On relativity (or, when is a scrap not a scrap)

I had a bout of neuralgia over the weekend and have been unable to do much stitching.

While out of action I turned to the fabric storage situation. Sorting fabrics is a pleasant little job, but it can become a bit of an analytical conundrum if you get too hung up about what should go where. As you know, I keep scraps in clear plastic boxes and everything else in colour-coded piles.Β  The scraps boxes are diminishing quite nicely due to the progress of the scraps quilt blocks.

As you also know, I tend to over-analyse, and I do like things to be organised. Not organised to the point of obsession, but organised at least to the point where I know where to find things easily.Β  Some scraps are immediately identifiable. This, for instance, is clearly a scrap:

As are these:

And these are all scraps:

And this means that they live in the clear plastic scraps boxes. But then there are pieces like this:

Is that a scrap? At about 4″ x 7″ it’s quite small – but about 30 times bigger than that tiny blue floral fragment. And compared with a fat quarter, say, or yardage, then yes, it’s definitely a scrap. So should it live in the plastic box, or should it live in the pile? How will I know where to go looking for it in the future?

And these. Are these scraps?

Years ago I used to have a rule that said anything smaller than 6″ was a scrap, but then I got to a point where most of my fabrics are now in pieces of around 6″. The rule no longer helps.

All over the world there are people making life-and-death decisions: world leaders deciding economic and environmental policy, doctors deciding how to save lives, judges deciding whether someone should die for their crime. And in a small room in a tiny house in a totally ordinary street someone is agonising over where to put a small piece of blue fabric.

And this was the point at which I said to myself, ‘for goodness sake, Karen, get a life.’

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43 Responses to On relativity (or, when is a scrap not a scrap)

  1. Chloe says:

    This post made me chuckle so much! I have similar moments when I am struggling over what seems to me an excruciating organisational decision – whether a fabric/thread is more blue than it is green say, and I have to zoom out a bit and get a bit of perspective. Glad I’m not alone!!! Funnily enough I just read someone else’s blog post in which she takes the opposite view of order and lets everything sit in a random jumble and things do have a habit of appearing when needed. I like this system better; although I crave order it sometimes seems like a slightly pointless task.

    • Karen Turner says:

      Made myself chuckle a bit with this one. I read Dee’s post too, made me chuckle all over again!

      • Chloe says:

        Oops – I think I am one of the people Dee is referring to in her latest post: it’s very far from random!! I take it back, Dee! A lot of work has actually gone into that storage….. At some point I’ll post some pics of what I mean by random! πŸ˜€

  2. Rachel says:

    If you were suffering from neuralgia I’m surprised you could do anything at all!
    I propose a new system – Tiny Scraps, Scraps, and Anything Larger…

    • Karen Turner says:

      It’s about all I could manage, in between pressing a warm cloth to my face and howling. I like your proposed new system πŸ™‚

  3. Amanda says:

    And breathe….

  4. deedeemallon says:

    it’s only ridiculous if you call it ridiculous (course it depends on how long that decision ‘scrap or not scrap?’ takes, I guess…. now that I am learning paper piecing (one inch octagonals — but I like your design MUCH better, maybe I ought to switch to rectangles before I get too far into it), perhaps I’ll have a way to get rid of my scraps at a slightly quicker pace.

  5. Els says:

    Ha ! Karen, I love to see how organized you are ! (I’m nowhere near that stage. I could learn a lot from you, though it probably won’t work : too old to change πŸ˜‰ !!!)
    Simply LOOOOOVE all the blocks in the previous post ! Mmmmmmmm!

  6. MoF says:

    I have a similar problem with bits of left over card and paper so when you have finished organising your fabrics there is a whole other “Life” here just waiting to be sorted. If “Life is too short to stuff a mushroom” maybe it is too short to sort card and paper! Quote courtesy of Shirley Conran superwoman.

  7. annie! says:

    LOL – I TOTALLY relate!

  8. connie rose says:

    Good chuckle!

  9. Loralei says:

    Oh, thank you for this Monday morning giggle, Karen!! I have to admit, I’ve had the same discussion over what constitutes a scrap.. I am currently leaning toward yet another bin, to be used for all pieces of fabric that are larger than a normal scrap, yet considerably smaller than a fat quarter.. πŸ™‚

  10. Jan Marriott says:

    Sounds like me with my scarves
    R….”what are you doing in there/”
    Me….”playing with my scarves”

  11. deanna7trees says:

    i can totally relate to everything you are saying here. i’ve decided that no matter where i put things, i will not remember where they are. when i get stuck on a project, i start opening bins and looking at fabric and inevitably am inspired by some scrap i find that i forgot about and it usually sets me on a path to continue. i believe that unless you have just a small amount of fabric, it will always be a juggling act.

  12. deb says:

    Great post!

  13. Lynette (NZ) says:

    Love this — hope you feel better soon

  14. helen salo says:

    Not chuckling, full out laughing!!! Totally relate, so I eventuaally just gave up. It’s total chaos.

  15. Sweetpea says:

    Well good, now that I know there is no answer, I can give up – at last! THANKS, I think I needed permission ;>]]
    K, you crack me up!!

  16. Yes, that’s me too!! And as someone has already mentioned, it’s like the angst of deciding whether a piece of slightly turquoise fabric should go with the blues (too green) or the greens (too blue). Not really the weather in this neck of the woods for neuralgia – hope it’s easing.

    • Karen Turner says:

      I have the blue/green thing too!
      Neuralgia followed a visit to the dentist last week, and no, the cold certainly isn’t helping. Hope it settles down soon… :-/

  17. serenapotter says:

    i think i agree with helen…i gave up.

    i try to sort and keep things organized enough so that no one chokes to death and the vacuum doesn’t die but sometimes i find things stuck in the oddest places. a bit like my own mind.

    how did four yards of this get in here?? πŸ˜‰

  18. tina says:

    ha, ha, like you, I like to believe that I am not obsesisional,but I cannot possibly comment on your quandary– as I have been worrying thatt my button colours are not organised enough, and I had to go out today and buy four sets of little drawers- for them, but will twelve be enough- can I organise all those colours into twelve types?[ I am also not feeling well enough to sew at the moment]– dont get me started on the optimum size of scraps………tina

  19. I can relate to this! When I cutting out squares, I save almost everything. Inch wide strips can be used as borders. Narrow strips can to use to knit place mats. One inch to 4 inch pieced can be stitched together. But I am discovering that it is much easier to do something with the pieces while they are still out on the table rather than a some later point in time. The only exception is when I have a some pieces of a fabric that I also still have a large piece of. Oh, the agony of making those tough decisions!

  20. This is so funny. I like how you organized your fabrics. And I think small decisions are important, too. Your block is really cool.

  21. Janice says:

    Oh, Karen – Welcome! You clearly have a very prominent Rising Virgo somewhere in your chart!!!!
    I don’t have enough scraps for my issues to be exactly the same as yours, but I have catalogued tiny samples sent to me by a patchwork shop according to colour, and all my embroidery threads are organised according to type – stranded, perlΓ© according to 4 different sizes, wool, specialist, etc…

  22. judy martin says:

    This is so funny. All of us can totally relate.
    Well done with hitting a common note with fabric-holics. We are ridiculous and we like it that way.

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