They say a picture paints a thousand words. In a quilter’s world, a single quilt scrap can inspire a thousand ideas. But there’s a trick to scrap quilting that many quilters tend to trip up on: organizing said quilt scraps so they’re ready to go when you want to sew.
Let’s face it: a plastic grocery bag overflowing with wrinkled strips isn’t awfully inspiring. Taking the time to organize fabric scraps can make the difference between creating a stellar scrap quilt, or merely dreaming of a stellar scrap quilt that may never be stitched.
So, before you ask yourself “What can I make with fabric scraps today?,” whip that scrap stash into shape with three simple tips from designer Gayle Bong. She’s been quilting for more than 25 years, and her tried-and-true system will motivate you to get—and keep!—your scraps organized.
Nearly every quilter I’ve ever met saves scraps from making quilts. For some, a 2″ square will do; others won’t save anything smaller than a 2½"-wide strip. No matter what size you save, as scraps accumulate, they soon become out of control unless you have a system for keeping them organized.
Below are three simple steps for organizing quilt scraps. Follow these fabric-organizing ideas and soon you’ll be working smarter so you can get more quilts finished—and more of your quilt scraps into those finished quilts!
STEP #1: Sort your quilt scraps by size—not by color. Many quilters sort their scraps by color. This is great for your main stash, but I don’t sort scraps by color. I rarely make a scrap quilt in a specific color and find I would have to sort through too many boxes for the size of scraps I needed from each box. Plus I feel like I would inadvertently omit desirable colors for the palette I was developing. (See Sally Schneider’s tips for cutting fabrics into six specific sizes for scrap quilting. –Ed.)
STEP #2: Keep scraps orderly with boxes, bins, and baskets. I sort and organize my scraps into boxes of common strip widths, squares, and triangles. Not long ago I had surgery and wasn’t comfortable cutting fabric for a while afterward. I was thrilled that I could still sew because my scraps were organized. My boxes of squares and triangles were ready and waiting, and they went into three different quilts in a matter of weeks.
STEP #3: Iron every scrap you save. Maybe the best advantage of keeping my scraps organized is the time it saves because I don’t have to rummage through tangled, wrinkled scraps every time I want to make a scrap quilt, which is often. I find it’s easier when I keep the pieces neat and flat; that way there’s no need to iron those pieces again. I can simply take the box off the shelf, sort through it for the right color or value, and start sewing. I like to think of my boxes of organized scraps as a precut kit, only I haven’t decided on the quilt pattern yet.
Now that you’ve got Gayle’s fabric-organizing ideas to gain control of your scraps, let’s get back to that question: What can I make with fabric scraps today? Well, well, well…you’ve arrived at the right place! Check out how Gayle and other popular designers transformed their modest quilt scraps into stunning quilts in the following books—all 40% off this week only.
Quilts from S is for Scraps: 18 Great Quilts by Gayle Bong
Quilts from Patchwork-Play Quilts: Make the Most of Scraps, Spare Parts, and Leftovers by Lynn Roddy Brown
Quilts from Spotlight on Scraps: 10 Pretty Quilts by Cyndi Walker
How do you keep your scraps under control? Are they ready for sewing…or ready to drive you nuts? Tell us your scrap-happy (or not-so-happy) story in the comments!