We all have them, bins or bags of little fabric scraps we simply cannot bear to part with. Some of the scraps are small, perhaps enough to squeeze a 2″ charm out of. Some are funky, like little strips that run 5-10 inches by less than 3/4 inches. But there are some that are just plain tiny. Those little snippets trimmed from flying geese. That last little bit of a favorite fabric, now no bigger than a quarter, or less. If you are like me, sometimes you wonder just why you are holding on to these!
And I know that there are lots of quilters who are somewhat afraid of sewing small or tiny pieces together. When the postage stamp quilt charm swaps are going on, someone always comments that they will only do 2.5″ charms, because they simply could not sew with smaller bits.
Well, I want to invite you to use your tiny scraps. I want you to let go of the fear, and dive in and PLAY! While you are gaining confidence with these little pieces, I need you to let your sewing be imperfect, just as it was the first time you sewed anything. I am sure you will build confidence as you go, and get lots of ideas of your own for ways to use your own stash of tiny scraps.
So I am going to do a series of posts with demos or tutorials. I am calling this my Magic Tricks for Tiny Scraps series.
Magic Trick Number One
This particular magic act is being demonstrated on coaster-making project. They are a bit rustic on purpose, to keep it simple and “scrappy”! You could easily make something larger, like mugrugs, or placements. I have a few other suggestions for using this trick at the end of this post. If you need a closer look at one of the photos, just click on it.
This project requires a pair of slightly larger scraps as the base for the coaster. Two 5″ charms would be great. I selected solid colors for my coasters, since my tiny scraps are so colorful. You can use anything, as long as you have enough contract between the base and the scraps to make your design pop!
Every magician needs props, and this is what you will need to use for each coaster:
- Two fabric pieces for the coaster base. About 5″ square works well, but if your pieces are 4.5″ and not so square, they will work too!
- A fabric glue stick, or a washable school glue stick.
- A scrap of double-sided fusible craft batting, the same size as your base pieces. I use the kind that works well for placemats and wall hangings.
- A selection of little tiny scraps. This will become clear as you go through the demo, but I suggest sticking to a color oor shape these to create your design. You can see I used little triangles in warm colors for the first coaster.
- And the usual sewing staples: thread, scissors, iron, sewing machine.
Assemble your coaster base:
Photo 1: Trim the batting piece so it is 1/8 inch smaller than your two fabric pieces, and sandwich it between the two base fabrics. Photo 2: Fuse both sides, following batting manufacturer’s directions. If you aren’t sure, a medium hot iron with no steam will probably do the trick. Press on each side for about 10 seconds. Photo 3: Once the sandwich is cool, run a row of stitching around the entire outside of the base, close to the edge, but catching all layers. If it isn’t a perfect square it is quite alright! Use any thread you want, for the demo I used a high-contract color.
Add your scrappy design:
Think abstract. Think shapes. I used triangles on the purple coaster, and tiny strips on the green one, but little circles, or random shapes would be great too. Sticking to a color theme can tie random things together very nicely. Abstract flowers to give to a gardener? Team color collage for a sports nut? There is no right or wrong, just pick and play. Feel free to trim scraps to fit your layout.
Photo 4: After settling on the design, use the glue stick to “baste” the scraps in place for sewing. Using one continuous stitching run, secure all sides of each piece. Stitch close to the edge of the scraps. Photo 5: Stitching in progress, I just went right across the middle to keep it rustic and continuous. Photo 6: all stitched!
Voila! The Finishing Act:
Photo 7: This is what the back of the stitching looks like. Notice the little bit of magic, in that stitching on the scraps also quilts the coaster? Photo 8: Run a second row of stitching around the outside edge of coaster, juts inside the first one. Hey, you could make it a round coaster if you want! Of course, with only a couple of inches to go, I ran out of bobbin thread. Photo 9: Bobbin refueled, merge point back-stitched, and the second row is done.
Photo 10: Trim away the excess edges close to the first row of stitching. It is quite alright if the batting shows a bit! This is a rustic little magic trick. You could use a pinking shears if you like, but I strongly suggest stitching your edge rows not quite as close to the edge the, so the shears don’t cut the thread. Photo 11: I made a second one in green, with little scrap stripes. My green base fabric was smaller than the purple, but I think it works just fine. Photo 12: This is the back of the green one. Notice the continuous stitching that serves to attach the scraps, and quilt the coaster.
This is a technique that can be used in countless ways. Besides the coasters or placemats, consider skipping the base sandwich and simply attaching your design to a blank quilt block. The glue basting will work just fine, and the free-form stitching can be contrasting or blend in. Alternate these blocks with pretty prints and create a masterpiece of scrappy goodness.
How about a zipper bag? Make bases in sizes to fit your favorite little bag pattern. They could be done with the batting, or not, depending on your preference.
What ever you make, the little scraps will wash up just fine if you secured their edges. I would dry them flat, and press as needed.