Organizing quilt scraps in just 3 steps (no, really!)

Vintage LeMoyne Stars quiltThey 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.


Fabric-Organizing Ideas for Scraps
excerpted from S is for Scraps by Gayle Bong

Gayle BongNearly 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!

Organizing quilt scraps 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.

Iron every quilt scrap you saveSTEP #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 S is for Scraps

Quilts from Spotlight on Scraps: 10 Pretty Quilts by Cyndi Walker

Quilts from Spotlight on Scraps

Quilts from Crazy for Scraps: 19 Favorite Quilts from Sally Schneider

Quilts from Crazy for Scraps


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!


70 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I put all the scraps from the quilt I am made in a see through container.
    I stack them on the shelf. So when I need them I can see which color I
    need because they are in see through containers. I love it, it works great for me.

    —Joan on February 26, 2013
  • I make a lot of scrappy projects. It helps me to save scraps by color, in clear bags or totes. This works for me because I toss some scraps into every project I make, but my quilts don’t say "scrappy."

    Janie Holbrook on February 26, 2013
  • Do you cut your scraps into a standard" size, or do you trim it to the largest size you can get from the scrap?

    —Kathy M on February 26, 2013
  • I do have my scrappy strips organized by length in see through boxes. The colours are mixed up. What I would like to see is a book with ideas on what to do with the tiny scraps. I have seen demos where bowls are made by ironing the tiny scraps to fusible web to make bowls. Some actually look lacy. We pay by the yard for those tiny pieces too!

    —Rose-Marie on February 26, 2013
  • I started out making scrap quilts using the ugly fabrics i bought on clearance and before i knew what I was doing. I still love them. After every planned quilt, I cut up the leftover small pieces. I have literally a hundred yards worth of cut scraps now, as all my sewing friends give me their leftover or unwanted pieces. I cut them while watching TV or occasionally on my Go system, and am now finishing a charm quilt of more than 2400 different 2 inch squares. Next I will move up to the 3 inch triangles and 2.5 inch squares. I also use bricks, strips, and strings. I organize them by shape, size, then by color. It’s a blast.

    —Ames on February 26, 2013
  • OMG – My scraps are a hot mess, for sure! Gayle’s got a great system going. Maybe I’ll have to take the time to start sorting through mine – anyone got an extra year they’re not doing anything with? LOL!

    —Sheila Craft on February 26, 2013
  • I’m the wrinkled ol’ bag kind of scrap saver.

    —Claudia on February 26, 2013
  • I am in the midst of scrap organization. I really like the idea of ironing the scraps and only keeping certain shapes and sizes. I have almost 20 large crates of various fabrics that I finally cataloged by stapling a tiny piece on an index card with the (more or less accurate) yardage (length AND width) of each piece. I then labeled the crates and the index cards so I know exactly which crate each piece of fabric is in. Whew! It only took me two weeks! Thank goodness for retirement!

    —Roberta Kennedy on February 26, 2013
  • I have a 5 foot tower of totes. Each tote houses one size square. I start with 1 1/2″ inch squares and go to 5 1/2 inch. I have lots of 2 1/2 inch strips to use in jelly roll patterns. Another large tote is full of any strip wider than 2 1/2 inches. These I can cut down to the preferred size when I choose a pattern. The smaller squares are then sorted dark and light. The mediums get put into which ever I am closest to. The only problem with all of this sorting, ironing and storing is that I never get a quilt started. Lots of dreaming and planning though.

    —Diane Wright on February 26, 2013
  • I do more applique than piecing, therefore, I do not want to cut my scraps up into tidy shapes. Wonky pieces of fabric are often just the right size for a particular petal for a flower or a leg for a perky bunny. Sometimes when looking for pieces of fabric for grapes, I find I can often utilize very small pieces from my scrap baskets. So my fabric scraps go into five large wire baskets, one for pinks through red, another for blues and greens, another for yellows through orange and finally one for browns to black fabrics. I also have large pieces of fabrics that I have "ruined" by cutting particular things out of so they look like giant moths have been eating my cotton fabric. But, that is the life and scrap collection of an applique type quilter.

