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 breeding small rodents) knows, they can quickly multiply and get out of control! So I thought I’d share a couple of ideas about how to manage and use fabric scraps.

Tips for Storing, Sorting, and Using your leftover 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.

Sorting Scraps by Color

Ideas for sorting fabric scraps - clear bins by color

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.

How to sort, store, and use your fabric scraps

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 something with them!

Here’s an example where I used a bunch of my red scraps to make a wonky log cabin quilt! It’s such a fun, mindless project. I’m ready to make another in a different color – I should probably just tackle which ever scrap drawer is the fullest!

Sorting by Size:

I have often been asked 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. Anything bigger than that I put them with my yardage (which I also sort by color).

Use scraps for English Paper Piecing

I save little pieces to use for English Paper Piecing projects. (Video tutorial for EPP here.)

More on sorting scraps by size below.

String Quilt Block tutorial using fabric scraps

Uses for Fabric Scrap Strips

Another common size we end up with is long, strips or “strings”. One of my favorite quilts for strips and strings are this string quilt using paper foundations to create the blocks. 

Vintage log cabin blocks made with fabric scraps

Another classic and personal favorite for strips are traditional log cabin quilts. It’s easy to trim down your scraps to the right sizes for these blocks. You can see the start of this vintage inspired version – and learn about how to make a log cabin quilt here.

Chinese Lantern Log Cabin Quilt - use fabric scraps

Here’s another variation on a traditional log cabin block (this one is a Courthouse Steps variation) that is part of the wonderful Scraps Inc pattern book. That book is full of other gorgeous scrap quilt inspiration.

Scrap Quilt Pattern - Rainbow Connection by Amy Smart-  perfect for sorting and using your leftover fabric scraps

One of my very favorite quilts for using leftover strips is my Scrap Happy Rainbow Connection quit pattern. It’s also a great quilt for cleaning out those scraps-sorted-by-colors bins!

Sorting scraps by size:

Lori Holt sort scraps by size

image from Lori Holt

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.

Sort fabric scraps by precut size

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.

I recently designed a really fun scrap quilt with my box of 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ squares in mind. As you can see, I’ve still got a bunch, so I could easily make another quilt. lol 

2 1/2″ squares are really useful – and easy to collect from leftover 2 1/2″ Jelly Roll strips or 5″ charm squares.

County Fair Scrap Quilt Pattern by Amy Smart - perfect for using 2 1/2" squares

Here’s the finished quilt made with my box of 2 1/2″ scraps. It’s called County Fair and it’s found in the wonderful book, Scrap School – a collection of 12 inspiring quilts made entirely from scraps. Scrap School also has some excellent tips for choosing color palettes as well as alternate color/fabric examples for many of the quilts – to give you lots more inspiration and ideas for using your scraps with confidence. You can see more of the projects in Scrap School here.

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.

Here are a few other helpful posts with ideas for sorting, saving and using scraps:

In Color Order – Tips for Organizing Scraps and Storing Fabric

The Sewing Loft – How to Organize Fabric Scraps

A Quilting Life – How to Sort Fabric Scraps

A Bright Corner – Fabric and Scrap Storage Ideas

Ideas for Using Fabric Scraps

Here is a fun little project for using scraps. 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! 

Mini Scrap Quilt Tutorial

I’m sharing mini-quilt tutorial perfect for using up fabric scraps – and it would be really easy to adapt this tutorial to make a larger version. You can find the full tutorial HERE.

20 Ideas to use leftover fabric scraps

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:

What are some of your favorite tips for sorting, storing, and using fabric scraps?

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  • Reply
    Jessie Fincham @ Messy Jesse
    January 27, 2015 at 3:17 am

    Your mini string quilt has been on my radar for so long! Must. Make. Soon! Thanks for the reminder Amy, hope you're keeping well. xo

  • Reply
    Mary Marcotte
    January 27, 2015 at 5:13 am

    I wish I stored my scraps using a better system. I'm out of space and honestly do not have room for another bin! But I do put them all in a fabric basket that I made of scraps and when I'm scrap-busting I generally just go crazy and try to use at least half. That basket, btw, is a really good size…extra large and deep and attached to my worktable. It's not the best system, but I

  • Reply
    cityquilter grace
    January 27, 2015 at 6:12 am

    excellent post with terrific ideas….saving and using scraps satisfies my frugal gene and continually reminds me how much stash i really have, thereby curbing casual and excessive buying….

  • Reply
    January 27, 2015 at 6:18 am

    I used to save scraps but it got out of hand! If I adore them, I save them in a little bundle or make a baby quilt out of them. Otherwise I donate them to my quilt guild, as we have a garage sale as part of our biannual quilt show and sell bags of scraps as well as other quilty items. Thanks for blogging so much too– lots of my other favorites aren't blogging as much and I look forward to

  • Reply
    Andrea R
    January 27, 2015 at 6:25 am

    I sort by size only, and not by color. Works for me! I have each size in ziploc bags in one big bin.<br /><br />My mom says even the ugly scraps look good if you cut &#39;em small enough. 😀

  • Reply
    January 27, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Thank you! I just completed my first-ever scrap organization, and I needed your guidance on sizes to save. This post is so helpful.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2015 at 7:33 am

    A year ago I sorted and trimmed all of my scraps into usable squares and strips. Iit made such a big difference for me! I frequently take out my 2.5in squares and just play around with them, or sew them up into zipper pouches for quick gifts. I&#39;ve also made a bunch of pillows from scraps because I have them at the ready. I haven&#39;t touched the tiny scraps I threw in ziplock bags, but maybe

  • Reply
    January 27, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Thank you, my to-do list has just doubled in size! 🙂 So many ideas, so little time. I am especially inspired by your cute EPP bag! I think I need to pull out those little hexagon templates and my precious little scraps to make myself a little something…

  • Reply
    January 27, 2015 at 9:14 am

    You have a scrap up there with gray, red, and aqua dots on it. What bin would you store that in? I&#39;m currently making your Chinese Lanterns quilt from the Scaps book.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2015 at 9:14 am

      Scraps book, not scaps book!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2015 at 9:46 am

    I definitely needed to read this post – I have scraps at the bottom of the basket I really could do with letting go – thanks for the tips!

