Little tiny bits of fabric

My quilt is featured in Martingale's new book, Fun-Size Quilts! Check back on Thursday, July 24, to learn how you can win an eBook copy of Fun-Size Quilts!

My quilt is featured in Martingale’s new book, Fun-Size Quilts! Check back on Thursday, July 24, to learn how you can win an eBook copy of Fun-Size Quilts!

I think most women who sew can trace their personal textile beginnings back to a very young age. I remember sitting on stiff carpet in front of the hall closet, fingers fumbling to work thick thread through punched holes on a printed sewing card. Then came the era of woven potholders, made from cotton loops stretched across a small metal loom. Eventually, I advanced enough to make crude doll clothes for Tammy and Pepper, my more loved and less glamorous Barbie companions.

That was likely the start of my scrap collecting.

Even the tiniest trimming could be turned into a pocket for Pepper’s latest dress.

No fabric scrap was too small, and all the odd shaped trimmings from my mother’s sewing projects found their way into my fledgling stash. Even today I have trouble letting small snippets fall into the trash. “Waste not, want not” wars with “You can’t keep everything” in my head. I sort the scraps by color, push them into gallon-sized Ziplock bags, and pull them out when I just “need to stitch.”

You see, all those odd-shaped scraps can be sewn together to make larger scraps of fabric that can be cut into patches and pieced into a quilt. It’s called “improvisational piecing” and it’s super-easy to do. It’s also a great way to avoid any guilt over hoarding every little bit of fabric.

Get your improv on

Illustration of easy improvisational piecing.There’s really no right or wrong way to make an improvisational-pieced patch, but here’s what I do:

1. Place two scraps of fabric right sides together on a cutting mat. I find it easier to sew along a straight edge, so I align a rotary ruler along the overlapping edge of both fabric scraps, and trim the excess fabric. Then I sew along the trimmed edge, using a 1/4″ seam allowance. I prefer to press the seam allowances open, when possible, or to one side.

2. Repeat step 1 as many times as needed to make a patch at the desired size, or join several smaller improvisational-pieced patches together to make one large patch.

3. Use a ruler or template to cut the pieced patch to the desired shape and size.

Easy-peasy, eh? I’ve used this technique (or variations of it) in many projects, and I haven’t tired of it yet. Can you pick out the improv patches in my Elongated Triangles quilt (shown at the top of this post). Check back here this Thursday, July 24, to learn how you can win a free eBook copy of Fun-Size Quilts from Martingale Publishing!

4 thoughts on “Little tiny bits of fabric

  1. I just read your instructions, and what could be more simpler than this! Going to start sorting my scrap basket this weekend, to make a charity baby quilt!

  2. I like the idea of straightened, even edges in your improv piecing. I think I’m going to try it with some hand-dyed scraps for a guild challenge.

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