    Thanks for sharing, Rhonda. It’s fun to hear a different perspective on scrap organization!
    ~Cornelia

    —Rhonda on February 26, 2013
  • My system is pretty straightforward. 5 inch squares, 31/2 inch strips, 2 1/2 strips and squares, and 1 1/2 strips. My 2 1/2 inch pieces are separated into dark, medium and light and stored in see-through boxes. The others are in a plastic drawer unit. I use out of them pretty often, but they still seem to multiply.

    Judy Smith on February 26, 2013
  • Good tips, but I am one of ‘those other’ quilters who sort by color. Today, for example, I made 5 scrappy flower blocks. They were cut from 2 1/2″ AND 3″ squares (for some half square triangles) of reds, oranges and yellows. It would have been harder, if not impossible, to find those sizes and colors if pre-cut and mixed together.

    I *love* the Iris brand plastic drawers. Each drawer has a different color. Just pull out the correct drawer and bring it to your cutting table.

    Ironing is just WARM fabric fondling! What is not to love about those momentary pleasures!

    I can understand the advantage to pre-cut squares. I had TWO rotator cuff surgeries… and rotary cutting had to wait for several weeks. But that gave me time to read my stash of quilting books and magazines… rest and dream and practice gratitude!

    —Gina M on February 26, 2013
  • Mine are currently crammed into a couple of tall, clear pretzel containers. I’ve used them to make scrappy pin cushions. I really like the idea of cutting them into specific sizes and having them pressed and ready to go. Adding that to my To Do list!

    —Jane Cisneros on February 26, 2013
  • I have shoe-sized plastic boxes w/lids that are labeled from 2″squares up to 5″squares in 1/2″ increments and then a box with 2″ strips of all lengths and the oddball of 3-1/2″x5-1/2″ rectangles (I envision making a Chinese coin quilt). I "try" to cut up scraps when I finish I project and add them to their appropriate box.

    —Michelle Kearns on February 26, 2013
  • Since I have 49 years of scraps and material on shelves and in large bins,after years of sewing clothes,curtains,dust ruffles or anything anyone needed,I know am a beginner quilter. I guess in the back of my mind I knew one day I would quilt! I love making art/pictorial wall hanging quilts. I hope to someday, now that I have retired,get my scraps and material organized ,I think by colors,in clear bins.I don’t think I’ll cut it into sizes because ,what if I cut something into 2 1/2″ strips and I would need a scene for the background that needed to be shaped larger or I needed a 10″square.Gayle’s ideas are great especially if you know what you are going to do.My ideas come from spur of the moment things that I see.

    —Doris on February 26, 2013
  • Since I have 49 years of scraps and material on shelves and in large bins,after years of sewing clothes,curtains,dust ruffles or anything anyone needed,I now am a beginner quilter. I guess in the back of my mind I knew one day I would quilt! I love making art/pictorial wall hanging quilts. I hope to someday, now that I have retired,get my scraps and material organized ,I think by colors,in clear bins.I don’t think I’ll cut it into sizes because ,what if I cut something into 2 1/2″ strips and I would need a scene for a background that needed to be shaped larger or I needed a 10″square.Gayle’s ideas are great especially if you know what you are going to do.My ideas come from spur of the moment things that I see.

    —Doris on February 26, 2013
  • I love making scrap quilts…Every time I cut a quilt idea I put all the scraps in a bag, then cut them into 1 1/2 inches, 2 1/2 inches, and whatever shape pops into my head as I look at them…that usually means a new quilt is forming….I put the 1 and 2 scraps into ziploc bags, and when I have two ziplocs full I create a scrap quilt….Sometimes I end up with very little scraps, but each quilt is different….Right now I’m sorting the scraps for a "Squared Illusion quilt…which only uses 3 square shapes….1 1/2 inch, 2 1/2 inch, and 4 1/2 inch…With the scraps I’ve put away already that means only 1 square – the 4 1/2 inch to cut for…..Have a scrappy day….

