Monday, February 02, 2015

sorting scraps--where do I start?

Suppose you have a good friend that passes along a bag of scraps to you. It can be exciting and wonderful, especially if you love scraps like I do. (They are my favorite!!!) But, it can also be a bit overwhelming. A lot of people ask, "where do you start?" I'm happy to tackle that question today.
This is a bag of scraps that my friend Mary recently passed along to me. It's a garbage bag  FULL of scrappy goodness!
She was happy to have it out of her house. I was happy to bring it home.
The first step is to dump it out onto the floor. If you have a quilting buddy, it's nice to invite them to the party. For my initial sort, I asked my daughter to join me. We had a blast! She claimed a sizeable pile of her favorite fabrics and I look forward to making something special for her out of those scraps.
She likes ALL of the novelty fabric! It's cute.

After you dump it all out, jump in (literally or figuratively) and just start sorting! Usually my categories go something like this:
-Trash/junk pile.
-Donate pile-if it doesn't inspire you, pass it along to someone else.
-Stacks of things that inspire you-Polka dots! Fun color combos that catch your eye.
-Odd fabrics-laminated fabric, linen, canvas, etc.
-Larger pieces of fabric that are a mainly one color-sort them by color.
-Strings-long skinny strips 2 1/2" wide or less.

You can make as many or as few piles as you wish when you are sorting. I usually have a LOT!
solids-sorted into neutrals/whites/colors
This gets messy and it takes time, but be patient and have fun with it. If you get overwhelmed or if you run out of time, put away the pieces that you have sorted. Put the rest of the (unsorted) scraps back into the bag. It's ok! Sorting in stages is a good thing. It can keep that overwhelming feeling at bay.

When I got this bag of scraps, I made a few zipper pouches using some laminated fabric and quilting cotton scraps. It was a nice project to dive into right away. I used up the laminated scraps, so I wouldn't have to find a place to store them. After that, I put most of the scraps back in the bag. I knew I would deal with them eventually. The have come in handy several times already.

When I am working on a scrappy quilt, (like my pineapple quilt, for instance) I will get to a point where I feel stuck/feel limited by my fabric selection. That is the PERFECT time to go scrap diving in the big old bag of scraps. (Think of it as the equivalent of dumpster diving. Ha!) You never know what you will find, but most likely you will find something that will work. It's helpful to inject some variety into the quilt part of the way through.

This isn't an all inclusive scrap sorting post, by any means, but hopefully it will motivate and encourage you to tackle your scraps!  If you want more indepth information about scrap sorting and storing, there is an entire chapter devoted to it in Sunday Morning Quilts.

This, of course, is just one way to do it! The most important thing is to find a system that works for you. In an upcoming post, I plan to share how I store my scraps. Hopefully you won't discover just how crazy I really am! (Gulp.)

If you have any questions about scrap sorting, I'd be happy to answer them in the comments.

Happy Monday to you!


charlotte said...

how long do you keep scraps before you know you will probably not use them?

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

I have so many to still use - I like to cut my scraps into squares - of all sizes as I like patchwork, I also have strings and 2 1/2 inch lengths of all colors they are great for multi-colored bindings and other things.

Jane's Fabrics and Quilts said...

My question, how do I get on the list for the scraps you do not want! LOL, that looks like a lot of fun.

Cindy said...

Am I crazy? I have a need to iron my scraps, and cut them into strips, like 2 and a half, 3 and 5 inch. I keep my strings too. I don't iron them. CDahlgren at live dot com

Laura Chaney said...

I love that you made this a special project with your daughter. How fun for both of you.

Quilts and Such said...

The post is great, Amanda Jean! I would love to know how you keep up with cutting all the scraps. I have a huge stack and can't seem to get everything cut up! I think I have as much scraps waiting to be cut up as I do fabric!!

Mary Marcotte said...

Sometimes when a project is on hold (for whatever reason) I sew some crumbs together and make a piece of fabric. Usually I do that with crumbs in the same color family. When I have lots of scrap fabric, I can usually come up with an idea for their use.

Myrtle the Infertile Turtle said...

Is there such a thing as a scrap too small? At what point do you just send it to the trash can?

Judy said...

One thing to watch in your scrap fun is the age of the scraps. I made the mistake of using some really old scraps once and after a couple of washes the those pieces disintegrated.

Dresses and Spurs said...

Awesome post. I am just starting a blog and am saving my scraps for a giveaway once I have a nice size pile.
happy sewing!!

http://thankfullga447 said...

I love scraps, they make me happy happy. I have a large bin and a bag of scraps waiting for me at church. I love to sort, iron and cut.

Sarah Craig said...

Thanks for posting this, Amanda Jean! I'm happy to say my granddaughter and I used the same technique when I was sorting my scraps by color - a big pile on the floor and sorting tubs all around. We had a big day sorting all those scraps! I'm interested to see your storage techniques in that upcoming post. That's where I really need help!

Judy said...

We are in the process of moving and I just KNOW I am going to need this information once I tackle my sewing room. Thanks!

