Friday, September 22, 2017

Reaching the Summit of Scrap Mountain

The Insomnia Block:
Four Patch Scrappy 
Friendship Star

May I introduce to you my friend, Insomnia. She has been visiting quite often this week, and I am ready for her to go home! I need to sleep. The only good thing about being awake at 3 a.m. is the email flying back and forth with my good friend and prolific quilter in Australia. Check out her great scrap ideas (and incredible paper piecing) on Instagram @sewsurprising

She was making a variation of the Friendship Star with an X-Blocks template, and I was watching her progress. She is a gadget gal, and I am always on the lookout for a sewing hack. (See why we're friends?) Rather than buy another new tool I asked myself, "How can I make that block without another specialty ruler?" You do not want to know how many I already own! The thought must have been bouncing around my dull brain those wee hours of the morning.

She does great work making charity quilts, and often uses scraps from her own work and from others shared with her. How to use up those scraps often guides our chats back and forth, and in turn I apply it to my own pile kindly named Scrap Mountain. (It gains height each day.) 

I have books on: scrap management, scrap patterns, methods on cutting scraps--strips AND squares, storing said scraps, and on and on. This is a lucrative book business advising quilters how to manage their personal Scrap Mountains. For many of us quilters it is a frustrating problem, and even keeps some of us awake nights. I just want a solution that works for me.

Working In the Dead of Night:
What Defines a Scrap?

It took me nearly 2 years to figure out what I call a scrap is not the same thing to other quilters. A fat quarter is not. A favorite fabric in a fat eighth is not. An irregularly cut chunk I need to work at to find 2.5" or smaller strips or salvaged squares is. I am frugal more than you want to know. So my scraps are almost always strips or what others call strings. 

Storing Scrap Strips

I used the method that called for organizing strips into like widths. May I say it was a little bit of a pain in the behind, but I did it? And there they sat for months. Then years. The new pile of leftover fabric continued to grow as I made more quilts, and now needed to be trimmed down and added to that box. Are you feeling my frustration yet?

Mining Scrap Mountain

I gathered up a bin of scraps several weeks ago, took them home, and laid them on my kitchen table. I made stars. I made spider webs. I was using up my vintage strips, but both patterns took a long time. My modern fabrics laid untouched. 

Make Scrappy Sashing and Borders

My go-to method for management all along has been creating strips in various widths for borders or sashing, but I hadn't used any in a quilt yet in spite of having so many. My friend, Irene, touts the Bonnie Hunter method of working with phone book pages, but it's too much bother to mess with for me. I sew scraps together lengthwise, press, starch, trim and store. I do 4", 3.5", and 2.5". I have no problems with bowing when I keep them about 18" long. But was this all I could do?

June Quilt

Crazy Mom Quilts had a quiltalong in June of this summer, 2017, for a sweet quilt with a vintage feel. Check out these Instagram pics #junequilt  for inspiration. Using her measurements of 4.5" x 8.5", I started making some strips using scrap fabrics with an Asian theme. I really liked working with the cream and indigo palette, and I think that's when it hit me.

"Instead of separating my scrap strips 
by widths, why don't I 
separate them by color?"

Jelly Beans & Chocolate: This quilt kept coming to mind.

The strips for this curvy log cabin were not scraps, but cut for it--and many of the same scraps were currently laying on the table. 

Mixing all my width into piles by color, I started piecing squares. First the green with an orange 'hurricane star', then a blue. These were fun blocks, and I liked how fast they came together. I had two rulers at the house in the middle of the night. Guess what size I made them?

I laid out my strips with a good mix of light and dark values, but all in one color family. Sew, trim and square up to 6.5". Make 4.

I used my Creative Grids 45 Degree Double Strip Ruler because it was still on the table from making stars and spider webs. You could use any 45 degree ruler you have. Mark with pencil as shown. I marked mine in the direction of a spinning hurricane icon. You might know why.

And just like paper piecing, lay a strip of fabric along that pencil line right sides together, pin, and stitch a 1/4" seam. Turn to make sure you've covered the corner and press. Trim the excess scrap fabric from underneath the corner piece. Make 4 and sew together. The unfinished blocks are 12.5". Easy peasy!

So how frugal am I?
Something this easy begs to be sewn together! 
Yes, I do it.

So when I ran out of coral to piece this corner, I started cobbling together my bits. I was still short!

I know how bad this looks, but I kept at it. I added more to my Frankenstein block. I just kept pressing the majority of seams open to keep it flat. It looks awful!

But look here. Can you tell?

You have to get your nose pretty close to see it. Early quilters did this all the time to get by. I love it! No one else will know unless I point it out, and I'm more savvy than that by now.

I made good use of all those long strips in the star blocks, but found I had smaller pieces left over. Finally I sorted by size, 4" 3.5" and 2.5", and sewed the tail ends into strips.

Did you recognize these were Chinese coin strips, 
a version of Roman stripes? 

I see several very scrappy quilts in my near future, and a few nearly done to show you next time. Scrap Mountain has been conquered in my house, and I am a happy quilter. How is your Scrap Mountain doing these days?

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.

Linking up with~


Myra @ Busy Hands Quilts said...

