Friday, July 15, 2016


As part of my newly-resolved commitment to use what I have, I offer up this post on scraps. Below are my humble opinions, somewhat useful tips (I hope) and four finished quilts.

I have always been a saver, but after Amanda Jean Nyberg (Crazy Mom Quilts) came to our guild a few years ago, I became a better, smarter saver. After all, there's no point in saving something if you can't find it when you need it, right? Scrap storage had always been a problem for me and I bounced between a few methods that never seemed quite right. Unfortunately, when I was between methods, wadded up on the corner of the cutting mat started happening more often. Scraps should never make you angry, and yet, I was. The best solution for me was to deal with scraps as I made them. I bought an inexpensive floating shelf from the home improvement store and installed the shelf directly above my cutting table. I also bought three bins from the dollar store to go on top of the shelf. I labelled them "SNIPPETS," "STRINGS" and "TRIANGLES." Larger scraps of fabric (like fat quarters that have been cut into) are sorted by color in drawers underneath my cutting table. As I cut into fabric and generate scraps, I can immediately put them in the right place for later use.

"Viva Mexico" began because my "SNIPPETS" bin was full. Originally inspired by the "Scrap Vortex" quilt by Amanda Jean Nyberg (here is a link to the tutorial), I added my own spin to her process just by virtue of the kind of scraps I had chosen to save. I used all of my buckets for this quilt. I sewed triangles together. I joined funky paper piecing scraps to each other. I laid little snippets on a long piece from my string bucket and snipped them apart into pairs at the end. Basically I just kept sewing bits together into pairs. Then, I'd iron. Pairs that matched along one of the sides were sewn together. If nothing fit well, I'd cut a piece off of a string and sew that on. The slabs of piecing grew as I kept sewing chunks together. To help me set the slabs together, I made a scaled piecing map on a piece of graph paper. Improvisational quilts can seem hard when you think you have to have everything figured out at once. That overwhelms me. For this quilt, I'd check out my notes on the graph paper and know that, for instance, I needed a 12.5" x 14.5" unit to finish a section. I'd find a slab that was close to that size (and add a little to it if I needed to), square it down and piece it in. The overwhelming becomes possible when you break it down into manageable bits.

I took this shot next door to my childhood candy store. I really appreciate all the people that humor me with my odd requests. Thanks Dixie!

Now do you see the flag?

I loved piecing this quilt. The decisions were simple. Which two fabrics should I sew together? The machine hummed, the music played and I sewed until the bobbin ran out. It was incredibly restful. About the time I was piecing this quilt, our sweet cat Molly (aka St.'s a tough gig when your best friend is a three year old little girl) looked out the sliding door into the darkness and saw the face of another kitty from the outside. To say that it freaked her out would be a gross understatement. The scream that came from her mouth was somewhere between primal and human and made my hair stand up on end. She ran under the bed in my sewing room and quaked so hard that the bed skirt was waving. I tried to talk to her and was answered only by soft moans. Poor kitty! In the end, the only thing I could do for her was turn on the sewing machine and start piecing. She never did come back out that night, but the bed skirt eventually stilled and she quieted. If you need to contemplate/solve any world problems or calm down your sewing-buddy, I highly recommend this quilt.

"Viva Mexico" finishes at  50" x 70." I used Quilter's Dream Request batting and quilted it simply with straight lines in Aurifil Dove (2600). If you are wondering about the name, be sure to look hard in the lower center right and you *might* be able to see a flag. Once you see it, it's hard to unsee. I love the happy accidents that happen with improvisational piecing!

The award for the funniest comment I have ever received definitely goes to Jilly for her words about the Allsorts Pillow. "The rational part of my brain knows it's fabric," she said, "I know it sounds a bit weird but it really makes me want to lick it." !!!!!!! Jilly and her funny comment were the inspiration for finishing this quilt. When I was looking for a quilt backing, I found three 12.5" blocks that I had started in Amanda Jean Nyberg's scrap workshop at my guild. All I had to do was start to think, "These blocks look really sweet...." and BAM! Idea! My fabric selection process was pretty easy, too. If I looked at a fabric and thought it looked lickable, it ended up in the quilt.

"Jawbreaker" was made (almost) entirely with my "STRINGS" bucket. I made improvisational quarter square log cabins and kept adding strips until I could square down the block with my 12.5" ruler. When joined together in groups of four, each block was a ginormous 24.5" chunk.Towards the end of the process I did break into the larger scrap bins to cut strips because I needed additional darker values and a bit more variety. The darker values were vital to highlight the piecing and add some movement, otherwise the quilt would have been adrift in a sea of mediums. I really enjoyed mixing various styles and genres of fabric together. Kaffe lives next to feedsack which flows into novelty and modern. It's all fun in the end! I felt a little bad making such a sweet quilt for our bed, so I pieced in some funny quilter-themed Mad Libs on the back for my husband. If he's man enough to sleep under pink, I am woman enough to make fun of myself.

