Everyone who sews has scraps...some throw them away, some give them away, but most of us keep them...thinking we will do something wonderful with them at some time.
It is far more tempting to use them if we can first find them (it helps if they are in the same area) and secondly if they are stored in such a way as to make them easy (and fun!) to access.
First, I get together 3 laundry baskets, bags, boxes, or just three piles on the floor. I do a quick rough sort into 3 categories:
- STRIPS - can be leftover border pieces, binding, skinny remnants from rotary cutting - nothing is too narrow
- LARGE CHUNKS - anything too small to store neatly with yardage and big enough to cut squares or regular-sized pieces from (generally fat 1/8's down to a rough 2 x 2 inch square)
- LITTLE BITS - "grape-sized" or larger
First, I sort out the strips to store in bins. As I sort, I try to put like colors together, just so I have little pockets of like color for quick, easy retrieval. I stack them, despite the length, stretched out straight and flat.
I find, in general, that things take up less space when they are stored as flat as possible. I do store bright strips separate from all the rest; sometimes I will use them in the same project, but I mostly don't, so I find it easier to sort them into separate piles.
These funny pill-shaped containers hold my strips. As you can see, there are border pieces as wide as 4 inches. On top, in the right hand bin, there are some leftover green template-cut pieces. I put these in the strip bin because I can cut strips from them...they are from a "re-purposed" UFO (one I "fell-out-of-love-with" after I cut everything out...it happens...).
When I can no longer close these two bins, I know it is time to sub-cut my strips into smaller units to "feed" my on-going obsession with scrappy quilts.
I LOVE to do log cabin projects, especially using 1.25 INCH STRIPS and 1.5 INCH STRIPS. I press the strip, if necessary, then rotary cut what I can from the strip, without trimming the length. I might take this opportunity to also cut logs for a specific project (the bin below with red and blue logs). It seems more efficient to do that at the same time...that way I am only handling the strips once.
As I find leftover binding pieces, I store those separate. I might use the bigger pieces to bind little quilts or coasters. I always know that this is a good source when I need 2.25 or 2.5 inch strips (I usually cut most of my binding on the lengthwise grain, so no stretchy bias edges...).
I take this opportunity to remove selvages from remnant strips to store together. I hope to try a project using them soon, as my bin is almost full!
Now that the strips are taken care of, I turn my attention to the large chunks.
I choose to segregate my large chunks by color...this is practical because I have a lot of scraps. I also find that scraps take up less room when folded or stored flat. I don't iron, unless something is just hopelessly wrinkled, just smooth with my hands.
These are the categories I use and the way I label my bins. I store bright large chunks separate from everything else in two bins...COOL BRIGHTS (purple, blue, green, bright on black) and WARM BRIGHTS (red, orange, pink, yellow, bright on white).
All NOVELTY and HOLIDAY scraps also go in separate bins, regardless of color.
I also keep REPRODUCTION, BATIK and 30'S large chunks in their own bins (smaller bins, as I don't have that many at this time...my system is flexible and always changing as needed).
Sometimes, I keep scraps from a particular line separate, especially if I know I will use them together when I use them. I have been saving Nancy Halvorsen bits for years...her fabric lines tend to blend well with each other.
I access these large chunk bins for both pieced work and applique. I like that I can go right to what I need, and I can often make do with a scrap rather than cut a small piece from yardage.
I really like these Art Bin containers for this purpose, and rarely a Sterilite bin, as above, using two sizes to meet my needs. I like that I can grab a bin, small rotary mat and cutter, and I am out the door, cutting units while being with other people (too much "alone time" is not good for this cave troll...).
I label my scrap bins just I like I do my yardage, mostly using my "floating," flexible system of index cards and a fat marker, then placing the label INSIDE the bin, using the contents to keep the label in place. If I use up one of my two neutral large chunk bins in a scrap quilt, I can easily start using the empty bin for another purpose without removing a sticky label (yes, I'm still making grapes...).
Lastly, I deal with the WEE BITS. As someone who LOVES applique, sometimes I think these little pieces excite me the most (and to think that most sane people just throw these away...big grin). I keep the bright little bits separate, all together.
The rest of the wee bits are sorted into WARM (red, orange, pink and yellow), COOL (purple, blue and green), NEUTRAL, and BLACK/BROWN.
I did use sticky labels on these green bins (the colored bins are always bought after Christmas from the bargain table, usually at Joann's, and usually at a GREATLY reduced price!)
Wow...now that wasn't too bad, was it?! Just hit the "easy" button and pat yourself on the back.
So now you may we wondering, "now what?" Well, as the scrap bins fill, I think of projects that use scraps. Then I start sub-cutting FURTHER to fulfill the needs of the project chosen.
Sometimes I cut various sizes of squares, rectangles, or shapes to later turn into 9-patches, 4-patches, HST's, "postage stamp" or checkerboard borders, charm quilts, etc. Then I store these in bins and label them so they are easy to locate and add to easily, until I have enough cut to finish my project.
I usually put the pattern, graph paper doodle, a picture, or index card containing particulars IN THE BIN with the pieces because I have been known to cut a bunch of stuff then completely forget what I was thinking of. These bins sort of slide into the UFO category, and I will post about organizing them in the next few days.
Currently, my "leaders and enders" project is piecing together scrappy HST's made with medium or dark scraps paired with light or neutral scraps. When I get a few pieced, I press them and put them in a bin, labeled HALF SQUARE TRIANGLES, untrimmed and unsquared. Someday, when I want some scrappy HST's, I will only have to choose some from my bin, resize them, and go! Yee haw! It's like a "two-fer" (two quilts pieced at the same time, sort of).
In my previous post (the first in this series about organizing your stash), I mentioned Julie Morgenstern, her amazing book Organizing from the Inside Out , and her Five Steps to Organizing:
- ASSIGN A HOME
We've talked about sorting scraps and containerizing, but not the other three.
PURGING: as you sort, it's OK to be picky. If you know you probably won't use it, put it in a bag with others you don't want and either pass them to a friend, donate to a group doing charity quilts, put them in the free basket at your LQS, or just throw them away.
ASSIGN A HOME: think about how often you will reach for these bins or bags, then decide where in your sewing area you should store them. I access mine all the time, so I want them somewhere I can get to them easily.
EQUALIZE: this has to do with how you keep your great organizing system going. Maintenance. When you lose weight, you don't just simply go back to old habits. You continue to exercise and eat right to maintain your new goddess body. Well, there is maintenance to this, too. (and sometimes it may seem painful like some people approach weight maintenance, but push through it...you can do it!)