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Celebrating Imagination and the Wonderful, Wild Ride that is Life

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Vintage Scraps Under Control! (A Lesson in Patience and Hard Work)

Well I realize that title does not make this seem like it's going to be a fun post, but believe me the pay off is BIG!

Years ago I purchased a bag of fabric scraps that included feedback remnants and other fun prints. I had all kinds of ideas of using them up in something fun, but the state they were in kept me from doing anything with them. They were a complete knotted mess of small pieces bound together with frayed ends. UGH! So I threw them in a drawer which I would occasionally open, look side eyed at and quickly shut.

Now I've moved into a new house with a studio that provides little to no storage space. Unwanted things must go! The scraps had been lovingly packaged into a box (dumped) and moved into our basement. This week I decided it was time I forced myself to deal with them.

The first thing I did was free each piece from the mess and press the heck out of them (years of wrinkles are miraculously stubborn!) As I pressed each piece I finally got a chance to really see what I had. There were some awesome prints like these two which are some of my favorites:

Almost all of the pieces were the discarded cuts from someone cutting out clothing patterns. If you've ever seen what's left after cutting out patterns you know they are weird shapes with very little useable fabric. Some of them were even partially made clothing or the remnants of clothing that had been torn up like this piece which was a shirt collar:

But that didn't stop me!
I pressed on (ha!) and sorted as I went. Happily I did discover some larger pieces of fabric including a complete feedsack (yahoo!). Sadly most of the pieces were tiny and some prints were only found on the tiniest of scraps. Still, nothing was thrown away!

Once everything was pressed and sorted I had a decision to make. Was I going to just box them all back up? The problem with that idea was that I realized I'd be taking up a lot of precious storage space with completely unusable bits of fabric. After some online searching coupled with soul searching I decided to start cutting. Even saying that still makes me feel squeamish even though I know it was the right decision. As my husband said, "Now I can turn someone else's trash into treasure!" For real!

I decided on the following plan:
1. I would save any truly large pieces (fat quarter or larger...okay I broke this with a couple of my favorite prints which I want to savor). These pieces needed to be basically square. All strange cling on pieces were removed and cut into smaller bits.
2. When it came to cutting I started with the largest pieces first.
3. At all times I took into account the size of the scrap and determined how to get the most out of it...I really tested my math skills on this one...and now you know why it took a whole week to finish!
4. After setting aside the largest piece that would remained uncut (and there weren't that many) I decided on the following sizes of cuts: 5" square, 2 1/2" squares, 1 1/2" squares, 2 1/2" strips, and 1 1/2" strips. I chose these sizes because they can be used together and are common precut sizes often found in jelly rolls and charm packs.
5. I only kept 1 1/2" and 2 1/2" strips if they were close to or over 12" in length.
This method meant I did A LOT of cutting. But it also meant I had very little discarded fabric.
The project was slow, seemed endless, and required me to be very persnickety. It was unlike cutting yardage because each cut was unique to each piece!

Here's an example of some scraps before and after I cut them to give you an idea of the process:


 I was pretty excited when I was able to actually fussy cut some of the pieces :)

As I mentioned there were some really tiny scraps. Some were only large enough to get a 2 1/2" square or two. Sadly, this is the only piece I have of this particular fabric, and I love it! :

Finally after five days I have everything cut! The photo doesn't quite capture the amount of time I put into this!

But these pictures of my vintage stash make me so happy!

Larger pieces and 2 1/2" strips
1 1/2" strips, 1 1/2" squares, 5" squares & 2 1/2" squares

I now have an organized stash of vintage fabrics from big cuts or specialty fabric pieces that went uncut like this barkcloth:

Here's the lot of larger pieces I have left. The full feedsack is in the upper right corner. Isn't that print great? Someday I may have the courage to cut it...but not today! :

Of course I also didn't have the heart to cut into my favorite print. I just love what it says in the selvedge: "Fascination" A Regulated Cotton "Never Misbehaves"!

I don't know what's in store, but I am resting easy knowing I finally kept the promise I made to myself all those years ago when I bought that bag! I know that now that these fabrics are ready I can jump right in to designing a great quilt!

Hooray for patience and hard work!

This piece was cut by the original owner!


  1. congratulations!! I can't believe you did all this - do you have time to pop round to mine and repeat the process?

    1. Ha ha! I'm sure I'd love to pop over for a visit...but no, I'm not looking to take on another project like this for a while :) Thanks for the invite!

  2. I just found your blog via Instagram and really enjoyed reading this! I have a bag stuffed with fabric that want to sort out so that I can actually start making stuff with it – so you've inspired me. You found some lovely patterns indeed!


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