    —Darlene Krystal on February 26, 2013
  • I save my scraps in Q-TIP Boxes they are the perfect size for 2 1/2″ strips I stack them and glue the stacks to gether then add small buttons the same colour as the fabric inside to the front of the ‘Drawers’ to use as pulls (handles).

    —ELIZABETH CROSS on February 26, 2013
  • I grade my scraps by size. They are as large as the palm of my hand, larger than my hand and in the colour bins. Anything smaller than my hand goes to Sharyn, one of my quilting friends for her postage stamp quilts. Everybody is happy.

    —Helen a on February 27, 2013
  • I have 4 small desk drawers that I have for scraps. I keep the strips sorted by size (roughly), one drawer has squares, and a part of one has triangles – rest of space has the strips. I also have a small basket I through scraps into as I cut which I empty once in a while into the project of cutting out squares and triangles. I do have a small container of really small pieces of odd sizes that I use when I do spider web or foundation edges. It is hard to throw out fabric so I am trying to stay organized. I got through them when I am looking for colors or pieces to applique. I love to get inspired and sew!

    —Cindy Wienstroer on February 27, 2013
  • Each pattern piece in each plastic pouch

    —Mona Elmgreen Petersen on February 27, 2013
  • I have a big, bright red bucket that I keep under my cutting table. When I am cutting fabric I toss my scraps into the bucket as I go. Then when I have a pretty full bucket and some extra time, I go through my scraps, sort by color and cut them into 2 1/2 inch strips or squares..whatever is left… and put them in clear plastic boxes on a rack in my sewing room. When I want to make a scrappy quilt I can see my colors in front of me and just pick from each box.

    —Pamela Zajicek on February 27, 2013
  • totally scrap UN-happy – wrinkled bits, strips,et al, everywhere, so totally need to change!-rn

    —r.n on February 27, 2013
  • I sort my scrapes by color,and put them into plastic containers or cloth boxes.I usually don’t have left overs. Most of my left overs are less than 1 1/2″ strips and do not stack, but are great string quilts. Please note, having a pattern helps one to know what size to cut. If I cut my scrapes to 2 1/2″, I may also need 2 7/8″. So I don’t cut before I have a pattern. Therefore I may have three or four quilts going all at the same time.

    —Linda Christianson on February 27, 2013
  • I save those clam shells (the large plastic boxes in which organic lettuce is sold). Because they are clear, I can see what colour or shape is in the box and these boxes stack nicely.

    Gail G on February 27, 2013
  • gotta get better at doing this, i usully finish one quilt and save pieces in large tub, big mess

    —grace on February 28, 2013
  • I used to have a bag, then it was a storage box, then I made a very large scrap quilt. Phew!
    Then my son came home with a large jar with no lid and I thought, "Oh that would look nice on the bookshelf filled with my little pile of scraps!" Naturally it wasn’t long before that jar got a bit full, so when I saw some similar size jarsfor only $5 at K-Mart I bought more. One holds my ribbon scraps, another my buttons. The buttons were in a smaller jar, but I wanted to use that one for just red, green and white buttons at Christmas. Because I thought it looked quite festive. Ok, I did go out and buy a large bag of craft buttons specifically for that…… Aw Geez! I need some serious councelling!!!

    —Kayt on February 28, 2013
  • Since I started quilting (1988) I always saved the leftovers in a big box. My granddaughters used to make collages with the fabric on big pages of drawing paper. About 12 years ago I started to cut out 4 x 4cm squares before the leftovers went into the box. The squares went into an other box. A couple of months ago I started a quilt with those squares. Every piece of fabric I take out of the box reminds me of one of the many quilts I made. Now every bit of fabric which is smaller than 4 x 4cm goes to a friend of mine who used even smaller pieces to make quilts.
    We use every bit of our fabric !

