Friday, March 6, 2015

To chop or not to chop?

Today's short essay is a response to Kathy's question to me earlier this week as a result of my post about de-stashing the green shelf -- "I keep intending to cut up my stash that is less than a yard into strips, 5" charms and layer cake squares, so I will be more likely to use it instead of having to plow through the bulk each time I get the bug to make something. I have the wire basket system of storing fabrics, 1 color for about every 1 1/2 deep basket section. Too over whelming to dig through each project, press, and cut. I need something much more user friendly! In your opinion, would I regret cutting it all up?"
 
It set me to thinking and I decided to respond via today's post as it might be helpful to some others.
 
I had a brief romance with chopping small amounts of fabric up into "pre-cut" strips many years ago at the urging of a favorite teacher.  I know this works for some quilters, but in general it didn't work for me. 
 
And the reason it didn't work for the most part was that I was creating pre-cuts that didn't fit into my style of quiltmaking. 
It turns out that her pre-cuts weren't my pre-cuts.
 
 That being said, I do have a 2 1/2" strip stash that has been a continuous source of quilts and inspiration for over 20 years. 
 
It began with the leftovers from this quilt -- I made enough HST's for a twin size quilt, got bored, and made a lap size instead.  I was able to use up some of those HST's for block swaps in a group that I belonged to for 10 years, so soon strips were added as well.
It was the starting point for my wonderful scrappy tumbling blocks quilt (and there is a second one all pieced that I use for class demos on setting the units together).
It is my go-to source for scrappy checkerboard quilts as you saw in the Economy Star quilts I finished this winter.
That spawned the advent of this sidekick basket of 2 1/2" squares -- got a little carried away cutting squares so they need their own space.
For years, the 2 1/2" strips have lived in a shoebox with strips coming and going at a steady pace but recently I moved to a slightly larger box -- it was just gushing -- no doubt, the result of my de-stashing efforts over the past year.
As I write, I keep thinking of more and more quilts that began in this box -- there was the EPP Grandmother's Flower Garden -- all the floral hexies are from it.
When the box gets too full, I cull it for 18" long strips to use in my charity quilting group's scrappy bargello quilt tops.
My conclusion?  Personally, between not finding cutting up stuff without knowing how it will be used that interesting and not wanting the pressure of trying to figure out how to use all those 5" squares, I wouldn't start cutting up too much of my stash.
 
One's pre-cuts need to be an inspiring starting point for them to be useful to you.  Perhaps looking back through some of your recent quilts will provide some clues about what pre-cuts will be useful.  With my current de-stashing, I'm modifying the "storage" of my small pieces (under 1/4 yard) because this doesn't work for me -- bits dropped into a basket in the corner.  
The right hand stack is pinks and green that are very small pieces -- most 1/8 yard or less.  I hope that now when I begin a quilt, it will be easier to lift out that stack and start with those pieces -- we'll see?
So how do you feel about it -- I'm sure Kathy would love to know if you "chop or not".
Share your thoughts in the comments for all of us to learn!!
 
Mary Huey
 
You can read about my other de-stashing exploits by clicking on the "de-stashing" tag below!
 

17 comments:

  1. I agree, it needs to be what works for you personally. My 'system' has evolved over the years. One yard or more is folded, by color on shelves. Quarter yard, but not a yard, is by color in dresser drawers. 2 1/2 squares and 1 1/2 strips each have a bin and anything else is by color in scrap bins. I like knowing where it go for the exact size I need.

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    1. Thanks for contributing to the discussion, Lori!!

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  2. Thank you Mary, for giving this dilemma so much thought! I am looking forward to seeing what works for others as well. Right now anything a yard or less is in my wire baskets, more than a yard is folded with a tag attached with the amount of yardage attached so I don't have to pull it out and measure each time I think it will work for a project.

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    1. Thank you for the idea for this post, Kathy!

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  3. oh I agree--pre-cutting a lot of my 1/4 yds or even 1/2 yds doesn't fit into my quilting proclivities at all. I like charms both 5" and 2.5 minis but layercakes--not so much-- and I have never even used any of my jellies--I need to see a bigger piece of fabric to get inspiration for quilts....we are all different and have to find our own ways of organizing fabrics. Right now I am organized totally by color (except for Asian, Batiks, a small Kaffe selection and novelties--all of which are stacked in their own piles). Funny what works for each one of us...hugs, Julierose

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    1. Thanks for joining the discussion, Julierose -- I hope you'll be able to use your jellies someday!!

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  4. I only cut up my scraps – and by that I do mean only the small leftover pieces – into 1.5 and 2.5 inch squares. You are right to advise only to cut into sizes that work for you. For me, keeping everything else together by colour works, regardless of whether it is a fat quarter or yardage.

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    1. Thanks for joining the discussion and sharing your strategy!!

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  5. I only cut up scrap pieces that are less than a fat eighth. I cut them into 2 inch or 2 1/2 inch squares as I find these to be most useful.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your strategy -- I appreciate everyone ideas so much!!

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  6. I approach scrap saving two ways: while I have recently started general scrap collection bins, I have always collected scrap quilt patterns in advance that I know I want to make, determine what cuts they need (I especially like designs that only need one or two different size cuts), put the pattern in a baggie and then as I finish up projects, cut what ever size pieces I need and add them to the appropriate project baggie.

    This way you know exactly what you need (no "will I ever use these?" concerns) and once you have enough pieces in a baggie to make even one unit of the project, you can start using them as "leader/enders" for your current projects which means in the process you are making the block units for your scrap project. I admit it takes a little longer to "collect" this way but I like knowing that at some point I'll have a project "kit" that's ready to go for construction or for finishing.

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    1. Great suggestions, Vivian!!

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    2. I like this idea, a lot! Pick some patterns and make a kit as I cut for other projects.

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  7. Wire baskets! I would love to find wire baskets in a cart or some such system that would fit under a table. Anyone have a source?

    I cut odds and ends into 2.5 strips and 3" squares (for Mississippi, thanks to MEH--both of them!). Also some 2" strips. Have a big box full of 1.25" strips which I hope to use someday. Not cutting any more of those.

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    1. Thanks for joining the discussion and sharing your strategy, Kathleen!!

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  8. This is a dilemma a lot of us have. Like you, Mary, someone else's cutting up scraps is different thatn mine. I tried Bonnie Hunter's method, but I ten to use bigger pieces than she. I tried making crumb blocks - each one took so long, I knew that wasn't going to work either. After years of saving scraps, I went through and saved the batik scraps and tossed the lot (actually gave them away at Guild). Now I save anything from 1/4-1/8th yard by color. The rest gets sorted by color too. For things smaller than an eigth I throw in a drawer for possible small bits for applique. The odd stuff from cutting pieces I make crumb blocks. Before it didn't work because I had this huge pile of crumbs to go through to sew next to my starting crumb. Now I make a crumb block from the left overs of a quilt - I know they will go together and am done with them in no time. They get set aside to make into a crumb quilt or an orphan block quilt. If there are too many I bag up and give to Guild. I don't want to spend all my time working on them when I can start a new quilt - grin.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mary -- this has been such a great discussion!!

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