Saturday, May 18, 2013

My Scrap Quilt Theory

All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.
Marc Chagall

I asked a while back if anyone would be interested in how I work with Color in Scrap Quilts.  A few of you said you would like more help so I'll tell you how I like to do things.  Please remember there are no Quilt Police!  This is just how I approach Scrap Quilts.

There is NO Right or Wrong way to make Scrap Quilts.  I just like to do them where the colors play happily with their neighbors.  I have seen some quilts that have such a riot of colors fighting within them it makes me dizzy to look at them.  They make me think of that song lyric "I'm so dizzy, my head is spinning!"  I may have even made a block or top like that myself, but I hope not.  I don't like quilts that make me think "What a chaotic mess of color!"

I have a set of String Quilt blocks that I add to occasionally.  They are one of several ongoing Scrap Quilts that I work on when strips or blocks of certain sizes accumulate around my studio.  What I found myself doing as I worked on them was 2 things.  
  1. As I add strips the next one has to look good with the previous one.  It may look awful next to the one 2 or 3 strips over but it only has to look good with the ones it touches.
  2. Use a variety of Values, Lights, Mediums and Darks.  Having good contrast gives more movement to the quilt.
  3. I used a constant color Accent in each block.  In the String Blocks below it is some shade of red that appears somewhere near, but not necessarily in, the center of each block.  This is optional.
That's it.  Simple.  Here's a look at 3 of the blocks.  One is repeated in both photos.  These are 10.5" blocks and I could not get all of them in one picture.

Here are some rectangular blocks that will be in the border of the quilt.  The red doesn't always appear in them.

Caution!!! Strip Direction is important in Rectangles!  No, it doesn't help to turn it around.

This one would be more interesting if it had some light fabrics in it.

Working in the same fabric line is an option but I think it can quickly get boring.  I don't think it qualifies as a Scrap Quilt unless a different fabric line was used for each block.  Working with pastels makes it hard to get enough value contrast.

Strips don't have to be straight.

This block has a limited color palette which can be fun too.  Notice that this block is more interesting than the one above because of the fact that different Values of fabrics are used in it.  Using all Christmas prints and colors would be a good way to use up leftover theme prints. Maybe you might like to use Novelty prints for a fun kids quilt.

Now let's look at a different kind of Scrap Quilt.  Here are some Strip Units for a Scrappy Trips Around the World quilt.

In this pattern the strips are next sewn into a tube so the first strip will be touching the last.
Below are six strip sets laying on top of each other.

I used the same Scrap Quilt Theory in these blocks that is above.  I chose to have a Light Value Strip in the diagonal.  I also used one Tone on Tone strip in each set but the position varies.  Here are some finished blocks.

Here is what six blocks look like together.   The directions can be found here on Bonnie Hunter's site.

If fabrics clash and don't play well together from block to block I will adjust the layout of blocks before they are sewn together.  That's why you should have a design wall!  For me the block to block changes don't make me dizzy.  My brain just says "Oh, that's another block."   and it's OK.  

I like the fact that the lights will vary in value so the diagonal will be stronger is some places than others.  I might choose to place the whiter diagonals in one direction and the softer in the other.  The tone on tone strips cause the eye to move in a different direction across the quilt because those lines are not continuous.  I am still not done making blocks and so I don't know how big it will be.  I have put together over 20 strip sets but not all are sewn.

Notice I haven't talked about Color.  In the blocks above just about every color is used.  It is more about Placement and Value.  Look at the wide variety of prints I've used, they all work because they don't fight with their neighbors.  You can tell I don't go for pulling strips randomly out of a bag and sewing them together unless you have planned what goes in the bag to start with, then it might work out.

So there you have My Scrap Quilt Theory.  What do you think?  Does it work?

Linking with these great blogs you should check out!


  1. It works for me! I don't think I could put My Scrap Quilt Theory down in writing because it seems to just kind of happen for me. I watch for lights & darks and follow your theory of having the fabrics next to each other work within a block. I was totally intimidated by scrap quilts when I started and now they are my favorite... learn by doing for sure!

  2. Hi Patricia. This is the way I tend to sew my scraps together and it works great for me. I like for my squares or strips to look good next to each other.I actually saw on a quilt show one time where this lady cut everything up and put all her squares in a bag. Then she shook them up and sewed together whatever she pulled out of the bag. Some of the squares looked awfull together, but I guess we are all entittled to sew which ever way that makes us happy.And she seemed to be pleased at the way her blocks were looking. Go figure!

  3. I have a strings pile growing and many of mine would fit in nice with yours other then they are too small. I think mine are 6 1/2 inch what ever they are I keep making them when I do the same size. It will be interesting one day when they all get sewn together to see what they make.

  4. Great and helpful post. I have a very hard time making scrappy quilts. I always have to have some kind of color plan. I'm working on it though.

  5. Very interesting- I think these are similar 'rules' to what I follow with my scraps, but I've never really verbalised it - thank you for the clarification! I too have been told to just put everything and anything together but that approach doesn't seem to work for me.

  6. Thanks for your insights. I love scrap quilts and it's always interesting to see how others choose their fabrics. I loved seeing your samples. You've got a good sense of color!


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