When life hands you scraps, make quilts…

Pfft—where did that come from anyway?

I’m not a “scraps” kind of gal, preferring to work with big chunks of fabric when I make quilts, instead of the little oddly shaped leftover bits and pieces filling up the many assorted containers all over my house. When I start a new project, I first go big stash hunting, pulling out at many yardage sized bundles as I can find to create the perfect palette for the idea in my head. When the Big Stash has produced it’s last hopeful candidate, I go to the Little Stash of fat quarters stored in tubs and the process begins all over again. If the palette is still lacking in sufficient variety of color or pattern or amount, I head to the local quilt shop, dragging whatever I’ve already chosen hoping to add to it from the vast selection usually on display there.

Whoever wrote [that] may have intended it as a metaphor of life, but it’s not my metaphor.

Then come the Google searches, and the email and phone calls to friends near and far, in an ever widening and more desperate search for just the right fabrics to make the project successful, let alone make it sing. Way, way down on the list of possibilities are the boxes, bags, buckets, bins and baskets of scraps that bear silent testimony to the quilting projects of the last 18 plus years.

During (infrequent) moments of decluttering and purging unused “stuff” from the house and our lives, I consider taking these space hogging fabric bits straight to the local youth center or Girl Scout camp, secure in the knowledge that the leftovers would be put to good use. Perhaps it’s an unconscious, perverse desire to make a true scrap quilt someday, maybe it’s just a completely unreasonably fear that a fabric depression will soon envelop the entire quilting industry, or possibly when I open the containers to see what’s inside, I see the scattered bits of projects long past and just can’t bear to part with the last little bit of the perfect fabrics, but the bits and pieces of quilting fabrics always end up finding their way back to their secret locations in the house, there to remain forever crumpled.

Even when I’ve set out to make a quilt from hundreds of different fabrics while only using bare inches of most of them (um, “scrappy,” is that the right term?), I had a plan and lots of big chunks of fabric to begin and when I got down to digging through scraps I didn’t just paw willy-nilly through the bins and use whatever bits came to hand first. It all must work, and work together, hence the plan. Sticking to “The Plan” could also be described as an excuse to keep from having to spend time digging through all the bins of scraps looking for just the right bit, and then dealing with pressing the (probably) permanent wrinkles out of it before trying to use it, which is just not my thing. Why do I keep these bits again? Oh, yeah, the coming fabric depression.

Quilting can be your life, and your life can be quilting; my life is a lot like my quilting, it must be said. I don’t handle the scraps that life hands me with aplomb, being neither terribly flexible nor exceedingly spontaneous. If life showers me with bits and pieces that I’m expected to smile at and make the best of, I start shopping around for bigger chunks and a plan to have them delivered and installed at my convenience and with as little personal disruption as possible.

I like things the way I like them, and I like them the way I’ve planned for them to be or how I’ve been told they are to be. I’m not a wait and see, roll with the punches sort of woman. Give me a plan and access to enough resources so I can see the plan to fruition without (too many) detours, roadblocks or ditches in the road and you’ll find I’m a happy person.

I’m well aware that the very thing that imbues my artistic work with beauty and excitement that makes my heart pound and my palms itch to lay hands on the fabric probably makes me a right pain in the butt to live with sometimes, and undoubtedly causes some undue stress in my life, whether we’re truly talking about “life” or my quilting life and the eternal quest for the perfect fabric. 😉 Whoever wrote “When life hands you scraps, make quilts…” may have intended it as a metaphor of life, but it’s not my metaphor. Mine would be:

When life hands you scraps, go back to the quilt shop and buy a bigger piece!

I may have to put this on a shirt or a bag or something for all the world to see. And just so you know, lemonade is not one of my favorite things either. Just sayin’.

6 thoughts on “When life hands you scraps, make quilts…

  1. I’ve been thinking about the scraps recently, as well, but more of the scraps of quilting and sewing rather than the scraps of life. I think that when I get a good amount of scraps, I’ll make my daughter a dress or myself an apron out of them.

    But, I am definately, in life, not a roll with the punches type chick, either. I like to have a plan and know what’s going on in my life before I do anything.



  2. Hi Morgan, at least you’ve got a plan for using those scraps. It’s likely that mine will just sit around and collect dust (well, the containers collect dust anyway) until that fabric depression starts.

    Glad to know I’m not alone in my “un-rolly-ness” when faced with the knocks of life. 🙂


  3. You’re definitely not alone! Although I am very much a scrappy quilt person, I think it’s only possible because I can control other parts of my life. We are all different and have different coping mechanisms. Life would be terribly dull if we all made the same quilt! I love your quilt/life metaphor. 🙂


  4. I can control other parts of my life.

    You can? Where do I sign up for that class??? 😯

    I think all of that metaphor stuff spilled out because there are various things in my life totally beyond my control at the moment, and I just have to sit here and take it, because there’s nothing to do about any of it, and “buying a bigger piece” isn’t possible (at least not yet). I don’t have to like it though…


  5. Thanks so much for having the “courage” to say this out loud in cyberspace for all to see! I am so similar… Except that if I want a scrappy quilt, I have no problem buying a charm pack! I used to feel guilty about tossing my scraps – but I don’t any more… I now feel good about cleaning up a bit! (OH & I turn leftovers from “right now” projects into doll quilts right now! – Helps me from “collecting” scraps that I will just throw away later.)


  6. Ah, yes, the ubiquitous charm packs! They are soooo hard to resist, aren’t they? I have one or two of those, and they live in my “Little Stash” with the fat quarters. The only reason they aren’t considered scraps to me is because they all started out the same size, and they’re still relatively neat and in stacks so they’re not forever crumpled like the scraps. I’m really bad at resisting fat quarter packs too, which is why the Little Stash exists at all.

    I must note that it’s not guilt that drives me to keep these scraps. I been known to give away or throw away yardage and unfinished projects that I’ll never use or complete, and I have a strict “no-guilt” policy when it comes to anything even remotely related to quilting!


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