Handling the Scrap

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I got a longer email question from Cindy Nelson that I thought I would answer here on the blog as I think others are very interested in the topic as well.  Cindy writes, “Hello-  I know that you refer to BH (Bonnie Hunter) stash cutting, but how do you look at a piece and decide what to do with it?  What process and direction does your brain take?  I have so many fabric pieces I do not have a clue where to start!  Thank you for any help.  I probably could cut down and sort for at least 6 months, but I do want to start the process.”

I can feel your pain Cindy and I think at some point most everyone has.  I can only tell you the method that works for me…and without Bonnie Hunter, I would have been right where you are to this day.  Several years ago I found this that Bonnie Hunter wrote.  Honestly, reading it changed my life as far as scrap quilting goes.  I used to keep all scraps in big trash bags.  I never used it.  I vowed I would.  Felt guilty I didn’t.  Gave it away because reality struck I knew I would never use it as is.

After reading the article I vowed no more.  I was getting a handle on this after all scrap quilts are my favorite..why wasn’t I keeping scrap?  Why wasn’t I making scrappy quilts?  The main reason, I hated pulling out all the fabric and just taking a couple 2 1/2″ cuts off the yardage-thus no scrap quilts.

I had a plan.  I would get the scrap containers Bonnie suggested..  1 1/2″, 2″, 2 1/2″ and 3 1/2″ containers.  I started out with shoe boxes and have since moved to under the bed totes.  I know I use it.  I would cut the scrap up into usable pieces.

I found the easiest way from me to cut is to start looking at scrappy quilt patterns.  Pick one to cut out immediately and two that you want to do in the future.  Look at the size of scraps they take.  For me I did exactly this:  With my sewing room in a big upheaval from when we moved, I hadn’t been taking care of the scraps that I had the way I should.  I have three big boxes that needed attention.   I wanted to make Bonnie Hunter’s Garden Party quilt.

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I also wanted to make her Wild Child quilt.

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Both were really scrappy.

Garden Party needed 1 1/2″ strips and Wild Child 2 1/2″.  I kept this in mind as I cut.  I’d pick up piece…I’d ask myself….Do you want this in one of these quilts?  If it was for Garden Party…I’d cut a 1 1/2″ piece off.  Then I would see what was left.  If it was just over 4″, I’d likely cut two 2″ strips.  I’d just cut whatever made the most sense and used the most of the fabric.  Anything left over that was over 3/4″ but under 1 1/2″ would go into a string box.

If I want the fabric for Wild Child, I would cut a 2 1/2″ strip and save it for that quilt-then deal with the leftovers in a like manner cutting whatever made the most sense.

Here’s the good news.  You can’t do this wrong.  If you pull out a 7″ piece of fabric you can cut any combo of strips.  I doesn’t matter.  The only thing wrong is not doing anything and letting the fabric waste away.  You have more fabric..you can buy more.  Lets say 3 years from now you decided that you like a blue and white quilt and want to make it but you’ve cut most of your blues into a different size than what you need…big deal.  Pull from your fat quarters.  It’s all okay.

In the end, when I did this, I had two quilts cut out.  That was really cool for me.  I could see that the scrap user’s system would really work.

I have expanded my scrap users system.  I keep one set of the totes for darker, jewel tones and Civil War reproductions.  I keep another set for bright fabrics.  I keep yet another set for recycled 100% cotton shirt fabrics.  I don’t like mixing mine.  I find this works better for me.

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Under my quilt machine from left to right I have two plastic drawer sets.  It’s only Civil War and jewel toned fabrics that are a fat quarter or bigger.  Right of that…the scrap users system that goes with it.

On the right of that, the brings and the right of that the recycled shirts.

I had to laugh when someone commented about how much fabric I have saying it’s a lot.  I know there is plenty but not as horrible as it might look.  I bought these totes so that they are large.  They are only about half full.  I want to be able to rummage through them and look to find the color of fabric that I want in the cut sizes…So it does look like lots but it’s really not what it looks like.

I hope that helps Cindy.  I do have to say that I keep a few other fabric out seperately.  I keep dog fabric, novelty and florals in a picnic basket.  I eventually want to make Bonnie Hunter’s Floribunda quilt…I also want to make a novelty and an only dog print quilts.  If I come across those fabrics, I just pull the fabric and put them in the tote without cutting them.

Best wishes with your new adventure in fabric storage.  It will take lots of time but SO worth it!!

The Quilting Room

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Ever since the new cupboard came to the quilting room I have been in just a complete mess.  Since we moved I’ve had about six boxes that just never got put away because honestly, there was nowhere for the things to go.  I knew the cupboard was coming so those boxes just waited and waited.  Well the cupboard came and all those boxes needed to be tackled.