You might wonder where I got such a varied selection of fabric. My mom helps me stock up when the modern quilt shop near her marks their fat quarters down to $0.99. She also gives me a lot of the scraps she generates when she makes more modern quilts with her granddaughters. I've found that buying scrap packs from Hawthorne Threads is another great way to build up a scrappy stash. I really appreciated having that variety back when I was participating in monthly quilt bees. My scrappy, small cuts stash was perfect for making a quilt like this. If you don't have a lot of fabrics to work with in your stash, it might be fun to swap with your friends. A few years ago my guild did a strip exchange and I ended up with sacks full of strings. I have also found a few fabric swaps on Instagram that I loved. My favorite one got me 144 5" low volume squares and I use those All. The. Time. There are lots of creative ways to find what you need without spending a fortune.

For the photo shoot, I went with my bestie from my teaching days to a barn of another family from my old school district. We didn't notice until the end that I had forgotten to take a snap a picture with my cell phone for Instagram and that I'd managed to hang it with my Lizzie House butterfly upside down. I'm going to blame that on the fun that we were having! You can't tell from the picture, but I had to move some mint plants and the sweet smell wafted in the breeze the entire time. While the wind blew, the corner of the quilt flipped over to show the backside. I mentioned that I'd like to get that shot and the wind promptly quit blowing. My friend offered to flip it over and run out of the shot, so I got the backside of them both. Perfect. I told her that my finger slipped on the shutter button, but in the end I got the shot that I really wanted to. I love quilts and stories and when they intersect it betters them both.

"Jawbreaker" finishes at 96" x 96." I used Quilter's Dream Request batting and quilted it in a crosshatch pattern with Aurifil thread in Dove.

The inspiration for my liberated New York Beauty came in the mail in the form of a free box from Amanda at Stash Builder Box. I was worried a little when she sent me the message asking for my address because I am not one of those people that can come up with the perfectly composed still shot of sewing items and fabric on the cutting mat. I'm just a little past the angry, wadded up pile of lurking scraps stage so that is way beyond me! I replied politely that I mostly just make things and she replied politely that she was sending it anyway. It was fun to work with the six fat eighths that were in the box and even more fun to add more of my own fabric to the mix. If you'd like to see the fabrics that I started with, check out Amanda's blog at Stash Builder Box. The fabrics I used were from the May subscription.

I made this quilt using templates and free piecing. I started out with a sheet of freezer paper and used my 15" square ruler to cut out the block size. Using a pencil I sketched out a quarter circle and some inner rings, then cut them out. Sometimes I used the curve as a guide to see if my improvisational piecing was curving the way I needed it to. Sometimes I did improvisational piecing right on top of the paper. I didn't fuss with points or worry about matching the rings from block to block and I definitely didn't use a compass. I enjoyed the process immensely.

My photo assistant/husband

"Here Comes the Sun" finishes at 40" x 40." I used Quilter's Dream Request batting and quilted it in a crosshatch pattern with Aurifil thread in Dove (can you tell I recently bought a cone of it?).

Finally, I will finish with "Redbud." I had to get my last blog post up on a schedule and did not have time to use up my scraps to make an additional project. After I published, I admit, I secretly wondered if anyone would notice the omission. I'm ashamed to say that I actually considered dumping the bucket full of bits into the solid scrap bin and/or the trash. It was a weak moment, and I AM sorry. Driving to the store one day, though, I passed my favorite part of a major street that we live entire grove of redbud trees in bloom. That specific shade of purple really spoke to the part of my brain that was still thinking in deep reds and melons and I knew that I had found my scrap project. Naturally I had to cut into 7 more purples to get it done, but I used up my scrap bits so it still counts!! I am doubly glad that I made my own little grove because most of those trees were recently cut down to make room for new development. I'm glad I enjoyed them as much as I did for as long as I could and I am gladder still that my little grove is always in bloom.

"Redbud" finishes at 24" x 24." I used quilter's Dream Request batting and quilted it in a matchstick pattern with Aurifil monofilament thread.

Thanks for sticking it out for a long, long (and long overdue) post. I hope you find/have a scrap management solution that works for you and inspires you to create. I had a fun, fulfilling and CHEAP few months as I took advantage of what I already have.

Linking up to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.