Monday, February 13, 2017

my top 10 tips for successful scrap quilting

If you've read my blog for more than a week, you know that my love for scraps runs deep! I enjoy using my scraps and I want you to be excited about using your scraps as well. If you sew or make quilts, there will be scraps to deal with....like it or not! Might as well embrace them, right?
Everyone is going define the term "scrap" differently. I consider anything that is less than a fat quarter a scrap. It's a very big scrap for me, but for sake of ease, that is my cut off line when I sort. (The size shown above is more my speed, to be honest.) How you define a scrap is up to you!

Here are my top 10 tips for successful scrap quilting:

1. Admit that you have a problem. (Isn't that always the first step?) If you are overwhelmed by your scraps, this may be extremely easy! Do you want to create order and tame the chaos? Admitting that you have a problem (and wanting to fix it!) is a great first step.
Personally, I have a problem with saving everything. Well, almost everything! I save scraps smaller than 1" square, especially when they are this cute! It's crazy...I'll be the first to admit it. I do use them, however, so I continue to save them. I use them for bright birch tree quilts, needle books and ticker tape canvases, just to name a few things.
 
(Rather than admitting your problem, maybe you just need to get really good at justifying your actions, like I did here. Ha!)

2. Assess your scraps. This goes hand in hand with step one. What do you think you will realistically use? If you don't think you will use it, pass it along to someone who will!

Some days are much better for this than others. If you are in a cleaning or purging mood, this is a good time to assess your scraps. Clear them out, pass them along and don't look back!

3. Clean them up. If you have fabric that was previously sewn together (like strips leftover from a quilt backing), cut them apart and remove the sewn seams. If you have odd cuts, whether you've cut out one circle or a complete garment, cut the remainders into usable pieces, like squares, rectangles, strips or triangles.

Let's illustrate this...just for fun.
Here's a random scrap that I pulled out of my bin of scraps that need to be cleaned up. In this shape, this scrap is very uninspiring and maybe even a little bit intimidating.
 I gave it a good press....
...and then I chopped it into usable pieces. These pieces include: selvages (that I save to knit rag rugs), triangles, strings, a larger piece that will go into my color boxes and the tiny pieces for my ticker tape drawer. On the bottom right are the scraps that I will throw away. Now, these remaining scraps are user friendly! The chances of these scraps getting sewn up has dramatically increased.
 
4. Sort your scraps. For scraps that are less than a fat quarter but larger than a charm square, I sort primarily by color. (The quilted storage boxes pattern can be found in Sunday Morning Quilts.)
For the pieces smaller than a charm square, I place like sizes/shapes together, and mix all the colors together. Strings are one of my categories where all of the colors are stored together.
I have a blog post about my extensive sorting system here, if you care to read it.

5. Come up with a storage plan that works for you and your space. It should mimic the way YOU work and your storage limitations. This has to be extremely personal, because everyone has different scrap tolerances. :)
My storage plan is extensive, and it continues to grow, but scraps are my main focus. I have to room to store them, so it works for me. (At least half of the bins pictured here are holding scraps!) My scrap storage methods are in a constant state of flux, depending upon what quilts I'm working on at the time. That is actually a very good thing! The addition and deletion of categories as I begin and end projects helps me maintain good organization.

6. Work on a few long term projects at a time. Scrap quilts aren't quick and I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise. One can only look at a single project for so long. Mixing up a few different long-term projects is a very good thing! I'm not one to do leaders and enders projects (oh boy, I wish I was!) but I find that doing some prep cutting and getting things sorted and organized ahead of time helps. That way, if I have about 20 minutes to sew, I can sit down with a bin or basket of scraps and get a little bit done. Little bits of sewing time add up to finished quilts, eventually.

7. Edit. This may be the most important step! Just because you are making a scrappy quilt, doesn't mean that you have to put every scrap that you have into one quilt. Make good fabric choices along the way. Edit until the very last block is sewn up.
Even on my scrap vortex quilts, where it looks like I just threw everything together, a whole lot of editing (and careful arranging) was done along the way.

8. Cut a fresh edge. Strings (which are generally 2 1/2" wide or less and vary in length) are the hardest category for me to get excited about. One of the major reasons why is because they get stringy!
It drives me crazy, but there is a simple way to fix it. Press the scrap flat, then cut a fresh edge, on one side or both.

 Isn't that so much better? Cutting a fresh edge will make sewing strings together easier and the back of your quilt will be nice and tidy. Cut right before you sew, for best results. Once the string goes back into the bin and gets tumbled around, it will stringy again.

