Scrap Strategies

This week, I did an uber clean up of my studio. I had a studio visit with two tourists from Chicago. It was super exciting to have them come for lunch and a great discussion about fiber art. I learned a LOT. One of the visitors has been making fiber art for more than 20 years. It was an honor to have her in my creative space.

Maria Shell StudioMy process is very simple. I cut.

Maria Shell CutI stitch.

Maria Shell StitchI press.
Maria Shell PressI even had a show by the name Cut-Stitch-Press at the Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska.

Cut Press Stitch by Maria ShellHere is what the studio looked like prior to cleaning. I have an L-shaped cutting station which grows mounds of fabric.

Maria Shell L-shaped Cutting StationI am constantly shoving bits out of the way. They amass into scrap mountains.

Maria Shell Scrap MountainsOf course, there comes a time—several times a day—when I need a particular scrap. So, I dig and dig until I find it.

Maria Shell Scrap Mountains 2Then there comes that time when I can’t find the scrap I am looking for. Sometimes I change course, and sometimes I clean up my scrap piles.

Maria Shell Organizing ScrapsWhen I am sewing strip sets, and I get to the end of a seam, I snip the leftover bit off. I collection these under my sewing table.

Maria Shell Ends of Strip SetsAnd some point I must decide what to keep and what to discard. This is my descision. The ones on the left stay, the ones on the right go.

Maria Shell Scrap SelectionIf the fabric is particularly precious as in a hand dyed given to me by Anita Reid Guerrero, I keep the tiniest bits of bits.  Can you believe my good fortune to have hand dyed fabrics gifted to me? If you don’t keep your hand dyed scraps, I know where you can mail them to.

Maria Shell More SortingVintage fabric bits are also treasured. I have a particular pink that I might just have a memorial service for when she is gone. 

When I sort I create 12 piles. 

The neutrals—grey, brown, black, and white.

Maria Shell NeutralsThen the pink, red, orange, and yellow scraps.

Maria Shell Hot ColorsAnd finally there are the green, turquiose, blue, and purple bits.

Maria Shell Cold ColorsThis cleaning session, I placed the scraps in plastic bags, because as soon as the studio visit is over, I will be pulling these bits back out again.

Maria Shell Bits in BagsChawne Kimber aka Catchy Complete chuckled at how LARGE my bits were the other day when I posted this image on my Facebook artist page

Maria Shell Scrap MountainsYou can visit her blog just to see more images of just how small she goes. Or to put it another way–My bits are BIG. It is all relative. My scraps are her yardage.

26974056026_65c77efa1aThen another Facebook reader asked about ironing scraps, and I knew it was something that we all might like to talk about.

Yes. I iron and fold my scraps. When I am organized and working, they exist in piles sorted by color.

Maria Shell Sorted ScrapsWhen I am disorganized and working, they grow into massive jumbles.

thumb_IMG_4161_1024And when I totally organized and clean, they go in their bit bins until the next time.

thumb_IMG_5344_1024What is your scrap strategy? What do you keep, and what do you throw away? How little is too little? Are any of you scrap takers or scrap givers?

This entry was published on August 27, 2016 at 2:26 PM. It’s filed under Quilt Stories and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

22 thoughts on “Scrap Strategies

  1. What a great studio you have. I give most of my scraps to a friend who also quilts. I don’t have much space and she can’t buy a lot of fabric so it works out for both of us.

    • That is a win-win in my book. It would be fun to see your work side by side. I do love my studio. It is highly functional, but it only looks that clean about once every three years.

  2. I enjoyed your colorful post. Those pictures are works of art themselves!

  3. Sharon E on said:

    What a beautiful studio! And so (sew) neat! I had to laugh at the plastic bag holding the neat scraps and the confession that the scraps would come out into the open as soon as the guests left! I have organized and reorganized and categorized my scraps so many times. None of them seem just right. Now I am working on using them up.

