Monday, April 26, 2010

How do you manage your scraps?

For those of you who like crafting with fabrics, I have some questions.

Do you intentionally manage your scraps?
What do you keep and how do you keep it?
When do you throw something away?

With my growing interest in patchwork and quilting, I'm realising that even the smallest of fabric scraps can be used to great effect in projects big and small, and that I should use up every last bit of fabric or preserve it for further projects down the track.

The reuser/recycler in me is in absolute agreement. The romantic/creative in me thinks of all the Depression-era women making stunning quilts out of discarded undergarments and nods her head.

The lazy, disorganised crafter in me thinks 'too hard, just bin it!' and 'I'm SO over that fabric I can't use another jot of it' and 'I could always buy scrap bundles or charm packs if I need them'. Particularly when I see something like this scrap below, which is a fabric I've never liked (I didn't buy it!), has already been hacked into and is a horrid mess:

(See below for its fate... it has not gone to waste).

SO... what am I doing about my scrap issues? Taking a challenge or two, of course, and setting myself some scrap-management ground rules which will hopefully serve me and my patchwork obsession well for the long term.

Well, here are the ground rules I'm setting myself:

1. Thou shalt not hoard. Buy fabric for specific projects and use it up with pleasure! Fabric will always be available: if I like something particular I can probably chase it down when I need it or if not, find something else I like. There is no fabric shortage at present. I will not miss out.

2. Keep anything from a fat eighth or bigger neatly folded in your cupboard, in size piles. Ha ha ha.

3. Cut and sort smaller pieces into the following categories
a. 5" or 6" squares and rectangles 
b. Strips (any length but no thinner than 2.5")
c. Scraps that could be used to make 1" hexagons or 2" squares (e.g. pieces approx. 3" high and wide)
d. Scraps that can be used for 1/2" hexagons (e.g. pieces at least 1.5" high and wide)
Everything else that is left is allowed to go into the bin with a clean conscience.

My scrap sorting is pretty specific, isn't it? That's because I'm joining in with this:


This piece-along gives me a real motivation to carefully look after my scraps. In fact, I'm kind of joining in twice. 

I'm committing to a 2" hexagon charm quilt, which will require 297 hexagons in unique fabrics (if I want to make a 50" x 60" throw). I'd like to see this pieced by the end of 2010. A 2" hex can be cut from a 5" square, and I've cut 30 so far - Kate, most of these are from the scrap pack you sent me, thanks SO much!

I've also opted to cut 1" hexagons while I'm at it. I prefer the look of 1" hexagons in a quilt, but after cutting out the 60 pieces below, I realised that I might struggle to cut, baste, piece and quilt 1,173 hexagons in unique fabrics within, say, the next decade. So I'll just add to this lot slowly. Maybe I'll end up with a charm cushion, maybe I'll throw a few on a skirt, maybe they'll be discovered by a great-granddaughter who will lovingly make them into a dolly-quilt.

And - just because I'm going a bit mad with all the scrap possibilities at this point - I'm cutting up those really little, annoying scraps of just over an inch in width and adding them to my 1/2" hexagon scrap bucket. 

Here are the scraps from that horrid pink fabric... I know they'll look great once they're blended in with other tiny hexagons in some form or other.

OK. So I have a bit of a hexagon thing going on. 

You might not be hexagon obsessed. But how do you manage your scraps? I'd love to know.


  1. I fear my quilting days are over... I just can't seem to FINISH them anymore. There was a time when I lived and breathed quilts *sigh*. I think I'm hanging onto too many UFO's and they are draining my quilt mojo - or maybe it's because I live in the tropics - interest may pick up once we move to Hobart.

    For scrap management I have a plastic box. I discard any long, skinny bits and then chuck the remaining chunk'o'fabric box. The scraps are useful for testing the tension on my sewing machine, stuffed toys, little embroidery projects and, maybe, one day... something patchwork.

