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 loved to sew with lots of fabrics. Today, it isn't unusual for quilters to develop large stashes of fabrics just so they have what they need on hand for a scrap quilt the next time a pattern suits their fancy.Entire books have been written about the art of scrap quilting, so regard the tips you read here as simply a beginning, a starting point to help you create a quilt filled with visual interest. Like any form of quilting, successful scrap quilts take practice. I'm certainly still working on the skills needed to create my own.
Scrap Quilt Fabric Choices
- 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 -- 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 tones and shades of all.
- Don't get into a scale rut -- choose fabrics with prints of all scales.
- Remember to include tone-on-tone fabrics. Also sometimes referred to as TOTs, these fabrics often appear to be solid from a distance, but when viewed up close you'll see they're actually prints in two or more variations of the same color. They make excellent blenders and can help you add contrast.
- Be sure to include neutral fabrics, such as creams, browns, blacks and whites. 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 multitude of florals, known as watercolor quilts, are one example, and quilts made with a selection of batiks are another. You are in complete control -- there are no rules
The number of fabrics you use in your scrap quilts is another option that's totally up to you, from charm quilts, where no fabric is used more than once, to quilts with a somewhat more orderly appearance.
Joining a quilt fabric swap is a good way to accumulate different fabrics. You'll send out multiples of one or more fabrics, and receive the same number you submitted. Your package will probably include fabrics you might not have thought to purchase yourself. Explore our Quilting Forum for fabric swaps.
Scrap Quilt Patterns
One-patch quilts are favorite scrap quilting choices -- quilts made by repeating a single shape across their surfaces, such as hexagons and diamonds. But you can make a scrap quilt from any pattern.
We usually have several quilt block swaps taking place in the Quilting Forum. If you're comfortable swapping, joining a swap is a perfect way to make your first scrap quilt. And if it's your first swap, you'll be surprised how well the blocks from others come together to create a lovely quilt.
Importance of Color ValueI think that color value is more important to a scrap quilt than color itself. In fact, sometimes it's easier to combine lots and lots of random colors, even things that you don't feel 'match,' than it is to develop a color scheme. When the quilt is finished, that large assortment will mesh together to create a stunning quilt, if you pay attention to color value.
Color value is contrast, and dictates the patterns that emerge when pieces are sewn together. In some areas you'll want fabrics to blend, in other areas you'll want them to contrast with each other. Practice sorting fabrics for value before you make a scrap quilt, but don't panic if your first scrappy projects don't turn out exactly as you envisioned. It takes practice.
One of my little quilts is so ugly that I won't even take it out of the closet -- I call it What Was I Thinking!. The quilt is dull and it's busy, with horrible value placement, but it didn't stop me from making more scrap quilts -- and my skills improved.
Play with color value and get a few color wheel basics behind you, then start combining fabrics.
If value is a new concept, be sure to read Color Value for Quilters
For a quick look at color, and how it controls which pieces emerge from a design, see Color Wheel Simplified
Pictures of Scrap Quilts
Take a look at some of the quilts in our Scrap Quilts Photo Gallery.