Sorting, Saving, and Using Fabric Scraps

I love scraps. I think most of us sew-y, crafty people love scraps because we see so much potential in them. (And because we also recognize the investment in all of that fabric!) 
As anyone with experience with fabric scraps (or small breeding rodents) knows, they can quickly multiply and get out of control! So I thought I’d share a couple of ideas about managing your fabric scraps.
Sorting, Saving, and Storing Scraps:
First of all, find a simple solution that you’ll actually do. If you’re just getting started, then definitely go simple because it’s more likely to be effective.
When I finally decided to start getting organized I took everything smaller than a fat eighth out of my regular stash and sorted my scraps by colors only. I still use clear plastic bins from Target/Walmart/etc. and just automatically add my scraps to the right bin. 
The other benefits to storing scraps by color is it’s easier to find something I need AND they look prettier, they inspire me to make something with them and therefore I’m a whole lot more likely to actually do some thing with them!
Size: people have asked me many times what size scraps I save: I save anything bigger than about 2″ x 2″ and smaller than a 10″ x 10″ square in my scrap bins. Bigger than that I put them with my yardage (which I also sort by color).
I save little pieces to use for English Paper Piecing projects. (Video tutorial for EPP here.)
Sorting scraps by size:
In recent years, I also started sorting scraps a little bit by size as well. A while back I read a post by Lori Holt about organizing and saving fabric scraps. She’s a genius. I’m not quite as well organized, but I have started saving two sizes of “precuts” when I’m cutting fabric or have left over jelly-roll strips, etc. I save 2 1/2” squares and 2 1/2” strips. Both are useful in lots of patterns, and they’ve come in handy. I still keep them sorted by color so they look pretty are I’m more inspired to use them.
My last Scrap Management tip: purge. Routinely go through your scrap bins and pull out scraps that just don’t inspire you any more and let them go. Give them to a friend, a quilt guild, or a charity and let someone else create with them. I guarantee that you will be more inspired to use your scraps after you’ve got rid of the ones you don’t like anymore.
These are just a couple of suggestions that have worked for me. There are loads of great ideas out there for organizing and using scraps. Most importantly, do what works for YOU! Saving and organizing scraps is only worth doing if they’re something you’ll use, not because they’re something you feel guilty about.
Scrap Busting Extravaganza Square-01
Today I’m sharing a little project for using scraps at Flamingo Toes. Bev has organized a series of tutorials for busting your scraps – and they’re more than just fabric scraps – there’s paper, trims, etc. involved as well! I’m excited to see all the projects and ideas as the series continues.
I’m sharing mini-quilt tutorial perfect for using up fabric scraps. You can find 
If you’re looking for other ideas for using up scraps, this post is full of ideas for using your fabric scraps

I’ve also started a Scraps pinboard that I update regularly, if you want to follow it for the latest projects and ideas:

Enjoy sorting and using those scraps! Feel free to leave any tips or methods that have worked well for you.
Craftsy Blogger Awards - Vote for Me badge
Post Edit:  I just discovered I was nominated on Craftsy‘s blog for best tutorials! (WHAT?!) And voting ends today (1/28)! So just in case you’re surfing around the internet and curious to check out the other categories and nominees, and cast some votes of your own, here’s the link. And a HUGE thank you to those who nominated me!

UPDATE: Voting has ended. Thank you SO much to those who voted and esp to those who nominated me in the first place. It was an honor to be included in that kind of company!

