Let's Talk Scraps

I gave a presentation to my guild over the weekend about scraps and how to use them.  I think I was originally scheduled to present in March or April, but we all know how 2020 has gone.  Anyway, I did a ton of research and had checked books out of the library back in March that I intended to use in my presentation. Of course they finally sent me messages saying I needed to return the books about a week before our meeting.  After all that time!

So, first we need to consider just what is a scrap.  I think the definition or concept varies from person to person.  Some people consider fat quarters to be scrap-size.  Some people say it's what's left over after you complete a project.  Some say it's only the tiniest little bits.  I have always saved the majority of my trimmings and leftovers.  For years I would fold them into whatever fabric was left after cutting.  I always stored my fabrics by color(s) in Rubbermaid totes because for a long time we moved A LOT.  

It wasn't the greatest system.  While it's very convenient for moving, keeping fabric in deep bins makes it really hard to see what you actually have.  Plus, whenever I'd go digging, all those little trimmings would fall out and make a mess.  Things needed to change.

During my research, I found there are basically two camps for saving scraps.

  1. Cut into certain sizes/shapes, with all colors mixed. 
  2. Sort by color, no size restrictions, no cutting.

I suppose you could add a third option:  don't use the scraps at all.  Find someone who would like them and give them away.

Lori Holt, Bonnie Hunter (Scrap Users system), and Joan Ford (Scrap Therapy) all have methods of sorting based on various sizes.  Amanda Jean Nyberg/Crazy Mom Quilts sorts by color with no cutting. (See linked handout at the bottom of the post for more information.)  All of them have books full of projects that use scraps.

Once you've decided on a method, take the time to get the scraps under control.  If you feel overwhelmed with attempting it all at once, set your timer and work for 15 minutes a day, or 15 minutes a week.  When social distancing is a thing of the past, invite a quilty friend over to help, or at least keep you company while you sort.

I decided to go with the sort by color method. You might have seen the pictures of my newly installed closet shelving over the past few weeks.  I decided to go with short, clear bins for fabric storage.  I refolded and resorted just about every bit of quilting fabric I own.  As I was refolding and sorting, I threw all the smaller cuts and things under 6" into one giant tote.  After the shelving was installed and I was able to put the new bins away I started the giant task of sorting all the scraps into baskets by color.  Some colors I grouped, for example, yellow, orange, and red all fit in one basket.  Blues and aquas had to get separated into two baskets due to how much there was. Here are my pink/purple and white baskets mid-project.
What types of projects can you make with scraps?  The possibilities are endless. Here are some I've made. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to download a free PDF filled with links to lots of great scrap projects.

Start small--make pincushions from tiny scraps.

There are a lot of different string quilt-type projects you can make with scraps.  This is a string star block I made using scraps I won in a giveaway. The remaining scraps are shown in the plastic bag. 
Use 2.5" squares to make really fun rainbow projects.  Trade with friends to get more variety in your stash. Here are some I purchased to get more variety in my scraps.  I'm planning to make blocks of colors alternating with white squares in a rainbow array.
Consider all the bonus half-square triangles you get when quilting. These are some I made while working on a recent project.  Just imagine the possibilities for these.
I made a baby quilt.
This 10.5" block is made with the bonus HST.  Imagine how much you would throw away on a larger quilt.
You can save your selvedges and knit a rug.  Obviously I haven't started yet, but hope to soon.
You can go super crazy tiny and make a Sew Tiny Sampler.  This measures 7.5"!!  While I struggled with lining up my sashing I still enjoyed the challenge of making something so small.  Tip--use fabrics with tiny prints.  I used a batik that didn't look as pretty in minuscule scale as it did when it was a big piece.
The bottom line is, find a system that works for you.  If you don't want to use your scraps, then don't. Find what works for you.  Quilting should be fun!  View scraps as opportunities to stretch your creativity. 

Grab the free PDF download with links to lots of projects.

Linking with For the love of geese and My Quilt Infatuation.


  1. Thank you for this interesting post. I use the tiniest scraps, and I'm always in need of new things to make with them. I'll study the link you gave here.

  2. Great post. Scraps were my friends when I was appliqueing all the time, not they are just a mystery. Thank you for linking up to Put your foot down last week.