9. Keep the scrap door revolving. This is a bit of an overlap with tip # 2, but I think it deserves a closer look. I have plenty of friends that pass along their scraps to me. I love that, and my quilts are better because of it! Because lets face it...when it comes to scrap quilts, variety is key. The flip side of that is, I have an awful lot of scraps... more than I can ever use in my lifetime. I continually pass scraps along to others, too. I try to put a bag or two of scraps on the free table every month at my quilt guild meetings. This keeps me from getting bogged down with scraps.
10. Make small projects, not just quilts! Pincushions, cards, and pillows are some of my favorite small projects to make with scraps. These projects are quick to finish and give you a feeling of accomplishment that you may need to carry you through until you can complete a larger scrap quilt.

None of these steps are a "one and done" type of thing. Scrap management takes routine maintenance, much like cleaning a house. I hate to say it, but it's true! However, if you take steps toward organization, it will be easier to maintain your scraps. If you have a spot for everything, you will know where to put things away. Getting organized means you will also know where to look when you need that perfect scrap for your project.

I hope that helps! If you have a favorite scrap tip to share with me, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Happy Monday to you!

52 comments:

Annie Richter said...

Thanks for the inspiration!!! So far I have given my 'scraps' away (that includes fabric I've outgrown) but I'd really like to follow your example and try a real scrap quilt. And I also save those too tiny scraps and pass them on to local kindergartens - they love them.

Yvonne @Quilting Jetgirl said...

These are brilliant tips, I especially love the permission to tidy up my scrap strings!

Sewing Junkie said...

I go through and cut a lot from leftovers. I scrap quilt alos and use up the crazy/crumbs when I get enough. I have been known to get into garbage to get scraps someone has thrown out. When you get done it is like a free quilt. You paid for the yardage at some point unless your friends add to you scrap habit. Chris

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I save and use my scraps too - I do need to get busy and use my strings though - they are multiplying like rabbits and getting out of control.

Carole @ From My Carolina Home said...

I totally agree, cleaning up the scraps to get rid of the stringy edges and create usable sizes is key! I also do scrappy mystery quilt-alongs to use up bits, great for doing a little at a time over months so you don't get tired of the project.

Pat said...

I spent about 2 hours yesterday just ironing batik scraps. I had quite a pile of 2" and 1" strips. Overall, I think just plain string quilts are my best use of scraps but I've been recently inspired by the Scrapper's Delight in your Sunday Morning Quilts and have started working on some blocks for that. You are so right - these are NOT quick projects. I've also come to realize that cutting scraps into 5" squares or 2" squares, etc. is just not my cup of tea. I'll never use those and plan to pass them on. Your tips are all great, but every tip is not going to work for everyone.

Cynthia Brunz Designs said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing.

Bernie Kringel said...

So many good ideas. Thanks so much. I agree that cutting scraps into manageable pieces makes me much more likely to actually use them. Based on something you posted (I think?) I a, also keeping my solid scraps separate. It will be fun to make something scrappy with all solids.

Jen said...

I am a scrap addict as well. When I first started quilting I would go to a Quilt Shop and many of them had bins of scraps to sort through and fill a gallon zip bag for $5 (or whatever). It was so much fun. :) I still have some of those bits.
It is really good advice to cut of those string/ragged edges. I just started going through my dump bin this weekend and many of those pieces are so uninspiring. Once they get a good press and trim, they are like new!

Southern Gal said...

Thanks for sharing! I love reading your scrappy inspiration posts.

Michelle said...

This a super helpful post! I need to get into my scraps. I ordered your book today and look forward to it inspiring me. (Sunday Morning Quilts was my very first sewing book and I made my first queen+ size quilt from it. <3 )

Debbie said...

Terrific suggestions! I'm going to link to you post in my next newsletter.

JanineMarie said...

What a lot of great tips here! I need all the help I can get. Cutting those odd shaped pieces into more useable shapes will really help me get control (or at least feel like it) of my messy bins. Thanks!

Brenda said...

I knit, and I love to make small quilt as you go panels and turn them into zipper pouches that I use as project bags. I participate in swaps in one of the Ravelry groups I belong to, and those project bags make perfect little pressies to send along---you know your swap partner will never see another one exactly like it.

Poppy said...

Thank you for this post! I love to see how you can manage with your scraps. This gives a lot of inspiration to manage my own collections.

Teje Karjalainen said...

