Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Fabric Shame

 You know how we wise old ones mentor our young ones and say things like "don't put anything online that you don't want to see forever"? It is wise advice. Maybe I should listen to it more. Oh, what the heck..... here is my fabric shame.  

My bins of scraps. My bins of unorganized scraps. The "just throw them in there and you'll deal with it whenever" scraps. It seems that whenever is finally here.

This is one of my "just throw it in" scrap bins. It is the 66 quart size.  

Let's preface this with some of my fabric history. I have been making quilts for 48 years. It began when fabric stores were scarce and the fabric they offered was not ideal for making quilts. The first quilt was a mixture of every synthetic textile known to man. Sadly, it will never fully decompose. When I came across a winner fabric that had calico like images and was all cotton - it was revered. Every scrap was saved. This habit is a useful habit for quiltmakers. That long saved teeny piece of royal blue is now just perfect for that applique quilt I am currently working on. Also, never overlook the obnoxious self satisfaction of knowing that you NEVER THROW AWAY FABRIC SCRAPS. Sigh. Early habits are tough to break.

Fast forward to 48 years later and hundreds of quilts later. I have scraps. Lots of them. A couple of weeks ago I was contemplating the reduced storage space in the studio. Studio space filled with scrap bins. It seemed I had 3 options: 1 - throw them away (uh, no!) 2 - rent a storage unit (uh, NO!) or deal with them.  Clearly these scraps were taking up too much space as most were wadded up in the bins. Notice they are not sorted by color. (I do make several quilts a year JUST using scraps and I tend to graze through the top layer).  All this needed to be remedied. Last week I started dealing with it. One bin at a time was upended and each scrap was pressed and sorted by color and type. I thought this chore might take 2 weeks. We are in week 2 and I have been through 9 bins. There are 23 more to go. Sigh.

June will be less productive as I have cataract surgery scheduled - both eyes. 2 surgeries that require 9 medical appointments (pre-surgical exam, covid test, surgery, post op appointment, get the idea) Not much sewing will get done. Hopefully my eyesight will be good enough to sort and iron fabric. 

There is good news. I can see that the number of bins will be greatly reduced and finding JUST the right fabric for that leaf will be a bit easier. 

Some of you are wondering WHY? Why indeed.  First of all, like I said earlier, early habits are hard to break. Also, I am a hand piecer, a hand appliquer, and I have been known to dabble in English Paper Piecing. All of these make use of small pieces of fabric. Small pieces that less obsessive people wouldn't have a problem throwing away. (Just typing that is difficult).

There is more good news..... some of these can be yours. I have put up 1 Lb. bundles of scraps in the Etsy shop.  If you also are a hand piecer, or appliquer, or dabble in English Paper Piecing and your scrap situation is not as flush as mine - you are in luck.

Full Disclosure - these are scraps. Some might be as big as a fat 8th and some might be much smaller. There will be a few tiny pieces in your bundle, but most will be more than 6 inches square and some much bigger. These are from my personal scrap collection. Most will be Minick and Simpson scraps, but not all. All will be quilt shop quality fabrics. Some may even be starched.

I put up some last week and they surprisingly sold out within minutes. There are a few more bundles today. The goal is to keep putting up bundles for several weeks - about 20 bundles at a time.

So, that's everything. The burden is literally lightened now that I've shared to you about it. 



lynn said...

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this post. It is like my life story, except for the part where you have made a dent in your sorting, and organizing. I'm hoping your actions will spur me on.
I had cataracts removed from both eyes a couple of years ago, and recently had laser treatments to remove the cloudiness that developed behind the implanted lenses. Hope your experience will be as positive as mine

Mary @ Neat and Tidy said...

I love this article! I save my scraps and have found that I'm using the tiny pieces for miniature quilts. When I started quilting back in the 70's, I saved scraps because my mom always did. Now that I make lots of scrap quilts, I'm glad I have such a variety. I love a quilt with lots of color and pieces.

One question - what do you do with all your quilts?!!

