February 13, 2009

Quilting: Organize Your Fabric Scraps

Once you begin quilting and collecting fabric, I'm willing to bet you're going to

a) build up quite a stash,
b) not use all of the fabric you buy, and
c) make a mess of scraps

(Like me.)

When you trim fabric into strips, blocks, triangles, or to a pattern, you will often have a piece of scrap or "trim" left over. Before you can think of organizing these scrap pieces you must first set a minimum size for the scraps you are willing to keep. Compost or recycle scraps that are smaller than your minimum size. *NOTE* Quilt binding requires strips that are approx. 2.5" wide, so keep this in mind when trimming your scraps.

Once you have your minimum size in mind, it's time to sort.

You can make your scraps easier to use by cutting them into bigger sizes (8"x8" squares and 6"x6" squares, for example) and storing them by size. Then you can trim those squares down or use them as-is. The problem with this method is that you may end up needing what you trimmed off of a scrap to turn it into a scrap square in the first place. But these would be incredibly tidy to keep.

Sorting by color, for me, is the easiest way to plan. I quilt by color, so for me - when I need a piece and am looking for a scrap, I look by color and then trim the smallest scrap I find to fit what I need.

One way to sort by color is to use shoe boxes or clear plastic storage boxes. How many boxes you use entirely depends on your opposition to digging through scraps and on your amount of space.

Here are some other ideas from quilters at Quilt.com:

  • I am the great moocher of the guild here; members bring me bags of scraps they don't want to keep track of but hate to throw away. I also check trash cans after quilting classes have been held at my local shop. It's amazing what some people throw away!

  • I keep pieces if they are larger than 1 square inch (approximately). What I DO WITH THEM is foundation pieced miniature blocks. Also, I use the scraps for applique: berries, small leaves, petals of multi-colored flowers, etc.

  • I have mine sorted by color, stored in zip-lok bags, in a box on my sewing room shelves. I have been thinking about putting them into the bureau drawers in which similar-colored fabrics (larger pieces) are stored. That way, I might THINK to use them in situations where I might otherwise cut a small chunk off of a yard-size piece.

  • I usually throw chunks into a laundry basket under my cutting table, then on a day that I need to play with fabrics but not think, I cut them into 1.5, 2, 3, etc. inch squares. I have been putting them into a clear plastic shoebox. I use them for watercolor quilts, and my favorite -- nine patches. I once bought the tool (Scrap Saver???) but usually use my favorite Omnigrids and just sit, slice and watch TV. I save the strips too. Can't bear to throw much out, but I will discard less than one inch.

  • I force myself to throw scraps less than about 6" square away, otherwise they would take over my house, my life and endanger important relationships. Sometimes I gather up a bag to give to a friend who makes string pieced potholders to sell.

I keep anything more than a 2" square. I don't make log cabin quilts (yet) and don't have a need for scrappy strips yet, so I'm not going to use up my space on strips more narrow than 2". I keep my scraps with my regular stash. If I have scrappy pieces of a fabric that I also have a big piece of, I fold those scraps and keep them right on top of my bigger pieces. That way when I want a particular fabric and I pull it out, the scraps fall on my feet and I remember that I don't have to cut into my big piece.

My method isn't ideal and it won't work if my collection continues to grow. I may need to sort using clear boxes or something.

Loving what True Up is doing here, but I would want it behind doors:

Happy to hear comments on this or hear your storage solutions.


1 comment:

  1. We have matching clear boxes! I cut all of my scraps up after a project and put them into the boxes. Difference is: I have a 3x5 card standing in the front edge of the box telling me what size blocks are inside.

    I don't sort by color tho, except within the box.