Sewing and Quilting with Scraps of Fabric


Sewing and Quilting with Scraps of Fabric

Wondering what to do with quilt scraps? Or sewing remnants? Use quilt scraps to make new creations. Get tips on how to organize and plan new quilts from your stash.

Sewing and Quilting with Scraps of Fabric

If you sew or quilt, you probably end up with a lot of leftover fabric. Don't toss those pieces! Instead, learn what to do with quilt scraps or sewing remnants.

Or, if you have spare precuts from a package, it might just be the opportunity you've needed to create something else.

That's why this guide, Sewing and Quilting with Scraps of Fabric, is a must-read for anyone who works with fabric. We're enlisting quilting pro Jen Eskridge from ReannaLily Designs to provide essential tips and project ideas.

Jen maintains a daily blog at ReannaLily Designs to showcase sewing adventures, successes, and mishaps. She also has over 30 free sewing projects, tips, and tutorials listed on the blog site. We'll hand it over to Jen now:

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 sewing and quilting with scraps of fabric by taking a look at the sections down below.

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Storing Fabrics for Sewing and Quilting

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: Image shows stacks of scrap fabric.
Storing Fabrics: Image shows stacks of scrap fabric in plastic bags in a storage tub.

Personally, my scraps are sorted by color family into gallon-size zip-top bags and those bags are 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 Stashbusting 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 smartphone 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.

Image shows Jen's Scrappy Star Quilt in full (photographed outside).

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.

Here's a word of caution:

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 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 for Scrap Quilt Patterns

Image shows Jen's Scrappy Zigzag Triangle Quilt, up close.

If you are not looking to plan too 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.

Quilted Projects From Scraps and Stash: Jen's Quarter Square Block Example

Image shows Jen's Quarter Square Log Cabin Scrap Quilt in full (photographed outside).

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 for a Scrap Quilt

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.

Planning Your Scrap Placement: Image shows a piece of fabric on a cutting mat. On top of the fabric is three different-sized paper squares for planning cuts.

Quilting With Scraps Tip: Bonus Seams and Larger Pieces

Image shows Jen's Scrappy Circles Quilt in full (photographed outside).

You have fabric that is just 1/2" shorter than the template, but you think it'd really look perfect in the corner of the 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.

Image shows a close-up of Jen's 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!


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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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