Garment sewing produces waste, sometimes a lot of it. After years of sewing, my woven scrap pile was getting pretty large and I really wanted to turn some of it into a quilt. Then in 2019 Farm & Folk posted this on Instagram and I had a solution: I’d make 100 nine patch blocks using only scraps from previous projects.
Almost immediately, I started cutting 2″ x 2″ squares and arranging them. It’s pretty amazing how different fabrics and textures can come together and look so cohesive.
I only made a handful at the start and then set this project aside for a while. Almost a year later, I made a quilt design board out of homasote and canvas and picked this project back up. Briefly I wanted to try out a 100 day project but I didn’t enjoy the pressure and I wanted this process to be fun.
There was also a moment where I thought about making the quilt top entirely out of nine patch squares. After realizing this plan would require almost 200 blocks, I abandoned that idea.
A few months later, I had over 50 blocks and this was the point where I actually calculated how many blocks I’d need for this layout and it was not 100, it was 98.
I decided to make 100 anyway and then I’d have some flexibility if I ended up not liking a couple squares.
Once I had 100 blocks, I removed the two I didn’t really like (seen on the board above), made seven piles of seven blocks, and laid them out on my table. My table wasn’t large enough so I tucked some foam core underneath the cutting mats. I ended up only moving about three blocks once everything was in place.
This project taught me that sometimes my 1/4″ seam allowances… vary and that using a bunch of different fabrics can really change the size of a block. The blocks that had double gauze were especially wonky. I ended up having to ease some of the blocks together so the corners were aligned. I could have trimmed everything down to match the smallest block but I threw caution to the wind and just forced the blocks to work together.
I used Kona cotton in natural for the solid squares. Before I had 100 blocks, I tried using scrap fabric in lighter colors but it made the nine patch blocks disappear. I think the bright solid color really makes the patchwork shine.
Next I’ll make the backing, baste the layers together, quilt, bind, and then wash.
While I don’t keep 100% of my sewing waste out of the landfill, I try to use up leftover fabric in fun ways. Here are a few of my favorite scrap busting projects.
Quilted Blankets & Garments
I sew with a lot of wovens, so naturally piecing together fabric is a great way to use even the smallest scraps. I am currently making a 9-patch quilt using 2″ x 2″ squares. Every time I cut out a new woven garment project, I also cut out as many squares as I can from the leftovers. I’ll save really large pieces for other projects, but I can really get a lot of squares out of those weird leftover pieces. I’m not sure what size this quilt will be, but my goal is to make at least 100 blocks and then assess. So far, I’ve made about 50.
I’m also making a quilted coat. I’m unifying all of the different textures and colors of scrap fabric with black and a consistent block pattern. I modified the Seamwork Easton pattern to be longer and to have hidden pockets.
Napkins & Bandanas
If I have a decent amount fabric leftover and I really love the fabric, I’ll make a bandana / square scarf. If the fabric feels pretty absorbent, napkins and tea towels are great options too. Each of the bandanas pictured (right) has a flat felled seam somewhere on it to make it big enough. Both the napkins and bandanas are finished with mitered corners. For napkins or tea towels, I try to make them 12″ x 12″ to 16″ x 16″. For bandana scarves, at least 20″ by 20″ and above.
Headbands & Scrunchies
Hair things are super fun to make and they’re helping me feel better about my quarantine hair. I love the Seamwork Drew headband, which can be made out of knits or wovens. When making a woven Drew, I’ll finish all of the edges with my serger before starting construction. For scrunchies I follow this tutorial.
Beanies & Head Wraps
Both of these patterns require very little fabric. I block printed the knit fabric of the hat on the left. I used a free pattern for it, but can’t remember its name. The Mahogany Turban (right) is a new pattern by Fibr & Cloth Studio. It can be unlined or lined and it’s a really quick sew!
Small Bags & Cases
I really love the Creative Maker Supply Case and it uses a really small amount of fabric. Each panel could be a different fabric. The scrappy zippered bag (right) is made out of some improv piecing and I really love it. The fabric was teeny tiny too!
Rope Bowl Pizzazz
I love throwing some fabric scraps on a rope bowl. I think this is a super fun way to use the tiniest bits of fabric.
Quilted Slippers & Pillow Covers
Sew DIY’s Quilted Slippers is a great scrap busting project. I used three different fabrics in my scrap stash to make the lining, sole, and the exterior. They’re a surprisingly fast sew too and make a great gifts!
I’ve made three quilted pillow covers now and I’m not gonna stop!
Underthings & Outerthings
I can’t wait for the time when one of these things is unnecessary. Anyway, I love using leftover jersey knits for underpants and bras. I actually hate this mask pattern, it’s the only photo I’ve taken of masks. I prefer a 3D mask with a big loop of elastic to go around my head.
Ornaments & Wall Art
The square ornaments are stuffed with fabric mulch (left) and the circular vinyl ornaments use serger off cuts and scrap yarn.
This squishy statement necklace is made exactly like a scrunchie, but instead of inserting elastic, it’s stuffed with polyfill. I think it’s a fun way to turn those precious scraps into something wearable.
My motivation and creative practice was all over the place at the beginning of the pandemic, but I found a lot of comfort in piecing together shapes. It’s repetitive, which allows me to zone out, but also provides some fun opportunities to problem solve.
For this project, I copied an Anni Albers design. I believe there’s a difference between knocking off for personal use and copying for profit. I think that when it’s for personal use, the act of replicating can be an incredible learning process and a means to improving your skills. Copying encourages you to assess construction and puzzle out how things come together.
