"scraps"

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


Improv Curves - Scrappy Versus Scrap

Improv Curves Color Girl Quilts

I knew there was a reason I couldn’t throw away the scraps.

There I was, playing around and making this improv curve quilt. It was completely inspired by a very precise pattern by Sharon at Color Girl Quilts (Indigo). But the way I chose to make it meant then I was left with a lot of cut out curves. They matched and all, but they weren’t needed for the quilt I was then making.

Rather than toss them aside to get jumbled or lost I kept the pairs of pie and crust together then sewed them up when everything else was done. Then they got tossed aside and nearly jumbled and lost.

A few weeks ago I was in the mood to finish something. I was also in the mood for some design wall play. With zero plan for these scrap curves I started playing. For a few evenings I arranged and rearranged. Some layouts were too much like the original. One was, ahem, a little too lady-like. I had flowers and other things up there too. In the end I settled on the one that - at first - felt too predictable. But that first instinct proved the best. It used up all but 9 of the blocks and I am thrilled with the results.

Improv Curves

When I went to take the photo I discovered a very interesting thing - the scrap quilt was bigger than the original! Side by side they relate by way of colour scheme and the improv curves, but they are too very different quilts! One fundamental difference, however, is that I would call the first quilt scrappy, while the second is a scrap quilt. That is, the first one has multiple fabrics, all chosen deliberately. The second one was me working with what I was handed in scraps. It might be a subtle or even a semantic difference, but there is a difference.

Side note: The difference between scrappy and scrap is one of my new truck shows!

These now get added to the pile of quilt tops. No matter when they eventually get quilted though, I think they will have to go to a certain pair of sisters that lives in my house.

Improv Curves Color Girl Quilts


Binding Scraps - Amanda Jean Made Me Do It

Scrap Quilts with Triangles

Amanda Jean Made Me Do It

50’’ x 60’’

Those little triangles you cut off when joining strips for binding or Jelly Roll Race quilts? Do not throw them away!! Keep them for years and years and then you can make this quilt.

Years ago, when I was writing Sunday Morning Quilts with Amanda Jean Nyberg she convinced me to start saving those little triangles. Until then I confess that I was throwing them out. Fast forward a few years and her next book, No Scrap Left Behind, has a delicious pattern for all those little triangles!

It can be daunting when working with So. Many. Small pieces at once. Generally, I would recommend having this be an ongoing project. A little bit here and there or maybe using them as leaders and enders. I ended up doing nothing but this project for a few weeks, at least to get the top done. It nearly killed me. Tedious, to say the least. But the end result was fantastic!! The top needed to sit a little while though, to muster up the steam to see it again.

My recent desire to finish things though brought this quilt up again. I actually had the back made a long time ago too, a request from my oldest, The Monster. At a time when she was feeling down she asked me if I ever made something as a reminder that life can get better? Until then, I had not. Now we have this two sided quilt for the rough days.

It Gets Better

It wasn’t too bad to quilt it, even with all the seams. I lifted up the presser foot a bit and dove in with an angular meander. On a scrappy quilt like this you aren’t going to see much in the way of quilting so something all over is perfect. Any colour thread would do as well, so I picked a favourite turquoise variegated from Wonderfil. It worked perfectly.

For those of you that also follow me on Instagram I had a fun time getting help with binding choices. Usually I know exactly what I want to do but this time I was torn. So I put the top choices out to the world. It was really interesting to see what other people thought too. In the end I chose away from my norm. I typically go for a high contrast binding. This time I went for something that blended. I think it was the perfect choice.

Quilt Binding Samarra Khaja

And now I’ve finished two quilts already this year. That is already more than last year, I think!