Do you get tons (yes, tons) of scraps? Do you save them? Do they seem to multiply when you’re not in your sewing room? My answer is yes, yes, and yes. It can’t be helped, apparently. If you make quilts, you make scraps. The end. So what to do with tons of scraps? Especially since lately I seem to sew only scraps. I can’t understand it: I make scrap quilts (see some on my Pinterest board) and still the scrap bins are overflowing. What gives?
Recently I had an urge to work with some neutrals. Only neutrals. Since I had more than my share of neutral scraps, I started there. My process is to pull the scraps out, sort them by size (kinda) and press. I need to do this because, well, look at them. They need a hot iron. Besides, handling them gives me a chance to look at what I’ve been tossing in. Everything goes, you know. Quilt cottons, muslin, linen, whatever. Everything.
So I sort and press. Press and sort. Pull out whatever really shouldn’t be in there: thin pieces of muslin, the selvage edges, anything that really belongs in another bin, anything too small, too frayed, stained, damaged. I don’t know how those things get into the bins, but they do.
Once the scraps are ready for sewing, I take the pile with the smallest pieces to the machine. I tend to work log-cabin style: sew some small pieces together and create a pair. Add bigger pieces to the sides. Just keep sliding pieces under the presser foot to make long strip pieces. I may trim a few and sew pairs together. When I get tired of small pieces or just get tired of the same fabrics, I add some from the next size pile, still small but not quite as small. Next come medium pieces. By now I’m creating small chunks. Mix the chunks together; or sew the small chunks onto strips just the way I do for strip-piecing. I cut the strips apart after the chunks are sewn on so that they match the chunks in size.
Throughout the process, I move between my sewing machine and the ironing station. Back and forth (putting in lots of steps…yay!) so that everything lies flat. Anything that is pressed is usually also trimmed. Now this is where I part company with more of the modern world. I use my rotary cutter, rulers and mat. I figure that if there are no rules in modern quilting, then there are NO rules, so I can use whatever equipment I want in any way I want. I’m a rebel, what can I say?
It’s a messy venture, let me tell you. But it’s easy, no stress sewing that eats through scraps like you can’t imagine. I find that I tend to end up with chunks about 12-15 inches in size. Some square, some retanglar, but size really doesn’t matter. A strip will easily increase the size of a chunk to almost-match another. That means two smallish chunks can make one large chunk.
Two or three days of uninterruped (hahaha!) sewing will yield a quilt top and a huge mess. I’m bad about dropping cut-offs on the floor or missing the trashcan. But a little sweeper will gladly “help” DeeDee clean up. Grandchildren. Aren’t they the best?
Once I have several big chunks on the design wall, I step back and take a hard look at my progress. In this case something was missing. Neutrals are lovely, quiet fabrics, but they don’t have much wow-factor. And I like wow. So I needed to think about how I could add some wow. At about that time I taught a class in Leesville (read about it here) and was inspired by the beautiful purple and greens that several students were using. Perfect for wow! But the wow will have to wait for another post. This one is really just a tease.