Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Confessions of a scrap hoarder

I have never been a fan of the various scrap management systems that you see out there.  I always thought it was wasteful to cut my scraps into predetermined sizes - because what if I cut 3", and I pick at a pattern than needs 4" blocks.  Or 2" - those I could cut down from the 3" blocks, but then there'd be that 1" waste.  It just seemed more conservative to keep the scraps whatever size they end up, and wait to cut them until I need them.  So every time I made a quilt, all the bits smaller than about 6 inches got mushed up and crammed into one of my scrap bins.

Then, I started making my scrappy pineapple. And I was digging my way through all my scrap bins, trying to figure out what I have, which pieces are big enough to bother using, and having to iron and cut all of them to prep for my blocks.  What a pain. And what a mess, as I dug through all those bins.

What I realized earlier last week is that I may be saving some fabric by not cutting my scraps, but in fact I don't know what I'm saving it for because I never make scrap quilts. And the reason is not so much that I don't like them, or don't want to make them. It's because I dread trying to dig through all my bins, pulling out scraps, ironing, and then finding out that I don't have enough of the colour I need anyway. So it's much easier to just grab a bunch of fat quarters (or buy more) to fill the 'scrappy' requirements.

So, as I was sorting through to find bits for my pineapples, I decided that I needed to sort things out.  I figured 2.5" strips is the most common size I use. And if I buy myself an "easy angle" ruler, I can use 2.5" strips for half-square triangles too, so they become even more useful.

Based on that logic, I then decided that 5" strips make sense. They are big enough that I can later cut them down for 4" or 3" or whatever I need. Or cut in half for two 2.5" strips.   So, I decided to cut my scraps into those 2 sizes.

And then, I realized that I'm left with a lot of still rather large pieces - so I cut 2" strips where I could. And the final step was 1.5" squares. I have a bin of these already, for a vaguely planned watercolour quilt - so anything without a larger use was going to get cut down to this size for that future plan.

I briefly considered 1" strips, for a (dream) of an ohmigosh quilt one day, but that's mostly a pipe dream, so I decided not to deal with those tiny little bits at this point.

At this point, I have cleaned out 4 drawers of crammed in scraps, and reduced them to these 3 tidy drawers of strips, plus my 1.5" bin of squares (which is now full, and will have to be relocated).  Lots of room left in these bins, now that the fabric is all cut and folded neatly in strips.  And lots more scraps to tackle. So far I've done my blue, brown, orange and some purple scraps. But I have big rubbermaid containers and at least 3 bags of more colours waiting for my attention.

I think I'm going to be happy with the end result - I guess the truth will be in whether I make a scrappy quilt in the near future :)


  1. I shared your mentality for a long time and now have two huge Rubermaid tubs full of scraps. Even when I need a certain color/value or decide to organize a bit, it seems digging through the box only makes the pile look bigger. I, too, decided that 5" was a reasonable size to cut for the same reasons you mention -- easily divided into smaller, frequently used sizes.

  2. I admire you taking the step to organize your scraps. I still can't cut them unless I know exactly what I need. However they are sorted by color and stacked neatly in bins. Not as tidy as yours but...I can't cut!

  3. You hit that nail right on the head. You have to figure out what works for you and cut to that plan. Congrats! I have long planned to make a tumbler quilt so will be scrap busting when I cut those out. I am sure it will help me get to where I need to be with the scraps that don't work in that project as well.

  4. You will be amazed at how much time you save on your next scrap quilt. My first attempt at one of Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilts stalled out because I spent too much time trying to get my scraps organized.

  5. I too feel your frustration so a couple months ago I went through ALL the bins,boxes, plastic boxes, shoe boxes, etc of scraps and separated them by color and bought almost a dozen plastic shoe boxes at the dollar store to keep them in. I have them stacked on my sewing table and it is awesome to have the colors at arms length to pick from. Especially nice when doing the rainbow scrap quilts. The widths are 2" and that way I can cut 1.5" or 1". I have another box just of 2.5" strips all colors. You must have some system that works!