Simple tip for improving scrappy-quilt colors

Posted by on May 5, 2014, in quilting & sewing, ,

Outside, Mother Nature is going bold with vibrant patches of color. Which leaves us in the mood to do the same at the sewing machine by making scrappy, colorful quilts.

But what if you’re unsure how to translate that gorgeous scrap quilt in your head into reality? Picking fabrics you love is a great place to start, but even that excellent advice won’t take you all the way. That’s because picking fabrics for a scrappy, colorful quilt can be tricky. Throw together whatever scraps you have on hand, and the resulting patchwork might be magical—or a muddled mess.

Luckily, there’s a simple trick to making diverse fabrics work well together. And Heather and Elissa Willms are happy to share it with you.


Scrappy blue and yellow quilt from Double Take

Scrappy quilt colors: when more is better

When choosing fabrics for a scrappy-looking project, often the more colors and prints you include, the more you can get away with. If a color or print doesn’t coordinate with the 3 or 4 fabrics you’re working with, it will be noticed. If that same fabric is combined with 20 other fabrics, it will tend to blend a little more.

From Double Take: Quilts with That Hopscotch Twist
by Heather Willms and Elissa Willms


How easy! When it comes to scrappy quilts, nothing succeeds like excess.

In that spirit of exuberance, today we’re celebrating quilters who inspire us with scrappy, colorful quilts.

Ideas for colorful quilts: bright or country?

Quiltmaker Heather Willms loves muted colors, and daughter Elissa prefers cheerful brights. You get to enjoy both approaches in Double Take, a collection of 16 quilts, tote bags, place mats, and more.

Scrappy star quilt from Double Take
Get inspired by more patterns from Double Take here.

Ideas for colorful quilts: inspired by Bali

Discover the beauty of Bali—translated into stunning quilts! In SuperStrata Quilts, you’ll learn how to create richly complex designs from simple strip sets.
Blue scrappy quilt from SuperStrata Quilts
Get inspired by more patterns from SuperStrata Quilts here.

Ideas for colorful quilts: make it simple

“Fast, fun, and easy.” That’s what you get with every one of the quick patterns inside Sew Fun, So Colorful Quilts.

Blue and green scrappy quilt from Sew Fun So Colorful Quilts
Get inspired by more patterns from Sew Fun, So Colorful Quilts here.


How do you like your scrappy quilts: planned or unplanned? Let us know in the comments!


19 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I don’t plan my scrappy quilts , I just make them so the colors "like" the ones beside them. I won’t use the same pieces of fabric that are the same pattern and color next to each other.

    Vel Peters on May 5, 2014
  • I agree with the "more is more" solution for scrappy quilts. I have over 40 fabrics pulled for a stars scrappy currently on my cutting table. Started with teals then a few got more green, then a few brighter blue/teal, tans and creams for backgrounds. Needed a little pop so 5 or 6 orange fabrics scattered here and there will be just right. Now am cutting and sewing.

    —Mary Dahlberg on May 5, 2014
  • I, too, like to just have lots of patterns and colors to pick from and go for it. Some are light, some medium, and some from the dark. Never two like patterns together and I try to not put two pieces together that were already matched, but that can get tricky! By nature I want to audition pieces to death and the scrappy look takes on a not so scrappy look! Scrappy is good when I just don’t want to think!

    —Paula on May 5, 2014
  • Love the string quilt variation in Sew Fun, So Colorful Quilts!
    My scrappy quilts are half-planned: whatever scraps go together in a 2- or 3-color scheme (prints can count as more than one color, too).

    —Lynne on May 5, 2014
  • Definitely unplanned, otherwise it doesn’t seem like a true scrap quilt. One of my favorite quilts is made with 1.5-inch squares, chosen randomly, sewn into 4-patches, with alternating squares of a tiny blue & purple floral, all on point.

    —Jill Ellis on May 5, 2014
  • Planned scrappy.

    —Quilting Tangent on May 5, 2014
  • I plan my scrappy quilts, but ALWAYS incorporate leftovers from other quilts, old shirts and dresses, etc.

    —Jane on May 5, 2014
  • I’m totally a planned scrappy. No way could I just pull and sew *shudder* God bless those who can, I envy you!!

    —Karyn on May 5, 2014
  • Used to be ‘planned scrappy’ but since doing several Bonnie Hunter mystery quilts as well as some others, now the more fabrics the better!! My last one has well over 100 different fabrics in it. Next one maybe 200 fabrics?

    —Cindy on May 5, 2014
  • I try to plan my scrappy quilts. Often based on what I would like to use up.

    —Linda Christianson on May 5, 2014
  • I like them unplanned, but with a bit of control over the colors. Not EVERY color in one quilt. I have a stash that will outlive my granddaughter, probably, and I’m trying not to buy new fabric!

    —Dot on May 5, 2014
  • I’d say that I like planned chaos in my quilts. For me, that means separating my fabrics into light, medium and dark of each colour and then picking from the piles at random. I’m usually making a block where I need light and dark for certain areas and I like to use the medium range (because I have so much of it in my stash) as either light or dark depending on the other fabrics in that block.
    I have also learned that those fabrics that look a bit whacky on the table in that pile, should never be discarded. Those whacky fabrics are usually the ones that add a sparkle or a depth to the scrap quilt.

    —Kayt Deans on May 5, 2014
  • I never used to do scrappy–always had to be planned coordinated fabric, but once I tried scrappy, I was hooked. Many of our Quilts of Valor are made from yardage, but then we have left-overs which we use in scrappy quilts!

    Barbara Winkler on May 6, 2014
  • It is planned chaos for me. Going from dark to light and back again. Letting the random choice in the ranges move me. This sends me in directions that I would never concider on my own. I think that the quilting fairies help in the random choices.

    —Tina on May 6, 2014
  • I pile up the smaller bits, then a stack of bigger pieces. then pick something that will unify it all. then pray I don’t run out!

    Debi C on May 9, 2014
  • I do not plan my scrappy quilts. And I make lots of them. I just cut the fabric that I have in my scrap basket and sew them together. My family loves them better than my planned fabric quilts.

    —Renea on May 9, 2014
  • I like scrappy with some control as to placement. I made a 1000 Pyramids quilt using true scraps from other projects and kept the lights and darks separated, but threw some mediums in to add interest. Arranging the triangle units so like fabrics didn’t touch took awhile, but was totally worth it/

    —Linda Towers on May 10, 2014
  • A little of both. I plan the main colors, maybe a spring theme, then try not to worry about the rest. A little odd piece here and there adds to the charm.

    —Sue on May 11, 2014
  • When the former friend left scraps in place of stolen yardage; I had no other choice than to make scrap quilts. I did, however creative one I call 2X4 = 8. It consists of a 2.5 inch X 4.5 inch rectangle and a 4.5 inch square sewn together. One side is rectangle on square, repeat, and on connecting blocks are squares over rectangles. 2 pieces with 4 pieces, rotated to 8 pieces, thus the name 2X4=8. I do, make sure, any design in the fabrics are all upright and no same color is side by side. For the most part, my scrap quilts are not planned.

    My favorite scrap quilts are String Quilts, and I’m currently working on Bonnie Hunter’s Sante Fe pattern, which has no rhymne or reason in fabric selections.

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on May 12, 2014

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