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Why are Scrap Quilts so popular?

Updated on March 11, 2016
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Quilter, author, tutor, and columnist, Jan T Urquhart Baillie has been sharing her passion for quilting for more than 30 years.

Scrap quilts have been around for centuries

Make do and mend was an adage that our forefathers (foremothers?) were fond of applying in their everyday lives.

Considering that many people in the 1800s lived far from shops, and were not as affluent as many of us today, it was necessary to save and use every last scrap of fabrics leftover from making clothing and household linens.

Humble though they may seem, scrap quilts are a delight.

Crazy scrap patchwork
Crazy scrap patchwork

What is a scrap quilt?

a patchwork quilt made from collected fabrics

Usually, a scrap quilt is not sewn from bought yardage.

It is made from what the quiltmaker has in her 'stash'.

I cannot make a quilt from my cupboards, unless it is indeed made from leftover scraps of fabrics from other quilts that I have made. I even piece together large pieces for the backs of my quilts. (I come from a long line of 'ikey' Scots.)

Another kind of scrap quilt is a crazy quilt, made popular in Victorian times and still current today.

Scrap quilts are environmentally friendly

They use up scraps, and save landfill!

There's something really satisfying about using stuff you have to create beautiful scrap quilts.

They don't have to look old-fashioned, they can be striking and modern looking.

Green living made easy by using scrap fabrics to make warm, cuddly quilts.

My first quilt was made from dressmaking scraps - and an old silk skirt I used to wear.


My first quilt
My first quilt

Scrap quilts are great aren't they?

See results

The trick is to...

...use lights and darks, not colour

What's The T For?


How does that work?

It's all about value

I used many many scrap fabrics in this quilt, What's the T For?, letting their lighness and darkness (contrast of value) make the blocks and the design work.

The charm for me is that some blocks (traditional Double T block) work better than others, making the whole quilt more interesting.

Look for the value difference in patches that are to be next to each other. If you are having trouble 'seeing' the value of your farics, try using a Ruby Beholder™.

This little tool will help you enormously to see the value of your fabrics, especially when side by side. The red lens merges the patterns and allows you to see if one fabric is darker that another, to make the designs in your quilts work much better.

The Basket Quilt


How many fabrics are too many?

in a scrap quilt - you can never have too many!

My greatest love in quiltmaking is putting scrap fabrics together into quilts that look like they cost lots.

With exception of the toile in the inner border on the Basket Quilt, and the centre piece of hand dyed fabric where the applique is, all of the quilt blocks and pieced borders are made with small scraps of fabric from my bins.

In fact, the last border was left over from some sixty degree triangle workshops I taught.

This scrap quilt cost $0! - It's true!

Jan and Bob's scrap quilt
Jan and Bob's scrap quilt

Read the story of how the quilt came about.

Hugs and Kisses All Over Oz

Hugs and Kisses All Over Oz
Hugs and Kisses All Over Oz

Quilt made from bits and pieces of 'uglies'

Queen sized, using Simple Star and Economy blocks, I made this wonderful scrap quilt from a pile of 'uglies' which my Listen With Your Eyes© students gave me on a teaching trip in outback Queensland.

The blocks are Economy and Simple Star, two really simple designs, which is always a good rule of thumb for scrap quilt blocks.

One of the secrets to making a scrap quilt look more planned is to find a border fabric which features or complements the colours in the quilt top, like this border does.

It is still one of my favourites, even though it is getting very 'loved'.

The border was bought - The rest was scraps

Tyler's quilt
Tyler's quilt

Scrap quilts can have themes

When you are making any quilt with a specific theme in mind, such as a toddler's quilt, you choose fabrics that suit that idea. The same is true of scrap quilts.

All the large square print patches in Tyler's quilt were chosen for a little boy. The farics in the Four Patch blocks were chosen for lightness and darkness (brightness, too).

You can choose a feature fabric, like the border in Jan and Bob's quilt (above), and then all your scraps can be chosen for their relationship to the feature fabric before you decide which is light and which is dark.

Best blocks for scrap quilts - simple shapes in the patches

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Double Four PatchBow TieCourthouse StepsFriendship StarSimple StarThe AnvilShoo FlyPuss in the CornerKaliedoscopeSquare in a Square
Double Four Patch
Double Four Patch
Bow Tie
Bow Tie
Courthouse Steps
Courthouse Steps
Friendship Star
Friendship Star
Simple Star
Simple Star
The Anvil
The Anvil
Shoo Fly
Shoo Fly
Puss in the Corner
Puss in the Corner
Square in a Square
Square in a Square

Scrap quilt fabrics to start you off

60 Pcs Fabric Printed Boundle Patchwork Squares of 1010cm
60 Pcs Fabric Printed Boundle Patchwork Squares of 1010cm
Cut squares, half-square triangles, quarter-square triangles, rectangles, all the patches you need to make the simple blocks above.

One of my students - Margaret - made this lovely blue and gold scrap quilt

Margaret's blue and gold scrap quilt Partly quilted in this photo
Margaret's blue and gold scrap quilt Partly quilted in this photo

More of Margaret's Scrap Quilts

Margaret's scrappy leaves
Margaret's scrappy leaves | Source
Margaret made this from my bins
Margaret made this from my bins | Source

Community made scrap quilts


Quilts from the Cancer Council quilts project - made from a smallish box of sample swatches

Click thumbnail to view full-size

© 2011 Jan T Urquhart Baillie


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