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  • I Never Met a Scrap I Didn’t Like

    Well, that’s not entirely true, there are ugly scraps I have discarded albeit with some sense of regret. It is scrap quilting that got me interested in quilting in the first place and there was a time when scraps were all I could afford. My mom sewed clothing (she was not a quilter) and she generated LOTS of scraps. Mind you, most of these were not cotton and my early quilts were made of such inappropriate materials such as robe velour and taffeta; I even put parts of a mink coat into one quilt. Once friends learned I was into quilting the influx of scraps became a torrent.

    Now when I say ‘scraps’ – I mean SCRAPS! most of what I have pulled out of classroom wastepaper baskets is what I would call ‘yardage’, a ‘scrap’ is small enough that you could fit over two dozen of them into a sandwich bag. But what to do with them? If you like applique as I do, there are always opportunities to use even very small pieces in applique work but it seems like no matter how many scraps I pull out of my boxes and baskets, the contents of these containers never seem to diminish, it’s almost like they are breeding in there like some kind of rabbits on fertility drugs.

    Every now and again I threaten to just dump them but can never make myself do it. A couple of months ago, I went to a friend’s studio and found her busily piecing tiny (3″) blocks from her scraps – a center strip with a white strip on either side. She sand the old familiar song of going into her studio that morning fully intent upon tossing these bits of flotsam and jetsam and found that she too, could not bring herself to part with them. Her quilt is several feet in diameter now and keeps growing every time I see it. When asked how large she intends to make it, she shrugs and replies that it will be done when it’s done.

    This was just the push I needed to finally start a serious assault on my own scraps. So… what do you do with scraps that are too narrow to work their way into an on-going Log Cabin scrap quilt?

    Some of my really narrow fabric strips - most narrower than 1 1/2" wide.
    Some of my really narrow fabric strips – most narrower than 1 1/2″ wide.

    You strip piece them of course! Sew them together into parallel rows in whatever lengths they happen to be. Leftover pieces long enough for another block unit can be added onto for further blocks. I settled on a 4″ square as a base size and to make that goal easier, I positioned two pieces of blue tape 4″ apart on the front of my sewing extension table; I can hold my ever widening panel of strips against it to check the progress and check that a strip is long enough to participate as well. The strip pieced panel can be a bit wider than 4″ (it will be trimmed and squared) but it mustn’t be less,

    My 4" tape gauge to check my panel width
    My 4″ tape gauge to check my panel width

    After enough strips are joined, the panel is pressed and then trimmed and squared down with a 4″ square ruler (the blocks will ‘finish’ at 3 1/2″ when sewn together. I don’t concern myself too much about colors and grouping other than a general attempt to not have glaring clashes in color or value, the idea here is just to get rid of most of my scraps.

    A 4" 'squaring' ruler makes trimming the panels into blocks a snap, a larger ruler would work as well but this is easier. Note the longer ends beyond the ruler, these will get incorporated into the next block
    A 4″ ‘squaring’ ruler makes trimming the panels into blocks a snap, a larger ruler would work as well but this is easier. Note the longer ends beyond the ruler, these will get incorporated into the next block

    The trimmed blocks get tossed into a large Zip Loc bag with all the others, sooner or later I will have enough to do something with.

    The blocks are a riot of color - anything goes as long as the strips finish around 1/4" wide. Narrower than that becomes difficult to deal with seam allowances
    The blocks are a riot of color – anything goes as long as the strips finish around 1/4″ wide. Narrower than that becomes difficult to deal with seam allowances

    Like my friend Jane, I have no actual plan or goal for how large a quilt I am aiming for, nor how I am going to lay them out though the image below is one idea.

    Perhaps I will assemble the blocks in alternating directions; or I could alternate with solid colored squares or a different block design
    Perhaps I will assemble the blocks in alternating directions; or I could alternate with solid colored squares or a different block design

    I just want to make a productive dent in these scraps that have weaseled their way into my psyche, I can’t bear to relegate them to a landfill (or even as stuffing for a dog bed though that is where the really ugly ones go as well as those too small for even me to bother with). I have a few such ‘scrap’ projects going and in future posts, I will share some of those other ideas and designs.