Hi! Your scraps are very inspiring! I like to save everything and the smallest scraps. As I don't have acces to any good fabric shop, that's even more important. That's why I also do my best to cut so that there won't be much scraps. Then I need to cut scraps from fabrics! Scraps inspire me and often give me ideas, like yesterday for girl's hair! She will be in my next baby quilt. Sometimes I put scraps on a very big tray to find easier something. x Teje

Nancy @ Grace and Peace Quilting said...

You have so many great ideas for my scrap problem! Thank you for sharing!!! Your new book is arriving at my home today and I am excited!

Little Quiltsong said...

Great tips! I've started to throw away anything under 1.5 - shhhh :)! Because I love the log cabin blocks, I now have a basket just for that - sorted in light and dark strips. It is so hard to throw away those fabrics, but anything triangle that I have cut off from a corner, if it can't even be cut into a 1.5 square - I leave as a triangle and my daughter will take those bags of fabric scraps to school. Teachers LOVE those scraps for art and for teaching the children about shapes, colors etc. - great sorting tool for them. This helps my (guilt) and scrap situation :)!

tisha @ quiltytherapy said...

It's encouraging to see how you manage your scraps. Great words about it's always in flux and knowing what you can manage. You don't have to keep everything. It's motivating me to go through my scraps and drop a bag at our guild meeting this weekend.

farmhousequilter8 said...

Love this post. I love making scrappy quilts even with crumbs. Paula in KY

pingraham said...

Thanks so much for this post, Amanda Jean! A few months ago, you asked us to tell you our issues or questions with scraps. I did, and you answered mine and then some here! I so appreciate this! My biggest issue was odd size scraps that are large, but are irregularly shaped. How funny that I needed your permission to clean them up and cut them up into manageable pieces and shapes! The photos in your post were so helpful: oh yes, that's me! That's my problem, and look how easily you solved it! Sunday Morning Quilts was the first book I bought when I began quilting a few years ago, after many years away from quilting and sewing. Your new book is to arrive in my mail today, and I'm beyond excited to hold it in my hands! Thanks so much for your inspiration and advice. Happy Scrappy Valentine's Day!

Jayne said...

Such great tips! I love saving scraps and work with the quite a lot. Keeping a system to store them is very key to being able to create! Thanks for sharing all your tips!

wednesdayscreationsstudio said...

This post is perfect as I rearrange my studio.

One word I'll add to the mix is COURAGE. IT takes courage to use, let go, cut up little cute precious scraps - at least for me it does. So I say COURAGE and go for it. More scraps will follow - as we all know. Right?

Love this post and your work. Thank you!

Melissa Corry said...

This was so very inspiring!!! Thank you so much :) I have bookmarked this to come back and read often each time my scraps overwhelm :)

Tracybug Creative said...

Such good encouragement and insight! My goal this year is at least one biggish scrap quilt... getting it going and working a bit here and there is brilliant because fresh eyes help you see straight when looking at the same scrap pile!

Gisela Suski said...

I do charity quilts for church and I am fortunate to get lots of scraps. I had to stick to 5 sizes but the leftovers are given to a person who brings them to the quild. I also have a friend who is helping me now and that is a big plus for me. I getting the closet organized.

Anne / Springleaf Studios said...

Wonderful suggestions. I always enjoy reading your blog and seeing what pretty new thing you've made with your scraps. I especially love all the little pin cushions. I read your blog mostly through email so don't comment often but today I just had to hop over and leave a response. Your work with scraps is very inspiring.

Shasta Matova said...

These are all great tips. I try to keep my scraps at a minimum by using them all up, as much as possible, when I am making a quilt. This means I will use them for the back, or label. I might make a pillowcase or a card to use up any leftovers. Also when I plan my next quilt, I see if there is a way to use up the scraps from my current project so I don't have to put them in storage.

Julierose said...

this is a super post--I am totally overwhelmed by baskets overflowing with scraps--even my charms are all mixed up...so I find, when this happens, I get paralyzed.
So, I plan to take a deep breath, and pull piles by color and iron and trim up. Thanks so much for the friendly "nudge";))) hugs Julierose

Tami Von Zalez said...

I don't usually keep the itsy bitsy scraps but I do keep cute pieces of fabric if it is an incredibly cute pattern and I use some for applique.

Janice Holton said...

GREAT TIPS! I haven't been quilting very long so my scraps are just now beginning to get out of hand but you made me realize maintenance is important so I need to go through them. My thing is that if I could, I would spend most of my free time in my sewing room, so I have decided once a week, I will take a small ironing pad, small cutting pad and cutter and sort and trim my scraps while the fam is watching TV. That way I can still be with them and not be itching to get into my sewing room!

