Scrap Management

Recently I have been thinking about how to plan  and organize my scraps.    I have them stored in bins sorted by color but it is very labor intensive to use them, because each piece has to be taken out,pressed, and cut to the desired size.  Today I led a discussion at my quilt guild about scrap management.  Here are some thoughts I had and some ideas contributed by other members.

  1. What is a scrap?   – Anything much less than a fat quarter or equivalent. What is too small to be a scrap? Your choice, but if it is smaller than 1 ½ inches square I wouldn’t save it.
  2. Should you keep your scraps? You decide. I keep them and use them (although they are accumulating faster than I use them up).   If you don’t use them, give them to someone who will!
  3. If you keep them, how should you keep them? Sorted or unsorted? Boxes, bags, bins, drawers?
  4. Sorted is best for me; I store in plastic bins for easy accessibility.
  5. Some quilters sort by value (light, medium, dark); others by color.   Would you mix up lots of colors in a scrap quilt? Then value may be best. If you would tend to make scrappy quilts with a limited color palette, then color sorting may be best. Another option would be to sort by brights, tints, and muted colors – if you would make scrappy quilts along those themes.
  6. Scrap management systems. There are probably many, but here are three possibilities:
  7. Bonnie K. Hunter scrap management system, described at . Basically Bonnie keeps scraps as strips (anything longer than 12 inches) that are 1 ½ inches, 2 inches, 2 ½ inches, and 3 ½ inches wide; also as squares of the same dimensions or rectangles that are2 by 3 ½, 2 ½ by 4 ½, 3 ½ by 6 ½. These sizes “play well together”
  8. Quilter’s Lumberyard™. This is a system developed by Cheryl Coffman and Patty Bowers, who teach it in workshops.  The basic idea is to cut your scraps into 2 ½ in squares, 2 ½ by 4 ½ in rectangles, 2 ½ by 6 ½ rectangles, 2 ½ by 8 ½ rectangles, and 4 ½ by 4 ½ in squares (and maybe some other sizes). These sizes can be assembled into blocks and the storage should be a little simpler than Bonnie’s system, but also a little less flexible.
  9. Scrap Therapy™.   Developed by Joan Ford. Website is . This is the simplest system for storage, because there are only three sizes of squares: 2 inches, 3 ½ inches, and 5 inches. These sizes will also play well with charm packs and precut strips. Joan has written several books about this topic. First book is Scrap Therapy: Cut the Scraps.
  10. Another member suggested a method of storing “nickels, dimes, and quarters”  — 5 by 5 inch squares, 10 by 10 inch squares, and 2 1/2 inch strips.  These are fairly simple to store and very flexible sizes — as well as being the sizes marketed as precut strips and squares.  Some members store smaller “miscellaneous” pieces in plastic bags hanging on a wall.  One member saves strips and has them pinned to a chain hanging behind her sewing room door — they can be easily seen and accessed when needed.
  11. How to get started?
    1. decide on some ground rules, such as the sizes you are going to save and what you will throw away.
    2. arrange a scrap sorting party with a friend; set a manageable goal such as just sorting by value or color. Start with bags or cardboard boxes as storage containers; don’t buy any containers until you know how much you have to save.
    3. Set a fixed amount of time to work on your scraps each day – 15 minutes, 30 minutes.
    4. Pick a pattern for a scrap quilt you like and pull out and cut scraps for that quilt.
  12. What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Scrap Management

  1. Melanie McNeil

    Most important is for people to know how they’re most likely to use scraps. If truly they won’t use them, all the other stuff is unimportant. They should just find a way to get rid of them (free table at guild meetings, friends in small group, etc.) I like to keep my scraps as scraps rather than pre-cut into sizes. That gives me the most flexibility. But my method would drive some people nuts, so it surely isn’t for everyone.

    Thanks for the post. You give some good ideas.


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