Waste not, want not

I do not seem to generate a large amount of scrap fabric. I think I do not have much because I make a lot of small projects and only a few large quilts each year. Also, many of my quilts have small pieces; I find I end up with more scraps when making quilts with large, simple shapes, like my big blue quilt. As a result, all of my scraps fit in four shoebox-sized containers, even though I keep everything.

Scraps for me are the offcuts. I only count fabric as scrap if I have less than about a 10-inch square. Everything else is ‘stash’. When making a scrap quilt, I look for and try to use up the smaller pieces in my stash as well as raiding my scrap boxes.

When making the humidicrib quilts out of my scraps late last year, I discovered how much I enjoyed using scraps and how easy it was to do so when they were in useable shapes. Since then, I have occasionally tipped out my scrap box and cut what I have into the following shapes and sizes:

  • 2½-inch squares
  • 1½-inch squares
  • small half-square triangles.

I start by trying to cut a 2½-inch square. If I cannot get a 2½-inch square, I try to cut one of the smaller pieces. If I cannot cut one of those, the scrap is too small to use and it goes in the bin. (Even I have my limits!)

Fabric scrap pile

From time to time I trim my oddly shaped scraps into useable squares and triangles.

Fabric scrap pile

That pile became this.

I am not very precise when trimming the triangles. I plan to sew them together in pairs and then square them up later.

Now, my entire scrap collection looks like this.

Fabric scrap basket

Scrap fabrics get thrown in here until I have time to sort them. I keep my linen scraps whole.

Fabric scrap pile

Long thin scraps of fabric live in a separate container. When I have enough, I hope to make a spider-web quilt.

Fabric selvedges

I have started keeping selvedges with the idea that one day I will use them to make bags or pincushions.

Fabric scrap pile

Sorted and trimmed scraps live in zip-lock bags until I have enough to make something with them.

Because I can see the last of my Dear Jane blocks getting close, I have even started cutting up the tiny offcuts of my French General fabrics. Until now, I had been saving every piece; in a Dear Jane, no piece of fabric is too miniscule to use. With fewer than a dozen blocks left to cut out, I have sorted through my bag of leftovers and used the little pieces to baste ½-inch hexagons. If a piece of fabric was too small to make a ½-inch hexagon, I threw it away. I cannot believe I was keeping such small crumbs! Seriously! Am I daft!?

I plan to use these little hexagons to make a bag. When I started looking online for bag frames, I stumbled on this pretty bag by Thimble Stitch, which is close to what I plan for my hexagons. Susan of Thimble Stitch even uses similar French General fabrics in her bag. I love how she has fussy cut her hexagons, but as I am making do with my last scraps, I have rarely been able to do that myself.

At a recent quilting retreat, a friend gave me her French General quilt’s offcuts to play with too! I think I need to buy some more hexagon papers.

French General ½-inch hexagons and scrap fabric

I have basted hexagons using my tiny Dear Jane scraps, and a friend kindly gave me some of her French General offcuts so I have more to play with.

Recently I have set myself scrap box challenges, where I gather together a pile of scraps and try to make something with it. I made a knitting bag using up blue scraps and a baby quilt from leftover jelly roll bits. Both were very satisfying!

What do you do with your scraps? Do you keep them or throw them away? What do you define as ‘scrap’? How do you manage your scraps? Do you have a mountain or a molehill of scraps? What have you made using just scrap?


39 thoughts on “Waste not, want not

  1. That’s a very pretty bag, and a great use of tiny pretty scraps. My scraps are beyond out of control. The best I can say is that I make a bundle of the ‘useful’ leftovers from every quilt I make, tied together with selvedge, and I toss the bundle into one of a variety of shoeboxes which used to be colour coded years ago but are now, well, embarrassing. I keep telling myself to do exactly what you do, cut them to standard sizes and sort them. Hasn’t happened yet!