Kathy's A Quilter said...

encouraging to read others in support of scrap quilting.

pingraham said...

AH! Your book has arrived and it is beyond wonderful! Your advice and examples are so helpful, especially your discussion of planning backs that coordinate with the front without taking too much time and energy. I LOVE your pincushions, and am now figuring out how to plan for more quilt making, adding my favorites from the book to my list! Chain of Diamonds, June (which I oddly see as a great Christmas quilt!), Mini Nines, Subtle.... Oh my! But I think my very, most favorite is Remainders. Thank you for all the work that went into this book, Amanda Jean. It is a book to come back to again and again.

lcscottage said...

Great post! It so happens that my goal this month is to get my scraps organized so that I can have fun using them!

Charlotte M. said...

Wonderful post. Your new book just arrived an hour ago. I am beyond excited to re-energize myself for scrap quilting. I have spent the last year organizing and categorizing my scraps. I am moving in the next couple of months, but I am already planning some things to use up those scraps once I get settled. I plan to sew until they put my machine on the moving van. Ha!

The Joyful Quilter said...

HELP!!! The scraps are taking over my studio! I suppose that means it's time to edit. Do I really have to get rid of some scraps?!? :o((

Suzanne said...

This was like candy to eat on Valentine's Day. There were many great tips in your post and in the comments. Continual maintenance, scrap housekeeping, courage, knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em (in the words of a country singer), and more! My favorite reminder is that using scraps is not fast work but it's worthwhile work if it's your thing and it is definitely YOUR thing. It's mine too.

Love Of Quilts said...

Happy Valentine's Day!

Amy said...

Great post! I'm going to share it with my guild next month. Everyone needs a little advice and encouragement in the scrap department. Yours is excellent! thanks.

Katherine said...

Nodding my head as I read your top ten tips - they are spot on, my friend. It makes all the difference to do each of these things and it means more pretty finishes that are wonderfully scrappy! Thank you for sharing your insights!

Susan said...

I've been ironing, cutting and sorting scraps in between cutting for my fence rail quilt. Thought I was almost done, did the math and realized I wasn't even half way there :( Then I surfed your site and found out we are in the same town! Went over to MPLS modern quilt guild page and it expired a few days ago .. I hope it gets up and running again as I'd love to visit. Can't wait for your book.

Susan Holman said...

I love your blog, projects, quilts and pincushions. However I find it fascinating that I DO love your stuff in spite of the fact that you don't use purple--my favorite color! You don't even have a tiny purple storage bin. So I enjoy studying your use of colors because you clearly have a gift for choosing things that flow well. I'm anxiously awaiting your book and making a few of the projects. Thanks for good scrap cutting advice!

Marla said...

Great scrap tips! I made such a mess the past couple of days looking for just the "right" scraps that I need to do a bit of tidying today. You are right, it is a never ending cycle, but much more fun than laundry!

Barbara Johnson said...

Thank you for valadating my "style".... at 70 I really need to think about "gifting" my scraps...problem is i'm the only one in my group that thinks this hobby is fun:))) LOVE reading and seeing your work:)

diane said...

words of wisdom from the queen!
You always inspire me with your scrap quilts and ideas. I think learning to love a small project is what I need to embrace from now on. "More epillows less quilts" should be my new motto!

Betty Evans said...

Got your new book today. Love it. Thank you so much for the inspiration.

leanne said...

thanks for the awesome tips - I really need to cut my scraps into usable pieces !!

Crickett said...

I love keeping scraps, too, but sometimes there are some that even I don't keep. There is a lady in my quilt guild who makes dog beds for rescues and uses scraps and scrap batting as the filling. I feel better about letting go of my scraps knowing that they are going to such a great cause!

Pamela Arbour said...

That's pretty much how I am organizing my scraps too. I think that sometimes it takes a while to find out what works for us. My scraps used to be in baggies with same fabric and all baggies in one plastic bin of same color. I rarely used them. With this system like I have now, I can easily pull from my precuts to get a good scrappy quilt. Thanks for sharing all the pics.

frau z said...

Your book finally reached Europe and I LOVE it!

Rebecca Grace said...

Love your scrap quilt, and your tips for organizing the scraps for storage and while using them in a scrap quilt.

Angie in SoCal said...

A great post, Amanda. Thank you. I'll be using these tips.