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Make a Scrap Quilt Without Even Trying

My friend, Lori Schloesser, is a very talented quilter. She loves to piece and machine quilt, but she looks tempted to run in the opposite direction when the “A” word is mentioned. She simply doesn’t like to appliqué. This is ok since her piecing is amazing! She recently brought a scrap quilt to our Fiberista meeting and we were impressed.

It’s queen sized and made from 1″ finished squares! WOW! Here’s a detail shot:

When asked about it she said she didn’t have a pattern, and her plan isn’t to sit down and make a quilt. She simply cuts out a lot of 1½” squares, and sews the squares into pairs as “leaders and enders” while strip piecing other projects. When she finally has enough – she makes a quilt. If that isn’t clear, and even if it is,  – you simply must read the following steps, in her own words  🙂 :

“• Cut lots of 1-1/2 inch squares.

• At the end of a set of chain piecing on a different project, sew two squares together and leave them under the needle.

• Start the next set of chain piecing and at the end, again sew two squares together, leaving them under the needle.  The first two squares will be at the start of the chain. Press them as you press your other project and put the squares in a container.

• When I have enough to sew the block together, I make a little space near my sewing machine and lay the pieces out.  I sew them together the same way – at the end of chain piecing another project.

• I generally use sort of a dark/light arrangement, but my only real criteria is that each square not blend in with the squares around it.  That means any white/very light squares go in the center so they don’t blend in with the white strips.

• I cut the white strips to size (4-1/2, 6-1/2, 8-1/2 and 10-1/2 inches) to help keep everything square and the right size.  (If I can’t attach a white strip without getting pleats, I need to go back and fix seam allowances.)

I like to lay out the blocks on point alternating the two blocks.  

You could use solid white for the side triangles but I prefer to use more blocks and cut them in half to finish the quilt.  Of course I take apart the cut off ends and reuse the pieces.

That’s it! Makes me want to cut a lot of squares and leave them next to my machine. What a great way to use up those small pieces leftover from finished projects, instead of leaving them in a pile because you don’t know what to do with them (my technique – and the reason my sewing room looks like it does most of the time).

The next month Lori brought in this scrap quilt:

And we were amazed all over again. This block she pieces on a rectangular foundation, usually newsprint.

I love greens and browns, so I really find this quilt appealing. And the overall leafy quilting design adds to the organic feel.

She said her strippy quilts: “are an intentional project. I usually make them whenever I don’t have another project and just need to sew without thinking too much about it.” Then she sent me pictures of some other scrappy, strippy quilts she’s made this way:

I asked Lori to tell me more about these quilts and here’s her response:
“I usually make them 60 x 80, so a big lap quilt or a really skimpy twin.  I have generally used them as gifts for acquaintances (like co-worker weddings).  I’ve started donating them since I’m making more quilts than I’ve opportunity to give them to people I know.  I’ve donated a couple to the Lutherdale Bible Camp quilt auction and one to a work-related fundraiser.  I like to have at least a couple in reserve – it’s so much easier to give them away if they’re already done and ready to go.”  

I know she also donates quilts to Project Linus. What a generous quilter!

Thank you Lori, for sharing your quilts and your process with us!

October 21, 2018, Scraps
Patriotic Pinwheels From Scraps

It seems I can’t get away from playing with my scraps lately. You may remember a few weeks ago –  I ended up with a 1/2 yard of patriotic fabric made from the leftovers of two “Quilts of Honor” tops I’d made. This is what that “chunk” looked like (click here to read that post):

The week after I made it Patched Lives Quilt Guild had Jan Bretzel give a lecture titled “Making Quilts that Look Complicate but are Not”. One of the quilts she showed was made with a simple piecing technique she shared – and I had to try it!

So I cut my patriotic “schnibblework” into 10″ squares, along with 10″ squares of a solid red fabric. I layered 1 square of each, right sides together,

Patriotic pinwheels

sewed all the way around this square with a 1/4″ seam allowance,

cut on both diagonals,

pressed the resulting new squares open,

and voila – a lovely pinwheel block!

So far I have 3 blocks made and I can’t wait to make the rest. Each one is so interesting because of the unexpected nature of the scrappy squares. I’ll post a picture of the pinwheel quilt top – when I get it put together.

Thanks Jan, for a great lecture – and for teaching me a fun new technique!

July 16, 2017, Scraps
Schnibblework 3 – Diamond Cutting

To make the bright schnibblework star in my previous posts, I used a technique I developed a few years ago for cutting accurate diamonds. I’m quite sure I didn’t post about it then – so I think it’s about time to do so.

Whenever you’re making diamonds that will be sewn together, it’s important the angles and sides are all consistent. While teaching a lone star class I found the “squaring up” of the diamond step to be the most confusing part for students. My answer to this problem? Freezer paper!

To begin, cut a strip of freezer paper the finished width you’d like your diamond to be (mine was 6 1/2″)

Next, cut one end of the strip off at the angle you need by lining the bottom edge of the strip on the correct degree line on the ruler (diamonds can be 45° or 60° – mine is 45°). Please ignore the lines on the cutting mat and look only at the ruler and the freezer paper. I apologize for the optical illusion created by the paper not laying square on the mat.

Then cut the diamond from the strip at your finished measurement once again.


Now it’s time to go to the fabric. Piece your schnibblework chunks until they are at least 1/4″ bigger than the freezer paper diamond all the way around.

Iron the freezer paper diamond to the right side of the schnibblework, making sure there is at least 1/4″ of fabric beyond the paper all the way around. Trim 1/4″ from the edge of the freezer paper with a rotary cutter and ruler.

Then peel the paper away.

