It's easy, and liberating, to learn how to make a scrap quilt because scrap quilting projects help you eliminate the stress of selecting colors. Instead, you'll focus on choosing fabrics that contrast with each other and the final outcome will be just as wonderful even if some of those choices aren't exactly as you envisioned.
Scrap quilts are quilts sewn in a random assortment of fabrics—almost as if the quilter shut his or her eyes to choose the next fabric. In reality, a bit of planning does enter into your fabric choices, but it's more about color dominance and color value than the color itself.
Traditional quilting history asserts that the majority of scrap quilts were "make-do" projects, quilts constructed from leftover patches in order to be thrifty and use every scrap of fabric available. Many scrap quilts probably were made in that way, especially during hard times, but perhaps just as many scrap quilts were made by quilters who simply loved to sew with lots of fabrics.
Today, it isn't unusual for quilters to have tons of scrap fabric lying around just so they have what they need on hand for a scrap quilt the next time a pattern suits their fancy.
How to Choose Fabrics for Scrap Quilts
- Variety is the key to developing a collection of scrap quilt fabrics. Choose all sorts of fabrics, even fabrics you don't necessarily like.
- Collect a mixture of print types: florals, geometrics, calico fabrics, novelty prints, stripes, plaids, batik fabrics—the more variety, the better.
- Choose fabrics in a wide range of colors. That means stretching beyond your favorites to include every color of the rainbow, including light and dark examples of all.
- Choose fabrics with prints of all scales.
- Remember to include tone-on-tone fabrics. Sometimes called ToTs, these fabrics often appear to be solid from a distance, but when viewed up close you'll see they're prints in two or more variations of the same color. They make excellent blenders and can help you add contrast and variety to a quilt.
- Be sure to include neutral fabrics, such as cream, brown, black and white. They give your eyes a soft place to rest and break up areas of the quilt that could otherwise be too busy.
Scrap quilts can be built around a specific type of fabric. Quilts based on a large assortment of florals, known as watercolor quilts, are one example, and quilts made with a selection of batiks are another. There are no rules.
The number of fabrics you use in your scrap quilts is totally up to you, from charm quilts, where no fabric is used more than once, to quilts with a somewhat more orderly appearance.
Collecting Fabrics for Scrap Quilts
Save your leftovers from every project. You might be surprised how quickly you can accumulate a group of scraps.
Join a quilting fabric or quilt block exchange. You'll send out multiples of one or more fabrics or blocks, and receive the same number you submitted. Your package will probably include items you might not have thought to purchase yourself. Explore a quilting forum for fabric and quilt block exchanges.
Patterns for Scrap Quilts
One-patch quilts are favorite scrap quilting choices—quilts made by repeating a single shape across their surfaces, such as hexagons and diamonds. An easy block pattern is a perfect starting point.
Don't Worry About Finishing a Scrap Quilt in a Short Time
No matter what type of quilt you plan to make, it's perfectly okay to construct one block at a time—or even portions of quilt blocks at a time. Find a bin that will hold your work in progress and add to it when you have more scraps to work with.
When you think you are ready to start planning your quilt, place the blocks or other pieces on a design wall. The wall needn't be fancy—anyplace that's visible will work perfectly. Most of us shift patchwork or other elements around until we're satisfied with a scrap quilt's layout.
Entire books have been written about the art of scrap quilting, so regard the tips here as a starting point to help you create a quilt filled with visual interest. Like any form of quilting, successful scrap quilts take practice.