Over in the thread about my postage stamp WIP
, I mentioned my "scrap management system," which is my method for dealing with, processing and most importantly *using* scraps. Several people asked me to post a description of it, so here goes.
My system is based on the Scrap User's System that Bonnie at Quiltville uses -- you can read about her system here
. Her system (and her stash) is much more massive than mine, so I scaled it down to meet my needs. The two most important lessons I took from her are: a) you pay just as much per inch for your scraps as you do for large pieces of fabric, so they are worth saving, and b) your goal should be to use your scraps, not just keep them.
To actually use your scraps, you need to have them handy in sizes that you'll actually use. If you have to dig them out, iron them, cut them, sort them and then start using them, you'll likely to give up before you even start. Bonnie's method makes the curring & sorting automatic and easy. Here's how I sort and cut my quilt fabric
. Anytime a piece of fabric comes into my hands, I evaluate it according to the following questions and rules. I do this when I have new fabric (especially if I'm already cutting it up for a project) and when someone gives me scraps (which happens often, because people know I love scraps!!).
1) Is it larger than 9 inches in both dimensions (length and width)
? If no, I go to #2. If yes, then I fold it and store it with my fat quarters, and I'm done. Based on my experience with previous quilts AND with my tendency toward slobiness, I know that a 9x9 piece of fabric is the smallest uncut piece I can reasonably use in a quilt, AND that it's the smallest piece I can store with my FQs neatly. You might want smaller or larger pieces here -- the point is to decide what the smallest "uncut" piece is you'll store. Everything else is a scrap.
2) Is it larger than 9 inches in *one* dimension, but smaller than 9 in the other
? If no, I go to #3. If yes, then I cut it into a standard width strip and store it with my strips. I use these for strip piecing or sashing. My standard sized strips are 1.5, 2, 2.5, and 3.5 inches. You might choose different sizes depending on your specific needs.
3) Is it smaller than 9 inches in *both* dimensions
? If I make it to step #3, the answer to this question is yes. In that case, I cut out as many standard size squares from the piece as I can, working my way from the largest possible cut down to the smallest. My standard sizes are 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3.5 and 4 inches.
4) Anything you have left at this point will be less than 1.5 inches in at least one dimension. If these are larger than 1x1 inch, I toss them in a bin of "strings" to use in making string blocks.
5) Anything less than 1x1 inch I throw away. And that's *all* I throw away. There's very little waste in this system.Storing standard size pieces
. Ok, so now my scraps are all cut into standard sized pieces, but how do I store them? I have two plastic bins with drawers that I use for storing fabric. Each drawer is labeled.
The first set (which I sadly do not have a picture of) is used to store FQs, strips and strings. I fold FQ's into 4.5x4.5 squares (this is the size they're folded to when you buy them). Then I store them neatly in one of the drawers, organized by color. The strips are just tossed into a second drawer, and the strings are in a third.
It's the second set of drawers that's interesting. In this set, I put only one size of square into each drawer (remember, my squares are all 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3.5 and 4 inches) -- except for the 2nd one, which I put a divider in so that it holds both my 2 inch and 2.5 inch squares.Using the Scraps
. Ok, so now everything is neatly stored. How do I use it? Whenever I need or want to make a quilt project (a block or a quilt or whatever), I go to the drawers and immediately pick out what fabrics I need. I get to go right from the fun part of picking the fabric to the fun part of sewing, with none of the drudgery in between! What kinds of quilt blocks can I make with just squares?
Obviously, plain old 9-patch blocks are the easiest to make. I love a 9-patch, so that's cool with me. I can also easily put together some half-square triangles by sewing 1/4 inch from each side of the center line and cutting them apart -- and I have pinwheels or friendship stars. If I make 1/2-square triangles the same way and combine them with a larger square, I have sawtooth blocks or bear claws. And obviously I can make strip-pieced or string quilts with ease, because I have whole drawers full of those waiting for me!!Do you want to start a system like this?
If you love scrap quilts and want to start a similar system for storing your scraps, I recommend the following. First, pick a pattern you like -- the Quiltville website has tons of free patterns for scrap quilts. Start processing all your scraps into the sizes of squares and strips you will need for that pattern. If you want to add some bigger or smaller squares, go ahead, but don't try to do everything at once.
Don't worry about if the pieces match or if you have enough, just process them. Work on some other projects, and process scraps from those. Ask your friends for scraps, and process them too! If you're having trouble finding scraps -- try swapping with other Craftsters or buying them on eBay! By the time you've accumulated enough fabric for your original pattern, you'll ALSO have your system up and running, and you'll probably have enough squares to have a head start on your next project too!
When it's time to start the quilt you picked as the basis for your system, then pick colors you like and arrange them as needed. The beauty of this is that you don't have to use all the pieces -- and nothing will be wasted. Anything you don't use now will live safely in your system until you need it. Add FQs if you need to and buy fabric if you need to -- just make sure to process those scraps as you go along!
These quilts (all from the Quiltville site -- can you tell I love it?) would make particularly good system starters:Basket Weave StringsChunky ChurndashOcean WavesMaverick Stars
(I might break my rule of chucking pieces smaller than 1x1 for this quilt -- I love it!)
Poke around, and you'll find tons of scrap quilt patterns that will work for booting up your scrap management system.