Tag Archives: Scraps

Getting It Out in the Open

I mentioned in a recent post that my studio is suffering from some disorganization. There are a lot of different ways to address the problem. The right solution will differ for each person, and the best right way is one that leads to maintenance, not just a one-time fix that quickly degrades. After all, if you go through a Marie Kondo-style process and immediately begin refilling your space and life with unnecessary stuff, you didn’t actually fix anything.

Okay, well, my problem isn’t that bad.

Even so, I feel a need to get all the stuff in my rolling drawer units out in the open. To be clear, I will KEEP virtually all of it. But I need to see it, so I know what’s there and can decide where it goes, or how to proceed.

There are nine drawers. Let’s take a look.

Drawer 1: Maple leaf blocks of various sizes; freezer paper template for Garden Maze cornerstone block; crayon instructions plus crayon-colored muslin from family vacation 10 years ago; quick penciled outlines of family members hands, same vacation. Keeping for now: the maple leaf blocks, even with no plan or motivation to use them; Garden Maze template; crayon instructions. Getting rid of those muslin pieces. The fabric quality was poor, and the family has more grandkids and different adults. It was a good idea for a project but I never loved it enough to execute. Also recycled the penciled hand outlines, similar reasoning. I’m not sentimental enough to keep them just because.

Drawer 2: Stencils, paint brushes, relief forms, and oil Shiva Paintstiks; Painstiks instruction and design book; test designs from Painstiks workshop. Keeping it all. Putting the crayon-on-fabric instructions into this drawer. Will review how I store all my art supplies that aren’t quilt-specific.

Drawer 3: This drawerful began with intention to create an art quilt, a specific project that didn’t happen and probably won’t. I have moved fabric into it and out of it. Right now the majority of items living here are red scraps. A lot of red scraps! The rest is some red and white parts, a copy of the Constitution, and seven blocks that I didn’t quite finish. UGH. I read a thought this year about organizing that said if you can do something in two minutes or less, you should go ahead and do it, rather than put it on a list. UGH UGH UGH. It didn’t take only two minutes, but I did go ahead and finish those seven blocks, since they were just 9-patches. Then I pulled a piece from the red scraps big enough to make five more blocks. And I pulled from stash some blue and some beige, to make hourglass blocks. This will move toward being a quilt for the VA hospital.

Drawer 4: Bags, mostly plastic of various sizes, mostly with zip-tops, and a few paper bags. You never know when you might need a bag.

Drawer 5: Parts. These are orphan blocks of various types, and leftover pieces of binding. I dig through them now and then, and sometimes find something useful.

Drawer 6: Scraps. (Unfortunately, it’s not all the scraps. As noted, most of the red ones are in Drawer 3, there is another mighty pile of scraps on top of my cutting table, and I’m afraid of what I might find when I get to Drawers 7-9.) Most of them are roughly sorted by color and stuffed in zip bags, something I did this year to make my life better. I do use scraps in quilts, but at this point in my life, I’m not into making scrap quilts. That means they have a very long half-life. They stay as is.

Drawers 7 through 9, and some other things: These are the ones that scare me. I’ll tackle them next time.


Bear’s Paws On My Quilt Back

Do you remember when President George H.W. Bush declared he did not like broccoli? He had never liked broccoli, since he was a little boy and his mother made him eat it. As an adult and president, he would not eat broccoli!

I do not like to make pieced quilt backs. The ideal quilt back, in my opinion, would be one that came from the store, already the correct size, washed, pressed, and ready to load on my quilting frame. I can’t have that, but as queen of my realm, I have decided to minimize my time making pieced backs. It makes my realm a happier place.

However, now and then, making a pieced back is still the right decision. My current project is a medallion with a bear’s paw block in the center. The top is done and ready to quilt. One of the feature fabrics on the top had very little left, a piece about 20″ x 35″, plus scraps of various sizes.

Fabric design by Julie Paschkis for a Washington State shop hop a few years ago.

As much as I love this fabric, I’m not interested in keeping a small chunk of it around. It is distinctive enough it needs to be used carefully, up to having a quilt designed around it. That’s more responsibility than I want right now!

I decided to use it up in the back of the quilt. That was an easy decision, partly because the other “right” fabric I have wasn’t quite big enough for full coverage.

This piece has stylized deer on it. It’s actually a seasonal fabric called “I Love Christmas.” I don’t know who the designer or maker are. It fits the nature theme of the quilt.

Designing and making a pieced back isn’t quite as much work as for the top. But it does require some thought, especially when using up stuff. After thinking carefully about it, I decided to make four large bear’s paws — not bear’s paw blocks, but the paws that are units of a block. This is the center strip of the back, with the paws “walking” in a direction. Each paw block is 18″ square, so the arrangement is 36″ x 54″. I had to piece in the deer Christmas fabric carefully so I didn’t run out of it. A bonus is I used almost all the rest of the turquoise fabric, too. It has little birds in a tone-on-tone print. Only scraps will be left of all three fabrics.

The back is loaded on the frame now. I need to choose thread color and do some maintenance on the machine before starting. I’m still pondering how to quilt it. But I am making progress.

