Using Odd-Shape Scraps That Are Difficult to Combine

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Hey there, Judy here, author of Quilts for Scrap Lovers and Rainbow Quilts for Scrap Lovers. I’m here to tell you that I am a scrap aficionado. Scraps have always been my favorite to sew with. Even though I have an entire room full of new fabrics, I always gravitate to my scraps.

The reason for this is that I love to save every little, tiny piece of fabric. Truth be told, even I have my limits. I usually only save something that can be used with my 3 1/2" template. You see, I have a template set that accompanies my books. They are 3 1/2", 4 1/2", and 5 1/2" templates ( fast2cut Simple Square Templates). Every single quilt in my books use only these three sizes of squares or half-square triangles made from these sizes.

Have you ever noticed how so many of the books about scrap quilting are written from the perspective of using strips? Almost all of them are. So, what’s a quilter to do if she or he has odd-shaped pieces that don’t lend themselves to stripping? Well, the dilemma is real.

I was that quilter. I love to sew things other than just strip quilts. You don’t just cut strips when you make a bag, or a garment, or a Drunkard’s Path quilt. If you make anything that is done with curves, you have really bizarrely shaped scraps. You’re going to need a method that is similar to a cookie cutter. You need a template that you can lay down and cut around. And the template needs to be the right size for the quilt that you’re going to make.

Here are the templates that accompany my books. I love that they are just simple squares. There are no confusing lines to follow. The directions for the quilts are all in the books, and they all use just simple squares. You’re never going to forget how to use a square.

Now, I am going to shift gears a little bit. Consider this: I have written extensively about the “difficult fabric” topic in both of my books, and the quilts that I made in Rainbow Quilts for Scrap Lovers are evidence of this. In addition to having odd-shaped scraps, you will also have fabrics that are hard to use because of their print. Some prints are so large and multicolored, it’s hard to imagine how they will work in a quilt. However, it is possible to use those difficult pieces of material in scrap quilts, and my book will show you how.

So—now we are talking about two distinct issues. (1) How to use odd shaped scraps and (2) how to use the scraps that can be difficult to combine with other fabrics.

Take a look at this quilt. It is beautiful, and it was created making squares cut from difficult fabrics. The fabrics were difficult in two regards. They were oddly shaped, and they are larger prints that are of a slightly odd color.

First we’ll address the odd-shape issue. Each large hexagon in the above-pictured quilt was made using only squares. Yes, that’s right. I plunked the 5 1/2" template down on top of the odd-shaped scrap and cut around it.

Here’s an example of one of the many scraps that I have. It’s not one that I used in the quilt above, but it’s a great example.

In the photo above, I have just set the template down over the fabric where I want to cut it. Look how nicely it works to just cut what you need. The other nice thing about these templates is that you don’t have to commit an entire piece of your fabric to a strip size. What I mean by that is that if you need a couple of, hmm, let’s say 2 1/2" squares, and you take your rotary cutter and ruler and cut a 2 1/2" strip, you are left with a strip of fabric that is 2 1/2". It’s not good for anything other than that size or smaller. If you only need a couple squares, why would you cut an entire strip that size? With these templates, you’re only cutting what you need and sparing the rest of the piece.

So, back to the hexagon made from squares. How did I do that? Well, it’s practically magic. With the 5 1/2" template, I cut a bunch of squares that coordinated in color, even though they were difficult fabrics. Here’s the quilt.

This quilt, from the book Rainbow Quilts for Scrap Lovers, is called Blended Hexagons. You can see that these prints are anything but the small, ditsy prints that are typically used in scrap quilts. They’re large and in charge. But because I kept them all in the same color range, they work very, very well together. That’s one way of using large prints. Stay within a monochromatic theme, and your eye will not pick them out like a sore thumb. Rather, they will blend.

Another secret for using large and in-charge prints is to have enough negative space to counteract the large prints. In the quilt The Circus Comes to Town, there is negative space in every other triangle. As a result, I was able to pull off some pretty difficult combinations.

If you look closely at the quilt shown below, you can see that there was no rhyme or reason to how I chose my combinations. There were scraps that needed to be used up and use them I did.

This cutting system, which I will show, is unbelievable. From a simple square, you can have these wonderful hexagons and trapezoids. Combined in different ways, you will get secondary patterns. Look at the quilt below and count how many secondary patterns you can see in this quilt. It’s important to have that type of depth in your creations. Getting someone to look once and like it is great. Getting someone to look twice and then again a third time to see all the different combinations and secondary patterns is a thrill.

So, shall I reveal my secret? Well, I will reveal part of it, because I want everyone to buy the book. You’ll have to get the exact measurement from the book.

So, you are going to find pairs of fabrics. If you’re making the Blended Hexagons, you may want to keep it monochromatic. Pick out your fabrics and pair them up. Then cut squares. Cut 3 squares 5 1/2" x 5 1/2" from one fabric and 3 of the same size from another.

Now lay them right sides together.

Then you are going to connect the marks with your ruler and slice. I am not going to divulge the measurement. That’s where you come in and buy the book.

After you slice them, you will have trapezoids.

You’re going to stitch down the long non-angled edge, and open it out. You will now have the basic unit for the quilt.

You will need to make a total of 6 of these, and that is why you need 3 squares of each fabric.

From here, I will leave you wanting more. You will love my new book Rainbow Quilts for Scrap Lovers, and you'll zip through those scraps in no time flat. I guarantee you will want to make every quilt in the book!

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  • Judy Gauthier
  • Rainbow Quilts for Scrap Lovers
  • Quilts for Scrap Lovers
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