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Scraps with purpose

I think anybody who buys a lot of fabric ends up with a lot of scraps.  Anyone who cuts into there fat quarters and half yards knows what I’m talking about.  There are these pieces that end up leftover, not big enough to go back into where you keep your stash, but not small enough to trash either.

So you keep it.

Maybe you have yours sorted by color or designer, maybe by cut or size, but no matter how you organize it grows and grows every time you cut into your stash.

We call these scraps.

I had a VERY interesting conversation about scraps the other day and found that MANY people will throw all their scraps into a basket and then when the basket is full, they will spend a day cutting them all up into different sizes.  Then, they will sort them into where they go.

I like that idea if you don’t mind spending a day cutting and sorting all at once, but it doesn’t work for me.

All methods have their pros and cons.  You just have to find a way to store your scraps that works best for you needs.

Here is mine:

I have two different ways I store scraps:  strips (commonly known as strings) and squares.


I don’t put anything back in my stash that is narrower than 6″.  So if I have a piece of fabric that is 5″xWOF, then that pieces goes in my strip baskets.  Same as if it was 2″x 8″.  Strip baskets.

My strip baskets are sorted by colors.  I have about ten different baskets.  And they are all lined up lovingly under shelving.  This is my favorite way to make scrap quilts is to pull from my strip baskets.

However, these baskets tend to stay full even after I’ve raided them for a quilt.  It’s as if they have no bottom.


This is the other way that I store scraps, and since I’ve been doing scraps this way I have saved quite a bit of time on certain types of quilts.

My square scraps are organized into plastic shoe boxes and sorted by size.  Each box holds 2 different sizes and I have them separated with a piece of cardboard I’ve taped down in the middle.  So I have a box for 2 and 2.5″, a box for 3 and 3.5″ and so on all the way up to 7″ squares.

7″ squares seems like an odd size to have, but if I’m making HSTs and I want them to finish at 6.5″ then I need 7″ squares to do that.  I use these a lot, so they work for me.

Where do these squares come from?

Let’s say that a quilt pattern asks me to cut a 4″ x WOF strip and then to subcut that strip into five squares.  That WOF strip will give me ten squares, but I only need five, so I take those five squares and put it in these plastic shoe boxes.

That is where ALL the squares come from.

My shoe boxes line the very top of my shelving.

Both of my storage methods work well for me.  I tend to use the strips more and I tend to have more of them.

The pros for the strip storage method:  

they are all different sizes, so I usually can find what I need in a basket.

sorting them by color means I can just grab a basket, dump it out and start cutting.

its easy to store.  When I have a leftover rectangle and it is yellow, I simply toss it into the yellow strip basket.

Cons for the strip storage method:

they are not ready to use, I have to cut them when I need them.

they usually need ironing before I can cut because I just tossed them in

Pros for the square storage method:

whatever size I need, they are ready to start piecing with

particularly when making HSTs or patchwork quilts, I just pull and go

Cons for the square storage method:

because they are cut down to size, I’m limited to what I can use them for

because I have many different sizes in many boxes, I can’t color coordinate them (that would require more boxes and there is not room for that)

and the above means that I have to sort through them to find the colors I’m looking for.

When a box is full

When a basket or a box is full it’s time to use them.  They pile and pile up, but what are you saving them for if you are not going to use them to make a quilt.

And scrap quilts are the BEEEEEST quilts!

This week I pulled my 3.5″ squares.

I actually used yardage for the background because I have a whole bolt of the girls on bicycles fabric and needed to use it.

I made the easy peasy 16-patch square.

What makes this so easy is that there is no need to lay out your blocks.  You just chain piece, chain piece, chain piece.

and Voila!  Just like that.


To make a quilt just like mine:

From your scraps you will need (200) 3.5″ squares in prints / colored fabrics.

From you background fabric cut (17) 3.5″ x WOF strips.  Subcut each strip into (12) 3.5″ squares. (you will have 4 extra squares.  Just pull those and toss into your scrap box.)

  1. Now just start chain piecing each print to a background fabric until all of them are paired up.
  2. You should end up with 200 pairs.  Separate these into two groups and go to your ironing board.
  3. Press the first groups seams to the right.  Press the second groups seams to the left.  This way you will have nesting seams, which is very important for having a beautiful patchwork quilt.
  4. Now, back in front of your machine, sew each right pressed seam to a left pressed seam, top to bottom, making a 4-patch.  Chain stitch all of them.  Be sure you alternating, you will never have two prints touching nor two background touching.
  5. Now take them all back to your ironing board and press all the little 4-patch seams open.
  6. And then back to your machine, sew each 4-patch to another 4-patch, left to right.  Chain stitch all of them.
  7. At the ironing board, separate your 8-patches into two groups.  One group press to the right of the seam, and the other group press to the left.  Again, this is for nesting purposes.
  8. For the last step I used pins on all the seams that should now nest, just to secure them into place.  Then chain pieces them again, one from each stack, top to bottom.
  9. lastly, press the seam open.

You should now have (25) 16-patches.

I laid mine out in 5 rows of 5.  This will end up with a 60×60″ lap quilt.

If you have any tips on scrap storage or other easy grab and go from your scraps quilts to make, please pass them along.


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