Workshop Wednesday: Selecting Fabric for Scrap Quilts

In a recent Workshop Wednesday post, I wrote about the basics of selecting fabric for a quilt. This week, let’s take things up a notch and talk about selecting the right fabrics specifically for a scrap quilt.

I can hear some of you saying, “But if it’s a scrap quilt, then why do I need to worry about how to select fabric? Anything goes when you’re making a scrap quilt, right?”
In theory, yes, you’re right. In practice, however, there are a few things to keep in mind.
You may have heard the quilters’ maxim, “Color gets all the credit, but value does all the work,” and boy, does it bear repeating in terms of scrap quilts. The best, most sparkling scrap quilts prioritize a fabric’s value—how light, medium or dark it is—over color and print every time.

DSCN3405 web 300x225 Workshop Wednesday: Selecting Fabric for Scrap Quilts

Click for a larger image!

Case in point: the 1940s bow tie quilt I found in my local thrift shop a few years ago. I truly love this quilt and the fantastic variety of vintage fabrics in it, but it’s a great example of how putting fabrics together willy-nilly actually detracts from their effectiveness and makes it harder to see and appreciate them.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s hear from some of the experts, starting with the Scrap Queen herself, Bonnie Hunter, who writes the “Addicted to Scraps” column for Quiltmaker magazine.

In her course “Scrap Quilts with Bonnie Hunter”, Bonnie shows you how to put your scraps to better use by learning how to not only save them, but use them to their full potential. The course was inspired by Bonnie’s favorite blocks found in her Addicted to Scraps column and includes 6 different quilt projects. Go to Craft University for a free trial.

In her “Wanderlust Quilt” course, Bonnie takes you step-by-step through the process of creating her Wanderlust quilt. Scrappy stars explode with color and come together easily in a variety of methods for simple unit construction. You can also check out the free trial for this course at Craft University.

Mary Fons is passionate about scrap quilting and covered different angles of fabric selection in her Quilty free video series. In “Easy Scrap Quilt Blocks,” Mary shows you three beginner-friendly, scrappy block designs. “Make a scrap quilt as a chance to play,” she says.

And in “When a Quilt Block Just Isn’t Working,” Mary shows you why the quilt block she started isn’t going to be finished. Learn how to avoid (some) quilting mistakes and how to forgive yourself when it’s just not happening.

In “Value as a Design Element,” former McCall’s art director Ellie Brown discusses the use of value in quilt design using a gray scale. The tutorial includes tips and video effects to clearly see value, and advice for combining fabrics in quilts.

mywhirligig web 247x300 Workshop Wednesday: Selecting Fabric for Scrap QuiltsSpeaking of value, former Quiltmaker associate editor and scrap quilter extraordinaire Diane Harris blogged a few years ago about how she chooses quilt patterns to make. “The best way to see if you really admire a quilt’s design is to view it in black and white,” she writes. She shows a quilt she made based on a 1994 Quiltmaker pattern that she saw only in black-and-white before she saw it in color. “I’d never have looked twice at this pattern in these colors, and certainly would never have made it based on the colors QM used in 1994. But in black and white? It was fabulous!”

Learn to use fabric pieces of every size, from scraps to yardage, in Every Last Piece. Join author Lynn Harris as she demonstrates numerous ways to maximize how you use fabric in quilts, including string-pieced blocks, mini star blocks, applique, sawtooth borders and more. Click here to learn more about Every Last Piece, currently on sale (as of 7/26/17; prices subject to change).

If you feel up to the challenge of making a scrappy quilt that absolutely sings, here are a couple of patterns I just love. They will make you work at getting your fabric placement just right, and in the end you’ll be rewarded with quilted works of art.

DPMQP170201 2 300x298 Workshop Wednesday: Selecting Fabric for Scrap QuiltsScrap Baskets by Lynn Roddy Brown

DPQNP1415 222x300 Workshop Wednesday: Selecting Fabric for Scrap QuiltsMass Maples by Timna Tarr

And just because I love a good sale and I imagine you do, too, I want to make sure you know about Keepsake Quilting’s $5 Fabric Yard Sale, which is happening right now. While supplies last, you can choose from dozens of high-quality fabrics on sale for under $5 per yard. With the confidence gained and lessons learned from the experienced scrap quilters above, you’ll be able to put together a fabric bundle you’ll love for less than half the price.

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About Mary Kate Karr-Petras

Mary Kate is an associate editor at McCall's Quilting and McCall's Quick Quilts. If you ask her what type of quilter she considers herself, she'll answer, "Slow." Favorite techniques include hand quilting, both traditional and big stitch, but she also loves her walking foot and keeps meaning to get better acquainted with her open-toe embroidery foot.
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One Response to Workshop Wednesday: Selecting Fabric for Scrap Quilts

  1. Sue Fender says:

    I like to refer to my scrap quilts as using the “Organized Scrappy” method because I try and choose one focal fabric that ties in all the scrappy fabrics. If you only use a mish-mash of fabrics it makes the quilt top look way too busy. When I made a queen size postage stamp quilt using 6,400 1-1/2″ unfinished squares I alternated each square with a kona ivory solid– this allowed your eyes to easier decipher each individual square. It turned out beautiful!

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