Quilting Retreat in the Mountains

As I mentioned, last weekend I got to sneak away to the mountains to sew at a retreat called Quilt Bliss. It was heavenly. It was amazingly well-organized by Pam and her helpers from the Utah County Modern Quilt Group. I have been excitedly looking forward to it for weeks!! Just what I needed post-holidays – a little getaway time with fun friends, new and old, and time to catch-up on neglected sewing projects.
The setting was spectacular. We’ve had little snow all of January, until the day of Quilt Bliss (of course) which gave everything a fresh dusting of white powder.
Including the roads, which makes mountain travel a little more sketchy. Fortunately the folks from Dave’s Bernina and Heather from the Quilt Barn helped us out and we made it to our destination safely in the end. But it made for more of an adventure.
And I have to share the sweetest, serendipitous moment here. Fortunately I wore my snow boots for the drive up (which are pretty comfy), but didn’t bring any other shoes or slippers and only a pair of ‘regular socks’ to wear each day. When we got to the lodge my legs and feet were wet from getting the car out of the snow and I was wishing I had something cozier to put on my feet while my boots dried by the fire. That’s when I saw Maggie who gave me a sweet little hand made bag and inside were some beautiful hand-knit wool socks! It was such a happy little blessing at that moment!
Once we got there and got settled in our accommodations and enjoyed a gourmet dinner of salmon and pork loin (I’m not kidding) we got right down to business: sewing.
Really, it’s hard to beat a room full of giddy women with two full days of creative, sewing time! Plus, the people are always just fun. I like quilt-y people a lot. And it’s always so much fun to meet more of them. Especially when you have time to just hang out in your pajamas and visit and sew and eat lots of good food. And maybe even have a Frozen sing-along…

Another thing I love about retreats is I always love seeing what people are working on. Lots of pretty star blocks from the paper-piecing class. (Look at those perfect points!)

Here’s Heather again with some of her Swoon and Union Jack blocks. (Heather has a shop and retreat place  called the Quilt Barn in Kimberly, ID. I’ve followed her on Instagram for a while and it was fun to finally meet in person.)

I love being inspired by the gorgeous things people create. This was a little swap gift made by April. The details were amazing!

I was asked to teach a class about organizing and using your scraps. (I love that topic. I finally started a Pin Board to keep track of my favorite Scraps projects.) I then demo’ed a strings-foundation-pieced quilt block (similar to this one). You can see mine in the picture at the top of this post. It’s not finished. I’m trying to decide whether to just add borders, or make more blocks. We’ll see… But  loved seeing what the students in the class did with their scraps!

I especially loved this one Andi made using selvage pieces!
While we were there we were also treated to some spectacular trunk shows. Here is Sherri McConnell showing off a quilt made by her great-grandmother that inspired her newest book Fresh Family Traditions.
I just love Sherri. She is an amazing quilter, as evidenced by her enormous Dear Jane quilt.
Sarah Jane Wright also came up Saturday afternoon and shared some of her creative journey with us. It was so inspiring!
As you can imagine, it was great to get away for a few days. I was a little worker bee the whole time trying to catch up on a lot of projects and upcoming deadlines. Wifi was super spotty – which is both a good and bad thing too, right? (Katy snapped this pic of Sherri and I at lunch one day when I finally caught the first whiff of Wifi!) No instagram distractions 😉 but I felt like I came home to a lot of emails to catch up on. Still, totally worth it.
I hope Quilt Bliss will happen again. I am so there. It’s such a great to get away and sew with other people. Even if you can’t get away, just get together with some friends one afternoon, or join a local guild. I can’t believe how blessed I’ve been to find real-life-quilty friends. They (you!) are such a blessing!

Pretty new sewing space

I have always been sheepish about sharing pictures of my sewing space, mainly because it wasn’t very pretty. (I tend to be kind of a messy sewer.) I have a spot in our basement where I keep my crapola stash and supplies, but I prefered to migrate my machine and whatever current project I was working on to the kitchen table so that I could be where the action was. It was never a pretty sight and clearing the table every night so we could eat, resulted in a pile of my stuff on the floor next to the kitchen table. Not a good look. And frequently my children’s friends would comment to my kids that their mom sure sewed A LOT.

This past fall I had one of those clever “a-hah” moments – which tend to be rare, so it was especially exciting. Our house happens to have a dining room open off the front room, which is the one room I try to keep tidy. A dining room was nice in theory, but we rarely use it for dining – even when we have people over. The only thing I consistently used that room for was photography, since it has two windows that face south and west with the best light in our house.

So my “a-hah” moment came when I finally realized that we could hang doors between the front room and the dining room (creating the ability to close-off the back room and thereby, hide my messes) and I could move my sewing machine in there. It has been fantastic! I’m right off the kitchen so I’m still where the action is, but it’s so nice to have a place to keep the machine set up, and to not have to re-clear the kitchen table every night. (I know what some of you are thinking, “Duh! What took you so long?!”)