I love your story of using your scraps. Sorting by color rather than size makes sense to me too, especially after I see how you used them in the star blocks.

Linda Swanekamp said...

This evening, I was sitting here feeling despondent with bags of scraps. I cut them into strips and squares and box them by size and color, but was overwhelmed at what needs to be processed. I drank a very bad glass of wine, and looked at your blog. I need to process the wealth of scraps faster I guess. I love the block you made. Here in Scrap Valley.

Sew Surprising said...

You truly inspire :) love your scrap collection and how you have them sorted, insomnia serves a purpose hahahaahahah :)

Stitchin At Home said...

Scrap mountain NEVER seems to go down. Maybe I'm too frugal too. Insanity reigns supreme as I sew together triangle cutoffs... Love your friendship star blocks!

Cocoa Quilts said...

I love these scrappy star blocks. I need to pin this for future use. Thanks for sharing.

Sharon - IN said...

My idea of what makes a scrap is very similar to yours. I laugh when someone says a FQ missing a corner IS the scrap. Right now my batik scrap pile is growing - what will I do with it? A question for the future. Love your blocks and beginnings of other scrappy quilts. said...

Great post to read and I love call the scrap heap a mountain and now have the song "Climb Every Mountain" in my head. I've made six scrap quilts so far this year and two of them were Crazy Mom's patterns, June Quilt and Scrappy Rails. She just posted her string block tutorial using phone book paper and I had to stop myself from joining as you now put it, that mountain climb. I need a rest. BTW, do you sew in your dining room. You have a nice long table like I do and I keep telling my husband I want to turn my dining room into a sewing room. It wouldn't be right though, seeing that I have the whole basement for my studio. But it's wonderful horizontal space to lay out the scraps. And I am one that does not have an organization system for my scraps, I just dig around.

Julie Bagamary said...

Great ideas.

PaulaB quilts said...

Our scrap definition is the same, but because of Rainbow Scrap Challenge I sort by size and then by color, because every month I have,to pull out a new color and stow away the old. I need a large box to hold each color pull and they all get jumbled up in there. So I'm not,satisfied yet. It works when I want to find all of a certain size, such as charms or long,strips or short strips. Mine is not a,mountain, just shrinking floor space as, the piles of containers,keep,creeping forward. Anyhow, your block solution is great. Love the contrasting cool blocks and warm points. For me, the only way to whittle it is to use larger pieces in the first place, like my row Quilts. I just bought,five more crib size,fleeces, just darling, for backs.

Janine @ Rainbow Hare said...

I enjoyed seeing all your ways of using up scraps. You've come up with some lovely solutions for that age old problem! I love your star blocks :)

Kate said...

What a fun post. Glad you figured out how to tackle your scrap mountain. That may be a goal next year. This year the focus is on finishing up a few UFOs.

Mary Marcotte said...

Thanks for including the tutorial. At first I thought that maybe the blocks were paperpieced, which I promised myself I do not have to do again. Ever. This is a much smarter way and looks like something I could handle. :)

Isn't it interesting what is a scrap to people? Whatever works for you is what you should do. Who is going to go into your sewing room and reorganize anything? Hahaha, yeah, I thought so!

KaHolly said...

There's definitely a difference between a scrap quilt and a scrappy quilt. Like you, only my 'scraps, are called 'scraps'. For many years, I couldn't afford to purchase fabric and my friends would bring me their scraps to work from. Organization? Attempts are made, but I am easily distracted. So I have bags and bags, and I dig and dig. Although I've been able to purchase a few bundles, and yardage for specific patterns , I still love scrappin'! Enjoyed this post very, very much! Hope you get some sleep soon! XO

Lisa in Port Hope said...

I agree with your definition of a scrap. I am slowly sorting my scraps by colour but I have never set up a method to sort by size. I think you need to sort by both colour and size to make that methods useful. At one point I only kept pieces bigger than 2.5" but then I started tho keep strings. I love the look of a scrappy quilt so as I make quilts and I curate my stash I have to remind myself to reserve small chunks so as to have more variety for the next one. Have a wonderful day!

grammajudyb said...

Thanks for the great tutorial. I had a similar pattern, but the directions has me measuring the cut at 1/4 " from the center of the rail block and 1/4" up from the seam line of the first strip set! What??? Then the star fabric was cut at 2 1/2 X 5 1/4 rectangle, that was then cut on the diagonal. Sew the triangle to the cut off edge of the rail block. NOT EVEN a good fit every time. Your method makes much more sense. I wonder if I can rescue those blocks that are languishing in a shoe box at the back of the closet? I will give it a try!

Anja @ Anja Quilts said...

You have been busy with those scraps. Great looking blocks.

Kate @ Smiles From Kate said...

I don't separate my scraps by colour, shape, or size, They are all chucked together in a box just as they came off the cutting table, from a tiny square to an irregular shaped splurge of a larger piece. Oh to be organised, if I want a scrap for something I end up emptying (one) of the boxes onto the floor and rooting through, then I move on (to another box). I always promise myself I am going to sort through them and cut them up into usable pieces but truth is I never do, and the boxes are multiplying. Maybe tomorrow............