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Quilting Terms: What is a Scrap Quilt?

Updated on August 14, 2013
Millionaire Tips profile image

A lover of arts and crafts, Shasta Matova enjoys making artistic, applique, pieced, traditional, miniature, modern, and crazy quilts.

This scrap quilt uses mainly warm color fabrics, with a few cool fabrics for contrast.
This scrap quilt uses mainly warm color fabrics, with a few cool fabrics for contrast. | Source

It's not trash!

When I told a friend of mine I was making her a scrap quilt, she turned up her nose, and said "why?" When she thought of the word "scrap" she was thinking of scrap heap. In fact Merriam Webster uses words like "discarded," "leftover," "rejected," and "waste" in its dictionary to describe the word.

Many quilters, on the other hand, are excited about the idea of a scrap quilt. They love using scraps of fabric to make a patchwork quilt, like in the olden days. They look forward to the day when they have a large enough stash that they can make beautiful scrap quilts.

We can imagine the old days, when women used quilts to keep their families warm as they traveled across the country in a covered wagon. In the remote wilderness, they would use old tattered pieces of clothing to make quilts because they could not afford to waste any precious resources. They would use whatever pieces of fabric were available, not worrying about whether they matched or were attractive. Of course, they would try to make their quilts beautiful, but the function was foremost on their mind, and they had many other chores which needed their attention.

Scrap quilts appeal to our sense of frugality, strength and endurance, independence, and conservation. It is recycling at its best.

What is a Scrap Quilt?

Scrap quilts have been around since quilting began, and continue to be made today. A scrap quilt is a patchwork quilt that is made up of a number of different fabrics. Instead of using one piece of red fabric, for example, a scrap quilt will generally have many reds. "More is better" as the saying goes. Scrap quilts can be made in any style of quilting, including liberated quilting, modern quilting, and traditional quilting.

In addition, a scrap quilt tends to place fabric randomly across a quilt, instead of evenly. For example, the Simply Squares quilt shown on this hub is made up of only ten fabrics. By placing them throughout the quilt, it is a scrap quilt. If I had placed them in rows, sections, or diagonally, it would not have looked like a scrap quilt.

Because fabric can come from many sources, it is likely to not be exactly color-coordinated. The use of a variety of unusual and unexpected fabric and an unexpected combination of fabrics adds to the delight of scrap quilt.

Generally scrap quilter will cut up a single piece of fabric and use it in more than one place in a quilt. Charm quilts are a special type of scrap quilts that only uses a piece of each fabric once in the entire quilt. Charm quilts have been made for a long time, and continue to be made. They received a short revival in the late 1990s, when many quilters exchanged fabric squares for the millennium in an attempt to get 2,000 different pieces of fabric to make a patchwork charm quilt.

This rail fence quilt is a scrap quilt that uses any and all fabrics.
This rail fence quilt is a scrap quilt that uses any and all fabrics. | Source

Leftover Fabrics

The general idea of scrap quilting is to use leftover fabric. It is to use up the little scrap pieces that are remaining from making other quilts, and to re-purpose retired old clothing into warm and beautiful quilts.

In reality, quilters today are more affluent, and do not need to use old fabrics. They can buy lots of fabric and use them in scrap quilts. Manufacturers also sell fabric in bundles, so quilters can get a variety of fabrics in one purchase. These bundles tend to be more color coordinated than scrap quilts usually use, but a quilter can change the look of a bundle by adding fabric from other manufacturers or other fabric lines.

Scrap quilts are a frugal quilter's dream, because fabric can be obtained from many inexpensive places, such as thrift stores, discount stores and auctions. In fact, once a quilter announces herself as a scrap quilter, she may even receive scraps from other quilters who choose not to store odd pieces of fabric.

Scrap quilts are also helpful for people who do not want to take the time to measure the amount of available fabric exactly. If you run out of fabric in a scrap quilt, it is easy to find another fabric that will work in the quilt.

Simply Squares is a scrap quilt made of squares.
Simply Squares is a scrap quilt made of squares. | Source

Controlled Scrap Quilt

The rail fence patchwork quilt shown on the right uses a variety of quilt fabrics - muted colors, bright colors, civil war fabrics, fabric from the 1980s, and batiks. There are novelty fabrics and solids. Plaids, stripes, flowers, and geometric designs are all acceptable. Everything. It uses leftovers from everything that has ever been any of my previous quilts. I did choose to include more bright fabrics to make a brighter quilt.

There are several ways to add control to a scrap quilt to make it more visually appealing.

Color or Color Family

By limiting colors, a quilter can add more control to a scrap quilt. A quilt might only use a variety of blue fabrics, for example, and only one fabric is used for each of the other colors. Or the quilt may only use a variety of blue and cream fabrics. The quilt shown at the top of the page has some control because it includes mostly warm colors - red, orange, and yellow, with a just a bit of other colors.

Style of Fabric

A quilter can add control over her scrap quilt by using only one style of fabric. A quilt that is made completely of batiks will be less chaotic than a quilt made with all different fabrics. Other choices include solids, small prints, all geometric shapes, brights, pastels, Civil War fabric, 1930s fabric. Limiting the fabric choice in any way will add more control to the quilt.

Placement of Fabric

The placement of the fabric on a quilt will also lead to a scrappiness of a patchwork quilt. By placing all the red fabric in the background and all the creams in the center, more control is shown on the quilt.

How to Make a Crazy Scrap Quilt

Scrap Quilts

Scrap quilts are a lot of fun to make. Because we are using fabric that other quilters may deem trash, there is less pressure to make a perfect quilt. We also don't have to worry about running out of fabric because we can always add another piece that is close enough. Some scrap quilters continue to use meticulous methods, while others will let some minor flaws slide, as long as it doesn't affect the integrity of the quilt. They are a visual delight to the viewer because the fabric choices, and combination of the various colors and patterns, are unexpected and intriguing.

© 2011 Shasta Matova

Comments: "Quilting Terms: What is a Scrap Quilt?"

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    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      Thanks Lynn. I love making scrap quilts, because I can combine the different fabric to make it just the way I want it to look! I think scrap quilts can really reflect the maker's personality more than some other types of quilts.

    • Lynn Savitsky profile image

      Lynn Savitzky 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      Ooh, this would be a good way to get rid of some fabric scraps I have. Very informative!

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks for your comment and vote moonlake. I too love scrap quilts because there are more visually interesting with all the different fabric in them, and because they are easier to make, since you don't have to worry about running out of a particular fabric. Just add some more.

    • moonlake profile image


      8 years ago from America

      I'm kind of old fashioned because I love scrap quilt they are my favorite. I think they are so beautiful. Voted up.

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      Thanks RTalloni, most people prefer a controlled scrap quilt over one that uses completely random fabrics. It just looks better when there is some sort of plan - even if it's a loose one, like Christmas, or autumn, or warm colors. I look forward to seeing your quilt!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I've had an idea for a quilt rolling around my mind for sometime. Now I know what to call it. A controlled scrap quilt is hopefully in my future. Thanks for this look at them!

    • Millionaire Tips profile imageAUTHOR

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      Thank you Donna! They are my favorite kind.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 

      9 years ago from USA

      Another great quilting hub! Our home is full of scrap quilts made by my mom and grandmother. We love them!


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