The Great BIG Scrap Discussion – Part 1- What is a fabric scrap?

This post is part of a 4-series of posts dedicated to the topic of fabric scraps.

Find all the posts in this series here.

Find all my scrappy quilts here.


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I’ve been working on this post for weeks, and I’m so very glad to get this out to you today!  It’s my favorite topic!

Many of you who have been around here for a while know that I am completely dedicated to scraps and the scrappy look.  It is my ultimate love when it comes to quilting.

Some of you have been talking to me, telling me your thoughts, your feelings and your definition of what is a fabric scrap.  What I’ve determined is that we are not all on the same page.  Which in some instances is perfectly okay!  In other instances, I’ve noticed a complete change of the meaning of the word.

Let’s jump right in!

The Definition

So if you google what the word “scrap” means, then you’ll be told that it is a piece or small amount of something leftover after the greater portion has been used.

I think we can all agree on that, but let’s put that meaning to fabric.

You buy a half yard fabric cut.  You cut a couple of 2.5″ x width of fabric strips from it.  I think we’d all be in agreement that after that moment, you’d fold your partially used half yard back up and return it to your stash.  It’s not a scrap yet.  But what if you cut everything but 3-4″ x width of fabric?  Is it a scrap now?  YES!



When Does a Scrap become a Scrap

When asked this question the majority of you said that a scrap becomes a scrap when it is less than a fat quarter.  The second place answer was when it was less than 10″ square.  I would also fall into this group.  Less than a fat quarter is a scrap to me and it will go into a scrap basket after I cut from it.

For me personally, I usually buy half yards and only on occasion do I invest in fat quarters.  When my half yard is down to 6″ x width of fabric or less, it goes into my scrap basket.

A scrap of fabric is not a piece of fabric you throw away.  It’s not itty bitty.  I refer to the “throw away” pieces as bits of fabric, they are unusable except as stuffing (we’ll get into that later).  You don’t throw away a scrap.  Scraps are usable.  The smallest scrap I keep is 2.5″, but we’ll get more into sorting in the next part of this series.

There are many quilters who don’t like scrappy quilts and don’t want to work with them.  This is perfectly fine.  Donate them to a quilter who does, sell them in a destash sale, or whatever else you can think of.  Just don’t throw them away.


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When a Scrap is no Longer a Scrap

This part is completely debatable.  There are quilters and sewists who can do magical things with the bits leftover.

As I mentioned above, I personally don’t keep or sort anything smaller than 2.5″.  This is something kinda personal.  You don’t want to keep what you know you won’t use and only you can decide that for yourself.

For forever and ever I’ve just thrown everything smaller than that away.  Here’s what I’m talking about:  all bits of fabric smaller than 2.5″, all selvedges that aren’t pretty, bits of batting, and anything similar.  Since bringing this topic up in my newsletter and Instagram I’ve been enlightened and I’ve learned.  Someone told me about this and I hate to not give them proper credit, but for the life of me can’t remember who it was.  She told me to save them for stuffing.  Hmmmm.

A few weeks ago, I decided to give this idea a try!  I am in the habit of purchasing pillow forms in random sizes for when I make quilty pillows.  I groan every time I need more pillows.  They are expensive and the one’s I can afford are filled with polyfil (not my favorite).  It’s never dawned on me to create my own.

I cut two pieces of muslin at 18.5″ square.  Sewed them together leaving a space for turning and then turned them inside out, pushing the corners out.  All my unusable bits of fabric are now going into this casing.  When it’s full I’ll stitch the hole closed and voila!  A pillow form is made!  I could do this with any size.

Truth be told, it feels kinda like a palm to face moment.  How did I never think of this?  And I consider myself dedicated?!

The pillow form is not going to be spongy like the polyfil, but I don’t even like spongy to be honest.  The pillow form is heavy from all my leftover fabrics and a bit lumpy, but still, I cannot wait to get it filled and then get to making myself a new quilty pillow.  I’ll show you as soon as I do!


We are all entitled to our opinions and I loving finding out yours (even when they are different from mine).  The sharing of thoughts and ideas can only make each of us grow.  So please feel free to express yourself in the comments below.  Perhaps you have something similar to the pillow form idea.  I’d love to know!


The Great BIG Scrap Discussion


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  1. A scrap to me is something between 4″ x 5″ or smaller. The reason is that we mainly buy fat quarters, as they already cost us a fortune, i.e. € 5,- at the least. Quilt fabric is about € 20,- – € 22,- per meter, so we definitely think differently about the term SCRAP! 😉

    1. Ahh! I’m not sure what the transfer rate is, but I’m usually paying about $10-12 a yard. Still, I save all my scraps and they go back into my quilts.

  2. Wow, great idea about the pillow form. I had not even thought of that! I do take my batting scraps to our Birmingham Quilters Guild and a lady takes them to make bedding for the humane society. I have a lot of tinier scraps, but usually throw away anything less than a couple of inches. I think now I’ll only save those 3-4 inches or larger. Looking forward to the next part of this series! =)

  3. I have a friend who loves to take all my leftover bits, no matter how small. She sews them into pot holders and mug rugs and gives them to friends and family. They are random and colorful, and always a hit!

  4. My itty bitties go into a kitchen trash bag that is clipped to the side of my cutting table. When full I give the bag to a lady that makes dog and cat beds for the local animal shelter.

  5. ooooh the great scrap debacle! I’m a bit insane here, but here’s how I handle mine. I fold in any leftover scraps/pieces when I’m finished cutting with the larger piece of fabric- so I’m left with a little bundle of the same fabric, including pieces/different sizes. When I choose fabric for a quilt, I am very slow and deliberate… kind of a pain to be honest. But keeping the scrappy pieces with the larger pieces allows me to use all the pieces of that particular fabric up before cutting into the larger piece. If all that is left over is in fact a “scrap” (nothing smaller than 2″ long x 1″ wide) I throw it in a bin with others in this category.
    I LOVE reading how everyone manages this never-ending challenge to sewing! 🙂

  6. Fun to see what some people think of as a scrap! OK, the shops sell mini charms that are 2.5″ square, so I can’t see pitching something that is that size or larger!! I save everything 1.5″ square or larger. I like Bonnie Hunter’s scrap system and kinda use it. Many of Bonnie’s quilts use 4P that finish at 2″, so I will use my little squares as a leader/ender project and before I know it I have another project finished. Throw-away scraps are being saved to stuff dog beds for the local dog shelter.

  7. Hi, I am interested in reading all 4 parts to your What is a scrap? series but the links to the other parts seem to be broken and a seach can’t retrieve them. thanks

  8. Hi Melanie,
    Have you tried putting batting on the top and bottom of your fabric before sewing into your pillow form. This may help ease some of the lumpiness of your pillow after it’s filled.

  9. I just stumbled in here… reading about scraps and other stuff on pinterest.
    I know this is an olden blog entry but I thought I would mention my big bright idea 😛
    I throw away anything stringy and thin. I have a bag next to my trimmings bin (trash) and I put any thing tiny that I do not want, corners of cut triangles and just bits I know I can not use, these are probably the same things you are throwing into the pillow form. I save these bits for the grand girls, or the local high school?
    Sometimes the school likes the bag of bits.
    Sometimes the grand kids make colorful pictures, or even quilts.

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