What makes a spectacular scrap quilt? 7 designers share their secrets

It’s a mystery to many quilters: how do you make a scrap quilt that doesn’t turn into a muddled mess?

In her book Modern Heritage Quilts, Amy Ellis asks her superstar quilting friends to share what they think makes a great scrap quilt. Today we’re sharing some of their answers. If you’re drowning in scraps, longing to make a scrap quilt, or aren’t sure how to get started, read on!

Keep-fabric-scraps-in-jars

CARRIE NELSON

Author of Miss Rosie’s Farmhouse Favorites

“The scrap quilts that are memorable to me—whether they’re new or vintage, made by others or by me—are those that tell me a little bit about the maker. I love it when quilts have some sense of personality. They can be messy or organized, with a defined color palette or every color of the rainbow. I like quirky quilts with a crazy pastiche of colors, prints, textures, and so on. It isn’t always about how many fabrics they include but rather the attitude behind the selection.”

AMY SMART

Author of Fabulously Fast Quilts

“Using as many scraps as possible and throwing in some ugly scraps. I tried making a scrappy Trip Around the World quilt a few months ago and hated it at first because it was too matchy. As soon as I purposely threw in some ‘uglies,’ I fell in love with the quilt. Now it sings!”

The-Comfort-Quilt
The Comfort Quilt by Amy Ellis, from Modern Heritage Quilts

JACKIE KUNKEL

Author of Splash of Color

“I think a scrap quilt is successful when there are enough scraps used that they cause conversation and make the entire look of the quilt so darn interesting you just can’t stop looking at it! That is the sheer beauty of a scrap quilt—the randomness, the intrigue, the curiosities that go along with the finished quilt.”

PAT SLOAN

Author of Pat Sloan’s Teach Me to Machine Quilt

“I prefer a plan to my scrap quilts. The plan might be to limit the colors or to be sure I have enough of the same light to balance all the crazy fabrics and patterns.”

Venus-quilt
Venus by Amy Ellis, from
Modern Heritage Quilts

NANCY MAHONEY

Author of Learn to Paper Piece

“What makes a scrap quilt successful is value and contrast. Using fabrics with different values (light, medium, and dark) will make the design sing. You also want to think about contrast when using fabrics with similar values. Without enough contrast, the fabrics will blend together and the design will be lost.”

MARIANNE FONS

“An abundance of fabrics! When I started making quilts in the mid 1970s, a scrap quilt was not possible because there were so few patchwork-weight 100% cottons available. The first scrap quilt Liz Porter and I made was in the 1980s, and we were simply amazed when we counted 60 fabrics in it!

In a scrap quilt, any fabric can work, as long as it has ‘friends’ to lean on. With 60, 100, or 200 fabrics, the success of the quilt doesn’t depend on just one or two of your choices. The ‘wonder fabrics’ (those you bought and wonder why) lose themselves among the great fabrics.”

The-Wedding-Quilt
The Wedding Quilt by Amy Ellis, from
Modern Heritage Quilts

So the consensus is: MORE IS BETTER! But saving scraps can be a messy business (ask us how we know). Here’s Amy’s strategy for efficiently saving her fabric scraps as she’s making other quilts:

Amy-Ellis“A few of my favorite quilts are those I’ve made from my scrap bin. They contain bits of fabric from other projects I’ve created, and they always bring a smile to my face. When I’m cutting any quilt, I keep a container nearby for scraps. The extra bits after crosscutting my squares and rectangles, plus any leftovers after piecing, all go into the container. This can be a simple storage tote or a pretty jar. It all depends on your space and what works for you, but once it’s full, the sorting begins! At that point I sort by color.”

Amy’s “One at a Time” boxes in Modern Heritage Quilts allow you to make just one block at a time from your scrap bin, instead of cutting fabric for an entire quilt—such a smart way to get scrappy!

We hope you’ve enjoyed these scrappy designer secrets from Modern Heritage Quilts!

Modern Heritage QuiltsSo, how do you make a scrap quilt?

a) I like to plan my scrap quilts, keeping close track of colors and values as I go.

b) I like to plan but sometimes I’ll throw in a surprise, just to see what happens.

c) I close my eyes and dig in. Anything goes!

Tell us your approach in the comments!

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