Our topic for today is scraps, those precious little pieces left after the main project is complete. Maybe you save your own, maybe you get them from friends, maybe you buy them in thrift shops and quilt stores--wherever they come from, storing them can be a problem. So many pieces floating around, so many colors, so many possibilities. Let's see if we can't tame that scrap monster!
First, some good news for some of you--you don't have to save scraps if you don't want to! Really! It's your fabric, you can do whatever you want to with it. Toss those little pieces in the trash if you'd like, or use them as fire starters or pet bed stuffing. It would be kind to save them and give them away to someone who can use them, but you don't even have to do that. If you do want to save scraps for someone, keep a box by your cutting area. When it's full, seal it up and send it off. No mess in your sewing room, happiness for the recipient. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
If you do save scraps, there are a lot of ways to organize and store your scraps, but--as always--whatever you decide to do with your own fabric and scraps is the right thing to do. Find a system that works for you. It may take a few tries, but eventually you *will* get a handle on the scraps.
There has been a lot written about scraps, with many, many blog posts and even entire books dedicated to this subject. These all boil down to two basic choices: you can save pieces and bits sorted roughly by color (or theme, or mood, or collection) or cut your leftovers into specific sizes and store the pieces by size. This is the basic choice, and the one thing that you really should decide before you start. You could also cut some pieces into sizes and save some pieces intact, which is what I do.
If you decide to cut up all your scraps, there are a number of different systems and philosophies. Decide if one of these works for you, or if you want to make your own system. A couple of really popular "cutting" systems are Bonnie Hunter's Scrap User's System and Quilter Pat Sloan's Scrap Busting. Joan Ford also has a couple of Scrap Therapy books that include patterns for how to use the scraps you cut up. If you do decide to use one of these systems, don't overwhelm yourself with the cutting. Go slowly and cut just a handful of scraps at a time. It could take a while to cut everything up.
If you aren't cutting them up for now, the main problem with scraps is storing them. The first thing to do--before you start sorting!-- is to decide which sizes of pieces are "scraps." Some people think of fat quarters as scraps, others think a scrap is anything smaller than a 5-inch square. You decide! This is going to have an impact on the types of containers you want to consider for storing your scraps. If the fat quarters are really scraps, then you're probably going to want to use larger containers, like baskets or bins.
Along with this, decide what the smallest piece you'll save will be. I know quilters who save every little tiny bit and ones who toss anything smaller than 4 inches square. What do you want to save? If you save the smallest bits, will you actually use them? If not, why save them? If you won't use them but can't bring yourself to throw them out, save them separately for a friend who will use them. Your friend gets infusions of new fabrics occasionally and you get to get rid of those bits guilt free. Winners all around!
So many decisions before we even touch the fabric! Just one more thing to decide-- what containers will you use to save your scraps? There are a lot of possibilities, and none of them have to be expensive! Some possibilities:
--Jars of any size or shape, though bigger is usually better, or any kind of glassware that will hold the scraps
--Baskets of any size
--Plastic bins or boxes (see-through!)
--Zipper bags of many sizes
--Fabric bins, either inexpensive ones you purchase or ones you've made yourself
--Plastic food containers, after they've been washed in hot soapy water, make amazing scrap containers, too
There are a lot of possibilities, and you don't have to choose just one. I'm a big proponent of using what you have. All of the pictures above are actually from my sewing room. I mostly use the plastic bins, which are Gladware Entree size that came in packages of three, and I plan to make some of my own bins to replace the cheap brown ones. Someday!
One place to find a lot of really cheap, interesting, and useful containers is your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or St Vincent de Paul thrift store. These are especially good places to go if you want to find jars or other glassware, including mason jars in many sizes. They also usually have a bunch of different kinds of baskets and bins, equally inexpensive.
Sorting at last:
Now that all of these decisions have been made, it's finally time to sort some scraps! The key to success is not to try to do it all at once. Definitely get all the scraps in one place--pull out every box, bin, and plastic grocery bag and keep them all together in one spot while you're sorting, but only sort one handful at a time. Be good to yourself and take frequent breaks, and allow yourself plenty of time to get it finished. Keep a box nearby, too, for anything that you want to give away. Though some people can sell their scraps by the pound or by the bag, I'm not sure how much market there is for this. You could always try, if that's your thing. You can also donate most scraps at the same places you donate fabric. And friends usually gratefully take scraps of all kinds!
Most people probably sort by color family, but you can use any sorting principle that works for you-- warm colors and cool colors, darks and lights, prints and solids, batiks and cottons, dots and stripes, dogs and cats. . .whatever works for you! You can also mix different types of containers, and even choose to cut some scraps into standard sizes and keep others in chunks or irregular bits. The most important thing is that you find a way that makes sense to you. Just like with anything else, if it doesn't work for you--it doesn't work!
Just to illustrate how a system unique to you can work, let me tell you about my scrap "system." I save most of my scraps sorted by color in the plastic Gladware bins, which are stacked on a shelf in the closet. I don't usually cut scraps into smaller pieces until I have nothing but little bits of that fabric left. Then I will cut those pieces into 2-1/2, 2-inch, or 1-1/2 inch squares. These squares get stored in plastic zipper bags, which are kept in those ugly brown bins. I also have some scraps from particular collections that I've wanted to keep together stored in plastic zipper bags in those bins. The basket holds scraps of flannel and specialty fabrics. The strings--which to me are strips that are less than 1-1/2 inches wide--are in the large jar, mainly because they look pretty in there. Hey, it works for me!
Keep the system going:
The problem with scraps is that they just keep building up! The way to keep ahead of it is to keep a box or basket near your cutting area. Toss the scraps in there as you cut and sort them when the basket or box is full. I know myself that this is easier said than done! Eventually they do get sorted out, but that's usually after I've stuffed them down in the basket quite a bit.
Of course, the best thing to do with scraps is make some scrap quilts, but that's a topic for someone else! I hope you got some good ideas here and can make a dent in those scraps, even if it's just to box them up and send them away.
This brings us to the end of our spring cleaning topics! Next week is the big finale, with a little discussion of furniture, some pictures of my sewing room, and I have it on good authority that there is also a giveaway involved. Meet back here next Wednesday for the exciting conclusion!
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