Thoughts on scrappy quilts

The deep quilt-y and philosophical question of the day: are my scrappy quilts really scrappy?

1.  A scrappy quilt seems to happen when many fabrics are incorporated in the quilt, even when the fabrics are rather carefully selected.   I went to the quilt shop and picked out all the fabrics with this quilt in mind.  The fabrics weren’t pulled randomly from my stash.  I actually did not have a stash back then because this quilt is actually my first ever quilt, now in possession of Miss Baby’s cousin.

And after that, came this Kitty Collage quilt that used some of the leftover stash, plus additional selected fabrics.

2.  A quilt can still take on a scrappy look with fabrics from only one single fabric collection with using as many fabric swatches, and in no particular order.  Such is the case with Scattered Leaves (this collection has at least 25 fabric swatches, I think – and most of the swatches are represented in the quilt),

Rainbow Ketupat,

and Country Breeze.

3.  A scrappy quilt tends to also happen when one raids one’s stash, and picks out and decides on fabrics going into the quilt.  Here is a picture of my WIP quilt (progress is slower than snail).  This block alone as 12 fabric swatches.  This quilt is going to have 20 blocks.  I am going to try my hardest to use different fabrics to go into each block, and see just how many fabric swatches I can pack into this quilt by the time everything is said and done.

So I have been thinking about the subject of scrappy quilts ever since the following comment on this post.  Billie wrote the following:

“…I guess I use my fat quarter bundles on my scrappy quilts. That kind of makes it a controlled scrappy…”

A few  thoughts:

1.  Looking at my scrappy quilts, I can see that mine are rather “controlled” too.  I don’t think I have never done a “grab-bag” random approach to my fabric selection for my scrappy quilts.  Since I am definitely controlling my fabric selection, does that mean my scrappy quilts aren’t really scrappy?

2.  I observed from the quilts above, though tended toward the scrappy side, there are still a couple of “constants” in the quilt color scheme.  For example, the navy in Rainbow Ketupat.  Does a quilt still considered scrappy with the presence of those “constants”?

How about your scrappy quilts?  Do you “control” your fabric selection, or do you truly randomly pick out the fabrics?  Question is,   I think this rather inexperienced quilter needs someone to tell her the official definition of scrappy quilts, if there is one.

Keep your thoughts coming!

27 thoughts on “Thoughts on scrappy quilts

  1. I guess I, also, took “scrappy” to mean “made with scraps” in which case, if I were to do one, my stash of scraps reflects certain constant fabric tastes and direction and could/would, therefore, have ‘constants’ in it by virtue of the fact that my tastes run in a certain direction. I have not done much outside of my favorite color palettes so my stash pretty well (broadly) coordinates. Just some random thoughts……..hugs, Doreen

  2. Bonnie K. Hunter makes wonderful scrappies. She picks a color group: light blue and puts all various light blues in. It’s a semi-controlled. She usually will pick one or two “control” fabrics she sprinkles throughout. Then she uses mixed lights and/or darks for backgrounds. The lights will vary from white all the way to anything pastel or yellow. Darks are a dark anything to black.

  3. I’m not an experienced quilter, but my thinking is the same as Doreen’s above. I had thought that “scrappy quilts” were invented, so to speak, to use up little scraps of fabric leftover from previous quilts or fabric projects that weren’t big enough to do anything else with. But I wouldn’t think that would mean just a random hodgepodge quilt where there was no coordinating color scheme or pattern (that doesn’t sound too attractive). It makes sense that a lot of scraps will coordinate or fall in with your overall tastes and preferences. And personally I don’t see a problem with using a new, non-scrap fabric to tie it all together or add an interesting element. I wouldn’t think a scrappy quilt means you have to use only scraps.

  4. In my very humble opinion I like to think that scrappy quilts are pulled randomly from the stash. Having said that, I still find myself making “controlled” scrappy quilts. By that I mean that I like to be able to place the scrap where I want it—no blue next to blue, etc…but looking more at color value rather than color itself. I like to use as many different fabrics as possible. But, as Doreen said above, my scrappies also have a constant theme due to the nature of my stash. My scrappies are of a darker, more earthy feel where yours seem to be brighter and fresher. Both are good! I guess the bottom line is if you think it’s a scrappy then it’s a scrappy! Sometimes I think we worry too much about the “rules”. The only rule I like to follow is have fun!

  5. Kapute is something like a few I have done. yes, scrappies need to match for me, and sometimes I use new fabrics, because my stash is actually very small.

