Scrappy Improv: Starting Off
I'm a bit of a hoarder. Yarn, fabric- when it comes to little bobs of crafty bits, I have a hard time just throwing things away. As a result, I am drawn to long-term scrappy projects. Seriously. My Flowers on the Snow afghan has been ongoing since 2011 (and I probably haven't touched it since 2014...)! For quilting, it's meant I've hung on to just about any scrap bigger than an inch or two square. As such, I have quite the diverse scrap pile! I recently got around to sewing them all into something usable, and wanted to take a couple posts to talk about my process.
You can't see it super well here (I think I purged all the good photos I took of my initial sorting) but I start my scrap sorting by divvying them up by color. This is an artifact from my original method, in which I clustered my bits by color when I sewed them up, but as you can see, for this top, anything went. Looking back, a more useful sorting method and one that I incorporated in my more tertiary steps is by size. This is because the first steps literally involve pairing up one color piece and one white piece by size and sewing them together. And then, you take your pair, and match it up with another white piece, and you have your base units!
his is (sort of) what you end up with. I started running out of white, so my last batch is actually two color pieces to one white piece. This approach has several advantages. First, I think the white is really important in helping to tone down what might otherwise be very contrasting, unpleasing combinations. I actually took a similar approach with the aforementioned afghan.
econd, these end up being all sorts of different sizes (see above) and since you only log cabin the first round, you don't have to worry about saving larger pieces for adding later. The picture above shows where I started after this initial round. I sorted into two tiny piles (upper left), two small piles (lower left), one medium pile (middle bottom), one big pile (middle top), and one long-ish pile (right- these were the obviously not-square pieces). Starting with the tiny piles, I just worked my way up doing the exact same thing- pair all the tiny blocks with each other and sew. Pair the paired tiny blocks with the small blocks and sew. Pair the tiny/small blocks with the medium blocks and sew. And sew (ha!) on. This is how you avoid needing longer and longer pieces- because the blocks naturally build themselves. I think the difference in base units helps add some texture to the piece too, it ebbs and flows from really dense areas of piecing to wider open areas!
Eventually, you'll get to a point where you have one or two blocks that don't pair with any combos. That's fine. You can do one of two things. If they are too big to pair with any (I got this mostly with the medium and beyond piles), just push them into the next size up (like the red and white block in the middle above). If they are too small to pair with anything (mostly with the tiny and small piles), pair them up with each other until you get something big enough to pair with something else. Easy peasy! Next, we'll talk about the design benefits you can get from this kind of piecing, and we'll end with how to bring the whole top together from the inside out!