    —Agnes Crispyn on March 1, 2013
  • Good grief! and I thought I had a lot of scraps! Maybe I can get mine organised before I get out of hand. Thanks for your tips, I’ll try them all and see what works for me

    —Jennefer on March 1, 2013
  • thanks for the tip to store scraps by size not colour. It makes perfect sense. Remnants from sewing can just be cut into their largest useable size depending on their shape, then each size stored with others. That I can do, trying to fuss about what colour this print might belong in is crazymaking! Great idea and I’m going to do it.

    —redjanfan aka Jan Perry on March 2, 2013
  • I really love prints – all kinds – with about one third of my extreme stash being
    solids.

    —jane on March 5, 2013
  • When I finish a quilt, I use the left over cut pieces to make up 8 1/2″ blocks of any design. These blocks go into a box – one day I will make them into a quilt (or quilts) and each block will be a reminder of a quilt that I have made and usually given away.

    —Meredith on March 16, 2013
  • I’m a dressmaker. I give my scraps to my daughter-in-law. She asked for them. She does scrap quilts. She saw that I saved scraps, but didn’t use them. I like that girl! She’s a keeper!

    —Sheri~mama to eight on March 16, 2013
  • I loved reading all the comments for scraps. I am a new quilter and so that means I have lots of scraps. Whoops telling on myself now. I kept hearing don’t throw away your scraps so I have a mess. From most of the comments it looks like you recommend: 1 1/2″, 2 1/2″, 3 1/2″ strips and then 2 1/2, 3″, and 5″ squares. I can handle that. The next thing I need to do is find a scrappy pattern for beginners. I would love suggestions if you have them.

    —Gelene on March 17, 2013
  • go to quiltville.com. Bonnie Hunter has many many scrap quilts. One of the easiest is bricks and stepping stones. 4patches and rectangles.

    —Diane on March 18, 2013
  • I store strips by width, squares by size. Odd-shaped pieces are separated into two categories: less than 9 or 10 inches, and less than 3 inches. Bigger odd-shaped pieces go into the bin with their primary color or value.

    —Coco on March 19, 2013
  • OMG I just found out that I am a scrap hoarder. I do try to organize by size, or at least I did until my last three quilts as those scraps are crammed into a plastic container. I am now found and am going to incorporate some ideas from above and get more organized.

    —Susan on July 29, 2013
  • I’ve been quilting for over 30 years and have tons of scraps. I do sort by color for the bigger scraps (up to fat quarter) Also have bins of 2.5 inch squares, 5 inch squares, and 2.5 inch strips. They are sort by lite and dark, the mediums can be in either. I’ve made lots of scrap quilts – but the scraps don’t seem to go down – I personally think they mate in the bins and multiply!!!

    —Gwen on August 11, 2013
  • I have just organized my entire sewing room. The biggest problem was scraps. I have cut my scraps into the most used: 6″, 5″, 4″, 3″, 2″ squares. Lots of 2 1/2 " strips! Also 5 1/2″, 4 1/2″, 3 1/2″, 2 1/2″ and 1 1/2″. But most important, I store them in the appropriate size wire baskets so I can get to them easily. It takes extra time, but I also press the fabric first. When I start cutting, I cut the largest block first and then the smaller ones. I am much happier now than when I had a pile of scraps in bins.

    Elisa Lawrance on September 3, 2013
  • I’ve been a quilter since 1979 and I am currently sorting and even trying to use grocery plastic veggies containers for tiniest scraps. I have many assorted fabrics in medium and large Rubbermaids sorted in colors. I stopped quilting due to education pursuits but slowly returning to it because some scraps were stored with unfinished quilt tops in see through containers. Earlier I also cut some into larger squares and placed these in ziplocks and used to carry some in my purse for the times I ended up waiting and could sew. I sew by feel and touch.

    —C. Vukson on October 21, 2013
  • Doris
    You are my kind of Lady. I have scraps from when I sewed as a teenager 1960-64 and onward. I started to sort a couple of years ago , then a new baby came along and as our daughter is getting along o.k.now I am getting back to it. Just found this site. What a great amount of tips. Thanks from everyone.

