Scrap Strategies

After I finished up my last quilt, I had a giant pile of leftover coordinated scraps from mitered borders and extra blocks.  I stared at this pile of fabric for a while and couldn’t come up with a solution, so I shoved it onto a corner of my cutting table and left it there.  I’m finding that whether I’m quilting or writing, this is a strategy I use often – shove the fabric or plot mess into a corner and ignore it until a solution somehow appears.  It always does.  I just have to be patient.

For this particular quilt mess, I waited until I drove 300 miles to Fallon, Nevada to watch my daughter play soccer.  During a break between games, I found a great quilt shop, Uncommon Threads, and the owner shared a technique to use all my color coordinated scraps.  I’ve already been making my own scrap fabric on a smaller scale, so it was easy to use it with my pile of bigger pieces.

First, I sewed the scraps into a giant strip that was 13-13 ½” wide, and I have no idea how long.  I just made it as long as I could.

The long strip I made first.

Then, I used my 12 ½” square to cut out giant squares, and I got these blocks.

Finally, I cut all those in half and paired them with some tone-on-tone blue I had on hand.  I haven’t sewed the blocks together yet, but when I do, they’ll look something like this.

Not bad for a Sunday afternoon, except for the fact that I didn’t get any writing done.  I did have fun though!

Scrap Stashes – Ziploc Girl or Tote from Hell?

We started with this . . .

This summer, I got together with my quilt buddies to make scrap fabric blocks.  The blocks are wonderful.  No rules, no measuring, no guidelines and no restrictions, just creative fabric play.  We also thought we’d get rid of some of our scraps which somehow accumulate exponentially over the years.  I can never throw away fabric that just might come in handy in some future project.  Even though it rarely does, I hang onto it.  It’s some sort of sickness.

The idea was to throw all of our scraps into a big pile in the middle of the table.  We would then grab scraps as needed and hopefully put a dent into the pile.

Our scrap stashes were fascinating as they seemed a direct reflection of our personalities.  We should have a taken a personality profile assessment, and I am willing to bet that our stashes would reflect the results of the profile.

Type A, or “The Ziploc Stash” – These quilters have all their scraps organized according to color and size and are sorted into individual baggies.  This quilter probably has stock in Ziploc in order to help fund a future retirement and considers the mass quantities of baggies an investment in her future.  The scraps are pressed and ready for use in any new, organized project she might dream up.

Type Z, or “Scrap Totes from Hell” – These quilters have all sizes and colors of scraps smashed together into some sort of plastic tote(s).  There might even be partially completed quilts woven in between the scraps.  The owner of said tote must sit on it to get the lid latched, and still scraps stick out between the lid and the sides.  Taking the lid off is a bit of an adventure as the scraps, now free, literally explode from their confinement.  When these boxes are opened, it is not necessary to carry any to the middle of the table for the scrap block project as the top half of the scra

. . . and ended with these. Lots of them.

ps in the bucket have already exploded out and landed on the table where they need to be.

Perhaps there is some middle ground here, but I have not met that scrap stash yet.  Scraps stashes, like fabric stashes, seem to have personalities all their own, and mine is determined to just keep growing despite my best efforts at controlling it.

One of the goals of this day was to put a dent into each of our scrap stashes, but when we were done, the type A stood, looked at the giant messy pile in the middle of the table, and shook her head.  No longer were her scraps in organized little baggies.  She suggested the rest of us keep all the scraps, even hers, until next time, and she ran for the door.

At least one of us put a dent in her scrap stash.  Mine, it seems, are never going to go away.

The Muses Must Play

Yesterday, I sat at the computer all morning, ready to write.  I have a time line here.  It’s summer vacation, and it ends in six weeks.  I need to write . . . NOW!  I have goals!  My muses don’t seem to be getting my sense of urgency as they failed to bless me with their presence for the third day in a row.  Apparently they don’t like to be ordered around.

I felt abandoned, so I tried a few different strategies:  I grabbed a favorite book off the shelf and opened it to a random page, reading great writing for inspiration . . . nothing.

I read a few blogs on writing . . . nothing.

I got on you tube and watched some videos of a fiddler since there’s one in the scene I’m writing . . . nothing.

I kept going and standing in front of the refrigerator.  I wasn’t hungry, but thought that feeding my stomach would possibly feed some ideas into my head . . . nothing, other than to make my ass a little bit cushier when I sit down to write.

Blocks that still aren't all sewn together

Finally, I forced myself to write half the fiddling scene until I gave up and left my computer for my sewing machine.

Maybe stitching a few blocks would inspire me.  I pulled some blocks off my design wall and began to put them together.  I was chain piecing them and at the end of each row instead of pulling the blocks out and snipping the thread, I grabbed two random scraps from my scrap bucket, sewed them together and then clipped the blocks off to press.  A friend showed me this technique to save thread.  Ultimately, you get enough pieces of scraps sewn together, and you have a whole new piece of “scrap” fabric, and maybe a teeny tiny dent in the scrap bucket.

Soon, my blocks were pushed aside, and I found myself surrounded with piles of scraps – the ironing board, the floor, my sewing table, all were covered with little pieces that were growing into bigger pieces.

My "new" scrappy fabric

I had a ball.  It was creative, fun, and probably most important, not forced.  I wasn’t planning on spending three hours making new scrap fabric, but I did.  I completely lost track of time.  I didn’t realize how much I needed to just play.  My muses are back this morning; apparently they like to play too.

If I demand they show up, they laugh at me and go their own merry way, off to play without me, leaving me to figure out, yet again, that I can’t force creativity.  I need to honor the process.