      • I’m very unsettled just now. Perhaps I should go and put a new blade in the rotary cutter, take out a box of scraps, and just DEAL with them. Waiting around could then be spent usefully…

  2. If I can’t cut a 2″ square out of it, in the bin it goes! I have my scraps sorted generally in: 2+2.5″ squares, 2.5″ and any square pieces bigger than 5″/6″). Then there’s the box full of things I’m yet to sort which is about two boxes of scraps stuffed into one. I keep meaning to cut pieces down as i go, but I never do so end up with an overflowing scrap box full of random things I need to sort.

    I’ve not made a scrap project yet, but I generally raid my scraps to make bee blocks with.

    • Before I started this method, I would look in my scrap box for bits for bee blocks or appliqué pieces only to see that what was in there wasn’t quite the right green or whatever. I would then end up back in my stash.

  3. I recently started trimming my scraps into 2.5″ squares and making them into Granny Squares. Someday I’ll have enough to make a quilt, and each square will be a little reminder of a past project.

    • I have a similar but long-neglected granny square project (when I finish Dear Jane …), but my blocks are not from particular quilts. Jo from Riddle and Whimsy makes a cat block using scraps from each quilt as a similar reminder. Granny square or cat, it is a great idea when so much of what we make is given away.

  4. I seem to keep everything. When digging through my scraps I sometimes toss a piece or two that seem too small. I too have done 1/2″ hexies. Your little bag will be darling! Really looking forward to seeing that

  5. I tend to save up my scraps and donate them to various teacher friends. They can use them for crafts with their kids in the classroom, and so I feel good about donating my scrap bin for other crafty purposes!

  6. I only keep small scraps if they are from a fabric that I really love. Otherwise they hit the bit – I”m a bit ruthless like that. If I can’t imagine ever using it again, it’s gone. I do keep anything bigger than about 4 inches square. Thanks for sharing your system though.

    • I think that is the trick: realising what you will use and what you will not and only keeping what you will use and in a form that suits you. No one wants to end up on an episode of Hoarders because they have kept everything just in case!

  7. I’ve acquired lots of scraps – a shoebox for all the rainbow colors, plus black, white, brown, and multi. But I’m not sure what to do with them yet. I have a hard time making scrappy things – I think it’s because I’m too OCD. In the last week, you’re the 4th person to state that you cut your scraps into usable shapes. I think I need to consider doing that.

    • Now I know I can always make them into a bag or a humidicrib quilt, saving my scraps seems less ‘what am I doing?’ and more ‘this will all work out’. It does feel good to make something out of what might otherwise have gone in the bin.

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  9. I can’t believe some of the scraps I have thrown out in the past. I keep all my scraps now, down to 3/8″ hexie size. You just never know when you’ll need them! Your scraps look very inviting, I’m sure they will become a beautiful creation soon.

    • I used to keep all sorts of dressmaking scraps but they never got used.
      Quilting scraps are a lot more versatile, don’t you find? They are always about the same quality cotton; just the colour varies. It is a lot easier to mix and match quilting scraps than it is to use up a strange assortment of wool suit fabrics, summer dress cottons and evening satins!

  10. I have a lot of scraps! I struggle with what’s a scrap and what’s not. I’ve got a box of “bigger than scraps” that I need to sort out. I sort them by colour and am making scrap baskets (using scraps) to keep them all in. I don’t cut them into squares as I also do applique so never know what I might need. Sometimes I throw a small scrap away, another time I’ll consider a scrap that size useable, there’s no rhyme or reason to it!

    • I found whenever I was looking for appliqué bits, what I had in the scrap box was always too small or the wrong colour and I ended up pulling something from my stash. In the end, I gave up and switched to this method.
      I have seen some beautiful scrap baskets. They make me wish I had more scrap to store in them!

      • I like your idea for cutting up scraps as you go. I also use resealable bags but I sort my scraps by colour which is easy for me as I mostly use solids. Then I make things like my blue tablet case, pink sewing case, pin cushions etc. I don’t have many scraps because when the sandwich bag is full they have to be used up ☺

    • Scrap allergy, hey?
      I have ordered a spare frame to practise on while I sew the hexies together. I know I can sew the frames on, I just need to work on getting the right fullness and shape in the bags.

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