    Happy Quilting Everyone

    Sandy

    —Sandy on November 6, 2013
  • I can’t admit to a great sorting scheme. But…I collect an assortment of odd shaped pieces in a basket, ironed. In 1990, I made a memory/scrap quilt from fabric my mother had saved up since we were kids. This is my binky and has been all over the world with me. The fabrics are falling apart now, and it often needs patching. I use those odd pieces from the basket to patch it, arranging them at different angles and with no plan at all except to make the quilt usable. Now, I am adding memories to the quilt as I go, and I see clothes I’ve made as an adult, quilts made by my students, and quilts I have given away all in this one quilt that keeps changing over the years.

    So, anyway, that is one way I organize and use scraps – whenever I need a new patch for the binky, it is ready in the basket and there is almost always one that fits the place I need to patch.

    —Murphy on November 7, 2013
  • Re: comment from Rose-Marie on February 26, 2013– Foundation paper piecing is a great way to use up small scraps, especially good for miniature quilts or small wallhangings.

    —Cristina on November 13, 2013
  • Well I have read all the comments, and I too have a real problem with scraps. Although I just used some in the new Mystery at quiltville.com. The only problem with all of the suggestions above, is no one mentioned to not EVER open those containers as the minute the air hits those scraps, they start multiplying! I made a string quilt a few years ago, and it was pretty big, and I had more stings when I finished that I had when I started….that had to be what happened. That is my story and I am sticking to it. Jan

    —Jan on December 16, 2013
  • I put my scraps as well as other things that I need to store in the large plastic ice cream pails. My son and DIL always send their empties down to me for my storage needs.

    —Joyce Weber on December 16, 2013
  • I’ve been told I a bit of a fanatic when it comes to organizing my sewing room. I’ll let you judge.

    I use plastic shoe boxes to store all fabric pieces smaller than 1 yard. I do both applique and piecing so I sort my scraps by both color and size or shape. After finishing a project, any leftover fabric gets measured, sorted and stored in the correct box.

    My fat quarters are sorted by color. Anything larger than 5 inches (on the short side) is stored with my fat quarters. I use a small piece of index card to note the size of any fabric that is less than a fat quarter. This is stapled to the corner of the pressed and folded fabric. I make sure this is on the very edge of the fabric so if the staple rusts or leaves a hole it won’t matter.

    Squares and strips up to 5 inches are sorted by the size of their shortest edge. I have boxes for 2 1/2 inch; 3 1/3 inch and 5 inch strips of fabric of dark colors; and boxes for strips of light colored fabric.

    I also have two boxes for strips of fabric that are less than 2 1/2 inches or of irregular width (from squaring up fabric while rotery cutting). This are also sorted by lights or darks; and are used for string quilts.

    I often end up with small triangles from other quilt piecing projects. These go into two boxes; one for anything smaller than 2 1/2 inches on the long side, the other for anything larger.

    All odd shaped or tiny (less than 2 inches) scraps are sorted into warm colors, cool colors, light neutrals, and dark neutrals. These are used mainly for applique; but if I am piecing a scrap quilt and need a particlar color; I’ll dip into these.

    When any of the boxes get full; I pull it out and make a scrap quilt. These are like free quilts to me; a little reward for my organizing effords.

    —Elizabeth P. on December 16, 2013
  • I’m a bit (okay a lot) of a neat freak, my scraps are ironed and then placed into Ziploc bags, as my collection is very small at the moment. I have been sorting by colour but will now change it to ‘by size’, thanks for the suggestion Gayle.

    —Janet on December 20, 2013
  • I sort my scraps by color, but find the seethrough boxes are just taking up too much room. I’m thinking or using Sallie Schneider’s method of sorting by strips.

    —Anna Marie Werner on March 13, 2014
  • sorting by size sounds like a great idea. I am going to start doing that.