  6. In my mind there are definitely two types of “scrappy”. First there is actual scrappy and then there is “planned” scrappy. I like the word planned better than controlled. I have made and love both types. After my sister passed, I made two twin size quilts using fabrics from both of our stashes. They are amazing. It helped that we both had the same taste in fabric. :)

  7. My scrappy quilts are every piece of scrap no matter the size or shape all sewed together randomly every which way. Then I cut out a big block from that piece usually 12 1/2 squares, sometimes straight sometimes wonky. Using the trimmed off pieces to start the next block. It is very interesting when all done. My kids love to look at them and pick out the different fabrics and tell what I had made with that one.

  8. As a scrap quilt lover, I think there are two types of scrappy quilt:

    1. Using as many different fabrics “as possible”. While you can limit the number of fabrics you use, the more different types or colors of fabrics you use, the scrappier the effect. Examples:
    A. You can have a controlled color palette (ex: red, white and blue) but use more than one or many different fabrics of each color.
    B. You use only one type of fabric (ex batiks) but use many different colors and patterns of that style. In this case the “value” of your fabrics (light, medium, dark) and where they are placed in the blocks or in the top will play a big role in creating balance in the quilt.
    C. You can use all colors and types of fabric to create a scrappy look with no pre-planning the color scheme (but any fabric can be used more than once). Once again, value can be very important part in creating balance in the quilt but a more interesting quilt can be made by occasionally ignoring value and keeping the top a little “off balance”.
    D. You make a “charm quilt” where every single fabric in the top is different.

    So for me, all the quilts you showed above are scrappy since they each have used one of these methods.

    2. Using only “what you have”. My favorite type of scrap quilt is made of just that: all the leftover bits from your other projects. I have a personal “scrap quilt challenge” where I try to make a quilt primarily (except for maybe borders and/or sashing) only from the leftovers of projects. It’s always fun to see how they all will end up together and how differently the fabrics can be used from the original projects. Often the more chaotic the end result the better and using leftovers makes it feel like a free quilt!

  9. When I think “scrappy”, I picture quilts made by my grandmother and great-grandmother many years ago. These quilts were made from whatever fabric was available to them at the time…usually parts of discarded or out-grown clothing, feed sacks, or flour sacks. Their purpose was utilitarian and color schemes/fabric choice was not the first consideration. Despite their limited choices in fabrics, the designs and finished products were always beautiful because of the heart, soul, and love poured into their quilts!

  10. My philosophy of scrappy means that there are at least 50 different fabrics and mine are almost always based on value rather than color. I love scrappy quilts. I think they are my favorite style of quilt.

  11. I used to do planned scrappy, which is very lovely because it has variety and a central “theme” that carries the fabrics through together.
    But in the last number of years I have been won over to scrappy as in pulling in every fabric; a batik can do next to a calico can go next to a solid, a plaid, Kaffe Fassett, and an ugly “why did I buy this?!” fabric.
    Once I got past reacting to the weirdness of the blocks, I saw consistently that the entire quilts are so beautiful and interesting, that I was sold.
    The best thing for building stash in that way is to buy from the scrap bins at your LQS (if they have one) or just buy *anything* you see on sale, until you have a small bin of random fat quarters. Then dive in!!!
    Have fun!!

  12. I make depression quilts with my left over material. There is a pattern however all you need is light and darks of any colors.

  13. I love Scrappy Quilts but to me they are quilts in which I have used my smaller yardages and leftover scraps. Nothing controlled about them other than perhaps the sashing and binding. I actually enjoy looking at the finished product and seeing how everything seems to go together yet nothing actually does or wasn’t planned but it still looks interesting. Know what I mean? I guess ‘scrappy’ is an individual’s own prospective. Plus, in this period of my life I need to be frugal so working with ‘scraps’ is the ‘in’ thing to do! Maybe I should do a ‘planned scrappy’ and see what I end up with!!! If someone gives me a bag of fabric scraps I’m as happy as if someone turned me loose in a fabric store carte blanche. ;-D

  14. After sending my thoughts, I read what everyone else is thinking and now I’m thinking when I hear the word “scrappy’ I visualize something ‘patchy’ as in a ‘patchwork’ quilt. Think I may be changing my idea as to what is a ‘patchwork’ quilt and what is a ‘scrap quilt. I always say I love scrap quilts when I probably should be saying ‘I love patchwork quilts’ Right?????