  • Reply
    Beverly {Flamingo Toes}
    January 27, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Thank you so much for being a part of the series Amy – you are the best!! The Scrap Quilt is amazing and I can&#39;t wait to make up one!

  • Reply
    Laura Chaney
    January 27, 2015 at 11:22 am

    One of my goals for the next couple of months is getting my scraps cut down into usable pieces. I use 2×2 squares for EPP, and I can tell when I&#39;ve gotten bored by the fabric options that I&#39;ve already cut. Time to get some fresh fabric choices in there!

  • Reply
    Kathelle - Strandom
    January 27, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Great ideas – mine are all stuffed in a bag… haha! The 2&quot;x2&quot; guideline is useful, it&#39;s hard to know what&#39;s realistically useable 🙂 x

  • Reply
    Christals Creations
    January 27, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    I love scraps but I rarely use them. Thank you for the inspiration. 🙂

  • Reply
    ParadiseBreeze Quilts
    January 27, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks Amy – this was great. Where I live (Qld, Australia) there is so much light that anything left out, fades. I would love to use the clear plastic bins as they would indeed be inspiring. My stash is folded into a chest of drawers – it&#39;s wonderful to open the drawers and see the rainbow of colours. I&#39;ll try your suggestion of the size sorting and saving. Cheers Amy.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    I mostly just sew with scraps–mine, or ones gifted by others. There is never a shortage of scraps and, so far, I haven&#39;t run out of ways to use them.

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 12:14 am

    Scrappy is best in my book! I have two papercrafting storage towers that hold scraps sorted by color in one, and by size in the other. Actually it&#39;s size and color. I keep lights or neutrals in their own bin. You are so right about purging–we all have our storage issues and need to be realistic about what we will actually USE !! Love your mini quilt. Strings are something I don&#39;t save

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 2:32 am

    This is so useful! I have several scrap sorting systems started but but rarely use my scraps because they&#39;re not really working. I&#39;m going to try sorting by size as well, to separate out my &#39;stash&#39; from my scraps (and have a bit of a purge at the same time!).

  • Reply
    Sew Create It - Jane
    January 28, 2015 at 3:39 am

    Great post as always…love the tip about getting rid of scraps that you don&#39;t love anymore…there is so much truth to that and a bit of advice I&#39;m going to take on-board! Thanks :o)

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 6:31 am

    The reference to small breeding rodents cracked me up as I used to work with mice – a new litter every 20-21 days.

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 8:59 am

    We have a local store that takes donations of used craft supplies. I have taken many bags of scraps that just need to go there. Each month I&#39;m trying to make 1 scrap project to help use up what I have just sitting around. Thanks for the sorting ideas.

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    I get a little nutty when it comes to sorting scraps. I tend to over-sort into too many categories. I&#39;ve managed to widdle it down to basic color groups, a few bags that are sorted by my favorite designers (Heather Ross, Lizzy House, C&amp;S) plus an extra bin for scraps that&#39;d be good for fussy cuts.

  • Reply
    Gail M
    January 28, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Real quilters give me their scraps. Now I can make a 5&quot; squares quilt with no repeat swatches.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    I have scraps but haven&#39;t used them for anything. I have started cutting some using my die cutter to make small 1&quot; and 2&quot; squares plus if I can cut my scraps into strips I have them wound up on a wooden spool to make a scrappy string quilt one day. But the rest are in tubs all mixed together.

  • Reply
    June 23, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Great post, and thank you for the links too. x

  • Reply
    Quilting Focus
    November 16, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Love the ideas for sorting and saving fabric scraps, there are such a variety of beautiful ways to use scraps. We did a post on a cute way of using up some old scraps if you want to check it out! www,quiltingfocus.com/2015/03/scrappy-handmade-hot-pad-tutorial. Happy Quilting!

  • Reply
    February 13, 2016 at 8:23 am

    I sort and store my scraps by color and size and then put them in 14×14 inch plastic bins. I like to do BOM’s so each project I am working on is also stored in it’s own bin so I can grab and go or work on it and put it out of the way until I am ready to work on it again. I keep cut pieces in ziplock bags as well so they are easily accessible. My biggest challenge is where to put all those bins! 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary McCormick
    January 6, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Where can I donate material in Houston, TX?

    • Reply
      January 6, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      Hmm. I don’t know of any place specific – try reaching out to a local quilt guild. They may know of local charities in need. Or they may gladying take the fabric themselves for charity quilts!

  • Reply
    February 19, 2020 at 12:24 am

    I’m already a sorted scrap fiend. Over 5 years ago now, a friend in Sweden and I decided we’d do a monthly show and tell of what we’d made that month from our scraps. Over the years, others have joined us until it’s now a Thing, and ScrapHappy Day is a regular monthly event for creations not only of fabric, but also yarn, woodwork, silversmithing scrap and home electronics, to name but a few! This most recent ScrapHappy post gives links to the regular members, if anyone’s interested (https://wp.me/p3Wfbs-3TF)

  • Reply
    Linda Christianson
    June 6, 2021 at 8:29 am

    I been sorting for years. It how to use as you go. Time, sleep, work, health and were do you store or keep all the small projects become a mess. You do have neat ideas and glad you share your ideas. I dreamed of scrapes 50 years ago and now even making charity quilts the scrapes have taken over.

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