Mama Urchin said...

I already know how crazy you are. I store my scraps by color and then I have a bin of "scraps only Amanda will use + selvedges." That bin is almost full so I need to send you some soon!

Suzanne said...

I love that you shared about sorting the scraps. Having just delved into mine I can really appreciate the delight that I get from having somebody else's scraps to incorporate into mine.

Allison said...

Thanks for returning to the topic of scraps - it is inspiring me to sort and use mine :-)

the zen quilter said...

I just wrote a blog about scrap confusion myself. I wish I was more attached to scraps - I get tired of using the same fabrics more than two times...I donate way more than I use.

Diane Beavers said...

Stellar advice Amanda!
I too recently inherited some scraps, I mean you don't want to say NO to scraps. Some will be 'regifted" and most will be Zipper pouches, Birch Tree quilt, or pin cushions. Tank you for sharing.

Rachel said...

You always amaze me ;-)

Anne / Springleaf Studios said...

You are a TRUE scrapaholic! I've never had anyone pass scraps on to me or maybe I'd be one too.

Daytona Damsel said...

I can't wait for the storage episode. I have put off sorting because I don't know how to store them. Mostly I do not know what to store them in that is not going to cost a lot since I am on a very limited budget.

tisha @ quiltytherapy said...

I need to get over my zipper phobia and just make up some pouches with my scraps. I have been collecting interesting zippers from a "thrift" type store.

Kelly Cline said...

I LOVE SCRAPS!!! I wish I could cut them, but I'm always afraid I will need a particular scrap in a certain size. Therefore, they go into tubs. I do keep a regular strip bucket for string quilts.

Nicky said...

I've just started a new scrappy quilt so I have been looking through my scrap bins which are overwhelming themselves! The good thing about this block is it is all 1 1/2 strips cut into squares and 2 1/2 rectangles!

I need more organisation in my scraps and only usually do it at the point of making a quilt...

Sandy Panagos said...

Looks like you got some very nice scraps there! Thanks for the tips.

Unknown said...

I love scrap quilts! Unfortunately I don't have a stash to work from yet, and only a handful of scraps. I wish I had friends like yours that give you a big bag of goodies.
Look forward to the storage post.

Susanne Tyree said...

My favorite is scrap anything, fabric quilts, scrappy afghans from yarn, you name it, I love it. Oh how much fun that bag of scraps must have been. What a sweet friend to pass them along to you.
Susanne :)

Unknown said...

You have a sweet friend, and scrapting with your daughter I'm sure made for a great time! I really need to go through my scraps and separate! Haven't done it in about 5yrs or so LOL just keep adding to the bags. Very much looking forward to your storage ideas!! Need to find a few "scrap buddies" myself, for exchanging or just donating! Have a wonderful day!! :)

Amanda Jean said...


I don't have a certain time frame that I keep scraps. I do get in a mood every once in awhile and clear things out. I've also found that the CONTEXT of where the fabric is used is HUGE. You can have an "ugly" fabric, but if it's placed in the right situation it can make a quilt fabulous. I hope that helps!


Amanda Jean said...

Jane's Fabrics and Quilt,

Noted! You have been added to the list! :)


Amanda Jean said...

Cindy Dahlgren,

I realize that what probably a rhetorical question, but don't think I should be the one to judge if you are crazy or not. :)


Amanda Jean said...

Penny Olive,

That's the thing! I don't do a lot of cutting scraps down to size. I like to do a lot of improve/slab piecing, so I tend to NOT cut things down to size before hand. If I did, I don't think I would like scrap quilting very much! :)


Amanda Jean said...

Myrtle the Infertile Turtle,

Yikes! I was hoping that question wouldn't come up. I keep scraps that are very, very small...even around 1" square. I DO use them, though, so I feel somewhat justified. Some of the projects I use them for are making cards, ticker tape quilts and ticker tape on canvas. I hope that helps!


Amanda Jean said...

Mama Urchin,

I fully support that technique, as you know! Let me know when you have that box ready and I can Pay Pal you some shipping funds. :)


Teri said...

Great advice. I sort by color before I decide what to do with the fabrics also. This makes is so much easier for me when I am putting them away.

Sue @ Quilting the Green Star said...

That's really helpful and it all looks so pretty too. I like your Ikea table for cutting, can I ask you what sort of table you sew at? I seem to be getting a lot of back ache sewing at a kitchen table.

Jacqueline Frances said...

Hi there Amanda Jean,
I was wondering if you happen to remember the name of your Ikea cutting top/storage unit. I am thinking it might be in their kitchen section?
It would be really great if you could let me know!
Quilty Huggs,
Jacqueline in Pitt Meadows
Come check out my blog:

Andrea @ Mouse in My Pocket said...

A while back I went thru my scrap bin and cut all of my scraps into usable pieces and began organizing them into groups like "squares" and "strips." It has made my life much easier when I need fabric of a certain size to make a finished project work. Now, if I only didn't have another batch of scraps waiting on me.