    Kathleen King on March 18, 2014
  • I try and be organised with my scraps. If I have to cut into a fat quarter, what’s left I make into maybe a 10″ square and a 2.5″ strip. I don’t tend to make charm squares, if it’s smaller than a 10″ square I might slice it into 2.5 or 2 inch strips.. I keep all my "jelly roll strips" together. I bundle all my batiks together, then my darks, mediums and lights, and I clip them with large binder clips. I press all my scraps before cutting and sorting. I have no patience for trying to iron 300 scrap pieces and I just can’t "find" what I need if they’re all messy!!! Small pieces (especially my batiks that I can’t bear to throw away) I keep (again with dark, med, lights separate) I keep for paper piecing. Periodically (maybe once a year) I go through all those little little pieces and throw them out, well I cut them up (using an old blade) into tiny pieces and put them into a scrap bag that goes as an animal bed to the local pet sanctuary. So nothing goes to waste. Even my scrap batting goes into that bag, as do the selvedges.

    —Sandra on March 18, 2014
  • I Love All The Ideas For Organization. Look Forward To Making My Stash More Orderly.

    —Domaris Foss on March 18, 2014
  • I have found patterns that are called "Lumberyard Patterns". These two gals teach classes. They have you cut scraps into lumber sized pieces,
    like 2 X 2 is cut 2 1/2 X 2 1/2 and 4×4 is cut 4 1/2 x 4/12 so are 4×6, 4×8’s etc. always add the seam allowance. then there are Joists which are the triangles etc. There are many patterns that call for these sizes and also save strips 2 1/2 inch width if no time to make the individual pieces. Look at some of your quilts and decide if this method would work for you. I use them all the time in scrappy quilts.

    —Joyce Bruce on May 20, 2014
  • I fold all my material so it is ready to cut, when cutting material for a quilt if I have a piece that is 6 inches wide or less left of the fabric I always cut them to measure of whatever strips I can get out of them. 6 to 1 inches in increments of 1/2 inches example; 6 then 5 1/2, then 5 inches etc. I use zip lock freezer 1 gal. size bags that are marked with the measurement that the bag contains. I fold the strips if necessary to fit in the bag. I push the air out of the bag to keep them flat, and so I will not have to iron them prior to using. When my basket gets fuller, I usually will have a quilt in mind and make it. I am going to make a log cabin out of the 1 inch strips soon. This is very easy to maintain, and control.

    —Linda Uzarski on September 26, 2014
  • I have recently redone my sewing room and during the construction decided that the only thing I could accomplish was cutting and sorting scrap. I don’t keep anything less than a 2 inch square and give all the other stuff to a friend of mine who loves the smaller stuff. Between us we use up everything. I have clear plastic shoe boxes labeled with 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4 and 5 inch squares. I’m trying to decide how to deal with the strips. Probably the same way.

    —Debra on February 18, 2015
  • I don’t always know what pattern I’ll want to do, so I don’t want to be stuck having only 5 1/2″ squares, when I need 6″ squares to make 5″ finished HST squares. Color sorting works best for me, and pieces are kept in clear plastic shoeboxes. Each box has its own color–fat quarters, and anything smaller are pressed, folded and go in the box for that color. I had to sort blues into a light and a dark box, burgundy, reds, and so on. I also have one for Christmas/winter scraps, and one for Halloween/autumn scraps. That’s a lot of shoeboxes, 18, I think.
    Keeping my scraps uncut works best for me because I might want to fussy cut for an "I spy" quilt, charm quilt, or landscape quilt, so I don’t cut anything till I’m ready to cut for the quilt.
    If I cut out of larger pieces like fat quarters, I save the rest for the quilt back, or cut for scrappy binding when I’m ready to.
    I get my inspiration from catalog pictures, or quilt magazines and books, but don’t always use their exact sizes. I figure out their Proportions, and cut my fabric for the new size. I might like a certain pattern, but want a quicker quilt, so I’ll make my blocks larger. Then I’ll need to cut my pieces larger. Or maybe I want to tweak it a bit. I do have a clear "pretzel bin" for small pieces(1 1/5″ square or larger) left from cutting scraps for specific quilts. I see a quilt with crazy blocks in the future! I just want to add, you all have a lot of great tips. Knowing my habits though, color sorting works best for me.

