On Being Held Hostage by Scraps

Let me begin with a disclaimer. I have not lost my marbles and am aware that fabric scraps are inanimate objects with no function or power. But, I will argue, this is not really the case.

This week I was reminded that scraps have a practical and useful function when used as stuffing. Following a request for a draft excluder made from shweshwe fabric from someone who saw my giant pincushions at the TRADE market last Saturday, I unearthed a bag of scraps and turned them to good use.

It was surprising to see how that large bag of fabric scraps got swallowed up into the tube of fabric (snake?) for the draft excluder. One of my long time quilting companions, Margie Smith, graciously gave me the measurements and tips on how to construct it.

This is not the first time I have used fabric scraps as stuffing. They are also good for floor cushions because they give the cushion a solid and supportive base. This is my meditation cushion, which does not sag or sigh while being sat on for 20 minute stretches.

Large floor cushion, with thread sketched cover

I hope you have been convinced by my argument for the function of fabric scraps. To write about the power of scraps and why they hold one hostage is not going to be simple or quantifiable.

Other bloggers have written about their scraps: Tierney of Tierney Creates has an intricate system of plastic boxes and colour coding for the storage of her scraps. Mary of Zippy Quilts carefully collates her leftover strips and blocks and has made many a quilt from these, often as donations to those in need. Maria Shell of mariacshell recently wrote “But my scraps were calling me” and described how she made the most striking piece from leftover pieced strips. The work is called DNA. Maria, in reply to my comment about her post, urged me to tackle my “box of blues”, which contained a half finished quilt. And so I did. Here is the finished quilt top (thanks Maria), which I intend to use as the background for an appliqued tree.

It was while sewing this that I mused on the allure of scraps. It’s as if the fabric one is working with gets infused with energy and this makes it hard to stop piecing the bits. Hence my claim that the fabric takes on a life of its own and even the scraps end up wielding power over the quilter. It would be more believable to claim that this piecing together of the leftover bits it is to do with thriftiness. But that would be a lie, or at least an example of self-deception. Perhaps I should have given this post the title of True Confessions of an Obsessive Quilter.

Because this blue piece was made by squaring off log cabin blocks at an angle, there were interesting looking triangular shapes in the cut-off pieces. She I stitched them together. I also could not bear to put the leftover squares of Bali fabrics in the scrap bin, so I stitched those together too. I have used both these blocks on the back of the quilt. When I looked at them with more objectivity I realised that they were not worth showing off. It can be said that I have saved myself about a metre of backing fabric.

My next post will be written on my cellphone from the South African National Quilt Festival, to be held in Johannesburg this year. I am most excited about the workshops and lectures which I have signed up for.

16 thoughts on “On Being Held Hostage by Scraps

  1. You’re such an inspiration Mariss! I love the blue quilt, and the fact that it was made from scraps makes it even more special.


  2. What brilliant use of scraps! Your scrap quilts are beautiful… But also thrifty and sustainable. I keep a scrap bag too, full of leftover yarn ends and bits of felt. It comes into its own when I have to make small fiddly accessories! Enjoy the festival 😁


  3. Scraps: love ’em or hate ’em. I love ’em and darn if I can’t live without ’em!
    The idea of stuffing items with scraps using them as a form of fiber fill is cringeworthy to me. I’d have to be absolutely sure I couldn’t part with any in the pile…I have a tendancy to piece ridiculously teeny & oddly shaped scraps into a growing piece of ‘fabric’ and well…you know the feeling as you expressed it well here in this post.
    BTW: the idea of using a scrappy piece as a background to something intentional is a great idea!
    Have fun at the Quilt Festival!


  4. I am not a quilter but I can relate to your tale of keeping and obsessively using as I am a keeper of odds and ends including fabric pieces. I did make an unadventurous patchwork cover from leftover fabric pieces bordered with shweshwe for the bed and that was interesting for someone who is not so much at home with the sewing machine. However, I am amazed at the intricacies of real quilting and I like the tradition of not wasting that I guess is part of the backstory of quilting.
    I like the draft excluder too – I think I might start keeping a bag of scraps of utilitarian off-cuts (such as from dog bed cushion covers) for such a purpose. Thanks for the idea.
    Enjoy the quilt festival and I am sure it will provide much inspiration.


  5. I am so grateful you provided that disclaimer as I would have feared you are locked up in a room with fabric scraps blocking the door! 🙂
    So many beautiful examples of the art created with your recycled scraps – wow! I love the tree piece so much but the blue/purple/green piece is spectacular!


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