Scrap Quilts

scrap quilts

A scrap quilt is simply a quilt made with scrap fabrics from other projects. It is generally believed that patchwork was born of necessity and that most quilts were made with leftover fabric from other sewing projects and previous quilts, a craft and an art born of necessity and ingenuity.

There might be a link between times of economic prosperity and the use of scraps for quiltmaking . During times of economic hardship, it is very probable that quilts were indeed made with recycled fabric from other sewing projects. However, seeing quilts made during most periods of quilting, there was also a large number of quilts made from fabric that was obviously purchased for the sole purpose of making a quilt. The scrapbag was more than likely an item that was part of most households, since domestic sewing (not just making bedding, but also clothing and other sewn items for domestic use) yielded scrap fabric that even in good times, would have been too precious to simply discard. Scraps could also be purchased just like today, from catalogs. In the Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogs from the early twentieth century, fabric scrap bundles could be found, with strips and “patches”.

Collecting Scraps

In order to make a scrap quilt, a good collection of scraps is needed. How does one collect scraps? It can be as simple as saving strips and leftovers from other projects, buying small cuts of fabric such as jelly rolls, fat eights or scrap quilts fat quarters, participating in charm or fabric swaps, or checking auction houses online and local buy/sell groups for leftover fabrics. When acquiring scraps, your first job is to sort them, wash them and iron them and to make sure all of them are good enough quality to make scrap quilts. Discard whichever fabrics aren’t cotton, or any cotton that’s too thin or bleeds or shrinks badly after washing. To wash scraps, the simplest way is to just swish them around in a basin of soapy water and air drying them. Be careful when washing dark colored fabric, as it tends to bleed.

Pressing scraps with a cotton setting on your iron will let you know whether they are one hundred percent cotton or a blend. Poly/cotton blends shrink when the iron is too hot for them. Once the scraps are clean and pressed, you will have to figure out an organization method to keep them handy and ready to be cut into patchwork blocks. Organizing a scrap collection is a personal matter. Scraps can be organized by size, by color, in bins or dressers or baskets. The important thing is to make sure they are accessible and ready to cut and sew.

Selecting a Scrap Quilt Pattern

Lots of patchwork patterns can be made with fabric scraps. One patch pattern quilts, such as Pyramid or Tumbling Blocks or Storm at Sea are perfect candidates for scrap quilt making. Small scraps can be pre-cut into shapes for these quilts and stored ready to be sewn as time allows. Strips can be saved for quilts such as Log Cabin and sorted into lights and darks. As long as these strips are all the same width, even very small pieces can be saved and prepared well in advance.

One patch scrap quilts can be made with a large range of fabrics, or keep controlled by reducing the color scheme scrap quilts(warm tones, cool tones, all blues, brights, pastels) or, if the scrap collection is large enough, made into a charm quilt by not repeating any scraps. Some of these quilts can also be “toned down” by using one fabric throughout the quilt, as sashing or lattices, to separate blocks when possible to give a more unified look to the quilt. A Nine Patch quilt can be made with blocks made from scraps and the blocks can be separated by sashings to keep the blocks from getting lost in the overall design

Scrap quilts can also be controlled by keeping a range of colors, even within a color family. If for instance, you are making a blue and yellow scrap quilt, do you want to use any blue or would you rather use dark blues? Pre-select your palette and concentrate on collecting scraps of colors within that palette. Include textures, by changing the size of prints. Once you’ve collected enough scraps to make the blocks, evaluate the fabrics and discard any fabric that might spoil the effect that you want to give the quilt. If you’ve settled on dark blues and yellows, for instance, discard any blues that aren’t blue enough (whether too light or too grayish or too green). Let your instinct guide you.

Using a Design Wall

Useful when working with scraps, a design wall is simply a large piece of batting or flannel in a light neutral color scrap quiltsthat can be pinned or taped to the wall or a sheet of plywood or any other large vertical surface. The design wall allows to preview the placement of scraps within a block or of blocks within a quilt top before sewing them together. Because of the batting or flannel, pieces don’t need to be pinned since they stick to the fibers. It is very handy since it allows the quilter to ‘step back’ and preview what the blocks will look like in the finished quilt and allows changes before patches or blocks are sewn together.  Balance the scrap colors evenly within the quilt, so that the eye travels without concentrating in one area of the quilt. Most of all, enjoy the experience of collecting, sorting, planning and sewing a quilt made from scraps.

For more information on making a quilt click here!

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