    —Wendy on February 27, 2015
  • I agree that sorting by size is better than color sorting. Because scrap quilts are just that-scraps of a variety of colors. You can always look through for particular colors, but hunting for the different sizes takes a bit longer.

    —Joan on June 27, 2015
  • I have been quilting since the mid 80’s so my stash could be called Scraps are us. But for the pass several years, I have been passing my scraps along to a friend who loves paper piecing and applique. She makes beautiful quilts and if she can’t use all of the scraps, she shares with a friend. Best of all, I no longer feel guilty for discarding a small piece of fabric.
    Recently, I began organizing my fabrics so that I can see most of them by color and size. More than a yard is wrapped on comic book boards and stored in bookcases, less than a yard but more than a fat quarter is folded and put into clear plastic boxes and sorted by color, fat quarters are folded and stored by color in clear boxes as well but in a different set of shelves. Smaller than a fat quarter goes to Elaine who seem to love getting them.

    —norma scammell on August 11, 2015
  • i have lots of fabric and scraps too and mostly keep them in clear plastic boxes with lids, but also some in a ‘tower’ of plastic drawers, for pre-cut shapes such as squares and 2 1/2 inch strips! But I have also been working on three quilts that are ‘quilt block of the month’ projects. I have the scraps from those blocks in plastic sleeves since they are already coordinated fabrics. I cut little pieces of them and glued them to a piece of paper so I would know what the fabrics are. Maybe I could make a scrap quilt or a small project from those scraps too.

    —Nancy S. on November 25, 2015
  • I have been making pre-cuts for many years now. Anytime I wanted to make a log cabin quilt I have had plenty of strips waiting to go. I also pre-cut 2″, 4″ 2×4″ finished squares and rectangles after making a quilt with 16″ blocks all just using those sizes. Since that quilt, I’ve made plenty more as it was easy to do for Project Linus baby quilts. I also have had a quilt top finished for years and need someone to quilt it for me once I decide how I want it quilted and can find someone that is of the same mind as me. I have found those three sizes plus strips can make many quilt blocks and are easy to put together. I battle chronic illness so I don’t get a thrill out of challenging myself to make something hard and demanding. I love scrap quilts and so I am happy to make them and have them look good and useable. And it keeps my sewing room from becoming a stressful place to be in.

    Gailete on February 15, 2016
  • I have my scraps sorted by sizes, in plastic slide out drawers. I cut the largest I can get from each scrap and work my way down. My sizes are: 10″, 5″, 3 1/2″, 2 1/2″, 2″, 1 1/2″, triangles from snowball blocks I make and the smaller bits go into plastic trays for the ends of strip blocks, etc. I don’t sort by color, but I do sort everyday (can include baby/children’s prints), Christmas and batiks. I press the scrap first and then cut, so my scraps are truly ready to go. As its my favorite type of quilt, I use my scraps & even the ‘ugly’ fabrics go into the bins. After 40 years of quilting, I have quite a few scraps and the container that I ‘make’ my scrap precuts from is never empty, so if I feel like doing something ‘mindless’ and reach for that to cut more scraps. As 99% of the quilts I make are given away, I don’t waste fabrics and use these to make those quilts. Works for me!

    —Deb in Oregon on March 10, 2016
  • I am working on cutting my stash into 1 1/2″, 2 1/2″, 3 1/2″, 4 1/2″, 5″, and 6 1/2″ squares. I have a quarter of a ROOM full of fabric, lots of repurposed pieces (clothing), etc, and a big bucket of strings cut for string blocks. I just did a quilt top in Arkansas Crossroads and didn’t have to cut one piece–it all came out of the scrap boxes.

    Mrs. Abella on April 29, 2016
  • I have many pieces of fabric with different fiber content–rayon, single knit, poly/cotton blend,wool, you name it. Any ideas on what to do with these. Love to work with fabric! Sometimes I just go through my stash just to get inspired for projects! I find this site very informative. Keep up the good work!

