Friday, December 28, 2018

How to Choose Fabric for a Scrap Quilt

Got an overflowing scrap bin, but aren't sure how to choose fabric for a scrap quilt? Have you seen scrap quilts that are, well, just plain ugly and want to avoid that?  Me too!

(Sometimes you want the crazy/ugly scrap look, and that is fine, but if not, keep reading.)

I think the biggest mistake quilters make, when making a scrap quilt. is thinking that any fabric they use will work. To a certain extent that is true, but we have all seen quilts that somehow miss the mark and are a hot mess.

How to avoid way too crazy scrap quilts? Edit your fabric. That's right, don't use everything. Throwing everything together can sometimes work, but it can often go wrong. I'm going to show you three ways that I choose fabric for my scrap quilts.

Edit by By Color

Just because it's a scrap quilt, it doesn't mean it needs every color in your scrap basket. Use the same process that you use to choose fabric for your 'normal' quilts to limit the pallet of your scrap quilt. This is one of my favorite ways to choose fabric for scrap quilts.

For example, in this quilt I limited myself to yellows, pinks, and oranges with pops of green. Yellow, orange and pink/red are analogous (next to each other on the color wheel) so they naturally work together well. The pop of complementary green adds extra interest.

This version of the same quilt is a bit more chaotic, (I was going for quirky) but it still works well. I tried to limit it to clear (not muddy) tones with a heavier does of yellow and aqua.

I dug out all my blue, purple and black scraps for this quilt. (It has yet to be finished, sigh...)

When I think of color, I also think of tone. Are the fabrics, light, dark, muddy, clear, ultra bright? Choosing fabrics with similar tones makes it more likely that they will work together. This quilt I made for my brother is made of a variety of low volume fabrics (lights) with bits of my favorite Echino leftovers.

This orange and pink quilt is limited both by color and by value. There isn't a lot of contrast with these saturated colors. However, it works, because the design is so simple.

Edit By Designer

This might be the easiest way to choose fabrics for a scrap quilt. I don't know about you, but I have favorite designers and I tend to buy bits from multiple collections. How about pulling all of the scraps from one designer and using them in a quilt? A designer is going to have a cohesive color and style throughout their collections and most of their fabrics should work well together.

Here is a quilt where I used my bits of American Jane fabric.

But don't feel like you have to be super strict about just using fabrics from one designer. You can start with fabrics from one and then add bits and pieces that go well with them. For example, this quit was mainly made with Denyse Schmidt fabrics with some Cotton & Steel thrown in.

Edit By Theme

This works great for reproduction fabrics. All 1930's reproduction fabrics look great together and Civil War reproductions blend well too. This Grandmother's Flower Garden had a million different fabrics in it, but it worked because they were are 1930's reproductions.

You can also 'theme' by fabric type. With this quilt, I simply pulled out all my leftover bits (and fat quarters) of solids and started sewing them together.

This is a little harder to see, but all of these fabrics are dot-like. Some have standard polka dots, some have dot-like flowers, or cherries, or square-shaped dots. It's subtile, but it works.

This quilt's theme is obvious - Christmas! You can make any quilt a holiday quilt by combining fabrics in holiday colors. Grab all your red and green scraps for a Christmas quilt, your orange, blacks and purples for a Halloween quilt, and your reds and pinks for a Valentine's Day quilt.

To Recap

You don't have to throw all your scraps together willy-nilly. Take a bit of time to sort them out and make a conscious decision about which ones you are going to use. Think about choosing fabric for you next scrap quilt based on color, designer or theme.

I hope this has been helpful. Let's go make some scrap quilts! 

Happy sewing!


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  1. Very interesting thanks for your tips.

  2. This will help me, thank you. What do you mean by clear tone?

    1. I'm glad it was useful. For me, clear tones are crayon green vs olive green. Not muddy or dusty colors, but not pastels either. Hope that's 'clear'? :) I might need to go back and clarify.