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How I Design my Scrap Quilts
Anyone can make a scrap quilt
I started making quilts about 35 years ago. I am completely self-taught and learned by trial and error. I think that anyone can make a quilt.
I first began making quilts because it was an economical way to get blankets for my family and use up left over fabric scraps. My first efforts were not much to look at, but they served their purpose.
I still have never gone out and bought new fabric just to make a quilt. I really believe in the tradition of using scraps. I used to go to thrift stores when they had dollar a bag sales, and choose clothing made of fabric with interesting prints.
My quilts are still not the kind to win blue ribbons, they are to put on beds and sleep under every night.
Some books and classes make quilting look complicated and scary. Don't be afraid to make a mistake. You will get better with practice, and making mistakes is how you learn.
All photos and graphics by Sherry Hewins
Rail Fence Pattern
Super easy, but beautiful, pattern
Rail Fence is a great quilt pattern for beginners. You can use large pieces so it goes together really fast, and it's pretty forgiving if the corners don't match up exactly.
Rail Fence is made up of blocks called Roman Stripe. Each block is made up of 3 stripes, each in a different fabric.
For this nap quilt I used 24 blocks, it's 4 blocks wide and 6 blocks tall. So, 24 pieces of each fabric, 3 1/2" x 9 1/2" each (1/4" seam allowance). With a 5" border the finished quilt measures 46" x 73."
The blue part is made from old blue jeans, one of my favorite fabrics for my quilts.
Roman Stripe Block
I like to have some idea how my quilt will look when it's finished. I used to draw it out on graph paper, but now I use my computer.
I've tried a few different programs for this purpose. For this quilt, I found some photos similar to the patterns and colors of my fabrics, then I cropped them and used them to build the pattern in Illustrator.
Below are 2 patterns that can be made with identical blocks, Rail Fence and Windmill. I ended up choosing Rail Fence, mainly because I was short on one of the colors and Windmill takes an extra row to complete the pattern.
9 Patch Pattern
This quilt I made when I had a lot of, mainly blue, fabric scraps I needed to use up. I didn't have very much of any one of them, so I had to figure out a pattern that used a variety. This quilt is made up of 2 different blocks, each a 9 patch pattern.
To make the mock-up I actually scanned the fabric and placed the blocks in Illustrator. I liked the way it came out.
Below are 2 slightly different 9 patch patterns using the same fabrics. I chose the one on the right.
Devil's Claw is the most complex pattern that I have attempted to date. I was making a king sized quilt, so I opted to use setting blocks between the pieces squares. I found this pattern in Quilter's magazine. There was a photo of a vintage quilt done in this pattern. The quilt in the magazine used a wide variety of fabrics, as I have here. The repeating of the pattern, and the use of light and dark fabrics bring unity to the finished piece.
The article remarked how the quilter had "overcome the limitations of her scrap bag." I thought those were inspiring words, and I had a bag of scraps I had gotten for a bargain at a thrift store. It did have some severe limitations, but it worked well in this instance.
I love creating something beautiful from scraps that might otherwise be discarded.
Indespensible Tools for Quilting - Don't make it hard on yourself
For years I cut my quilts using regular cutting shears, and it can be done. However, these tools will make the job much easier. With the proper tools, your cutting will not only be easier, but more accurate. The set includes a rotary cutter that allows you to cut through many layers of fabric at the same time, a cutting mat and a clear acrylic ruler.