the scrap heap

This is the year I really must Do Something with the Scraps. A lot of my fabric collection exists in only very tiny pieces, which is why I end up doing so much patchwork. I keep tiny scraps in clear plastic shoe boxes, which were so full that I couldn’t get the lids on. This year I envisage a large and ambitious patchwork event: a bed-sized quilt, made entirely from hand-pieced scraps. It may well take more than a year to realise. I’ve started by herding all the small scraps, and I have enough to make a start. I also now have enough space to get the lids on the remaining boxes.

Many of these are ‘the last of the line’ – the very last remaining examples of their type, which is why I thought it might be nice to preserve the memory and keep them together. I can identify all of these and say where they came from.

I gave a lot of thought as to how best to arrange them all. I use papers that are based on multiples of 1″ – so 1″ square, 2″ square, 1″ x 2″, 2″ x 3″ etc – thus ensuring that everything will fit together in any arrangement. It occurred to me that I could probably do something quite artful with regard to tonal value and shading, but actually what I want is a very basic, traditional patchwork quilt. Something decidedly not artful. I also want this to be easy and, above all, portable. And the nature of scraps is that they keep coming – whatever you make results in yet more scraps of fabric left over. So this has to be something I can keep adding to as the year goes on, meaning that there can’t really be an overall plan or design.

I think probably the best practical way forward is to arrange the pieces into blocks (these are 8″ square), by colour and roughly by value and then see how many I have and how well they go together. I don’t really go along with the ‘clashing colours’ theory: I don’t think any colours clash that badly. Some look better together than others, certainly, but many unlikely colour combinations exist in nature, and that’s good enough for me.

It doesn’t matter how long this takes. This will be my evening job and something to fill spare moments, and I’ll see what I end up with.

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39 Responses to the scrap heap

  1. chloe says:

    Lovely! I look forward to seeing your progress with this. Almost every piece of material in my ‘stash’ is recycled scrap, mostly from the sadly now defunct ScrapStore in Liskeard and I often struggle to match them together for coherent projects, but I love the idea of even the tiniest scraps finding a home eventually. My long-term project (as yet to begin) is to make a very old-fashioned hand-pieced quilt out of old shirts, for which I’ll be following your directions for English paper piecing πŸ™‚

    And I agree, there’s no need for colours to ‘fit’ in any way other than that which pleases your eye: naturally occurring colour combinations are often far more beautiful than any following a rigid colour theory.

    • Karen Turner says:

      So glad you found the paper piecing to be of interest – it remains my favourite way of piecing fabrics, even though it’s more fiddly and takes longer than other methods. Cotton shirts make fabulous quilts, especially if they’ve been worn and washed many times. If they’re striped or checked you can often do really interesting things with pattern too.

      • chloe says:

        That’s what I thought too. Cotton softens in such a lovely way over time. It’s a project I’ve been quietly nursing over the last year or so, whilst slowly accumulating bits for it, but I’ve yet to decide on a pattern to follow… originally it was to be a very traditional Eastern star, but I’m leaning more towards hexagons now. A slow, pieceful project πŸ™‚

  2. sandra says:

    ah, yes, it’s really the beginning of a new year, time to start something new and rearrange fabrics. I love your idea of using these memory scraps in a nice bed quilt, you will have sweet dreams.

  3. Chris Gray says:

    You’re going to have fun with this project!

    …it’s a good time to start tackling those stashes methinks πŸ™‚

  4. Wonderful idea, amd very envious that your scraps are SO organised!

  5. Sue says:

    Ohhh, this looks like an exciting project, I can’t wait to see it develop. It is lovely the memories pieces of fabric can hold for us. I am working on a similar scrap project at the moment, but not with paper piercing, but crazy quilting, even less complicated and just what I need at the moment.
    Sue Xxx

    • Karen Turner says:

      Crazy quilting is good too, I like the improvisational nature of that kind of work. You often get some interesting and unexpected colour combinations working that way.

  6. it will look gorgeous when its finished

  7. Loralei says:

    What an endeavor, and a brilliant plan to carry it through. I’m with you on the colour issue- after all, since it is to be for you, it need please only you.

