The Great Scrap Sort

I’ve been trying to get ahold of my sewing room.  I have been doing a little every now and then and am happy.  I’ve made a STRONG commitment that every little thing will get attention before I am truly calling it done.  One of the things that is on the forefront of my brain is tackling my scraps.  I used them often and with the release of Bonnie Hunter’s new book String Frenzy, more than ever I feel like my scraps need to get in control.

I gathered my scraps, bought a couple tubs and started in on sorting….What a mess!!

Here are my tubs…one is for what I call “brights” and the other “Civil War-ish tones”.  I really think better terms might be “white based” and “cream based”.  Keep reading…I’ll explain.
Here are the white based fabrics….
If you were to pick a background fabric to go with them, you would not use tans.  You would use white, snow white, egg shell…those types of background colors.
This is the “cream based” tote.  Look.  Creams and tans are already in the box and they looks PERFECT with these colors.  If white were thrown in there, it would really stick out.
So I grabbed a handful of scraps…these need to get sorted.
In a minute or so I had two piles.  The white based on the left and the cream based on the right.  Notice a couple that are questionable.
This regularly happens.  When it does, I grab a piece of white and a piece of tan and see which way I’d rather have them go.  There is no wrong or right.  It’s simply personal preference.  What do you prefer??


To “double check”, I throw my scraps into the bucket and give a look.  Do the scraps I just added stick out?

I think they look good.  

I’ve been complimented time and time again about my ability to select color.  This is how I do it.  Now, if I were to make my tulip fields quilt again, I would pick the “cream” bucket to sew from.


No fabrics that are white based would be allowed in this quilt.

If I were to make Bonnie Hunter’s quilt Xing from her new book, I would use the white based bucket of scraps.

As I was sorting I came across these pieces. ..notice the blue with the cream at the top of the picture?  That looks great to me.

Now look at the bottom with the red and white.  For me, I likely wouldn’t team the white with that red.

Look in the photo below.  Doesn’t that red look better with a cream based background fabric??
I will readily admit that purple, yellows and reds can be tricky.  If you’re sorting or selecting fabric for a quilt, grab a piece of tan background fabric and a piece of white background fabric and use that as your fabric selection guide.  It’s what I do and so far, I think it has works every time.

I’m off…I have another tote of fabric scraps to sort.  Oh my, I just love sorting scraps…it does my heart good.  Oh the possibilities all in one tote!!

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28 thoughts on “The Great Scrap Sort

  1. JennyM

    I started sorting my scraps like this after a previous post you made on the subject. I’m happy with how my quilts look and do get compliments on the color selection. Thanks for your thoughts on the subject!

  2. Donna T

    Thank you for the tip! I am very bad with colors but the way you explained it and showed examples make sense to me!

  3. Carol Lorraine Stearns

    Great idea! I have a terrible habit of not cleaning off my cutting table when finished with a project. I just push the scraps aside until it gets so bad and so high I have to clean up. I will do so by New Years Day. Get that cutting table cleared off for a fresh start. Your scrap sorting system is great for scrappy quilts!

  4. Carla

    Your way is the most intuitive and simple way of sorting colors that I have come across so far. Love it!

  5. Lisa Long

    Thank you Jo! Great advice as usual! I was taught to call the differences bright or muddy. Your one bucket would be called bright and the other muddy but no one explained things the way you did about deciding where those trouble fabrics go as you did.

  6. Sharon Malone

    Your method is great! An additional “test” I have used is to look at the selvedge, if possible, or the back of the fabric. Most times you can see whether a white thread was used or a tan shade when the fabric was woven.

  7. Amy

    This is VERY helpful. I’m a scrap quilter but I don’t always like the results and I haven’t been able to figure out why some work and some don’t. I think this will help a lot. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Tina Zee

    I’m with Amy. I make a lot of scrap quilts some are great some…not so much. I think this information is going to help me a lot. I’ve been sorting by cool or warm colors and that helps but I am going to go through my bin of lights and separate then further.

  9. Tina Zee

    I also make a lot of scrap quilts some are great some…not so much. I think this information is going to help me a lot. I’ve been sorting by cool or warm colors and that helps but I am going to go through my bin of lights and separate then further.

  10. Robin

    Until this year I haven’t been a scrap keeper but you and Bonnie Hunter have made me a believer. I’ve been a little trepidacious about sewing scraps but you seem to make it easier for me to grasp the concept.

    I can’t wait to see your sewing room when you get it just the way you want it. I just know you are going to have some ideas to help me organize my own room.

  11. Pat Anderson

    Totally agree with you on your color tips! After 40 years of quilting, I guess I haven’t thought of it in those terms, but you really made it understandable. I will say, however, that years ago “the quilt police” said no mixing of white and off-white but I have seen it used beautifully….color can be so challenging but makes all the difference. I think the best tip I ever had was to make sure every quilt had light, medium and dark and different scales of print. Most people tend to gravitate toward similar fabrics and that makes for a boring quilt. I love scrappy!

  12. Suzy R.

    This is such a great tip and the pictures are a big help! I think your idea will help me make better use of my scraps in the new year.

  13. Nancy A

    I was starting to sort mine by color, but maybe I should rethink this. Do you use any other plan for your sorting?

  14. Susan the Farm Quilter

    Well, your method of sorting fabric makes it quite clear to me why I usually use white or black as a neutral for my quilts! I love the bright colors and usually am drawn to the cool side of the spectrum. I’m not drawn to many of the “muddy” colors or Civil War type fabrics any more – when I first started quilting a decade ago, I really liked the Thimbleberry/Buggy Barn fabrics, now, not so much. I supposed, as women, we are entitled to change our minds LOL

  15. Cindy E

    Your hint sounds great. I don’t have a wide variety of scrap, but will divide up this way – hopefully. Then when I do make a scrappy quilt, I’ll try to use one group or the other. Thanks for the wonderful tip.

  16. Judy

    Thank you for sharing that information. Your scrappy quilts always turn out so beautiful so I am going to follow that when I sort my fabrics.

  17. Barbara Firesheets

    Thank you Jo — this information helps a lot!! I’ve also shared your blog post with one of our local quilting groups. I really enjoy reading your blog and seeing all your beautiful quilts. Thank you for all you share with us.

  18. BrendaW

    Lightbulb moment! Your method makes perfect sense to me! I have never hit on a sorting method that clicked for me until now! Thank you!

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