Hello, and welcome to another edition of “Ask Jo”. I get many comments and questions from all sorts of places, the comment section here, Youtube, email, and from our Facebook group. Sometimes I think others of you might want to know the answers as well so I answer them here on the blog. Today I’m tackling a question from Cindy about fabric storage and use.
“Hello, I just ordered the book scrap school, and I have a couple of questions regarding your technique. Do you have an Accuquilt machine or do you cut your pieces by hand? Do you have such a large precut stash that you just can pick out your reds, your blues, or do you pick your color for the block and then cut it out? Do you separate your size of squares by colors or do you just have one box for all 2-inch squares etc, with colors all mixed together? don’t have a lot of pre-cut stash, though I a huge stash of mostly fat quarters. Only recently have I started buying larger pieces. I don’t want to die with all this fabric. Postage costs so much otherwise lots would be coming to you. Maybe I should take a road trip, lol… I am excited to receive the book. I pray for you and your family often Jo. You have given so many of us joy and love for your family. ”
Cindy’s question came in after I showed this…my County Fair quilt. Right now it’s only shown with the center finished.
For those of you who need a refresher, this is quilt comes from the book Scrap School: 12 All-New Designs from Amazing Quilters put together by Lissa Alexander.
Cindy asked a lot of questions all at once. I’m going to try to tackle them all in one post…here goes…
Do you have an Accuquilt machine or do you cut your pieces by hand?
I do not have an Accuquilt. I cut with a rotary cutter and mat. I do have some tips and tricks that make it easier. You can watch this video that I did that shows some of them.
Do you have such a large precut stash that you just can pick out your reds, your blues, or do you pick your color for the block and then cut it out?
I do have a large stash. For the most part, I keep cuts that are 1/2 yard and fat quarters. I have very-very little fabric that is larger than that. The main reason for that is that I am a scrappy-looking quilt lover. If you want scrappy it’s best to have smaller cuts so you can get more variety.
I also keep a scrap users system. I first learned about that from Bonnie Hunter. You can read about her system HERE.
What it breaks down to is that quilters keep leftovers in sizes that they will use. Many people who use the system end things there. I don’t. I have gone on to actually have scrap user boxes in different genres.
On the left, I have a system of totes for scraps that are what I call cream-based. They are more jewel-toned fabrics. My Civil War reproduction fabrics go in there…anything that is darker deeper prints along with creams. Think to yourself if I was making a reproduction fabric quilt, I’d find the scraps here. On the right is the same style of system only there I have bright fabrics that I classify as white-based. Think primary colors. Think pinks and bright colors you’d use to make a quilt for the 12-year-old girl.
I have a tote for the following sizes.
1 1/2″ strips
2 1/2″ strips
3 1/2″ strips
These all work well together.
Here is the 2″ strip bucket that focuses on brights. Some people sort by color within the tote but I don’t. I don’t want to take the extra time. If I’m going to make a scrappy quilt and need only red, I dump the box out on the floor and sort out the red. I love doing that! Lots of fabric petting and lots of memory lane time happens…remembering when I used that in what quilt.
I have smaller totes for my batik strips. I don’t sew with batiks as often. I could easily have kept them my regular fabrics. There is nothing wrong with mixing them but do date, I haven’t.
I also have a system for my recycled shirt strips. These aren’t overflowing like my original totes but I like to keep them and I like to keep them seperately.
I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE this system. It has completely changed the way a quilt and sew.
Bonnie Hunter released a new pattern a bit ago and it uses strips. I was able to sit down and start sewing. No cutting for me.
I can just grab a tote and sew to my heart’s content…and best of all, THE SCRAPS ARE BEING USED!!
Patterns like this one where I can immediately grab and sew and so tempting to me. They are immediate gratification for me…kind of like precuts.
Do you separate your size of squares by colors or do you just have one box for all 2-inch squares etc, with colors all mixed together?
Now specifically about the County Fair quilt. This quilt is 2 1/2″ based. In each of my totes I have a ziplock of squares that are the specific size. So, when it came time to make this quilt I opened the 2 1/2″ bright colored fabric bucket. I pulled out that bag and sorted the pieces into colors. I noticed I didn’t have any orange squares so I looked for strips and quickly cut some into 2 1/2″ squares. I check over each color I planned to use. If I didn’t have squares, I looked and cut down strips. If I didn’t have strips…that was the case with the white background prints, I went to my fat quarters and starting cutting them…first into strips and then into squares.
I always work from smallest to largest with the intention of using up the smallest pieces first.
I sorted the pieces into these little totes and worked from there. I’m done with the quilt now and would normally put these pieces back into the ziplock bag and put it back into the 2 1/2″ tote. I’ve left them sorted like this though.
I have my eye on a couple of more quilts in the Scrap School book. This one…
…and this one. Both use the same squares. I think in the one below I’d move to more primary colors. Still, these will be useful if left sorted as they are, so that puts these two quilts on the back burner for me I guess.
I don’t have a lot of pre-cut stash, though I a huge stash of mostly fat quarters.
I keep fat quarters sorted by colors. They are also kept so that the cream-based and white-based fabrics are kept separately. You can watch my sewing room tour video and see how I do that. Here is that video.
While I’ve been working on the Red Sampler Quilt Along, I’ve kept this box with fabric that I have been pulling from. It was not clean and tidy like this. I just straightened it out. I pulled a bunch of fabrics that were getting small, these will be cut up and put into the scrap users system. That’s how I keep it replenished. As I finish projects, I cut the leftovers immediately and put them in. They will be ready the next time I need them.
I’ve also kept this tote with mixed sizes. These are leftovers from when I cut the individual blocks. When I’ve been making these, I pull from here first and if there isn’t something that will work, I pull from the cardboard box in the above photo.
Once the quilt along is over, all of these will be sorted by size and put into the cream-based (think Civil War reproduction colors) scrap users system.
Some people think this is a lot of work. Honestly, when I initially started it, I dreaded it. It was a lot of work, but now, it’s amazing. It takes very little work. Yes, some maintenance but it’s not “work”. It’s worth the time as the scraps are getting used and I’m making the most of my sewing dollar.
I hope that helps Cindy. As I was answering this question, another came in from Susan V. She writes:
“This post is great timing for me. Yesterday I was trying to assemble my blocks with side setting triangles and sashing and I got worried it looked like I wasn’t doing it right. I even triple-checked my math, so I knew I had the right size, but I’m still so inexperienced at on-point blocks. But, my blocks look similar to yours. I guess I just have to relax and know it will trim down later. Love the close-up of Rosie’s face. I can’t wait to see that colorful quilt when you have it all done.”
Susan was talking about his…see how the sides don’t line up?
See how much needs to be trimmed? This is VERY common for designers to not give precise measurements for the side setting triangles when quilts are on point. There is a margin for error there so they opt for larger and then ask makers to trim. It’s very standard so if you get a quilt looking like this, no worries. Trim is up and move on.
The only trouble is that when adding borders, they might not be the exact length the pattern calls for. That’s why Kelli and I always encourage people to measure across the middle of a quilt and use that number for the length to cut your borders. You will not get wavy borders if you use that method.
Thanks so much for the questions and comments. Never be afraid to ask…