Fabric scraps can be as big as a few inches of width of fabric yardage or as small as some trimmings to square up your blocks. No matter the quilt you choose to make, you’ll always end up with a little fabric left over. But how little is too little to save? How many scraps is too much to accumulate? Here’s how you can decide, with some ideas of how to actually make use of your fabric scraps for quilting.
What are fabric scraps?
Fabric scraps are the bits of fabric that are left over after you cut out your pieces from the yardage or from your trimmed piecing. They can be big, they can be small. They’re just the leftovers.
Why should you save them?
I started saving fabric scraps as a safety measure. Working from a meager college student budget, if I had a miss-cut or a piece got too frayed or dirty during sewing, I’d have a little extra fabric to cut a new piece from. Also, buying fabric only during only the biggest of holiday sales at JoAnn meant that I had to go a while between fabric purchases. Saving the little scraps would let me take on little projects such as pillows for work gift exchanges and baby quilts.
Another reason I save scraps is because I have found myself getting more and more into is patterned fabrics. Patterned fabric usually doesn’t stick around the store shelves for more than one season. If its something I love, I buy a little extra and save all the scraps. One day I’ll fit them into another project. So, far I’ve had good luck sneaking them into projects as accents. And it’s fun to see how fabrics you didn’t plan together end up working so well with each other.
Lastly, saving fabric scraps helps the environment. The natural act of quilting–cutting fabric apart to sew back together–wastes fabric. By saving as much fabric as we can, and thus needing to buy less fabric for future projects, means the less waste our hobby generates.
Which fabric scraps to save?
Some sewers save every single scrap of fabric. In her videos, Bernadette Banner mentions saving all her scraps, using the smallest pieces for stuffing. Whereas I save only scraps that I can reasonably turn into a quilt piece. To me, this often means any piece 1.5″ x 1.5″ or larger. However, once I get towards the end of my piece cutting, more of it tends to go into the garbage.
To help you decide what to keep, think about what you use.
What size piecing are the quilts you tend to make? Don’t keep things you won’t use! If you only make half square triangle quilts, don’t save little scraps that won’t make more of your pieces. Instead, you can think of ways to create less waste. Perhaps try sewing two at a time or four at a time half square triangles.
What patterns do you have lined up in your project queue? Can you see yourself using these scraps in the near future?
Do any of your quilts use just a small amount of fabric? If your projects require multiple yards of each fabric, will you be able to make use of your scraps? If you want to save them, think of a scrappy project to save them for (see below!). Or if you ever just need a tiny accent piece for design elements like eyes, having little fabric scraps can save you from having to buy a larger section of yardage.
Do you buy new fabric for every quilt? If you’re always buying specialty prints for specific projects, saving project scraps may not be for you. Instead you can work on precision cutting and work on buying exactly as much yardage as you are going to use. You can also think about saving scraps and donating them to another quilter.
Are any of your fabric scraps a color or fabric you use regularly? Saving the tiniest of scraps can be helpful for colors you use over and over again, such as black and white. These fabrics can easily slip into other projects.
How much storage space do you have? Do you have a whole quilting room with space to spare? Then save what you can! If you’re living in a studio apartment, trying to make your desk your work, sewing, and eating spot, maybe just save your favorites.
Fabric scrap project ideas
When looking for patterns that work well with fabric scraps, look for more detailed patterns with smaller piecing and lots of different fabrics. Here are some from easy to hard:
Half square triangle quilt. You can make it up as you go with the fabrics you have. Or you try a pattern like a scrappy Post Cards from Sweden.
A log cabin quilt is another pattern that uses several different sizes of fabric that can let you use up all sorts of scraps. Below is a baby quilt I have made for a friend.
Or you can find more detailed patterns. My current favorite is Elizabeth Hartman’s North Stars quilt. I’m currently working on the small version for a friend’s baby, with a block seen below. It’s been a great stash buster for me. With projects like this, you can break up the details of the stars between even more fabrics than what is called for.
Beyond the typical quilt patterns, you can make scrappy clothes. From a a simple pop of color on a jean jacket to Bilbo Baggin’s scrappy robe from the Hobbit!
And you can’t forget about the bags such as quilted totes and a duffel bag that can easily be made scrappy. These projects can lead you into learning other sewing skills such as zippers, pipping, and straps.