    Nothing is organised by size or colour or fabric type. Maybe when my scraps exceed the capacity of the box I'll seperate fabrics by type.

    If I do go back to patchwork, it may be hexagons. I like the look of 'em.

  2. I like your thinking. I have a two category/box system at the moment - scraps big enough to fold, and the rest. I generally throw away anything less than a cm wide. Bit I'm not a quilter, so my "other" scrap box is always growing faster than I can use it. I wouldn't mind some better ideas on scrap management, so I'll be checking back to see what everyone else does!

  3. Ooohhh - fabric for thought! I have a scrap pile and by pile I mean one box with crap thrown in. I have been a little harsher in throwing out the scappy unusable bits. I think hexs are so gorgeous but I don't know if I am enough for all that hand sewing. Perhaps once I get on top of my to do list. If you need any scrap donations please let me know - more than enough to share.

    I have come to the 'buy per project' revelation. Like you say, you can find it or something just as good when you have time to actually do the project - why am I stashing! I am really enjoying sewing from my stash too, it feels like a sense of accomplishment

  4. So glad to see you are using my scraps!

    I'm with you and this year...resolved to ONLY purchase fabrics for specific projects that were to be started within a month.

    All scraps smaller than fat eight go into a box and I keep pieces bigger than 4"square in another box...strips in another.

    Regular clean outs required!

  5. i have a stack 0f a4 sized boxes with no order at all to size type of material for my scrap so my sewing room LOOKS neat and tidyish but really it's like that 1 cupboard you have in the house if you need to enter either a. it will all come flying out or b. it will take forever to find what I'm looking for!!!!!!! i do so love the boxes though they are my fav colour PURPLE!!as for my scraps i seem to be making little pouches tissue cases and am vaguely attempting messy patchwork!!! for bags .... wish me luck and i do the same to you!!! x

  6. I am an incorrigable hoarder, so I save even the tiniest bit of mishaped fabric. I just can't bear to put things in the bin ... even when I clearly have no way of using them. Perhaps hexagons are the answer?

    I can't wait to see the evolution of your 297 hexagon quilt. I am sure its going to be amazing (even with the evil pink fabric!).

  7. Yep... another hoarder here and even though I don't do quilts (yet), I have a massive collection of scraps too. Just can't throw them out. I organise my fabrics by colour in massive plastic tubs with lids. I throw scraps into this melange as well so I actually only vaguely recall what I might have at any one time... Not the best but faced with a choice of reorganising or leaving well alone, I go for leaving at the moment but I am very envious of your quest :)) Great to read about your new projects Gina - good luck with your systems! Kx

  8. Oh dear, I'd be far too embarrassed to show my scraps! I'm a hoarder from way back. I find it really really really difficult to throw fabric away (even though I have a lifetime supply). I throw all my scraps into big plastic containers, where they're all mixed up and messy.
    Maybe I should make a donation to your hexagons?

  9. wow Gina I am exhausted just reading about your scrap management you are a legend! Hexagons do look wonderful but I wouldn't have the patience to even make 12 inch ones!! My scraps...big ones get pushed in the cupboard where they will fit smaller ones get thrown in one of my vintage sewing baskets until it is chokka...I clearly need to rethink this management I think

  10. Um, hoard? Not that I have too many scraps yet, so it's still manageable with my throw-it-in-my-scrap-box method. Of course, this might need to change, but I'm taking the ostrich option until forced to face it!

  11. you ave me inspired to join along and use up my scraps

  12. 1/2 inch hex? power to you, that sounds like my night mare- I too will be checking back hear to listen to others. But this is what I do at the moment-
    Stips between 1 and 2/1/2 inches in one basket, squares in a snap lock bag (between 4 and 6 inches) random pieces all messily chucked in another basket, strange shaped fabric that I have had enough of- to school for the art/craft class (then it doesn't feel like I am wasting!)