I used 10oz cotton duck in Natural, Black, and Khaki. I need to find a new canvas supplier because the company I got these from had blue lives matter bullshit in one of its recent newsletters.
I had a lot of fun figuring out the blocks for this. There is one section that I would do a different way, if I were to do it all over again, but whatever!
Initially I had planned to use the khaki canvas for the border but must have used it in another project. I’m actually quite pleased with how the natural color border turned out. This color definitely made the stretching process a little easier – the wonkiness from stretching is somewhat hidden.
Some day we’re going to rip out this terrible 70s “update” and make the fireplace a focal point instead of an eyesore.
Another piecing project I’m slowly working on is a scrap quilt. Whenever I cut out a woven garment project, I’ll cut 2″ x 2″ squares out of the leftovers. As a chronic over-buyer of fabric/project switcher, it’s making me feel better about the waste that comes with each garment project.
I recently made a small design wall for quilting projects. It’s just a 48″ x 48″ piece of homasote that I stretched cotton canvas over. It’s not as sticky as a traditional design wall, plus it’s right next to a vent, so stuff needs to be pinned to it.
If you’d like a tutorial for this, Farm & Folk has an excellent one.
Anyway, I started this project back in early September of 2019. It’s a nice long-term project that I can pick up and leave whenever feels right. However, my goal is to make 100 blocks and document them in my IG stories.
Initially I wanted to do 100 consecutive days, but I completely forgot about one day, then another… and then I felt silly about it. So now I’m just gonna call it a “100 Blocks” projects that will be completed in the time frame that feels good to me. I’m especially fond of these blocks. The pink seersucker is my first attempt at using natural dyes.
The third pieced project I’m working on is a quilted jacket. I’m lengthening the Seamwork Easton jacket and adding hidden pockets.
Here’s what a single block looks like (above). I am using leftover wovens, plus Ace & Jig scraps with a black linen. I like how this project will be a reminder of past garment projects.
I’m leaning toward using the composition on the right. Maybe this jacket will be ready by next winter!
If you’re at all into quilting, you’ve probably laid your eyes on Laura’s beautiful modern quilts. One of the first things that drew me to the Vacilando Instagram account was that production was taking place entirely in an Airstream… on the road. As a person that loves to spread way, way out while making, Laura’s small space process blew my mind. Her use of geometric shapes and yummy colors also appealed to my aesthetic.
When Laura asked if I’d be willing to make one of the patterns in her soon-to-be-released book, I enthusiastically said YES even though I was about to move across state lines.
It took me a while to get going on this project, only because I couldn’t find anything after moving. It took me a couple of weeks to just find my iron and for some reason I packed my fabric scraps in several different boxes (seemed like a good idea at the time).
The construction of this pillow looks like it requires lots of precise cutting and piecing, but it’s really beginner friendly! Basically you sew larger rectangles together, then cut them up, rearrange, add some strips in between, and BAM, you’ve got a pillow top! I chose a really simple quilting pattern so as to not detract from the pattern.
It’s the perfect project for using up scraps and I told myself I wasn’t allowed to buy any new fabric for it. The majority of it is silk noil, which makes it super luxurious, but I would not recommend this substrate if you’re just starting out – it’s a little hard to control.
Brown and black silk noil fabric is from some Willow Tanks, a men’s tie, and a Shirt No. 1.
Speckled dark grey cotton linen blend is from my block printed Tamarack
I’ve made a grand total of three quilts in three-ish years of sewing. I’ve noticed there seems to be a little divide among the sewists out there – you’re either a quilter or a garment maker. I think you should be both!
The first quilt I made was the Timber Quilt by Alison Glass and Jamie Naughton. Was it too complicated for a first quilt? No. Did some blocks cause frustration? Yes. Is the binding a little weird? Yup. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.
I firmly believe that if you’re a beginner, you should be making patterns that excite you with fabrics that make you drool. My motivation goes out the window if I’m not inspired by both the fabric and pattern. And you’re not going to want to sit at the machine and work through some bumps if you’re not completely jazzed about the possible product you’re making. When you boil it down, sewing is just following steps (and Googling when you hit a roadblock… Oh, and seam ripping. Lots of seam ripping).
After finishing my Timber quilt top, puzzling out the basting process, quilting it on my dinky intro machine, and binding it, I was elated! I gathered a bunch of graphing paper and began playing around with designs, because after one quilt, you can totally design your own. You just have to break your design into sections, or blocks to assemble it. Seriously. You can design your own quilt.
I made this little crib quilt for a friend and would love to make it again, but bigger! The color palette is just so yummy (to my eyes). The only thing holding me back is that 98% of these fabrics were thrifted bed sheets, so I need to track down a quilting cotton (or another sheet) that is that perfect green/brown color.
My third quilt is where I lost steam and it goes back to what I said about needing to be really excited about your fabric. I made this a WHOLE YEAR after friends had a baby. There was just something about the pink that made me not want to work on it. I also chose the most labor intensive quilting pattern possible to “hide” some mistakes in lining up all the blocks.
When I finally finished this quilt, I also made a rope basket with quilt scraps as an additional I’m-sorry-this-is-so-late present.
I haven’t made a quilt in over a year, but I’ve got the itch. My plans are to make this FREE pattern – Dear Gunta. It is based on Gunta Stölzl’s work, who was a bad-ass, Bauhaus textile designer. I just have to narrow down my color choices, but I’m planning to use pops of metallic linen leftover from my Farrow Dress!