How small a scrap of fabric do you keep? The answer is different for everyone. Some scraps I have are tiny but I might just need that particular shade of blue for an appliquéd eye at some point. So during lockdown I have vowed to tackle my scraps and reduce the ever-expanding bags/boxes that grow with every quilt finished.

Stool cover made from scraps from wall hanging project. (Monkey Buttons pattern)

Some scraps, over the past lockdown weeks, have been turned into masks. I’m yet to make some but am sure I’ll have a go soon but I thought I’d take a day to have fun and see if I can help you love your scraps.

Scrap quilts are the foundation of patchwork and quilting, frequently made from the remains of dressmaking – every house had a rag bag. These would have been used for all household tasks you could think of, one being, keeping the family warm in winter by making quilts. When working on the magazine we had a comment once ‘you don’t publish patterns for scrap quilts’. I have to be honest here and tell you I was a little stumped at this complaint. All quilts can be scrap quilts! Every pattern out there can be made with scraps. It’s where the foundation of our passion lies, with the leftover bits and pieces that women throughout time have gathered together and stitched with love into useful items be it quilts, clothing or even rag rugs!

Rag rug in progress. Red fabric for heart, shirting for surround.

I have a half-finished rag rug around here somewhere that I started and is an easy and cheap way of using scraps. The method I used was to take some hessian, bind the edges so it doesn’t unravel and, using a latch hook, knot strips of fabric scraps into the hessian. I have started mine with a red heart in the centre and will surround it with the strips of shirting material I acquired as offcuts.

The strips I’ve used are roughly 1″ by 4″, they don’t have to be accurate. The hessian backing is 20″ by 29″. I drew the heart shape with a large permeant marker, it will be covered so won’t be seen, used the red strips around this shape and will backfill with the shirting scraps. I might even finish it eventually, it would look lovely in my kitchen.

Hearts are a bit of a theme and I recently made a Heart Runner for my welsh dresser as shown in my previous blog where you will also find the free pattern, also to be found on my website. Every time I look at this I smile. I plan on making another for my main table but fancy doing it in a rainbow colour theme. How to approach this? By grouping your fabrics by colour and mixing and matching different patterns. This technique can be used for many quilts and can look wonderful. Commit to the randomness of fabric choices and use tone or colour to make the variation.

Fabrics separated into colours.

What other things can we do with scraps that are smaller, not big enough for cutting into formal quilt patterns? There are options which use even tiny pieces such as ‘Confetti’. Used frequently in art quilts this is a method where minute snippets of fabric are locked within a net layer and then the quilting or embroidery completed over the top. Beautiful but not something I’m saving my scraps for. One of my favourite methods is Improv. The concept here is to improvise and do as you wish. We don’t need to worry about precise measurements, just sew the bits together. On option is to a square, join a strip, then another and continue outwards along the lines of a Log Cabin or Courthouse Steps. (Log Cabin you join pieces in the round, Courthouse Steps you join them either side.) I made some mats using up some fabrics from a particular quilt and they have an added advantage of being perfect for trying new quilting designs or practicing your Free Motion Quilting. They also match the quilt you initially made so could be used in the same room.

Improv mini mats from scraps.

Whatever you decide to do with your scraps it is the perfect opportunity to relax and simply play. Have fun loving your scraps!