When I first started quilting, I never saved scraps of fabric. As a beginning quilter, I was still learning to be comfortable with choosing fabrics for color and contrast --and I just didn't have the space to store scraps! Now that I've been quilting awhile, I have a deep love of scrap quilts. I've made many and they're some of my favorite in my collection because they're so interesting and fun to look at!
What are Scrap Quilts?
Scrap quilts are quilts that seem to be sewn with a random assortment of fabric. Historically, scrap quilts were make-do projects and were pieced with leftover fabric and even clothing items. They were thrifty and utilitarian. But today, scrap quilts are popular with people who just love fabric and want to use as many as possible in their quilts.
Scrap quilts rely on contrast, value, and even color to get a clear design across. So although you're using a variety of fabrics, you still want to be able to showcase the pattern's design be selecting a range of light, medium, and dark prints to get contrast.
Tips for Scrappy Quilts
Check your contrast. Many times, a scrappy quilt pattern is written in a way to reflect the need for contrast. For example, it might call for 1 yard of assorted light fabrics and 1 yard of assorted dark fabrics. Or it may specify a few colors, such as 1 yard of assorted purple and pink prints. But if the pattern isn't written that way or you plan to convert a quilt pattern into a scrappy pattern, use photos to help plan your fabric choices.
Take a picture of the quilt pattern with your phone. Then convert the picture to black and white, so you can see where the light, medium, and dark prints are placed in the blocks. And then take a picture of your fabric selection and covert that photo to black and white to classify your fabrics as light, medium, or dark. Then you can match your fabrics with the placement in the pattern to gain that same contrast as in the pattern.
Mix fabrics. Anything goes when it comes to fabric selection for a scrappy quilt. You can mix reproduction and contemporary prints. You can choose polka dot and florals. You can use batiks and tone-on-tones. My favorite type of print to add to a scrappy print is a stripe, because it adds an unexpected type of movement to the quilt that other prints don't always bring.
Add sparkle. Include some bright or standout color or prints to your quilt to help draw the eye around the project. Sometimes a color that seems a little off from the color palette can add a little extra oomph (such as adding a few lime green prints to a traditional Christmas color palette or an aqua print to a blue and white quilt).
Use the wrong side. Remember that your fabrics have two sides--the right AND the wrong side. If the fabric you're using feels like it has too many colors or an overwhelming print, you can tone it down by putting the wrong side up. This is especially helpful when using low-volume prints for a background that read as a color when cut smaller.
Don't overthink! Many times when making a quilt, our brain will try to make patterns from the fabric we're sewing together. You may end up pairing the same colors together over and over or using the same number of colors in a block. To get the scrappiest look you can when piecing, try throwing your fabrics for your quilt in a container and then mixing them up. Then when you start sewing, just grab pieces at random.
Trust yourself. Sometimes scrap quilts can look really uncoordinated until the entire quilt comes together. I've heard of quilters giving up on scrap quilts after only a few blocks, because they think it's not working or the blocks are ugly. But stick with it! Remember that scraps truly shine when they're all together in a finished project.
Make a Controlled Scrappy Quilt
If you're new to scrappy quilts or you desire a calmer version of scrappy, try a "controlled scrappy" quilt. An easy way to achieve this is to use a single background print instead of scrappy mix. You can also stick to a consistent color palette by choose a scrappy mix of fabrics that fall under those specific colors. This will bring a little more order to your quilts.
Build Your Scrap Stash
If you don't have a variety of scraps, you can still make a scrappy quilt! Cut pieces from a variety of fabrics (at least 5) to add interest to your quilt. If you belong to a quilt guild or have quilty friends, suggest swapping scraps or extra fabrics to help build your stash. You can also buy mini charm packs (42 precut 2.5" squares of an entire collection of fabrics) or even a Moda Fabrics Scrap Bag to help build the number of fabrics in your stash.
Thanks for joining me for "happy hour",
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