"not quilting"

Teeny Tiny Scraps Shadow Box Craft

teeny scraps quilts

“How small is too small?”

Whenever I am speaking on scrap quilting, no matter the audience, this is a guaranteed question. I think people are looking for either A) someone to tell them it is okay to throw out fabric at some point or B) that they aren’t crazy for keeping every little bit. And both of those people would be right.

My default answer is that I will keep pieces as small as 1-2’’ square. And little triangles left from making binding or other blocks. Definitely keep those. Not to mention all those stringy strings of fabric shedding bits of thread, I always keep those.

Then there are the trimmings. Because the bulk of the work I do is improvised at some point I need to trim and square up blocks or components on a quilt. I might be left with very useful scraps or a mess of threads and what used to look like fabric. While finishing up my last quilt top the dazzling array of bits left behind were just as inspiring to me as the blocks themselves. So I spent 5 minutes - yes, that is all it took - putting together this fun scrap project.

teeny scraps from make waves quilt


TEENY TINY SCRAPS SHADOW BOX CRAFT

Supplies

  • Fabric trimmings, thread bits, and tiny scraps of fabric

  • Clean Shadow Box Frame in any size

Instructions

  1. Fill shadow box with trimmings. Arrange in a colour order, if desired.

Notes

  • Take a little time to make the front side of the scraps pretty. The back of a fabric is really just another fabric in the collection, so it isn’t a big deal if it shows. Just be happy with the way the top layer of scraps looks.

  • It might be tempting to jam in ALL the trimmings, but unless you have a latch on your shadow box frame it won’t stay closed. Experiment with just the right amount to be full yet still keep closed.

Now my project happens to match the last quilt top I finished, because it was that quilt itself and her gorgeous colours that gave me the idea. But this has the potential to be a whole different kind of art project. In a way it reminds me of the sand paintings that some people can do.

So, to answer the question: nothing is too small.

teeny scraps Shadow Box Craft

Garment Sewing Thoughts From a Scrap Quilter

Linden sweatshirt

May 1 - Me Made May begins. Do you participate? The whole point is to showcase the garments you make and wear. It’s rather quite awesome. And it falls the week after Fashion Revolution, so it seems fitting.

Don’t know about Fashion Revolution? It started in response to the horrible Rana Plaza factory collapse 6 years ago. The factory was making what is known as Fast Fashion. The cheap, generally considered disposable clothing found all over the world. Have you bought a cotton knit t-shirt for less than $10? That’s Fast Fashion. This article is a great backgrounder and motivator.

Last week I had the privilege to speak at a Fashion Revolution YYC event. To be honest, I am not entirely sure why I was invited, but I am glad I was. The panel conversation was about what we, as local makers, can do to address Fast Fashion. It ended up being so much more than that. Today I want to talk about two of the things that came up for me during the evening.

Plus Size Fast Fashion

Plus Size Gets Left Out, Again

I am a plus size woman. And I know I am far from alone. But the vast majority of sustainable or eco conscious clothing is not made for me. Whether that is in the sizing or the style, it just isn’t much of an option.

How many artisan markets have you been to with gorgeous clothes, the maker right there full of enthusiasm and inspiration, only to discover your leg would barely fit in their samples for sale? That large seems like a small? It’s at the point where I don’t even look at clothing at any market.

At the end of the day my shopping choices are limited and 95% of them are going to be Fast Fashion. Even if I want to spend more money for high quality clothing that I will love and take care of, I can’t find it. It exists in such miniscule amounts that the search is like finding hidden treasure. And no matter how much I spend on jeans or what they are made of, my thighs are going to rub and wear out.

Two suggestions for making even your fast fashion last longer.

  1. Take care of it. I treat my Gap Outlet shirts the same as I treat everything else. A lot of handwashing and lay flat to dry. Yes it takes longer but it also means I am not treating my clothing as disposable. A valuable mindset for sustainability.

  2. Mend. I will admit, the visible mending trend is not generally something I would go for. It just isn’t my personal style. But there are beautiful examples out there to inspire. Plus, I can fix a button, rehem when necessary, or even alter something to be a bit new.

The Waste When You Make

Making your own clothes is a glorious solution to Fast Fashion. You get fit, colour, and sizing that works for you. You also get waste.

As a quilter I am used to accumulating, keeping, and using scraps of fabric. As an amateur garment sewer, I also keep accumulate and sort my scraps. BUT they are often not the same substrate as my quilting cottons scraps, nor do they always act the same way.

  • So I keep my knit scraps all together. In my head I will one day turn them into a braided rug or mat.

  • Anything cotton or linen does get put with my quilting cotton scraps. I find that you can mix woven naturals easily.

  • The rest? Well, I haven’t sewn with silk and only once with rayon, so I am not quite sure what to do when them.