  15. Hi Wendy, last Monday the Calico Cutups Quilt Guild in Bella Vista had Jim Gatling as speaker. He had been given scraps & discarded blocks over the years & decided to make quilts last year. He made 50 tops & showed them all to us! He used strips cut off & thown in the trash & made the most beautiful quilts! It was inspiring what can be made without purchasing anything. Jean Hehl

  16. I have been know to use lots of different fabrics…but this tends to leave an ungoldy mess and I cant find things… dont really have a solution to that one… BUT – I do need to use up my stash more…. if I can find what I want ♥ I like the way you do yours though :)

  17. I would say for the most part my quilts are controlled scrappy. I love the look of grab bag scrappy but can never see to not “plan”. I admire those who can just grab but that would be a definite challenge for me
    I have made a couple of strip quilts. You know the ones i mean. I usually find a print with a colour combo i like and pick various colour ways that seem to fit. (I may not even use the print in the quilt. it is just to help me pick colours out). I pull from strip boxes stash FQ so could have many different fabrics to represent each colour. I use that same idea when i plan most of the quilts i make.
    I personally would say that your quilts are controlled scrappy. You work with fab lines alot so controlled but sometimes use many different fabrics,right. I always love your quilts and of course your quilting is a for sure focus on your quilts.
    My two cents.
    Keep up the good work!

  18. If I have the material I will Quilt, weather it is from a stash of from getting roll of material it is my thoughts and design weather I like it or not how it looks is “Great” and “Beautiful ” so why am I worried about any of or all of this. Just gather your material and HAVE FUN! HUGS and Cheers Jeanne xoxoxox

  19. I think I read somewhere that a true scrap quilt has over 75 fabrics in it. However, any quilt can be scrappy if you use many different fabrics, even if the color pallet is controlled. Personally I like making scrappy quilts more than ones with just a few fabrics. I think your examples look very scrappy.

  20. I love scrappy quilts I just finished an scrappy nine patch, but I guess it is controlled also. It is all pastel scraps and no way would bright colours lift into Kathi’s quilt. The only thiing is you always get more scraps even making a scrappy quilt. It really is like the loaves and fishes. LOL

  21. Well, it’s certainly NOT my favorite, but it’s one that I promised to do, so I’m doing it. I traded piecing services with a generous longarmer – she sent me a big box of scraps, with instructions todo whatever I wanted with them, and she’d longarm the same size object of my choosing. So, going through this box, I’ve found lots of crumbs and mostly 1 inch strips. Being a relative novice my own self, I decided I’d do one of those string quilts, sewing these strips onto telephone book pages. (Now that we have a house again, we find ourselves getting phone books & not really needing them, since we’re online all the time!)

    So, I’ve got pages of strings & eventually, I’ll cut them into strips and sew the strips end to end. Then the plan is to lay some white over ’em & cut triangles. I believe I can then manipulate them into blocks of some sort. We’ll see, huh! No rhyme, no reason, no pattern. Just color & size variation, totally whatever comes to my hand next. In my head, it’ll be ok, but it’s certainly not one I would have chosen for myself!

    If I’m gonna have scrappy, I’d much rather have your version – a controlled palette that makes a definite & repeatable pattern.

  22. I think of scrappy quilts as using what you have, whether it “goes” or not – as in the pioneer days when they used bits of clothing, feed sacks, etc. When I’m pulling from my stash, unless I’m pulling randomly, I don’t consider it scrappy. Your quilts really are gorgeous, my dear…

  23. This is my definition for “scrap” quilts. 1 – pieces used from all the containers of scraps left over from previous projects. They are separated by color only. The only rule I follow is “contrast”. Sometimes the most awful orange and the wildest purple can turn into a gorgeous block. Usually the only yardage I use is in the border and sashing, so maybe my scrappy quilts are really controlled.

    I love string quilts and when I am feeling a little down or bored or need to make a decision about something, I pull out a big bag of mixed fabrics and start sewing to muslim, dryer sheets, coffee filters, whatever and make blocks. Again I do pay attention to contrast, light on one side, dark on the other; dark in the middle working to light on the outside, etc.

    I loved reading all the definitions of “scrappy”.

  24. Hi Wendy, when I think of “scrappy”, I think made from “scraps”. This could be scraps used in a “controlled” manner or pulled from a bag and put together randomly. Also when I hear Scrap Quilt, I think of a quilt with many different fabrics, could be “matchy” or random. By matchy I mean colors that play well together.

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