Jackie M. said...

Just love your article. I now sort my scraps as I go along. Some are destined for pet beds and crate pads, some will be made into pot holders and hot pads, other bits will be used to make post cards and small art quilts. Others will be used as ribbons to wrap strips, gifties, etc. It becomes zo much fun to be able to vary the size and scale of project and yet know that all the scraps including the salvages will get used.

Laurie said...

@ Mary @ Neat and Tidy

They are everywhere. A great many have been gifted. Some have been sold and the rest are on every sofa, bed and wall in the house. There is a wall of shelves that hold over a hundred in the studio and there is a glass cabinet in the family room that holds many, many more.

Linda said...

I love my M&S fabric fact it's my only personal fabric stash! Good luck with your eye surgery, and I wish you a speedy recovery. Cheers Linda

Janet said...

The only part about this that I didn't love was that the scraps were sold out by the time I got there! That's what I get for missing a day of blog posts! Good luck with your surgery, and thanks for sharing your "fabric shame"!

Lori said...

I, too, love scraps because I enjoy applique; and, scraps mean that I can stay in my jammies. No running to the quilt shop at 8 a.m. for 1/8 yard of fuschia or chartreuse...I've already got them. I very recently had cataract surgery in both eyes, and it went swimmingly! I'd been having trouble seeing where one fabric ended and the other began (no matter what colors they were, I just couldn't see the demarcation point). But, I could see better immediately after the first surgery. Hope yours goes exactly the same way!

Anonymous said...

A few months ago I tackled my scraps that I started accumulating in 1974! I cut up all my shorter strips and smaller scraps into almost 20,000 mini-charms (2.5" squares). I also cut a fair m\number of 2" squares. I have already created 2 king-sized scrap quilts and have the minis to make many more. The larger scraps are also sorted and stored in color-coded bins that also store my minis in plastic ziplock bags. I feel so organized and ready to assemble quilts at my whim.

Anonymous said...

I hope all goes well with your surgery’s Laurie. I will keep you in my prayers. Pam T., Dexter.

Carol in Texas said...

Laurie, I cannot find a picture of your setting for the Blockheads 3 blocks. Have you assembled those blocks. I looked on your Instagram page as well as your blog and have not seen the finished top. You mentioned you were setting them on point. I would love to see the finished top.

Laurie said...

@Carol in Texas

Send me an email at and I'll shoot you a picture

Nancy said...

We are of like mind, Laurie. I can hardly bear to part with scraps but I forced myself to throw out the tiniest bits, the ones that would have disappeared after sewing a 1/4" seam or turning under less for applique. Great post!

Karmen said...

I get it.
When Mom, Linda Brannock, passed away in Missouri in 2015, I rented a storage unit near me in Georgia for the overflow of our combined stash. Three years later, I got tired of paying rent, so I brought it all home and spent the pandemic attempting to organize it. I recognize some of the fabric being as old as the 1970s when she was teaching me to quilt. We found treasures in mill's flat-fold shops in Georgia as we passed through on our way to Florida for vacations. Never would she, nor I, have thought her stash would end up back in Georgia nearly 50 years later.

Kimberly Rose said...

So happy to find your blog today. I hope this finds you well recovered from your surgery. Would love to catch up! Still thedogmaATgmailcom

carolyn4943 said...

Good for you unburdening yourself of these "scraps" - someone will love them and they will have a new life.
I am in a bit of acquisition stage still (though I am also eyeing my fabrics with thoughts about where they might have a more productive life these days)
In so doing - I recently acquired a Moda fabric labeled Vintage Reserve Minick and Simpson #14528. I reached out to the Moda folks to see what they could tell me about it, and they suggested it may be a reproduction textile from the late 1800's. I do living history interpretation and assist with the clothing collection at Fort Nisqually (1855) in Washington State. If you are able to give me any other information so I can confirm whether it would be an appropriate fabric choice for garments for my volunteers, I would be very grateful.
Carolyn Wagner

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