This sample was cut at 7″ and will finish at 6 1/2″. The reason I cut the paper the finished size and add the seam allowance when cutting the fabric is accuracy. It is difficult to cut along the edge of freezer paper without shaving some of the paper away, and each little shave changes the diamond for the next cut.

Once I had eight of my schnibblework diamonds cut, it was time to pick a background fabric and sew them all together. None of my “safe” fabrics looked good with all those scraps, so I pulled out my wild fabrics and found the perfect option 😀 .

Remember this requires “Y” seams to set in the background squares and triangles.

I’m not sure what should happen next to this star, but I’m looking forward to some scrappy bordering fun! Stay tuned!

June 18, 2017, Scraps
Schnibblework 2 – Scrap Piecing

As I was taking the winter quilt off the bed this week (and just in time – the 90° days have arrived), I realized it also contained an early piece of Schnibblework. This quilt was made in a “round robin” at a guild I belonged to back in the 90’s – and it ended up King size!

As you probably know, each participant in a round robin puts a block in a bag and then exchanges it within a group, each participant adding a border. This one had 5 exchanges before I got my center block back (and then I turned the large square I received “on-point” to make it fit my King bed). That center block was made from small white, cream and green schnibbles I gleaned from the fish bowl.

This was truly a successful “round robin” quilt and it has been slept under for decades! All the quilts I’ve shared so far show that scraps can be sorted by value or color – or not sorted at all.

So how did I make the Schnibblework for the star in last week’s post?

By sewing together loads of odd shaped leftover scraps without sorting!

It got me to thinking about a book I purchased a few years ago by Victoria Findlay Wolfe called “15 Minutes of Play”. In it she sews her scraps together to make what she calls “made fabric”, and then uses it in her quilts. Great minds think alike. The twist was – I decided to create what I call schnibblework because I can’t stand to waste fabric or leave it lying around in piles. Victoria considers doing this quilting play. What a great attitude!

I adjusted my attitude to match hers and really did have fun making this very bright and colorful star


Last week I alluded to how I did this. This week I’ll explain a bit more. First I grab 2 pieces from my fishbowl,

and sew them together.

chaining more and more until I get bored. Then I go to the ironing surface and press.

After pressing I cut the pieces apart (the pile on the left is pre-pressing and the one on the right is post-pressing).

Next I go to the cutting mat and straighten off all uneven edges (note the pile at center top – these are the shavings I allow myself to throw away!)

I then pick up 2 of these new pieces and repeat the process.

Continuing until the pieces are “big enough” for the shape I want to cut them into (note that some of the chunks below are not quite big enough to be cut into diamonds with the freezer paper template on the left).

Here’s my method “If it’s too small, sew something on. If it’s too big, cut something off”. It’s pretty basic, but it works!

In next week’s post I’ll share my unique technique for cutting diamonds! I think you’ll find it a great one to have in your “quilting toolbox”!

June 11, 2017, Scraps
Schnibblework Scrap Quilts

This past weekend I taught for a lovely group of quilters in Morris, IL. During our lunch break in the Saturday workshop we got into an interesting discussion about scrap quilts. My definition of a scrap quilt is a quilt made from leftover scraps. Some may argue this point, but buying a lot of different fabrics to make a scrap quilt, when I have so many leftover pieces from previous projects, just seems silly for me.

A few years after I began quilting (we’re talking early 90’s), the frugal part of me was really struggling with all of the leftover strip pieces, chunks and partial blocks that had begun to take over my sewing room. What do you do with them when a project is completed? The pieces aren’t big enough to put back into the stash, but they’re too large to just throw away. I chose to put the small schnibbles into a fish bowl, and I threw the larger ones into a covered bin, but these containers were filling up – and driving me crazy! Something had to be done!

I decided to sort the small schnibbles into lights and darks, and simply piece them together rather willy-nilly. When the chunks were large enough I cut them into 4″ squares and ended up making a small quilt I called Confetti (26″ x 30″).

As you can see, I had a great time embellishing it with machine stitching, buttons, beads and ribbon.  I decided it was fun, but it didn’t make much of a dent in my schnibble pile. So I pulled out the bigger pieces, sorted by value once again, and sewed them into larger squares in my scrappy fashion.

This time I sorted the schnibbles into lights, darks and mediums – sewing them into 6″ squares. Four light squares were then sewn together to make a 12″ light block and the same was done with the darks. I had enough red strips in my scraps to border a checkerboard set of the light and dark blocks, and the outer border was made up of all the 6″ medium squares. This did make a dent in my schnibble pile – as well as a lovely lap quilt 🙂 .

I did more of this type of piecing here and there over the years, but never seemed to be able to keep up with my leftovers. A few years ago my friend Lori, who makes amazing scrap quilts, accepted a large plastic bag full of my scraps. Whew! But since then I’ve filled up my fishbowl once again – and it’s flowed into another glass jar – YIKES!

It was time to do something again. Three weeks ago I started sewing anything to everything (no value sorting this time) and, after about an hour of “chunk making”, I laid the chunks on the floor and attempted to take a picture. Trey plays nicely with toys in the sewing room while I’m quilting, just like Sommer did before she headed off to kindergarten. But when I laid them out he couldn’t resist the temptation to jump into the picture.

and then he gave them the snuggle test. I think he approves.

When the chunks got big enough I cut them into large diamonds. I then sewed the diamonds into a large star and found a fun fabric to use for the background:


Can you say bright? It really makes me smile and I’m thinking it needs to grow into something bigger and even more fun. Stay tuned.

For step-by-steps on how I piece the schnibbles, please join me for next week’s post. The following week I’ll cover “diamond cutting”. There’s a good possibility this could grow into a multi, multi-week series of posts – I have a lot of scraps!

June 4, 2017, Scraps