Well that was the thing that got the ball rolling…and rolling and rolling.  So for a month I’ve battled and battled.  I’ve stopped and started so I could complete projects.  I’ve lamented and lamented about how to store everything in the most usable and efficient way.  I’ve called Kelli on the phone day after day saying I think this can go here…but then where should that go?  I think I should do this but then what about that has been the theme for days on end.

I worked on it..I truly did but then I realized that I needed help.

I called Kelli and said, “I need help”.  I know she’s busy so I hate to ask but Kelli came through.  I asked for just an hour or so, but that girl of mine gave me a day.  WOW.  I needed it.

With both of us working and thinking things through it was much easier that doing it alone.  Here’s what we came up with.  I still have more cleaning and organizing to do but what’s left is more cosmetic than deep cleaning…I’m content for now.  Here’s the new cupboard in place.  UFO’s are bottom left.  Things for specific projects are bottom right.  I still need a few more pretty baskets and such to display things.  This is good for now.

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Under the quilting machine…My Civil War fabrics are to the far left in the pull out drawers.  I have them sorted by color.  Then I keep a scrap users system for my Civil Wars and jewel toned fabrics, one for brights and modern prints and one for recycled shirts.

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In my closet is modern and brights sorted by color.  There are stacks of quilts waiting for homes.  One is charity quilts that need to be shipped out…one is quilts we are hoarding that we’ve designed that aren’t published yet.  The back wall is backing fabric and charity quilt tops in the boxes.  Along the bottom are a couple boxes of strings and a big stack of empty totes.

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This is my cutting station.  Straight ahead under the window are a few things I still need to get to.  They need to be sorted out.  Most of it is half square triangles from left over projects.

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The quilting room isn’t perfect but at least I can now sew in the room without feeling guilty.   Little by little this house is really becoming a home and getting the last of the boxes out of the room was exactly what I needed…

and I couldn’t have done it without the help of this girl!

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She was such a trooper to stick with me through the whole reorganization.  It honestly took the two of us about six hours.  We celebrated by cutting out a new quilt…and even got to sew on it a little bit.

I hope we have many more days of sewing together here.

Sorting Stash

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Well I’ve been working on my Garden Party quilt and needed to pull more fabrics.  I had made a commitment to the project vowing I would use as much scrap fabric that has been gifted to me as possible.  My hope is to prove anything can go in a truly scrappy quilt.

Well I thought I had enough blocks made but..alas, I don’t.  So I made plans to dig through a scrap bag that Jolyn had given me to cut the extra blocks I needed.

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Well one thing lead to another and over three hours later I had this entire bag scrapped and sorted out into usable fabric for me.

As I cut I really had two projects in mind.  I was cutting the Garden Party blocks and I was cutting 2 1/2″ strips for my Wild Child quilt.  I find that parring down the scraps while I have a quilt in mind is the easiest and most productive way for me to get through the task of scrapping fabric out.  There are LOTS of pieces that get cut into other sizes but I do have a focus.

I had one pile for each of the quilts and then I had all of this too…..  I follow Bonnie Hunter’s Scrap Users System cutting strings, 1 1/2″, 2″, 2 1/2″ and 3 1/2″ pieces.  I also keep 5″ squares and 10″ squares…and crumbs.

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Now that these are cut they will all go into the totes that hold these sizes.  They will be ready and waiting for their turn in a scrappy quilt.

There were a few other things in the bag that were larger cuts.  They will be sorted in to the fabric color or theme.

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It is a HUGE task to sort through and organize but so worth it.  I just love doing it and am so thankful that I get a chance to do it.

This even included some orphan blocks…I don’t know what’s happening with them yet..time will tell.  Thanks Jolyn for an entertaining evening petting fabric…you have great scraps.

Stash Report

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All week long I have been working on cutting down a big box of scraps that a blog reader had sent to me.  I use Bonnie Hunter’s Scrap User’s System.  Since I found that, I started LOVING scraps and have made them usable.  I had the last pile dumped out and ready to tackle when another box came in the mail.

This box is goodies for me and for the childcare kiddos.  Books are for the kids and scraps are for me!

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I immediately started paging through the books.  Even though it was Saturday and I had no kids here to read books to, I started reading them.  They are wonderful.  I know the kids are going to love them.  I love the “How do Dinosaurs…” series.  I had a bunch of the books from the series when I quit childcare last time.  Those were all passed on to new childcare providers in the area.  I have to admit, I do miss my old book collection but these are a great help to getting a collection back in place.

I grabbed the scraps and headed upstairs to the quilting room.  I still had the mess out from cutting scraps so thought I would just keep the mess going and tackle these too.

Thanks so much for thinking of me and the childcare kids Debbie B.  I just love sorting through scraps and cutting them down.  It’s like therapy to me!

To see how others are using their stash check out Patchwork Times.