Sunday, April 28, 2019

Scrap Storage--What To Save

Quilters generate "scraps" or "leftovers", pieces of fabric that remain after making a quilt project. Some people throw them away, especially if small, so they don't have to deal with little bits.

I save everything--well, maybe not EVERYTHING--but a lot. Making FREE quilts from Leaders/Enders is something I love to do--I have written about that several times: Lifetime Quilt, and Time Management are a couple posts with lots of info.

When it's time to start a new project, this can be daunting:

Where to start? What to make? Looking at this, I'm feeling the need to purge the closets again--this is behind two of the SIX closet doors in my studio, and yes they all look like this.

Since I often make scrap quilts, I  need a way to keep those organized so they can be found and used when needed.

A reader has asked me to discuss how I decide WHAT to save and how I STORE my scraps. So here are a few of my methods:

STRINGS: leftover lengths, no less than 3/4" wide, no more than 2" wide. This large tote bag is close to full--when I teach String Quilts, I bring it and dump it on a table for everyone to share. These are fabrics I don't really care about:

HUNKS: pieces too large to be cut into Strings, these are separated into Less than 2", 2-3", 3-4", 4-5", and more than 5".  These are fabrics I like enough to want to use again. When working on scrap quilts, I start in these boxes to find Hunks to use, all colors are in these boxes, so I sort through them quickly to find those that will work:

This is the 3-3 7/8" box:

These boxes are stored on book shelves, always ready and accessible. The best thing about having big feet is I also have BIG shoeboxes:

STRIPS for Log Cabins, a block I like to make. These are favorite fabrics cut into 1.25" or 1.5" strips, one bag of each size light, one bag of each size dark. When I am ready to make Log Cabin blocks, I decide on the size, grab those bags and start making them. The bags are stored in a small dresser drawer:

1.25" dark and light bags

1.5" dark and light bags
 FAT QUARTERS or almost FQ: these are stored by color and style. The 1800s Civil War repros are stored together--these are blue and green:

 The Contemporary Fat quarters are stored in large Rubbermaid boxes, sorted by color families--these live in the closet on the floor. There are several more of these:

When I pull fabrics for a project, I gather them together and store them in tote bags while I am working on that project. This keeps everything together until the project is complete. Here is a current one I am eager to start:

 All the big tote bags I get from International Quilt Festival shows are ideal for storing big projects in process. This is an ongoing Strings quilt, made with 8 point Lemoyne Stars:

These are the two SIZZLE quilts under construction in 2019:

Every once in a while I dig out old UFOs to get started again, here is one where  I just need to finish the center applique' block--then the piecing can begin. Having handwork at the ready is a good thing:

 LEADER/ENDERS: when I decide on my next Lifetime Quilt, I will cut pieces for it and get started. Now, my fall back Leader/Ender is super simple, 1.5" light and dark squares sewn into 4 patches. Right by my machine, at all times, is a small container of light squares and that green box which has dark squares. Twos become fours, then are trimmed to 2.5" squares, which will be 2" finished someday.  They are stored in that larger plastic tub in the back, it once held fresh spinach:

The most important thing is to decide what kinds of quilts you want to make, what is the smallest size you want to deal with, and how much time you want to spend organizing your scraps.

Bonnie Hunter has written in detail about her Scrap User's System. She cuts all her leftovers into specific sizes, ones she knows she will use, and sorts them by color. I quickly determined this was more organization than I want to do. But it clearly works for her so check it out, it might be perfect for you.

Here are a few quilts I have made just from the fabrics stored in the shoeboxes, not from yardage cut up. I always try to use the leftovers first:

Staying at Grammie's, made for a new Grandma friend

Trash to Treasure Pineapple Blocks

I Wish You a Merry Christmas, given away

A Queen Size Four Patch quilt given away, only the border was yardage

A quilt-along project from Humble Quilts, only the golds were Fat Quarters
Scrappy Trips with piano key borders, given away, 2.5" strips cut from the shoeboxes

So, I do use my "scraps"--good thing, since I have a lifetime supply and make more every day. What do you do with your scraps?

Let's quilt!



  1. Love my scraps and use them all the time. They provide happy “that’s the perfect piece” in my scrappy quilts. Tips from you have helped me find those perfect pieces faster.

  2. Definitely not as organized as you, Barbara, but I do love seeing your methods. I really like making scrap quilts, too, and scraps are the first place I look for inspiration. My little scraps all just go into a large basket on a shelf beneath my cutting table--easy to whisk them all in there after a cutting session. Anything smaller than an eighth yard, but larger than a "scrap" (no specific size designated), goes into baskets sorted by color and resting on a bookshelf in my sewing room. Eighth yard to FQ cuts are in drawers in my sewing room closet, and yardage has its own closet outside my sewing room. This is just the CW fabrics, which is the bulk of my stash. Other styles of fabric are organized, too, but not as extensively.

  3. I kinda use Bonnie's method for some sorting. Mainly when I finish a project all the leftovers that are smaller than a fat quarter get made into scrappy blocks and save for when I need them to make a top. Only problem is when I've made all the blocks, I still have tiny scraps left. Maybe I'll make a mosaic. Thanks for the post - always like to read about this topic. Your scrap quilts are great.

  4. Oh, I do keep scraps. A lot of "almost fat quarters" included. As far as organizing, well, not done. Good rainy day project. All scraps are welcome in m sewing room.