Stacked Coins

When I was done creating the Diamonds quilt, I had a lot of oddly shaped scraps and remnants. Rather than trying to file them back into my stash that way, I decided to use some of it immediately.

There is a traditional quilt design called “Roman Coins” or “Chinese Coins.” As simple as they are, I’ve always wanted to make one. It is a strip quilt (I love them!) that uses stacked “coins” in alternating strips. The coins are simply narrow bands of color.


Stacked Coins. 65.5″ x 72.5″. August 2016. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

To make my pieced strips, I cut patches from the oddly sized scraps from the Diamonds quilt. When I depleted those, I also cut a bit from stash. Each patch was cut 2″ x 6.5″, but the size doesn’t matter a lot. They don’t even need to be the same, as long as each long, pieced strip is the same length. You can make a quilt like this as a mini or wall-hanging, or you can make it to go on a bed, or somewhere in between.

One thing that does matter is the distribution of colors. The majority of coins are purples and turquoises. I made sure to include at least one orange or green in each stack of four coins, in order to brighten it. Other than that I didn’t work very hard at arrangement.

Originally I planned to use the turquoise as sashings and outer borders, but once I opened the piece (from stash) I realized it wouldn’t be enough. Plan B was to use it for sashings and a narrow inner border. The same raspberry color used in the Diamonds quilt was used for the wider border. I don’t know how wide any of those are, off the top of my head. I could measure it, but … it doesn’t matter. Seriously, this is a quilt you can decide all these things based on what you have available, and it will look great.

You might notice how the narrow border and outside border are arranged. For the top and bottom, I stitched them together for the full width, before attaching to the body of the quilt. It’s not suitable for every quilt but I like the effect on this one.

This is one of the four quilts I finished in August. September has other things going on, so it was nice to finish a few things. (And if I am slow in responding to your comments, have patience! I’ll check in as soon as I can!)



Yes, awesome, inspiring feelings of awe; magnificent, amazing, stunning. Math rocks!

I truly enjoyed creating Untied, with its free-form, no math construction. Though I used a ruler for parts of it, it wasn’t because the outcome depended on the measurement. Instead, at those instances I was only interested in straight, and sometimes parallel, lines.

20160401_182836However, I love the challenge of a technically difficult quilt, too. For a change of pace, I began a brand new project. The inspiration for it is a piece of fabric I bought several years ago. It’s a fussy historical print that I’ve always loved. However, it’s fussy and historical, and the colors are just off, all of which have made it hard to use. If it is cut into small patches, the impact of the print disappears, but large pieces would require designing just for it. So I am.

I started by pulling from stash, which is how almost all my quilts begin. I pulled all the blues that could work with that print, which meant they had to have a tinge of green and a little grey. It’s the color I learned as French blue. As it turns out, I don’t have a lot of blue with that, and all of it is in scraps or small pieces, other than the inspiration print. We’ll see how far I get before needing to buy something.

Burgundy reds, creams, browns, and cheddar oranges also came out of stash, including from my scrap drawer. I’m trying to commit to using my scraps more effectively. They come in handy, as I’ll explain later.

My center block is 18″ finished. I knew I wanted to turn it on point twice. The method is exactly the same as used for the economy block setting. This is also called “square in a square.”


And this is where the first round of harder quilt math comes in. (It’s not very hard, just a thing to learn, or store so you can look it up.) As noted in the linked post, when setting a square on point twice, the finished size of the resulting block is twice the dimensions of the initial finished square. For my 18″ block, I would end up with a 36″ center, once trimmed and finished. (See below for the calculation and reason why.) 

What a great way to quickly increase the size of a quilt!


After trimming, I added a 1″ border all the way around, taking it to 38″ square. That’s an odd size.

Options for a 36″ Edge
Most quilt blocks are square, or are rectangular with length twice the width, like flying geese blocks. I typically divide a border length into a number of equal increments to find how many blocks could fit along the edge. For example, if I put a block border directly along the 36″ center, I would divide 36 in various ways to get possibilities. Let’s start with whole inches.
36/18 = 2. I could have 18 blocks measuring 2″.
36/12 = 3. I could have 12 blocks measuring 3″.
36/9 = 4. I could have 9 blocks measuring 4″.
36/6 = 6. I could have 6 blocks measuring 6″.
But remember we could also go to half-inches, such as
36/8 = 4.5. I could have 8 blocks measuring 4.5″.
36/24 = 1.5. I could have 24 blocks measuring 1.5″.

You can see there are actually infinite variations, though I like to stick to the ones that are easy to construct.

Options for a 38″ Edge
But I didn’t want to put a block border directly against the large center. I wanted the hard line of a narrow border before anything else, to contain the pale toile. That gave me 38″, which is harder to divide nicely than 36″.
38/19 = 2. I could have 19 blocks measuring 2″, but this was too narrow to work well with the proportions of the center. And 19 is a prime number, so I couldn’t subdivide it into whole numbers.
I could shift to fractionals, such as
38/8 = 4.75. Sure… This actually would work fine with something like HST or hourglasses.

My go-to blocks are half-square triangles and hourglasses. I don’t want this quilt to look like others I’ve made, so it’s good to try something different.