We also did some painting before we made all the switcheroo and hauling fabric into the dining room. Our walls were a really brown-ish taupe and ready for an update. We ended up painting them blue and it is SO pretty and refreshing. It took me forever to pick the paint and then, I’ll admit, a little while longer to feel at peace about the shade of blue. (Sherwin-Williams Tidewater) I am the WORST about making those kind of decisions.
One other thing happened to spur me on to finally just make a commitment and paint. We had a leak in the bathroom above our front room which resulted in water dripping through the front-room ceiling. Which, ironically started happening the day I was leaving to teach at the Riley Blake fabric fest in Las Vegas. Of course. Ugh. I had no choice but to walk out the door to catch my flight with water dripping through a hole in my ceiling! (Ahh, such a glamorous life…) The one good thing about having to rip out part of your ceiling and repair it, is that it forces you to finally make a decision about paint…

So, three cheers for a fresh paint job and a simple fix like hanging some doors so that I could shut off this room and make it a usable space. We kept the refurbished china hutch in the room as it provides good storage and the table in the room so that things can be easily cleared and the room could be used for actual dining, if needed. But it’s sure getting a lot more use now and not just with my sewing. I put the kids craft supplies in another corner in the room opposite the china cabinet (not pretty at the moment, therefore, not photographed) and I love it when they come in and sit at the table while I sew and work on Perler beads or homework and doing things like sing songs from the Frozen soundtrack. I also LOVE having my design wall right next to my machine! It’s so handy.

To increase storage, I added an Ikea Hemnes Dresser which looks pretty and can hold projects while I’m working on them, helping to decrease the clutter. I love it! (And I’m proud to say, I even assembled it myself one weekend while my husband was out of town. Thank you.) Finishing the modern colorwheel dresden wall hanging was the perfect finish for this room. I’m so excited about how things turned out! Plus, it’s fun to have a pretty place to set up Big Bertha (the Bernina 710) and give her the space she needs.

I’d like to make a few more mini’s to hang on the walls. Right now I just have this little scrap-bag mini. Here’s a close up. (This scrappy little mini-quilt project is in the latest issue of Fat Quarterly online magazine – issue 16.)

I may take forever to finally get there, but it sure feels good to get this far. Now on to the rest of the house…could someone please come hold my hand and help me make decisions? Hopefully without a leaky upstairs bathroom to finally get me to take action.

Free Spirit True Colors + Busting Your Scraps

I’ve been making string blocks with my scraps. Right now my sewing table is covered with them. With January comes all that motivation to get organized, so if you’re looking for ways to tame all those out of control scraps, I’m sharing 12 ways to bust your scraps over at the We All Sew Blog.

In other inspiration, are you familiar with the True Colors collections from Free Spirit fabrics? These are collections of gorgeous blenders in saturated colors from four of Free Spirit’s popular designers: Joel Dewberry, Heather Bailey, Anna Maria Horner, and Jenean Morrison

These saturated collections are so versatile and great for stash building. Starting next week, watch for a bunch of inspiration using these True Color collections.

Free Spirit recently sent me a bundle of Jenean Morrison’s True Colors bundle and I’m having a fun time planning something with these colors. Hint: You know I’m a sucker for classic primary colors in color spectrum order. (They also sent me a bunch to share, so be sure to come back!)

Free Spirit, in connection with Coats and Clark, will be hosting a blog tour. You can visit these blogs to see lots of color inspiration as well as chances to win a lot of pretty fabric!

1/20 Sew4Home
1/21 Stitchery Dickory Dock
1/22 I’m A Ginger Monkey
1/23 The Sewing Loft
1/24 Ellison Lane
1/27 Dairy of A Quilter
1/28 Material Obsession
1/29 Craftsanity
1/30 Stitched in Color
1/31 Craft Buds
2/3 Jay Bird Quilts
2/4 Melissa Peda

Eye Candy + Instagram

Things are settling into a little more of rhythm here and I am full-steam-ahead working on my preparations for Riley Blake’s upcoming Fabric Fest and then the Sewing Summit the week after that! It’s going to be a crazy month. A lot of work to get there, but a lot of fun once I arrive. I hope!

Fortunately the preparations are pretty fun too. (Other than preparing what I’m actually going to say. That part = stressful. Eek.)