Bags, mats, small projects, all can be made with your garment scraps. Providing you trim and sort them because, unlike quilting, you are going to have a lot of weird shaped pieces.

My pet peeve, however, with sewing plus size clothing is the fabric cutting. More than one pattern I’ve used has a different cutting layout as soon as you jump above a size 12. Sure, it makes sense. Bigger clothing means more fabric. What I often find, though, is that the change in cutting lay out leads to a lot of fabric scraps. Whereas I could snuggle my pieces together and be left with random bits, that jump to plus size often means large strips of fabric left untouched and significantly greater fabric requirements.

Look at all that extra fabric!

Look at all that extra fabric!

Much better.

Much better.

Now, I know that grading patterns (changing the sizes) is difficult work. I admire the pattern designers tremendously. But I do not think this jump makes sense. My instinct kicks in and I want to see something more sensible, even though I know it isn’t easy.

Let me give you a super simplified example. When I design a quilt pattern I like to minimize waste. I design block sizes and cutting instructions so you don’t have useless bits leftover or large swaths of fabric untouched. I’ve even changed patterns I wrote to make this easier. So can’t garment pattern designers working with plus size options, design the pattern to maximize the cut fabric? Put a seam down the back so you can cut from less fabric, for example?

Again, I am NOT a garment pattern designer, but I do wonder if things like this are feasible? I’ve also not yet tried some patterns from Cashmerette, a well known plus size pattern designer. Maybe she does this? Or is it even considered? Food for thought.

I won’t be wearing homemade for all of May, but I am using #memademay as a motivation to make a few more things. I plan a Driftless Cardigan and a Kalle Shirtdress. You can be darn sure I will be saving those scraps!

Kalle Shirtdress fabric


Stowe Bag - for my Ballet Boy

Stowe Bag Grainline Studios

There is a Ballet Boy in my house. I often describe the same boy as awake or asleep. He’s never had grumpy, only happy or miserable. And he is almost never quiet if he is awake. A natural extrovert he loves to entertain and relishes a spotlight. He is almost perfect, but more than a little exhausting some days. So I was pleasantly surprised (and full of Mama pride) when my girls said they wanted to make him a bag for his ballet stuff as a Christmas present.

I picked the pattern - easy enough for them to sew but practical. The Stowe Bag from Grainline Studios is technically designed as a project bag, more for knitters. But it is just the right size for my Ballet Boy. And seemed to be an easy sew for the girls - with my supervision. They picked the fabrics. It was hard, I will admit, to let go of the green Marimekko but fabric has more value in use than on a shelf.

Granline Studios Stowe Bag

We made the bag in two sessions. I cut the fabric and they got everything prepped and the basics sewn. Then we finished off with the bias tape the next day. It was miraculously done in time for Christmas morning.

As expected the appreciation of the bag was lost on Christmas morning in the face of a Connor McDavid jersey and new Lego. But it’s been in steady use ever since. He takes it to each practice, it carrried his uniform to a gala event where he had a major solo, and it remains perfect in every way. Just like him.

The Blue Gala
Hattori Williamson Ballet

An aside: I could not recommend his ballet school any more highly. He is getting amazing opportunities, the families are wonderful, and his teachers - all former professionals - are incredible and kind.

Pattern notes:

We made the small size.

Pockets ended up being pointless. We did change the seaming to make more sense for things like holding his glasses case and slippers, but they just flop open. Would skip those next time.

We skipped steps 13 and 14 of the pattern because I mistakenly thought that was the bottom gusset creation which we determined we didn’t need. I might go back and do those steps.

Our bias tape is bigger than the pattern specifies. We were on a deadline and this one was in the stash, already made.

Patchwork Sleep Sac with Voile and Anna Maria Horner

Patchwork Sleep Sac

What do you give your best friend when her fourth kid is born, another friend is making and giving her the first quilt she ever made, and she is the type of person who hates extra stuff in her house? That was the challenge I had recently. I did not want to usurp our other friend's efforts nor did I want to contribute to the accumulation of baby stuff, but I still wanted to make something. In the end, I settled on the Sleep Sac from Anna Maria Horner's lovely book, Handmade Beginnings.

Anna Maria Horner Handmade Beginnings

With no flannel in the stash for the inside I went shopping. Then I went through my voile stash to make the patchwork front. It was a family effort. My kidlets worked on the layout of the patchwork and helped press as we go. This is the softest thing ever!

Conveniently, I had some bias binding in the pink already made. When Anna Maria's instructions suggested finishing it by hand like a quilt binding I decided to up my game. Some big stitches in beautiful Valdani floss instead. (Note to self, do that more often.)

Hand Stitched Binding with Valdani Thread

Next time I give this gift - there will totally be a next time - I would add about 3'' in length to the pattern. The new baby is 6 weeks old and nearly too long for this. It's also possible I will be making a second version for her. If not, her stuffies or dolls will be very cuddly in the future.