Do you love to sew but don’t know what to do with your excess fabric? We got you covered, Don’t throw them out! According to Eco friendly habits, “over 17 million tons of used textile waste are generated annually in the United States. This amount has doubled over the last 20 years.” It is better for the environment to use your scraps than to just throw them away. Here are some ideas from experts on how to work with scrap pieces as well as some awesome scrap friendly patterns.
We asked our Instagram followers, what is their best tricks for working with scraps and the most popular response was to sort by color! This helps keep the pieces organized and makes for easier access when searching for a small piece to add to a quilt.
We also asked some industry experts on what they do with their scraps and here are their tips & tricks!
Siobhan Fitzpatrick from Create Design Make 365 suggests cutting anything big enough for a 1” hexie and stockpile for your next English Paper Piecing project. Hexagons are a wonderful time saving option for English Paper Piecing as well.
Hear what other quilting experts have to say about scrap fabrics! For accurate cutting of smaller fabric pieces, it's helpful to use a smaller ruler for trimming.
Mel Beach says that scraps are great to use with Slice and Insert improv piecing, a technique I teach in my Slice of Improv workshops. In a nutshell, you start with an oversized background square, make a cut, and then insert strips of fabric to reassemble the block. Any scrap 1" or bigger will work with this technique. Of course, this means I am now saving smaller and smaller scraps! Below are a few quilt ideas that showcase scraps and offer a range of design possibilities.
Here are some of Mel Beach's projects using this improv piecing technique:
Dinos on Parade is a beautiful 51” x 51” quilt that uses panels and other skus from our Dino World and Gingham Play fabric collection!
View the Dino World Collection HERE
View the Gingham Play Collection HERE
White Cotton Couture strips are used throughout. Mel beach actually used fast food trays help her sort and organize all the pieces into their block layout. This project starts off with yardage but the technique can work for scraps as well!
Bea Lee says "having an organized quilting room and a system will allow you to get the most use of your scrap fabric." She first prints out her idea from EQ, picks the fabrics, puts it all in a bin and then later does the cutting and note taking if it’s for a specific pattern.
To organize scrap fabrics, she bought these white cabinets from Ikea and bought doors for all of them but quickly realized she missed looking at the colorful fabrics, so she removed those doors. Don’t be afraid to change up your system. Not having doors on your cabinets can spark your creativity. It also allows you to see when your scrap bin is too filled. When Bea Lee sees it filling up, she comes up with a pattern or uses one of her existing patterns to make a quilt.
(For more organizational tips, check out our previous article on ways to organize your sewing room HERE)
Bea's BEST tool for scrap busting is the Accuquilt GO BIG machine and QUBE sets. “It’s just SO easy to grab scraps of fabric, lay up to 8 layers on a die and put it thru the machine! And if the shape is a triangle, it cuts off the dog ears!” In fact, Bea lee loves Accuquit dies so much that she has all the QUBE sets and makes most of her patterns Qube compatible. These machines can let you know how big a quilt would be and how much yardage is needed as well. QUBE consists of the same shapes and block construction just in different sizes.
Another great hack Bea Lee uses while quilting is having a dry erase board handy to keep track of what needs to get done and if you are not able to complete the quilt in one sitting, it can remind you where you left off and to come back to it! “I write down the down the date of when I finished the top, the name of the top, the size of the top, size of batting and size of backing and then a check mark if I have made the backing.” Scrap fabrics can be used for both the top and backing of the quilt.
Here are some of our favorite scrap patterns from her shop:
The Shoo Bee Quilt
This cute baby quilt size uses lots of yellow and blue scraps and only a bit of yardage for the borders and the yellow in the large blocks. Its great to use up a lot of 1 colored scraps if you're over flowing.
The Sweetheart Quilt Is a scrappy string quilt pattern and again Bea loves to trim the blocks on her GO cutter, it can easily handle the muslin with all the tiny scraps on top!
And if you’re up for a challenge, try this sampler called The JumbledQuilt. Bea used mostly scraps to create this fun and unique quilt.
Lisa Norton & Lora Zmak from Material Girlfriends use scraps to make Rosie Runners. See photos and a video link below. It is an improv log cabin block, no paper-piecing, no accuracy issues, all fun. They save the colorful scraps into to zip bags to make it east to save even the smallest pieces and to easily see color.
Watch a video tutorial on how to make these Round Rosie Runners HERE
Jessica Kirkland created two Mini Courses that teach you all about how to use scraps to create a beautiful project. She uses smaller pieces and it's sort of like improv paper piecing. She says "with my Sunburst Pouch Course people can learn to make 3 different sized pouches. The Framed Heart course uses really small pieces and once your done with the course you can make any shape or size." See links to courses below.
Framed Heart Mini Course - ENROLL HERE
Sunburst Mini Course - ENROLL HERE
Save the selvages! Lee Jenkins has some great tips on how to even use the selvage of your fabrics to create beautiful projects.
Lee says "I start by cutting all selvages at 1 3/4 to 2 inches. This way I get more of the original fabric printing into the block which adds added contrast and interest. I learned this trick from my friend Susie Black https://heartandsewtx.com"
"I have been cutting 10 1/2 inch background blocks which yield 4 per WOF cut. Make 1/2 square triangles by either folding background fabric in half and creating a crease to start sewing selvages to or draw a line using FRIXON pen."
She says "I also cut selvages from both sides of fabric. This way I can break up some of the manufacturer’s writing." There are really no rules to sewing with selvages. They are super fun to collect and sew with so make sure to save them.
Additional Resources/Product Tips:
EQ stands for Electric Quilt and it is a computer software to help envision your quilt design before starting physically on the project. This is a great way to try out different variations on what you want to make or are looking for without committing to the design just yet. This is super helpful because if you have a higher number of orange-colored scraps for example, you can figure out where exactly to place them and what other fabrics/colors can match with it. This software system also allows you to plan how much fabric you need before making the quilt. EQ software is great for quilters of all skill levels and provides a platform to connect with others to share quilting ideas. At Michael Miller Fabrics, we are all about community and creativity. To learn more about EQ visit their website at: https://doyoueq.com/
Stripology rulers are great for cutting scraps, strips, squares and rectangles! There are slotted rulers that helps you cut slits every ½ inch so each strip you cut is exactly the same size every time. Creative grid products are great for holding fabric while cutting as well. Here is a link to one of their products:
Thank you for following along and learning all about how to make use of your excess fabrics and create little waste. We'd love to see what you create with these new techniques. Be sure to tag us on social media @michaelmillerfabrics or e-mail us pictures at firstname.lastname@example.org