  13. Hell woman you lost me 1/2 an inch....

  14. I give most of my scraps to my biggest boys school. The little ones love using all the bright coloured fabrics and bits of fluffy chenille for collages and they've recently made paper dolls and cut little fabric scrappy clothes for them. Everything that's too small for me to use for appliques goes into a bag and I just take them in as they fill up along with all my empty thread spools and felt scraps too.

  15. My scraps are in various tubs, depending on size, for coin purses down to badges & fabric buttons!! All good, nothing wasted, love Posie

  16. I've been wanting to make some of those lovely fabric baskets I see around - to store fabric scraps and kids "scraps" {think random socks, beads, dolls dresses, broken pencils + match box cars }.
    At the moment I keep everything - sometimes even bits of thread in case I think of something wonderful to use them for!
    I chuck all useless pieces into a basket for my kids - it keeps them happily entertained whenever they visit my sewing room. They love that they can do whatever they want with it. I think they're surprised that I give it to them.
    Other bits just seem to pile up in the "scrap box" which is waiting to be sorted. {Bit like my paperwork piles....eeeppp}.
    I'll just put it on my list to sort the scraps. You have a great system happening. I like your no buying fabric unless for a specific purpose. I'm sure we could all never buy fabric again - just swap it between us and we'd end up with glorious scraps for our whole life.

  17. Gina,I love the thought of a grand daughter/great grand daughter finding those scraps one day. It would be like opening a treasure chest/ time capsule all at once.
    Do it!

  18. I sort by size and type of fabric. Anything (any material)under about a 3 inch square goes into one bag and I use those for stuffing. Scraps bigger than that are separated into type of fabric - felted wool, jersey and everything else which is usually cotton weave. I don't have patience or need to separate any finer than that.

  19. I buy photo storage boxes at Hobby Lobby when they're half price, making them $2. I have a box for every color and a few extras for overflow. I keep bigger pieces folded into 22" lengths in a hutch behind glass and the smaller bits go into a plastic tote. When the tote gets full, I sort them into color piles and then put them into the proper box. Each box has a slot for a label and I put a scrap of fabric, the proper color, into each slot to ID the box for me.

    I only use cottons, so I don't have to sort that way.

    If I don't like a fabric, I stuff it into a bag to donate. No point in keeping something around that I know I don't like!

    Good luck with your hexie project, it's a doozie!

  20. I have two drawers of scraps (in one of those plastic storage drawer things) separated by "cool" and "not very cool." I'll gradually be weeding the not cool scraps as the cool scraps overflow their container.

  21. oh, the scrap dilemma! I sort by color into 1 gallon ziplock bags, then 3-4 bags per storage box. I'm not allowed to have more than one ziplock per color! This makes me use it, sort it or lose it. I don't keep anything smaller than 4", too many scraps out there to worry about anything smaller. Currently as the ziplocks are bulging and hard to close I'm paper piecing a crazy quilt just to make room for more scraps! Good Luck!

  22. I too suffer from scrap throw away guilt so at the moment I have several large bags of left over bits waiting for me to find a use for.

    I did manage to offload a few bags worth to a lovely friend who incorporates them into her felting work and has daughters who work in lower primary school who could make use of bits for art projects.

    I'm still waiting for inspiration for the rest.

  23. Love your scarpsterpieces! I just have a big old box filled only with scraps. Occasionally I bundle a few bright and beautiful scraps together and hang them above my desk for inspiration. They're always good for little patches and embellishments. xo m.

  24. Anything smaller than a small purse goes in the kindergarten bag!

    Kinders and childcare centres are always happy to take bags of scraps for kids to make collage. No scraps are too small for them!

  25. Yikes, just thinking about it makes me short of breath! It's been sometime since I organized the scrap heap. Good on you for getting it all together.

    I love that brick work quilt!

  26. I have see through plastic totes and organize my fabrics by color. The fabric seems to multiply at night when I am sleeping...

  27. I'm trying to manage mine by sending you some! BUT you are yet to send me your address! Quick 'cause I'm going to the post office tomorrow!!

