Tips - Scrap Sew Along Week Two

This week we're talking about how to use those scraps you've saved.

A lot of times it can be overwhelming on where to start, especially if you're worried about the fabrics not working together or the prints being too busy.

Here's my favorite piece of advice: just start!

[ID: Shia Labeouf on a green screen with the text "don't let your dreams be dreams. just do it!"]

I like to think of each quilt as a learning experience. 
Some times I learn about new techniques, sometimes I learn that blue is actually three different colours, sometimes I learn better ways to press.... there's always something to learn!

[Image Info: a log cabin quilt top made all from teal scraps on a Janome long arm]

Here are some places to start for scrap quilts:
First up - planning!

If you don't want to jump in right away, I suggest searching Pinterest or Instagram for scrappy quilts you are drawn to.  Save a bunch so you can find them easily, all together.
Take a look at them - what is the main thing that draws them to you? 
- are they all one colour?
- do they have similar sized prints?
- are they made from a single fabric designer?
- do they use a certain size of fabric?
- if you're unsure of those, then is there some set of "rules" you can discern?

Now pick one as your jumping off point!
You can downsize it to a baby quilt, wall hanging, or even a hot pad, just to get a feel for how scraps act.  I made so many hot pads when I first started working with scraps! 
I suggest picking something that matches your scrap situation best - then start looking for patterns that will compliment it.
Keep in mind that you can use yardage as a background and keep your scraps as the focus!  

[Image Info: a baby quilt made of yellow triangles on a grey background. Pattern is "Minimal Triangles" by Suzy Quilts]

If you learn by doing, like me, then here's my first suggestion and what helped me the most in my scrap journey:
Start with a one colour quilt.
When you're feeling more confident, move on to a two colour.  Then three!

[Image Info: modern quilt with pink bear paw blocks on a black background hanging from a curtain rod on a grey wall. Pattern is "Hundred Acre Scrap" by Hillside Stitches]

There are lots of things besides just "colour" in scrap quilts.

Let's talk about about - prints.

I've found that I prefer to use small & medium prints in my quilts because I know that eventually they be cut down to 1 1/2" or 2 1/2" pieces.  
Large scale prints are beautiful but they can easily get lost in small scrap tops.

Go back to those tops you saved.  Take a closer look - are they covered in tiny prints?  Is there some variety in the fabric?  What is it that you like about this in particular? 

I have found it's most visually pleasing to have a mixture of small, medium & near solids.  I do throw in some large prints occasionally, but they're are typically saved for backings as often as possible.

[Image Info: a scrap quilt tossed over a stone wall. the quilt features lots of pink and black pluses on various white prints. Pattern is "the Comfort Quilt" by Amy Ellis of Amy's Creative Side]

In the Comfort Quilt I made (pictured above) I used large scale prints in the large areas, medium prints in the bigger pluses and in the larger spaces, and small prints for all the small pluses, and near solids for the background.

Near solids are a fun addition because they add a little pizzazz without being overwhelming.  They can be tone on tone, grey on white, or have tiny prints that are hard to see from farther away.

It's important to make sure your prints fit the place you're trying to piece them into.

For example: if I were to remake this quilt, I would not either of the text fabrics for two different reasons:
the small text in the black/purple flying goose does not fit well colour wise.  From farther away it will be harder to differentiate the black words from the black print it is touching.
The text underneath is too large a scale for the small space.  It was originally a wide back print (so upsized) with a ton of different colour words on it.  

Let's go back a bit - colour

I briefly spoke about colour - but there's so much to it. I actually took an 8 week course on colour in college and it was one of my favorite classes!  
I also have been out of school for 14 years and have forgotten most of what we learned, so don't feel like you need to go enroll in anything 😉

There's plenty of free places to learn the basics out there, and plenty that are quilt related as well!
But I learn by doing, which is why I suggest starting with one or two colour quilts.

You can play around with value & tone, get a feel for what you like, and also play with the scale of your prints all at the same time then!!

Let's use blue as an example.
There's light blue, aqua, teal, medium/bright blue, and dark blue.
Is teal a green or a blue?  Does aqua count as teal?  I think it depends on the designer.  And your eyes!

[Image Info: a small boy points plays I-Spy in front of a quilt made of blue squares & white rectangles. Pattern is "Charming Frames" by Hillside Stitches]

Here's one that is all of my blues - it works because the white background breaks up the prints & gives your eyes a place to rest. 
I'm not forcing all the colours together & I have a variety of size prints in there, too.
There's teal, navy, aqua, and bright all on display together.

[Image Info: a log cabin quilts made of light blue and aqua scrap fabrics is tacked to a grey wall]

But when I tried to do all those blues again together in a wonky log cabin quilt, I didn't like it. There was too much going on.
So I took my seam ripper to the multi-blue blocks I made & separated them in to "light, teal, dark" and made a quilt from each pile.

Above is the light blue quilt.  I snagged some medium blue & some teal prints for this one - and that works because
- some of the light fabrics had those colours in their prints
- there's just a few of them (I didn't over do it)
- I spaced them out

It's important to space things out in scrap quilts.  If you've got three or four prints that you're not sure of - use them, then space them out.
If you repeat something it won't stick out as much as just one would.  Your eye finds the similar & calls it good.

[Image Info: a teal log cabin quilt made of all scraps is displayed on a grey wall next to some teal books & toys, next to a Laura Gunn landscape canvas]

Here's my all teal version of the log cabin scrap quilt.
Notice how there's a few red prints?  They're spread out so your eye doesn't get snagged one spot that isn't quite the same.
There's still a variety of teals (and some light blue!) and a variety of prints.
But it's a cohesively scrappy quilt because I stuck with a set of rules I set for myself.
In this case, the rules were "teal".
It can be as simple as that!

Make up your own rules.  
Try things out!  Have fun.

Remember that these are scraps - that means they're left over!  So try not to stress too much & just see what you can do with them.

Below are going to be some of my scrap quilts with a brief description of what my "rules" were for each.

[Image Info: a "trip around the world" quilt in teal and coral. The "chain" that connects each block together is the same teal print, and each block is alternated diagonally with coral & teal fabrics]

[Image Info: a log cabin quilt on a grey wall. Pattern is "room and board" by Thimbleblossoms. Each log cabin is half white background with two bonnie & camille prints alternating in the other half.]

[Image Info: pink and black triangle quilt with a grey background. most triangles have a matchbox car on them, placed by a small boy in a dinosaur shirt. Pattern is "Skipper" by Gigi's Thimble]

[Image Info: a mostly orange pumpkin quilt held in front of a red, ivy covered wall. Pattern is "Fussy Pumpkin" by Hillside Stitches. All the pumpkins are either orange or coral - some have one print, some have five.  Each has either a brown or green stem.]

[Image Info: a heart quilt draped over a stone wall. The hearts are made up from all different pink scraps, on a grey background. Pattern is "Scrap Hearts" by Emily Dennis]

[Image Info: a yellow bear paw quilt made with a variety of yellow and low volume prints against a blue packing crate. Pattern is "Beary Scrappy" by Hillside Stitches]


  • I am just now joining for the sew along, and what a great idea it is!
    This is a lot of good information. I have been sewing for almost twenty years and usually give my scraps away.
    I think that this time I will try something small and hope it turns out even half as beautiful as your designs shine.
    - Jane

    Jane Bumby
  • You’re right, there is SO much information here. What fun that you got to take a course on color in college! I will be re-reading this a few times so it can saturate. Then maybe my quilts will be as beautiful as yours.
    I especially love that you included all those examples at the end with your “rules”. What a fun way to think of things!

    Amanda Harolld

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