    —Jeanette D. on May 10, 2016
  • Hi Jeanette — my sister wanted me to make her daughter a quilt. I told them to select 100% cotton quilting fabric. They chose a light upholstery fabric, twill, cotton sateen, and a poly cotton blend. What a nightmare. One fabric had stretch, the others needed a heavy weight needle and would not press. None of them played well together. Plus it was expensive to have quilted due to the fabrics. If you plan to quilt with the variety you list– stay like to like. That will make sewing and washing the finished project easier. If you are making a wall hanging or a decorative free form object you can ignore my advice. Anything goes.

    —Alice on May 25, 2016
  • I inherited four boxes of scraps and pieces — all stripes or plaids. I have separated them into stripes & plaids. However, they are still in a jumble. How should I organize the two types — by color, size of stripe or plaid, size of piece or what other suggestions could you give? They are difficult to use in the current mess. Thanks for any help and suggestions.

    Hi Dorothy, glad you asked! 🙂 This post details a system for organizing scraps. In addition, you can read the comments from Stitch This! readers – they’ve also shared what organization strategies work for them. Hope this helps – have fun with your inheritance! –Jenny

    —Dorothy on November 1, 2016
  • I toss my scraps into a box under my cutting table. For 9 years now. The box has overflowed and no I have place to put my feet. I don’t even want to think about sorting.

    —Beth Patterson on November 18, 2016
  • After reading these comments, it is clear I need containers and two years to get organized. Haha… I moved across country and havdn’t settled into my new "tiny" space (relatively speaking). I was about to get rid of fabric, thinking I had too much (I don’t know what I was thinking!)

    I think I will sort my true small scraps from my fat quarters and half yards first. Then i can decide about those small scraps. Since I love applique, small scraps take on a whole new meaning to me. But first things first.

    I learned to post a sign in my room. SORT FATS FROM HALVES FROM SCRAPS
    so I don’t get sidetracked. I do get sidetracked so easily. I find a piece I haven’t seen in a while and I am off and sewing. Really? Yep, thats how I roll. Creative people know how this goes.

    I also take pictures as I go. This encourages me that I am making progress, or not.

    Postponing my organizing again. I must go..

    —Kathleen Hylton on November 19, 2016
  • Trying to sort out my scraps at the moment but something I do when making snowball or flying geese pieces, I sew an extra line half an inch from the one I need. When the corner is cut off you already have another block. All I have to do now is use all my scraps (and get them stored properly). Love the ideas here am taking them on board. Plan to use some of the pieces I have cut to make fabric boxes for storage.

    —Anne Coldron on January 24, 2017
  • I’ve just used up heaps of 2″ squares that I had saved. Some ladies from my church have been working towards our fete – and one (who doesn’t sew and says she is useless) as spent her afternoons pinning those squares into twos (which I then sewed), then pinning the twos into fours (which I again sewed). Now we have 15 6″ blocks of 16 squares. The next challenge is joining them into a knee-rug quilt. She is extremely proud of her achievement in pinning.

    —Margaret on March 20, 2017
  • who REALLY has the time to corral all of their material? I have been sewing for 67 years and don’t throw anything away. If I spent all the time cutting these strip/squares and making all these sortings I would never get anything made! I am just the old fashioned one who just gets out what I need from my color bin and cut away. I am a charter member of the "He who dies with the most fabric wins club". Maybe in another life I will have the time to change; or not. LOL

    —marty on May 17, 2017
  • While cutting fabric for quilt, I stuff scraps in a Kleenex box for cutting and sorting later. Threads and any unusable pieces get tossed into plastic bags to go for dog/cat beds which a fellow quilter makes using old pillowcases and donates to an organization like SPCA. I cut usable pieces into squares from 1 1/2″ to 4 1/2″,then use binder clips and a push pin tacked to edge of my shelf. I have done the same with small 1 1/2″ strips. Triangles sorted by size go in my mini 3 drawer tower. Larger strips are currently in a boot box pressed and sorted by size but I will eventually transfer to clear plastic spinach containers. Thanks for sharing info about organizing scraps, so helpful.

    —Eugenia on June 16, 2018

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