Many of you know I love using scraps and strips in my quilting. Have you ever wondered about the history of scrap or strip quilting? Since the price of fabric is high and many of us keep even the smallest piece in our stash, I thought it would be interesting to look at scrap and strip quilting this week. I know I have a system in place to save scraps and strips. Do you? I’ll share my tips on collecting and storing scraps and strips and, also, what to do with them. Let’s get started!
Scraps, Strips and Strings
Most historians agree that strip quilting, scrap quilting or string quilting often gains popularity in times of economic downturns. Quilters who did not have the disposable income to purchase new fabric would cut up what they had and store in their sewing baskets for future projects. New and old fabrics were used. Sometimes clothes that were no longer wearable. They would sew together scraps and strips until they had created a larger piece of fabric. They used rulers or a specific template they wanted to use to make a block to judge the size of the fabric piece they needed. Once they reached the desired size, they cut their pieces or blocks from the scrappy piece. Here’s some examples of string, scrap and strip units that were used then.
String piecing units were often made from strips of various sizes:
A lot of string quilts made in the past used strips of many different widths like above. Some of the quilts of Gee’s Bend are good examples of this type of piecing.
For my strip piecing, I like to use strips of the same size in a strip set so I can use a rotary cutter to cut squares and rectangles:
I like to keep things simple!
Here’s a representation of a really scrappy piece of fabric created from many pieces of fabric of different widths, shapes and sizes and a 6 1/2″ block that I cut from it.
This was the technique used to make blocks for a crazy quilt. Of course, they used a variety of fabrics unlike mine which is made from all cotton quilting fabrics. Here’s a brief history of crazy quilts from All People Quilt.
Finally, there’s a recent, fun trend called crumb quilting. This is scrap quilting with really small scraps of fabric. See how big the scraps in the block above are? Crumb units and blocks are made from smaller pieces, some as small as 1 to 2 inches! Here’s my example of a bunch of “crumbs” stitched together into a unit and then a 3 1/2″ square cut from it.
Quilt Blocks from Strips
Some of my favorite blocks are made from strips. My most favorite is the log cabin block.
These blocks are made by starting with a center square and then adding longer and longer strips as you go to make a block the size you want. Above is a traditional log cabin block. Below is a courthouse steps version.
Whichever version you choose, all you need to start making these is a pile of assorted strips. I have built up a stash of strips by cutting them from leftover fabric.
I collect the size strips I use the most: 1 1/2″ and 2 1/2″. Here’s how I store them:
So, I can sit down with these bins of strips, along with others, and create as many log cabin blocks as I would like.
Blocks from Strip Sets
Another way to use strips is to make strip sets, then cut those up to make units for blocks. Here’s how to make a strip set:
Strip sets can be made up of two strips like above or several strips. A two strip set is usually made to be sub-cut into units to make 4-patch blocks.
With strip sets of more than two strips can be used to make 9-patch blocks and rail fence blocks.
If you make strips sets with 3 or 4 strips of various colors, cutting them into squares and then piecing them together while rotating two of the squares will get you a rail fence block:
Other uses for Strips – Borders
Another use for my collection of strips? Pieced borders! Here’s a checkerboard style:
Here’s three piano key style borders. All are made with straight strips:
On the left is a simple piano key border, which is strips just stitched together into rows and attached to the border. The center border is made up of pieced piano key sections with stitch and flip corners to make a sawtooth look. And finally, the border on the right is made up of single strips with flip and sew corners and then pieced into rows.
Finally, here are two other strip options. The photo on the left is a border made of strips joined end to end and the one on the right is just what I call “chaos”. Using strips but cutting them different lengths for a really scrappy look.
Other Uses for Strips – Scrappy Binding
Since we covered how to make and attach binding last week, I thought it would be fun to show you scrappy binding. Simply piece together different color strips into the length of binding you need.
That’s all for this week. Pull out your scrap fabric and have some fun!
Donna S says
Love strip piecing. Love the borders on your quilts. Your tutorials are so good. Thanks
Wonderful blog today! Enjoyed the history as well as uses of strips and pieces!
Thank you! I got tips today that I can use as I think about borders for granddaughter’s wedding quilt!
What great tips! You have such wonderful ideas for cutting, storing and using your “leftovers.”
Love your posts. They provide information for all quilters – whether they are new quilters or the old ones (like me) to remind us of things we may have “forgotten”! Hugs