Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Speaking of Scrap Quilts....

September is underway....
I've started catching up on the wool ornaments....

Two down, four to go!
....and there's activity on the design wall......

Sorry for the hazy picture.

These are four patches made as "leader/enders" and braid units I have been collecting to make a quilt called "Confetti".  I'm hoping to enter it in the 5th Annual Scrap Quilt Challenge that the online store Fabrics 'N Quilts is hosting.  Entry deadline is October 15.  I wanted to work on this one because it is the most developed of my WIP scrap projects. 

I try to find scrap quilts I want to make before I have the scraps so that when I process my scraps they go right toward specific projects.  First I saw a "Confetti" quilt in American Patchwork & Quilting (June 2002) and thought it would be a cinch to save up the 2" squares needed for the four patches.  Later I became enamoured of braid quilts and found a design for one in a back issue of Quilters Newsletter (March 1991).  I collected bits and bobs for both for awhile and then one day I found a quilt that used both together!

The pattern on the right, also in a QNM back issue (September 1997) is also called "Confetti" and used both the four patches in the center like the APQ quilt and then braid units for the borders.  Don't you just love quilting!  The queen-size quilt called for 256 four patches and 304 braid units. By the time I saw the Quilt Challenge announcement this year I had 206 four patches but had not kept count of how many braid units I had cut.  However, since it's no longer a requirement that I make a queen-size quilt, I figured I should put the patches up on the wall and see what size quilt might be possible with what I already have on hand.

The only problem?  When I had originally started collecting for the QNM braid quilt pattern, it was designed so that the light braids and dark braids would be pieced on opposing sides of the braid columns so were cut in the reverse of each other.  However, even after I decided on doing the later QNM combined quilt, I continued to cut the braid units that way.  I'm only now noticing that if I'm going to use a white background as per the pattern, the braids as I have them cut will not work.  So the debate now is whether to change the border design to accommodate what I have or use a different (darker)background to provide a better contrast to work with what I have.  I'm still chewing on that choice in my mind and the decision will guide or may be made by my choice of background fabric.

Scraps or Scrappy?

I find that people often mean two different things when they use the term "Scrap Quilt".  For me, there is a distinct difference between "a quilt made from scraps" and "a Scrap(py) Quilt".  In an "Editor's Note" that was sent in an email back in March entitled "Scrap Happy", Quiltmaker Magazine Editor Rachel Peterson said this about the spring cleaning she was giving her studio:

"I simply had to ask myself, "Can I see this in a quilt?" If I hesitated, if I couldn't picture even a hint of a quilt, that scrap was tossed. A saying kept flashing through my mind that I learned while studying to be a journalist, "Slay your darlings." Obviously they were talking about words on a page, but it applied to my scrap stash. As soon as I cleared all the clutter and itty pieces I would never use, my stash seemed to fit together better. Suddenly I was seeing more potential for fabric combinations and quilt designs."

Now for me this is an instance where the plan is to "make a quilt from scraps".  That is, the goal is to take leftover fabrics and coordinate them together to make a quilt the same way you would shop for fabric yardage in a store.  There is nothing wrong with that approach  if you are setting out to make a quilt using a specific palette of colors and want to use up or put some of your leftover fabrics toward it.  This is exactly how I started the Valentines Day quilt I made earlier this year.  I am a firm proponent of the idea that your scraps cost you the same amount as your yardage so you might as well use them up!

However, I was surprised by her comment that any scraps she couldn't "see" going into a quilt needed to be tossed.  Yikes!!  My idea of a true "Scrap Quilt" and the ones I enjoy seeing are the ones made from every kind of fabric without regard to what it looks like or if it matches.  In quilts like these, the more different fabrics you add, the better they look!  My inspiration/mentor/heroine in that is Bonnie Hunter who, ironically, contributes a regular feature to the same magazine!  Her column in QM is called "Addicted To Scraps" and if you look at her quilts (and you can do so over at her website Quiltville.com), you'll see they are full of scrappy goodness and include everything under the sun!  Bonnie always points out and jokes about the "Millenium fabrics" that still show up in her quilts from time to time even all these years after the year 2000.  In fact, people still send her their scraps of that kind of fabric and she has no problem adding them to her latest work.  She detailed her own views on the subject of making scrap quilts in this blog post from 2005

In  those kind of scrap quilts,  you may only worry about value (light or dark) and maybe tone (if you want the quilt to be primarily full of bright/pure colors or muted/shaded/toned colors) but sometimes even those considerations are set aside.  Many of the antique quilt gems we love were made from the scrap basket and suggest that the maker wasn't concerned about liking the way things went together but only with having enough bits to make the finished size quilt they needed.

Ms. Peterson's comment about "clear(ing) all the clutter and itty pieces (she) would never use" means she's probably never considered making a "Crumb" quilt (also known as Mile-A-Minute or Made Fabric).  For these type of blocks/quilts, there is almost no such thing as a piece too small to make a block.  If you google "Crumb Quilt" you'll see what I mean.  I've actually also got one of those that was in the process of being quilted when I stopped work on it and might try to also finish it up for the Quilt Challenge too.

Admittedly, your tolerance for what is "pretty" factors in here.  Some people find these types of scrap quilt ugly.  However, with quilts as with people, beauty is in the eye of the beholder or in the case of quilts, the snuggler!!  That's not to say that some of your scraps can't be reserved to stuff pillow forms or dog beds. But if I can put my scraps in a quilt I'm so much happier!!

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