Then I had a thought, a math thought! What if I divide 38 by 1.414? (That actually was the first thought. Then I thought…) If I turn blocks on point rather than set them straight, I would need to know the number of blocks using the math for the diagonal.

Here’s the concept. The picture below shows a triangle that is 1″ on the vertical and horizontal sides. The diagonal measures 1.414″, which is the square root of 2″. (Check with your calculator if you don’t believe me.)

Sq_rt_of_2 Pythagorean Theorem
For a right triangle, the square of the length of the diagonal (hypotenuse) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. We often see this expressed as a² + b² = c². To find c, take the square root of c².

In the case to the left, a = 1; b = 1; c is the square root of 2, or 1.414.

In fact, the diagonal of every square is 1.414 times the length of the side. So
length x 1.414 = diagonal
1″ x 1.414 = 1.414″
2″ x 1.414 = 2.828″ or close to 2 7/8″
3″ x 1.414 = 4.242″ or close to 4 1/4″
4″ x 1.414 = 5.656″ or close to 5 5/8″
and so on.

That also means that if I know the diagonal of a square, I can find the length using
diagonal/1.414 = length. For example
6″/1.414 = 4.243″, or very close to 4 1/4″.
38″/1.414 = 26.875″. Hooray!!

Huh? Why is that good? 26.875 is very close to 27, which is a very easy number to use. For instance,
27/9 = 3.

I could use 9 blocks measuring 3″, turned on point. (There were other options, too, such as 6 blocks at 4.5″.)

3 x 1.414 = 4.242, the diagonal of a 3″ square, and the width of a 3″ block when turned on point.
4.242 x 9 = 38.178, or very close to 38″.

So if I use 9 3″ blocks turned on point, I’ll have the length needed for a 38″ border.

(And to review the concept in another way, let’s go back to the 18″ block. When I turn it on point twice, I’m doing this:
18″ x 1.414 = 25.452″
25.452″ x 1.414 = 36″.
This is the same as 18″ x 1.414² = 18″ x 2 = 36″.) 

I chose to use the historical print and other blue scraps as the 3″ finish squares. For the background fabric, a light background would give good value contrast for the blues so they stand out well. I picked a pink and tan print on pale cream. The pink works because the reds have a pink cast. Right now I’m still working completely from stash and scraps. I was able to cut most of the setting triangles from a couple of larger pieces, but for the last few I had to sew scraps together to cut patches.


Can you find the seams where the setting fabric scraps had to be sewn together?

With the on-point border added, my current center is 46.5″ finished, another weird number. I plan to add an unpieced strip next, but I haven’t decided its width. I could add a strip to take it to 48″, 49″, 50″… So the next design decision, really, is the border after that, which will determine the width of the strip.


I feel really fortunate to have the math skills as part of my craft toolbox. You can make beautiful quilts without knowing how to do any of this, but knowing increases the options open to me. Math is awesome!

Busy But Quiet

Truth: the political campaign renders me downright inarticulate a lot of the time. Or perhaps more accurately, I articulate my frustration, disgust, and dismay quite well. But it doesn’t seem to leave me a lot of words for other things.

I’ve been busy with quilty things but not posting much. Right now I have Connected on the frame. It’s about halfway through being quilted, but we hit another tension glitch the other day. Two hours of unstitching was the trade-off for about ten minutes of quilting with bad tension. It’s a shame but it’s not fatal. As my friend Lisa says, no one died and no one went to jail, so it’s all okay. Progress was halted but will resume soon, perhaps tomorrow. I think Jim and I are both eager to finish this project and send it to the new owner.

Besides that, I’ve been working on a project that excites me, but it’s hard so sometimes slow. (Imagine saying “it’s hard” with the whiny, complainy voice of a 13-year-old. That’s the kind of hard it is.) It’s a medallion quilt centered with a large-print African fat quarter I bought a year ago. I’ve added and subtracted and moved borders from sides to top and bottom and improvised and cut carefully and … now I’m working on borders that need to wait until other decisions are made. And man, it’s hard! But it’s fun and keeps my brain working. For now, I’ll keep the progress to myself. As for its process, this is designing one step at a time, where the steps are dance steps, sometimes forward and sometimes backwards, in heels. 🙂

A third project is for my small group. I’m delighted that my group decided to do a round robin again this year. Our March meeting is Monday. We’ll pass the center blocks at that time. We agreed again this time to have no real rules, just guidelines. With that, the center block should finish between 9″ and 12″. Mine is a 12″ block.


I never know how colors will translate between real life and your screen. The background color is a celery green. The print points have blues and greens on a black background. The center orange strips are quite vivid, the color of a bright tangerine peel.

I’ve decided for this project, for all the rounds I add to my groupmates’ projects, I’ll try to work from my scrap drawer. When that fails me, the next option is pieces from stash smaller than a fat quarter, and then from larger if needed. Only as a last resort will I buy. Since we all have different tastes in fabrics, I know buying might happen. But my creativity is engaged most when I have constraints. This constraint will force me to look at my scraps a little differently.

How are you all doing these days? Feeling frustrated with current events, too? Making progress on projects?