    I have been speaking to my daughter lately, of how best to preserve memories, without being overthrown by “stuff.” looking forward to seeing where you go with this..

  8. annie! says:

    I know exactly what you mean. I am constantly using my scraps…to the point that beginning from a large piece of anything…is almost foreign! I’m sure your quilt will be a treasure because I also know where each tiny piece came from. πŸ™‚

    • Karen Turner says:

      I haven’t bought any fabric for a couple of years now, and I always seem to have more than enough. It’s amazing how far it can go.

  9. connie rose says:

    Beautiful scraps, they’ll make a fabulous quilt!

  10. Karen, such a lovely collection of fabrics. An yes to how organized you are. I’m also impressed that you can remember the origins of all your cloths. Shows how personal this work is. It’s like remembering the names of your children in a way isn’t it. Color theories are for academics and know it alls that want to impress. I think we all develop our own palettes and it doesn’t matter what’s right or wrong, there is no right or wrong in art. happy new year project to you and looking forward to those 8″ squares. cheers from across the ponds, mate.

  11. jude says:

    often times i sew all my tiny like color scraps together into color blankets and then use them to replace “solid” colors in things, just to give it more interest. it is also a great way to store tiny scraps. i have them hanging around on the walls so i can see them.

    • Karen Turner says:

      I like that idea. I have plans for some ‘colour fields’ cloths later in the year, which will be put together along those lines.

  12. claire says:

    So organised. I’m inspired.

  13. helen salo says:

    Lots of inspiration here. I have tons of scraps and can’t seem to part with anything. Love your idea nad to have it continue for …….I also liked Juses idea. So when life settles a bit more, scrap organizing I will do. πŸ™‚ thanks.

  14. helen salo says:

    good God I haven’t typed in a few. Lots of errors should have roof read. anfter idea it should be :and” and that should be “Jude”. ha

  15. helen salo says:

    Well I am good for a laugh!! can’t even type the rewrite correctly time to get off.

    • serenapotter says:

      hahaha. i love that jude looks a bit like jesus when i read through it quickly. hahaha

    • Karen Turner says:

      I admit I did smile about the idea of roof-reading πŸ™‚ Good to see you out and about, Helen; have been thinking of you. Scrap sorting I think is kind of good for the soul.
      (and Serena, I hadn’t noticed that until you pointed it out. Ha!)

  16. tina says:

    yay! I love scraps and free work[ not from a pattern that way the quilt gets a say in what it wants to be

  17. deb says:

    Oh this will be fun! The blues look beautiful together. Paper piecing is so relaxing.

    • Karen Turner says:

      Yes, it is relaxing – glad you agree! Many people think paper piecing = general tedium but I grew up with the technique and I like it.

  18. karen says:

    you have set yourself a challenge here! I have no doubt you will create a beautiful quilt….

  19. MoF says:

    A word from the wise, this project may take longer than you think. I started my flower garden quilt in 1975 and my new year resolution is to finish it this year. I just need inspiration for the backing and somewhere to hang the end result. Good luck!

  20. So many lovely little pieces. I’m looking forward to seeing how they come together.

  21. Rachel says:

    It will be lovely to renew your acquaintance with each scrap and remember its other uses, as you work each block. It could become a sort of Memory Quilt…

  22. deedeemallon says:

    I understand the impulse to make something that doesn’t require a ton of thinking or re-working… I look forward to seeing it come along, because I just can’t quite wrap my mind around paper piecing, and maybe if I could some of my vast store of scraps could find new homes, too.

    • Karen Turner says:

      Yes, it has to have that make-it-up-as-you-go-along quality because I don’t yet have all the scraps that will go into it, if you see what I mean. I have other plans for smaller scraps – the ones that are too small even for the 1″ papers. More of that in due course!

  23. Janice says:

    Happy New Year Karen, and much happiness in this project. I will enjoy seeing how it progresses. I have actually taken up a small quilting project of my own that has been languishing in a cupboard for about 15 years. A drop in the ocean in comparison to this!

  24. I love the conception of collating all the special scraps into one big holder of memories and the way you’ve combined the pieces looks wonderful too. So tempted to do something like that myself…

  25. Dot says:

    I love the idea of lots of wonderful explosions of color making up a whole piece. Lovely!

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