Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Slab Quilts from the Scrap Bins

I'm a quilter who holds on to scraps. I am, in general (but not always) a maker of scrap quilts. My theory of finding fabric for scrappy quilts is that if I'm cutting fabric, I start in my scrap bins, and then my fat eights, and then look at yardage. (Let's not dive into the philosophy of Scrappy vs Scrap quilts right now, please!)

Scrap bins! I use plastic shoe boxes, and sort by color.

But my bins having been getting full lately! After I finished my Calico vs Modern Flower quilt, which I definitely didn't use scraps in, but produced scraps from, I decided to take on my scrap bins.

A stack of slabs.

Starting in October of 2021, I began making 6" slab blocks (full pattern is in Sunday Morning Quilts), from the contents of my scrap bins. I sort the fabric and press it, only using fabrics that are less than 5" on at least one side.

From the first I intended to make one quilt, a gradient of warm vs cool in a checkerboard, but quickly found that even having not used much from my scrap bins, that I had assembled enough blocks for almost two. Then instead of assembling quilts, I just kept making blocks, adding new bins in as I finished one up. So, I didn't actually get around to making a quilt top until early January.

The first slab quilt, a simple design with alternating gradients.

 So, now with lots of left over blocks, I cast around for another design. This quilt is a clear illustration of getting your first idea out of the way so that you can have a really good idea instead. And also working with constraints. Once I finished going through my black scraps, I had realized that I had nearly enough so that every block on the quilt would get one. So, I made a few extra, to hit 35 (in a 60x84 inch quilt, you need 35 6" blocks), and then looked at the colors I had left. Because I had a lot of blue (both light and dark) those became the center, and because I could only cobble together 5 credible pairs of colors (red and orange, purple and pink, dark and light blue, green and olive green, brown and yellow), the stripes run length-wise and not width-wise, which was my initial idea.

Sort of a rainbow buffalo check

This used up all my orange blocks, and if you look closely, you'll see that one of the orange blocks is really a pink block. Another thing you'll see looking closely is the number of gingerbread people, rejects from my Christmas pillow from a few years ago. (citation needed :P)

The colors I left out of the second quilt were the teal and the gray blocks, so employing the gray was on my mind designing the third. The lack of contrast gives an interesting underwater sort of look to a fairly standard Irish Chain layout.

Blocks arranged in a Single Irish Chain configuration

The third quilt uses up the teal, the pink, and the greens that were left, and most of the purples and browns, leaving me with mostly gray, yellow, and light blue blocks. I have about 40 6" blocks remaining.

So, my thoughts turned to the low volume scrap bin, which is the one I hadn't touched yet. One reason is that, really, it was in two bins. So, I spent a good chunk of time Monday (when I should have been threading my loom, for serious) pressing, sorting, and trimming odd shapes into strips, rectangles, or triangles for ease of piecing. At least what's left in the box is enough for only one box now, even if it's still very full!

I do suspect, though, that the design will be difficult to get right, as almost 3/4 of the quilt will have to come from low volume blocks, but that's the challenge. And the limitations I put on the project is what has made it fun, even if I'm not so rigid as to stick with them all the time. I mean, at this point, if I needed another purple block, I would go and create one, even if  it was not from the small scraps I started out trying to use up. After all, what a scrap is, is in the eye of the beholder.

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