As I stood over the trash can in my sewing room this morning about to dig for “crumbs”, I faced an unavoidable truth: I’ve hit the point of no return.
When I started quilting, I bought precuts for projects and used the scraps on the back of the quilts because I wanted nothing leftover to pile up in my sewing room. (Side note: if you want to read in more details how this quilting journey started, CLICK HERE for my story!)
As I moved up to buying yardage and trying more complex piecing designs (for me “complex” meant taking more than an hour or two!) I endured the blank/confused looks at the fabric stores when I calculated my needs down to the nearest tenth of a metre. They just didn’t understand my policy: NO PIECE LEFT UNUSED. And it worked really well for the first several quilts. I was not going to become one of those crazy quilt ladies buried in fabric and unable to throw anything out.
Eventually, of course, I had a few scraps here and there and I happily passed them on to my mom, who either used them or passed them on again.
Then came the day I was about to put a little piece of leftover fabric into the bag I keep by the door to go to my mom, and it occurred to me that it might be useful for something down the road. And my quilty friend, Judith, welcomed me to the DARK SIDE. She had been waiting there for me. Apparently I was in denial all along, as she listened to my non-stashing plan and laughed, watching me edge closer and closer to the cliff.
As I stocked my Etsy shop, so grew my scrap basket where I still had rules: minimum of 2.5″ width so I could use it for either binding or a strip quilt, which would regularly empty out the basket. Leftover backings were precut into strips before storing so they were ready for use.
Next came the need to separate prints from solids and an extra basket was added, in which I carefully organized pieces by color for easy planning when I wanted to use them up. Anything smaller than a fat quarter went into the basket.
Later still, I needed a place to put bigger leftovers – pieces that happen when you need to piece big quilt backings and have a good 18″-20″ strip that’s a metre or more wide and it’s not technically a “scrap” – which made for three shelves dedicated to baskets of leftovers.
Fast Forward to 2019
I had a couple of periods where I decided to challenge myself to make as many things as I could using just what I had on hand. I enjoy cleaning things up and out and tidying my sewing room, so this worked out well. It started with the charity project I worked on, making strip quilts for a local transition house for men. I was able to bust my scrap strips down to almost nothing, leaving anything smaller for some scrappy projects closer to Christmas. I was not going to shop for fabric until the new year after I had emptied my shelves of all but my favourite solids.
I started knocking out all kinds of scrappy things with a quick piece as you go method that is rather addicting and, because it’s pretty much mindless sewing with no serious planning, I can watch favourite videos while I bang these out and please myself in ever increasing doses as I see the scrap pile diminishing and turning into unique and funky things that are quite useful. Even fabrics I might not be too excited about, when cut into little pieces, are great accents and fit well into the boho hippie scrappy look. Needless to say, it takes a lot longer to fill up my mom’s scrap bag these days.
Which brings us to this morning…
I’m sure many of you have used this method, but for those who are wondering, here is how it goes:
I plan for the finished size I want, grab two layers of batting (usually also scraps!) that will be about 2″ bigger on each side. I mark the area I want to cover on it and then go to town starting with a little piece of something in a random spot and adding other little pieces, building it up to the edges of the marked area. If I want to use a strip and it’s not quite long enough, I add other little pieces to it for a scrappy strip (Christina Camelli calls these “crumbs” and it’s her idea that inspired me). Once I’ve reached the lines on all sides, I trim it down and toss the trimmed edges in the trash.
AND HERE IS WHERE IT ALL WENT DOWNHILL
I was cleaning up my sewing table to prepare for binding some of the work from the weekend and noticed I had been – not deliberately – putting aside little bits here and there that would still make fine starting pieces and coordinated with other scraps I still had. CRUMBS.
As I was putting them away, I walked over to the trash can and realized that some of the pieces attached to discarded batting strips from my weekend work were actually bigger than these. I leaned over to pick out the batting, ripping off the crumbs – and mentally assessing them as I went: “oh that fabric feels so nice, and this one is just too cute!” – when a truth washed over me. I am now that crazy quilt lady. There is no going back. The scraps never really go away for good. It never ends.
THIS IS THE DARK SIDE.
I have arrived.