Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Spring Cleaning-- Scraps

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Spring Cleaning series!  We're almost at the end, and I'm really glad you're here!

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.

Decisions, decisions:

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 BustingJoan 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!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social.


Alison V. said...

Thanks for sharing! I am a sort by color person! I keep my strings and small scraps in their own bag for extra scrappy projects (like bee blocks and tension testing) and then the largest scraps (usually left over backing cut offs) I keep in their own bin. :)

Joyce Carter said...

Great info! I find that the best way for me to store my scraps is to cut them into whatever size square I can (1 1/2 inch to 5 inches). These are stored in see through containers according to their size. Now, they are ready for some scrappy goodness. Since I love scrap quilts, this system works great for me. Thanks for sharing.

Quiltdivajulie said...

I love scraps -- I don't keep triangles because of the bias edges but I keep lots of others! The real trick is not necessarily to "take on" someone else's system but to use those systems as inspiration for creating YOUR OWN (just like you said).

Jen said...

I love, love scraps. Unfortunately, I don't have a super great sorting system yet. I have a few containers with some cut squares and strips, but mostly they are just in a huge plastic tote. I tried sorting by color and pressing them, but my containers were much too small to hold much. One thing I do is keep a bowl on my table for current project scraps, just in case I can fit a cut out of one of them before cutting into more yardage, or if I want to piece some bits for a back. Thanks for the great Spring Cleaning series!

JanineMarie said...

Thanks for sharing about fabric and scrap storage. I just caught up with your fabric post, and was attracted to your comic board storage. It makes such a pretty array of mini-bolts. My fabric pieces are quite small and I store them in dresser drawers with the edges up. But they get messy so quickly. I'm thinking now that maybe I could use the comic boards and cut them in half to fit the drawer to keep the fabrics neater. I'll let you know if I get around to it. As I consider some scrap quilts I want to make, I find myself wishing that I was in the habit of precutting my leftovers so that scrap quilts would be easier get under the needle. It seemed like such a daunting job. Thanks to you, I see that I could just pick one size or shape and try that to get started. And maybe that will kick start a habit.

Kevin the Quilter said...

You are a quilter after my own heart! What a wonderful post!

Louise said...

Great post! I like that you give lots of ideas and emphasize that it always comes back to what works for each of us. No wrong answers here, except forcing yourself to use a system that just frustrates you :)

I sort by color and cut into strips of either 2.5" or 1.5" wide (with a few 2"ers here and there.) The strips are stored in Kleenex boxes that had their tops cut off. If a piece is less than about 5" long, I cut it into a 2.5" square and all those live together higgeldy piggeldy in a single box. Their fate is unknown!

Then I look for scrappy patterns that use 2.5" or 1.5" strips. Lots of those out there, so I give myself permission to ignore patterns that use, say, 3.5" strips instead. Works for me!