    • I love my studio although in reality I have out grown it. I think I am going to need a storage unit shortly. I have so much fiber that I love, but am not using, and want to keep, but doesn’t need to be right next to me. Good luck with using those scraps and if you figure out secret to it, let me know!

  4. Justine Malinski on said:

    Great post (as usual)! What is opinion about pre-washing your fabrics?

    I clean up my sewing room every few months and donate scraps I won’t use again. Scraps from favorite fabrics are kept no matter how small! My fabric stash is in a closet just outside of my sewing room. It only gets re-organized when my OCD sister visits (she does a great job!!!)

    • Thank you Justine for those nice words about my posts. I wash my fabric when I get it, so when it becomes a scrap it has already been washed. I do find washing scraps–which I have done–to be a bit of a pain and maybe not worth it. Does your sister want to come to Alaska?

  5. Great post Maria! I keep even the smallest bits because I tend to work small–not as small as Chawne though. I keep my bits and scraps in colorful bins on my cutting table so they are right there when I want them. My scraps make me happy.

    • I love how you use your scraps! Speaking of you and Chawne’s work. I think I need to write a post about bit makers and the different ways we work with different results….

  6. Reading this, I realize that basically I don’t keep scraps. I keep pieces that are maybe 6 inches wide. What I do love to do when I get down to the end of a piece of fabric, is cut it into 2 inch squares. I now have two boxes of my two inch squares, and I love to get them out and play with them.

    I LOVE your studio!!

    • That is a cool idea Debby–to make the scraps uniform and therefore useable. I love my studio too. It isn’t fancy, but it is super functional. It is always good to hear from you!

  7. My studio looks like a tornado just passed thru when I am working on a piece, but I always have to straighten up after the piece is completed. It can really get messy since I usually work on at least 2 projects at a time. Tidying up helps to tidy up my mind as well. I keep every piece of solid fabric that is over 1″ and most prints over 2″. The solids and smaller prints are pressed and folded, But the larger prints are sorted by color and stuffed into larger bins. I have a large trash bin, that rarely gets emptied, cuz I am always retrieving the pieces that I tossed.

    • I know that trash can! I have a similar one. The other day I was digging in it, and I thought to myself, “I can’t believe you threw that out Maria! That is a perfectly useable scrap!” I should follow your advise about tidying up. I tend to do it under two circumstances–1. I have an important visitor coming and 2. I can’t find what I need.

  8. Jo Vandermey on said:

    I keep scraps…. In a rolling tower. At one time they were cut to size and organized by colour and size. Then I was trying to do some therapy sewing and organized by colour.
    I would put scraps in the top draw to wait until I had the organizing cutting urge.
    Now I just have a great mess of all sizes and colours.
    Time to curb them back into order. I am trying to use up fabric. It seems to be taking over the basement. I can’t seem to get a set up.
    I’m lucky my hubby does not mind!
    I wish I could find a style I like to work in. I seem to be way to diverse. I want to do it all syndrome I guess….

    • Jo- All your problems sound pretty fun to me! Keep trying different styles, you will find what is right for you and I imagine it will involve scraps…. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

  9. Annette Guerrero on said:

    I am so thrilled that my hand-dyes are lovingly put to good use! As always, I love your work.

  10. Much of my fabric is currently covering the floor. I’ve been trying to organize and sort the past couple of days, but I keep getting ideas or finding things to finish. Then I have to take a break and explore for awhile. Now, back to sorting… I save anything 1 inch or more.

  11. Oooh, I like seeing how you make and use and keep your scraps.
    I love mine, but I’ve not quite figured out how to use the little ones yet. I like scrappy traditional quilts, so frequently I end up trimming them then sewing them into HSTs. I want to try more free-form connecting of bits.

    (Also, your studio, it is so clean! SO CLEAN! I recently had to clean mine up for a friend (it moonlights as the guest bedroom) so I had to take a bunch of pictures because I knew that wouldn’t last long.

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