Scrap-quilting secrets for bed quilts

Detail of Farmer's Daughter quiltWouldn’t it be nice if every bed-quilt pattern had directions for adapting the design to the size of bed you need it for? Famed scrap-quilting designer Sally Schneider can attest to having the same wish. She believes that for many quilters, the ultimate goal is to make a quilt for her or his bed. After all, who doesn’t want to sleep under a cozy quilt that they’ve made themselves? When it comes to quilting, not much can top it!

Sally’s latest book, Scrap Quilts Fit for a Queen, is dedicated to helping you find the perfect quilt pattern for your bed, in the size that you need. Once you decide on one of Sally’s 10 beautiful quilt designs, simply choose the size you want and get stitching. Materials lists, cutting charts, and block-layout diagrams are included for every size—lap, twin, queen, and king. No number-crunching required!

(Just in case you’re wondering, here’s a sizes-of-quilts chart to help determine approximate bed-quilt dimensions.)

Sizes-of-quilts chart

So, Sally’s got your bed-quilt sizes covered (no pun intended). But if you know Sally Schneider, you know that she’s truly famous for one thing—her amazing scrap-quilting skills. Her quilts are firmly rooted in traditional design, and yet her color palettes are always fresh and unexpected. How does she combine all of those bits and pieces into such stunning quilts? Sally shares a few of her scrap-quilting secrets in the following excerpt from Scrap Quilts Fit for a Queen.

Strategies for Scrap Quilting
Excerpt from Scrap Quilts Fit for a Queen by Sally Schneider

Sally SchneiderI identify scrappy quilts as those made from many fabrics rather than just a few. Most of mine have upwards of 75 fabrics in them, and some have many more than that. They aren’t necessarily scraps in the truest sense of the word, but the quilts are made with small pieces of many fabrics, including fat quarters.

It’s all well and good to collect fat quarters, but they won’t do your quilts any good if they just sit in a drawer or on a shelf. You have to cut them up and use them. I came up with a way to cut fat quarters into pieces that are just what I need to make my scrap quilts. From each fat quarter, I cut a 1½", 2″, 2½", 3″, 3½", and 5″ strip across the 21″ width. That takes most of the fat quarter, leaving just enough for trimming.

Cutting a fat quarter for scrap quilting

I store the strips by size in pullout baskets under my cutting table—one basket for each size, except for the 2½"-wide strips. I have two baskets for those because I seem to use more of them than other sizes. When I am ready to make a quilt, I cut out all the background pieces, and then get out my basket of the required-size strips. I rummage through the strips to find the style of fabric or the colors I’m looking for, and then cut individual pieces. It’s so much easier to do it this way rather than going to the fabric shelf, selecting a fabric, unfolding it, ironing it, trimming the edge, cutting the needed strip, then refolding and reshelving the fabric. When you cut your fabrics into strips ahead of time, you’re much more likely to use them in quilts.

Three Methods for Quilting with Scraps

I have three coloring techniques I use for making scrap quilts—the coordinated-block method, the fabric-menu method, and the brown-bag method.

The coordinated-block method is probably the most comfortable for the majority of people, because the fabrics in each block harmonize or coordinate with each other. The blocks all hang together because we use just one background fabric. That separates each block just enough from the next one to allow the eye to see it as a single block. With this method, I use the background fabric as sashing too, further allowing the blocks to appear as individuals. The coordinated-block method is evident especially in “Festival Star.” Three coordinated fabrics make up each block, but the same fabrics are not used in any other block in the quilt.

Detail of Festival Star quilt
Detail of “Festival Star”

The fabric-menu method involves assigning a specific color or style of fabric to each part of a block. Glenda Beasley used this method in “Laurel Wreath and Garden Maze.” The chevron units are all different florals, while the arrow shapes are semisolid bright colors.

Detail of Laurel Wreath and Garden Maze quilt
Detail of “Laurel Wreath and Garden Maze”

The brown-bag method was used for “Ohio Star and Courthouse Steps.” The Courthouse Steps blocks are made with 1½"-wide strips that literally came out of brown bags. I separated the darks and lights, and had two bags next to my sewing machine. It is a fun way to work. It makes you relax and realize that you can use all kinds of fabrics together, and they will look great once the quilt is finished. I used Asian prints, Civil War reproductions, batiks, stripes, plaids, and florals together in the quilt. Because the design depends on the contrast between lights and darks, the fabrics all work together.

Detail of Ohio Star and Courthouse Steps quilt
Detail of “Ohio Star and Courthouse Steps”

Scrap Quilts Fit for a QueenReady to slice up your fat quarters like Sally does? What a genius idea! You can explore many more scrap-quilting tips in Scrap Quilts Fit for a Queen. See all of Sally’s beautiful quilts from the book at the bottom of this post.

Have you tackled a bed quilt—or are you still dreaming about making one? Leave your bed-quilt story in the comments and you could win a copy of the Scrap Quilts Fit for a Queen eBook! We’ll choose a random winner one week from today and let you know if you’ve won by email. Good luck!

Comments are closed for this post.

Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The randomly chosen winner is Maryellen, who writes:

“I’ve made a few bed quilts, but they are not scrappy. I love her suggestion for cutting FQs. I have some collections I want to use, and would love to see the book to get more ideas. Thanks for sharing this post!”

Maryellen, we’ll email you about your free eBook. Congratulations!

Wow! Save 40% on paper piecing books

Diamond Ring

"Diamond Ring"

Farmer's Daughter quilt

"Farmer's Daughter"

Festival Star quilt

"Festival Star"

Happy Days quilt

"Happy Days"

Japanese Stars and Pinwheels quilt

"Japanese Stars and Pinwheels"

Laurel Wreath and Garden Maze quilt

"Laurel Wreath and Garden Maze"

Maple Star quilt

"Maple Star"

Merry-Go-Round quilt


Ohio Star and Courthouse Steps quilt

"Ohio Star and Courthouse Steps"

Skagit Valley Spring quilt

"Skagit Valley Spring"

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