  28. You've got a good method going there! I follow close to the same kinds of rules, one box for scraps 1/2 to 1 yard, one box for less than 1/2 yard scraps, and a box for small scraps. However - I have to admit that since I'm not a quilter, many small scraps go straight to the recycling bin.

    I also try not to add to my stash, but BOY is that hard to do! Good luck with your scrap sewing!

  29. good luck with the scrapping. Fantastic to meet you on the weekend! I would love that lemon curd recipe if you are willing to give it up - those lemon meringue pies were delish! I just saw the funky bag you made over at cathie's blog (m.e.) well done!

  30. I just may have someting for you. I'll take some photos and get back to you.

  31. Pretty much the same way you do :) But with a delay :D If it's a largeish rectangle, I put it in my pile of fabric for small projects. If it's irregular scraps, I try to cut it into 2" squares for patchwork or hexagons (yes, me too!). But, more often in not, it goes into a bag marked "to cut into 2" squares", and even more often than that it sits in a bowl waiting to be sorted into said bag, etc. :D I still have trouble throwing fabric away, it needs to be realllly small or a thin strip for it to go in the bin :)

  32. I'm with Leisl and Cam.....I'm a hoarder and basically NOTHING gets thrown out. Organising them sounds like a great idea though and just another excuse to play with fabric..BUT at the moment mine are all in the one big container (or two). I have a bit of a hexagon love thing going too!

  33. SNAP - I have been thinking about this a lot lately too and was actually discussing it with the wise women from the sewing guild on the weekend. Still formulating my own system... will be popping back here soon to read all the ideas from the comments. Essentially the current system is - one box for applique where I try to keep scraps of different colours and textures, the "I don't know what to do with this scrap but feel like I should keep it" and the scraps that can be folded and kept in order. At times I have 'offloaded' pieces that I have too much of ... I think you yourself scored some of that and all the tiny irritable pieces get stored in a bag and sent to kindy.

  34. I attempt to intentionally manage your scraps in colours... I have been using glad snap seal bags I picked up from the treasure shop. I also keep my scraps from specific projects together as I like the colour combos.

    This week is the first week EVER that I have made a pile of scraps which I am just not going to use. or haven't used in years. This also includes off cuts from clothes. I have managed to fill a 30L tub so far....hmmm I was going to donate them to the business up the road who supplies rags to other businesses... or the child care centre up the road.

    My question to you is... would you like the scraps of fabric I am over and done with... just fabric. No clothes unless you want them too!

    Meanwhile how is scrap management point 2 going for you... I laughed just as hard...

    Scrap management point 3 sounds like a plan though. I reckon I could do something like that easy... only I don't do patch work or quilting even though I would like too at some point...

    After reading this post I want to try some hexes... but if I google it and discover how then I'll start and wont know when to stop. What do I do?!!

    xo Steph

    ps I have started a new scrap project of my own. The pin cushion I did for the swap pretty much started it when I used the scraps to make a brooch. heehee

  35. Yep, I'm a saver too, and deny that I'm a horder. So any fabric chunks less than a fat eight or so get put into one of those vinyl shoe storage that goes on the back of my sewroom door.

    Any thing that can be cut into a 1.5 inch square, gets cut immeadiately to sew into a 16 patch. These little squares I sew as part of change stitching my regular quilt tops.

    It's like working on two quilt tops at the same time. (not ready for hex's. yet.

  36. good luck with that scrap sorting, that sounds like a great system to work by... the hard part is just keeping it going isn't it!!

    for those smaller bits or unwanted pieces may I suggest taking them down to the local school and donating them to the junior primary? as a teacher fabric scraps is something I am always on the look out for and I'm sure other teachers would be very appreciative! And then you can have even less of a guilty complex, in fact, none at all!

  37. Easy! I just shove everything into a vinyl zip bag (the kind that comforters come in) and promptly forget what I've got. I admire your organization, Gina...


“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
~Albert Einstein