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How to Manage Your Quilt Fabric Scraps

How to Manage Your Quilt Fabric Scraps

There are many different kinds of quilters. Those who buy kits and those who mix and match fabrics on their own. Those who pre-wash and those who don’t. (NOT getting into that!) Those who finish one project before starting another and those who collect WIPs and UFOs with abandon. And, of course, those who love to work with scraps and those who save everything for a rainy day that may or may not ever arrive.

Part of the challenge of scrap-friendly projects is managing scraps in general. Over the years, those on the Seams Like Quilting crew have tried many different scrap management strategies, some more successfully than others. Much like other organizational systems, a scrap management system is only as successful as the maintenance! Here are a few options we have tried.


Color Sorting Quilt Scraps

Keep all the reds together, purples together, and so on. This can be quite helpful as lots of patterns either call for groups of colors OR can be easily planned that way. There are even whole books of scrap patterns that are written for ‘blue scraps’ or ‘green scraps.’ Under this system, the size of the scrap is not pertinent to the sorting. How you define scrap size is up to you and the sizes are all mixed together in colors. The challenge of this is when a scrap has no clearly defined color but is a mix of many. Those scraps are hard to sort in this way AND difficult to use in those color-driven patterns.


Pre-cut Sorting Quilt Scraps

You may have noticed that there are several sizes that keep repeating themselves in your patterns. 5” and 2.5” squares. 1”-2.5” strips. 2.5”x4.5” rectangles. Some choose to keep scraps in this state. Sometimes sub-sorting by color and sometimes not. Matching scraps to typical pre-cut sizes allows a quilter to search for patterns or books that focus on pre-cuts and use those for scraps. These scraps also tend to store more neatly in boxes or bins, as you don’t have all kinds of sizes to manage and dig through. Neat storage can mean they’re not used as frequently, however! After all, it’s easier to overlook a closed bin full of 2.5” squares than it is to overlook the overflowing box of ‘blues’.


Purpose Driven Quilt Scraps

Some techniques, like foundation paper piecing, English paper piecing, quilt as you go, HSTs create OR require specific types of scraps. After strip piecing 100 HSTs, it often feels like a shame to just toss all those neatly paired triangles. And the odd angles from foundation paper piecing create scraps that feel too big for the trash but to strange to be usable. By sorting scraps for a purpose, you may end up with a combination of the above scraps. A bin of selvage for that cool project. A bag of strips for a string quilt. A box of 2.5” squares for a postage stamp or pixel quilt. A box of odd-shaped pieces to start a crazy quilt. Or a baggy full of paired triangles for mini-HSTs. This way, your scraps become another UFO with purpose. Which, depending on the type of quilter you are, would either help with your scrap management or create anxiety that there’s a project you’re not working on.

Giveaway Quilt Scraps

Some quilters are focused on the single project at a time. These quilters tend not to collect scraps in the first place. And often, any project leftovers would be consigned to the guild ‘free’ table very quickly. If you find yourself buried in scraps that you will never use, giving your scraps to another quilter can be a blessing – if they want them!! Quilters who love working with scraps are often in need of a refresh.


Whether you choose one of these scrap management techniques or just chuck your scraps into a giant bin, scrap quilting can be a great way to continue enjoying a hobby past the first life of the fabric you have chosen and purchased, stretching your quilting dollar.

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