But the sewing and cutting-up-fabric part is super fun! Especially after not doing a lot of sewing the past few weeks/months. It feels fun to be spending more quality time with my machine and even my rotary cutter again.

These lovelies are Riley Blake solids. They make such pretty eye candy.
One of the classes I’m teaching is about Modern Quilting and I want to talk about improv quilting. So I am finally assembling some improv Bee swap blocks from 2010. (When I looked up when that bee was I was kind of shocked that is was that long ago.) Well, it’s good that they’re finally seeing the light of day!
And finally, speaking of eye candy, check out these pretties from Aurifil thread and the Fat Quarter Shop. This collection is called The Binding Box and it contains a variety of colors to have on hand to match most bindings.
I am a huge fan of Aurifil thread. I buy it buy the cone in basic neutrals and use the 50 wt for all my piecing. Those cones last for.ever. I also love the 50 wt because piecing comes together so nicely and because you can get a lot of thread on a bobbin! So when the Fat Quarter Shop offered to let me sample their new Binding Box collection I was ecstatic to have colored Aurifil thread to play with too!
And finally, if you’re looking for insta-quilty-eye candy on your mobile device, I am on Instagram @diaryofaquilter. I’ve been lurking on instagram for a while – I like my own quick-fix on other people’s eye candy too – but my private life and my public quilting world were colliding and making each other uncomfortable. So I finally bit the bullet and created a separate account. Now I am free to post all kinds of fabric-y fun, without embarrassing my children, and my extended family and neighbors thinking I am a total weirdo. If you’re an Instagram-junkie too, let me know where to find you!

Scrappy Trip Along progress and New Olfa Splash

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a lot of projects with deadlines. I finally wrapped many of them up and it has been so nice to do some “just-for-fun” sewing. I pulled out my Scrappy Trip-Along blocks that I started last January. They got put on the back-burner and it was fun to see again. I’ve worked on a few each day and my number is growing.
Here’s the progress as it stands right now. I’m using lots of my very favorite fabrics – the kind you hoard for “just the right project” but I’m not 100% smitten. I’m trying to figure out why.  I added some brown to the mix and I think it’s given a little more depth. I’m going to keep playing with it. I know I will LIKE however it turns out, but I kind of want to LOVE it. The original tutorial for Scrappy Trips Around the World is here. I warn you: it is addicting in the funnest kind of way.

I’m also trying to catch up on my final outstanding (as in over-due) bee block for Calli. It’s a paper-pieced Double Wedding Ring quilt. This one is going to stretch me a little, but if I can conquer it, I may have found a new project I want to try! That is what I love about Bees. I still need to make my Block #7 from the Virtual Quilting Bee!

As I’m working on these rotary-cutter heavy projects, I am loving using the new Splash rotary cutter by Olfa. This is their brand new model of the mid-size (45mm) rotary cutter. I am a die-hard Olfa rotary cutter user. I have been using them as long as I’ve been quilting and I think they are the most sturdy and stable. Any time I’ve tried a different brand of rotary cutters I’ve been disappointed or frustrated or just plain irritated.

So when the nice people at Olfa contacted me about sending one of these new Splash cutters to try out my answer was a “yes please!” I am hooked. This cutter is more ergonomic (easier on your hands), lighter-weight (but just as sturdy) and the clincher is the much-improved mechanism for changing the blade. You just slid the yellow doohickey on the back down and the blade is ready to pop off, change and put back in place. So much slicker than that knob and washer-thingy that have to be put back just-so. And, it’s turquoise so points for color too. And on top of all that: it’s cheaper than the old 45mm version. Kind of a no-brainer.

Other than sending me the rotary cutter, Olfa did not compensate me in any way for this review (though I wouldn’t turn down a life-time supply of blades if they offered it) – all the thoughts and opinions are my own. But they did send a second rotary cutter to share with a friend. So if you’d like a new Splash rotary cutter of your own, leave a comment on this post. Open until Sunday, June 9 at midnight MST. GIVEAWAY CLOSED.

Winner: ✾Jamie Lee Cooley✾June 6, 2013 at 6:11 AM

Your scrappy trip is looking good! I’d love to try the cutter…I can never remember which way the washer goes whenever I remove it to change the blade!

Now back to my sewing in random, snatched moments between slip-n-slides and handing out popsicles.