the fabric and cut the shape.

If you enjoy working with pre-cut fabric bundles, such as 2-1/2" or 5" or even 10" squares, don't be afraid to cut your scraps into that size. Save them 'til you have enough for your next pre-cut project.

Bonus Seams and Larger Pieces

Scrappy Circles Quilt

You have fabric that is just 1/2" shorter than the template, but it'd really look perfect in the corner of so-and-so block of your new scrap quilt? Easy. Add in a bonus seam. Yes, add a seam within the shape joining two pieces of the same fabric. If the fabric is the same, nearly identical, or very close in value, the odds are you will never notice. After all, this IS a scrap quilt.

Scrappy Circles Quilt

The Scrappy Circles Quilt features larger diagonal background shapes. Although I had a few larger pieces of fabric on hand, some of them were the wrong shape or simply too narrow to cut the pinched bow-tie shape. I ended up adding bonus seams in the cream fabric to allow the fabric to fit behind the prepared template. Worked like a charm.

Find more quilting inspiration and patterns from Jen at ReannaLily Designs.


What is your favorite way to use fabric scraps?
Let us know in the comments!

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I love using scraps since it means not having to buy anything AND helping keep my stash at a minimum.

My favorite way to use scraps is to create quilted makeup travel zipper bags that I give away as gifts. Thank you for the opportunity to win a Burkina sewing machine and fat quarter pack!

I like to make 'fabric' with my scraps, for example sewing a bunch of blue scraps together until I have a good size block, then cut it to fit a pattern. I call them 'slabs'. Fun!

I must add that 'slabs' is not my original term. I believe Tonya Alexander ( a local quilter and author and friend) coined the term).

I keep all my small scraps, and use them for scrap blocks by starting with one small piece and add to it all around until it is big enough to trim to the size square I want. Carol

My favorite way to use fabric scraps is to make coasters, small coin purses, or pillows.

I can usually make a log cabin quilt from my scraps. They usually turn out well. Thanks for the chance to win.


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