Saving and storing scraps can either make your quilting studio appear to be hoarder-esque or give you a sense of absolute organizational prowess. It's easy to fall towards one end of that scrap saving spectrum without noticing, but to keep scraps organized and usable, requires a little bit of pre-planning.
Why Do I Save Scraps?
Scraps have significance.
I save fabric scraps for a lot of reasons. However, one of my favorite things about scrap quilts is reaching in my scrap bin and pulling out a piece of fabric and instantly remembering what quilt that fabric originally went to. I reach in the bin and I'm reminded of making a bright and cheerful quilt for my mama's hospital bed. I might pull out a piece of Civil War-reproduction fabric and I'm reminded of making a quilt for a friend and Veteran battling cancer who was a history buff.
As painful as some of those memories are now that friends and family have passed on, it makes me smile to know that I was able to make something special for someone while they were here.
And, not every scrap is from an event that is hard on the heart! I might reach in and grab a bit of fabric that went to a wedding quilt or a baby quilt, or never made its way into a finished quilt at all.
Every scrap holds a memory. I must be the sentimental type.
What Do I Consider to be Scraps?
Just as every scrap holds a memory unique to the maker of the quilt it came from, most quilters have their own opinions about what constitutes a scrap. Most every quilter I know has a different criteria for what gets saved and what gets tossed. Here's mine:
I consider scraps to be larger pieces and strips that I can use easily in standard patterns. They are a hodge-podge collection of prints and solids, but I store them in usable sizes, so that I can easily grab them and add them into a project that I'm working on.
If possible, I cut down my fabric scraps into common sizes when I'm working on a project. This seems to save me time down the road and keeps my scraps a tad more organized (I do use the term "organized" quite loosely). Since I finally decided to buy an AccuQuilt Go! (*Note: this is an affiliate link to AccuQuilt website), I've been able to get my fabric scraps stored in a much more usable fashion. It also helps that my son is willing to cut up the scraps (except he thinks I should pay for this job since people pay fine money for pre-cut fabrics). For some reason he really loves cutting 2" squares, so I always get plenty of those!
- 1-1/2" strips
- 2-1/2" strips
- 2" squares (perfect for making a scrappy 16-patch or for basting hexagons)
- 2-1/2" squares
- 4-1/2" squares
- 5" squares
- Half square triangles to finish at 2" square
- Quarter square triangles to finish at 4" square
Odds and Ends:
- 10" squares (not too often, usually these get cut down into 5" squares)
- Equilateral triangles measuring 1", 1-1/2", and 2-1/2" to use with 2", 3", and 5" hexagons (not too often either, but I have a small stash of these)
- Sometimes I'll sew color coordinating strips of fabric together to make long lengths to use later
Most anything smaller than these pieces gets relegated to my crumb bin.
Strings are not consistent in size to be strips. Strings might be the edge you cut off your fabric when you are squaring up your fabric. Strings might be what you end up with after you've cut all your fabric needed for your quilt. In my quilting studio, strings are fabric remaining that I can't cut into 2.5" or 1.5" strips. I also can't get any standard squares, triangles, or diamonds out of them. You might be naturally inclined to toss these into the trash while you are rotary cutting; however, I grab them and toss them into my string collection to turn into a foundation-pieced delight of a quilt. String quilts are a personal favorite, so I savor all those uneven lengths of fabric and tuck them away for a future string quilt! I love watching my stash of strings grow, because I know I'll make a quilt materialize with these beautiful bits that would otherwise be castoffs.
The smallest string I keep is 3/4" wide simply because I need a 1/4" seam allowance on both sides.
What the heck are crumbs you ask? Exactly what you think!
This is the end of the line for fabric in my stash. Crumbs aren't big enough to be strips, strings, or scraps. They are the bits and pieces that fall on the floor, get brushed off your cutting mat, and are often found in every nook and cranny in your sewing room. They are swept up in piles of thread and dust bunnies, and are long forgotten by most quilters. Perhaps rightfully so.
Crumbs might be the demarcation between scrappy quilt enthusiast and a crazy quilter whom you can follow to the funny farm. I save crumbs. I won't even lie about that. However, I do have a system in place to actually use crumbs, and that is slightly better than just saving every teeny-tiny bit of fabric that falls onto your sewing room floor.
If we are talking Liberty fabrics (**affiliate link), there is no such thing as a bit, scrap, string, or crumb. Liberty fabrics are a precious commodity to me because they aren't easy to come by and because of the cost to purchase. So those have a special little place for saving every itty-bitty-bit and not getting mixed up in the general scrap population in my quilting studio. I squirrel them away and someday they might turn into the most special scrappy quilt of all. Until then, they are tucked away from the light of day.