For a while now I’ve been thinking about designing a free scrap quilt pattern that’s as fun, easy and versatile as the Warren the Charity Bear pattern.
Just like Warren, I wanted something that was fast. I know some of you make and give away a LOT of these quilt every year.
I wanted something that was easy. Easy enough for a beginner or a child to make.
I wanted something that was versatile. Something that you could play around with and make a lot of different looks – and not get bored making lots of them.
When Craft Hope announced that they were looking for some quilts for part of their newest project, I jumped right in.
I’m making my quilt entirely from scraps. I sort my scraps by color and I’m tackling one basket at a time, so the blocks so far are all purple and red. When I’m done it’ll include all the colors of the rainbow. 🙂
My quilt also uses Quilt As You Go – but a different technique from what you’ve seen me use for the applique quilts. For this quilt I’m actually quilting as I piece – a huge time-saver and lots of fun. This method also allows me to use batting scraps. Bonus!
Here’s how I build a block. . .
Cut some batting squares a little bit bigger than the size you want your finished blocks to be. My finished blocks will be 10 inches square, which means I’d normally cut them 10 1/2 inches – but I cut mine 11 inches square to give myself a bit of wiggle room. That wiggle room lets you be a bit imperfect in your cutting – see how the fold in the batting made a little jagged pointy bit on the left side? That’s ok – it’ll get trimmed off. 🙂
Important! You must use 100% cotton batting. You’re going to press this a lot and anything with polyester in it will melt to your iron. I always use Warm & Natural – you can read my review of it here.
Pick a piece of fabric to be your center feature and cut it (roughly) into the shape you want. All of mine are four sides – but nowhere near perfect squares or rectangles. I used scissors (not rotary cutting tools) and just eyeballed everything. Slap that piece down in the middle-ish of a batting square.
Now pick another scrap of fabric. Trim it to match the width of the starter scrap, lay it face down over the starter scrap with the raw edges mostly lined up, and sew across the edge using 1/4 inch-ish seam allowance. You’re sewing through both pieces of fabric and the batting.
Flip that piece up and press it flat.
Now we’ll add another strip. I like to work clockwise, but it really doesn’t matter.
Lay a strip face down over both your earlier pieces and trim it (roughly) to fit. Sew it in place just like the first one. (You can click on the photo if you need to see it bigger.)
Flip that piece open and press it flat.
Keep working your way around that center, building up the size of your block. I added the zigzag piece next, then the skinny stripes.
Keep adding strips until the batting is completely covered.
Those first four red strips were pretty uniform, so it’s time for a skinnier strip. I like to keep things mixed up for more interesting blocks.
I also like to make sure some of my strips go slanty – so they’re thicker at one end and thinner at the other. To do that, I don’t line up the raw edges exactly – I let the new strip slope up or down a bit, like in the photo above.
See how that looks when it’s pressed open? It’s not the most efficient use of fabric, but I’m only wasting a tiny bit and I think it makes the block much more interesting.
Sometimes I use a new fabric with every strip and sometimes I’ll use the same fabric a few times in a row to build interesting shapes. Two consecutive strips of the same fabric makes an L. Three makes a U. And four makes a frame.
Sometimes I only have strips that are too short to reach all the way from edge to edge of the block – especially as the center section gets bigger.
When that happens, I just sew two strips together and use the new, longer strip in my piecing. Sometimes I use two strips of the same fabric, and sometimes I use different fabrics (like in the strip on the right in the photo above). It totally depends on my mood at the moment.
Keep going until your batting square is completely covered.
Here it is from the back. See how there’s fabric showing all around the edge of the batting? And look at the nice quilting already done – holding everything together. I’m going to back this quilt with cuddle fleece for special cuddly warmth. There are tips here for using cuddle fleece for the back.
Trim your block down to size from the back, so you can see that you’re getting batting in the entire block. I trimmed mine down to 10 1/2″ square.
And here’s the finished block!
In the very first photo I showed the blocks arranged in a checkerboard-ish pattern, with red blocks alternating with purple. I’m not sure yet what the final arrangement for the quilt will be – it kind of depends on how many blocks I end up with for each color. Here’s an alternate possibility where the blocks blend from one color to another.
Whatever arrangement I choose, the final quilt will be bright and cheerful and cuddly and warm – just what I want to give a child. 🙂
Update! You can see the finished free scrap quilt here. Along with showing the finished quilt, I also answered a lot of questions people had about the process. Click over to get more details.
A couple of final notes. . .
I think improvisational scrap blocks like this look best when you sort your fabrics a bit first. You can see that within the red blocks there’s a brick red block, a red and white block, two bright pink blocks, one light pink block, and several bright red blocks. Within the purples I have one magenta-ish purple block, three lighter purple blocks, and lots of dark purple blocks. Sticking to one shade or tone per block keeps a little order.
This would be a really fun way to make an I Spy quilt – with pairs of center pieces to match up. I have two of the larger blue/green stars and two of the girl in the blue tree.