Scraps vs. Stash Quilting

A reader asked me to share my method of saving and organizing scraps.  Bonnie Hunter is the scrap queen!  She has a wonderful method for saving and organizing scraps.

I’m a stash quilter.  I’m not much of a scrap quilter.  There’s a difference in my mind, though no one else may understand it but me.

Most everything in my stash starts out as at least a 3 yard piece.  When I get to the end of that piece, when there’s maybe 2 or 3 or 4 inches remaining, I’ll either cut it into strips or squares.  I have boxes for 2″, 2-1/2″, 3″ and on up to 5″ squares.  I also have a box for 2″, 2-1/2″ and 3″ strips.  Truthfully, I find that the squares/strips go into their appropriate boxes but they rarely find their way into my quilts.  And, as much as I hate to say it, I probably throw away some scraps that others would keep.  Often, I save them for ages and then in a fit of cleaning, I toss them or donate them.

Becoming a stash quilter hasn’t been an easy process for me.  There was a time when, if I needed 3 yards of a yellow, it had to be 3 yards of one fabric.  Or 5-1/2 yards of background meant 5-1/2 yards of one fabric.  Now I’m able to combine yellows . . 2 or 3 or 4 . . whatever I need to come up with a total of 3 yards.  Same with background fabrics.  That’s helping a lot with using the stash.  There are times when I think it matters that I use the same fabric.  For example, if I’m using several borders (when do I not use several borders?), and I want them all to blend into one, I try to use one fabric for the background.

Here’s the drawing of Dad’s quilt with all one fabric:

Same design with several different fabrics for the background:

See how the different fabrics kinda chop up the flow of the design?  In the poinsettia quilt you can see an example of where I used various backgrounds within the blocks but  used one background for the border.

But, in the Bears in the Farmhouse quilt, the various backgrounds added to the “scrappiness” of the quilt.

There’s no right, no wrong . . it all depends on the look you want to achieve.  And, while we’re talking about right and wrong, don’t worry so much about making wrong choices that you can’t enjoy quilting.  When teaching, I see quilters who struggle so much with their fabric decisions.  I know . . some arre thinking I might should spend a bit more time with my choices!  But I tell them, this isn’t brain surgery.  If you do something and it doesn’t work out the way you think it should (1) no one is injured; (2) you may find that you like somethng you wouldn’t have done if you’d know how it would turn out.  The only time I feel like I’ve really made a mistake is when the colors blend to the point that the piecing doesn’t show at all.  Blending is good sometimes but not when you actually want the piecing to show.

An example was when I asked about which green to use.  Several suggested I use the bottom green for the “light” instead of the one on the left.  I did.  I cut all the pieces before we left for Spring Break.  I made the first block and those two greens were blending way too much.  But, I had no option so I finished it and I actually like it!  Had I made a test block, I would not have continued with that fabric but my mistake turned out great!

If you find you’re struggling too much with color/fabric choices, you may want to stop being so hard on yourself and . . just do it! 🙂


  1. 1


    I read you loud and clear, the differences between stash and scrap are subtle ones but shouldn’t become stumbling blocks to just sewing something… anything… out of the fabric that’s piling up!

  2. 2


    You wrote this just for me, right? I go into full panic mode if I don’t have enough background for something. I just buy another piece, a bigger piece. That’s why my stash is in the shape it’s in. But I’ve gotten better about that – thanks to you, Judy!

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    I think even if you ask others for input, use what you like, after all you will have to look at it while sewing it! And I find odd and ugly fabrics tend to spice things up.

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    Great topic! You and Bonnie have my favorite quilting blogs. I like the “idea” of being a scrap quilter much more than the actual process. Mainly because I don’t like the total scrappy look…I want my colors to be similar and to be able to see the primary block design which sometimes gets lost in scrap quilts. Luckily my stash is at a controlable level so I can get organized for the type of quilting I want to do.

  5. 5


    Gesh, I am so glad you explained all this. I guess I just rolled everything stash and scrap all into the same category. I would say I am a 50% stash, and a 50% scrappy quilter. I have lots of both. I am impressed with your use of EQ to visualize the look of your stash quilts. How did you learn to use EQ so well? Do you have an EQ buddy or just learned on your own. I have EQ but don’t use it comfortably to do what you do….

    • 5.1


      I don’t think it really matters a whole lot what terms we use but most of my quilts come from the stash fabric rather than the scrap bin. I really don’t know EQ as well as you might think. There’s still more than I don’t know than what I do know but I learned mostly by just playing with it. The books that EQ offers are great. 5 or 6 years ago I took a class from Quilt University and it was great too.

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    Wow, i’m in love with so many different fabrics that I could never afford three yards plus of each! I am a scrap quilter and I am happy just having a piece of a certain fabric, doesn’t really matter how much, as long as I get to use it once.

  7. 7


    Althought english is not my native language, it is perfectly clear to me what you mean, I am a stashquilter too. My experience is that a quilt from stash has much more life in it then one made with fabrics especially bought for it.
    (I am also a scrap quilter, fabrics are very expensive in the Netherlands, where I live, so I use every little piece of them).

    • 7.1


      Your english comes through just fine. Thank you so much for writing. It’s taken me a while to learn to be a stash quilter and like you said, I’m finding them very fun and interesting.

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    I do both scrap and stash quilts, but I don’t differentiate too much between them. I try to use my smaller bits from my under a yard drawers or my shoeboxes of strips and squares first before going to fabric on my shelves that are over 1 yard! But somehow, the amount I have in stash never looks diminished!!! LOL!! Why is that????

  9. 9


    I consider myself a scrap quilter and typically don’t have big yardage pieces in my stash. If I love a fabric and think it can be used for borders or a pieced back I’ll buy 2 yards (unless it’s a great sale and then I’ll usually buy 4).

    I typically cut up and toss all my leftovers in my string binds rather than sorting by a bunch of different sizes but since buying the GO Cutter – I’m considering cutting up a bunch of 2.5 inch strips and 5 inch squares and setting them aside in separate drawers.

    Fat quarters are my weakness – I just love them.

  10. 10

    Linda H says

    Good post, Judy. I know I have agonized in the past, but not so much any more as I gain more confidence.
    May I read the last part of your post to my little charity quilting group? We have been trying to encourage the ladies to use from our cupboard stash, scraps and all. Some of the ladies are having such a hard time getting over the matchie-matchies. We did an exercise where we each made x number of blocks from provided scraps and then mixed them all together and drew the set needed. Then I made your stash quilt as another example. However, because I am known as the scrap queen, I’m thinking it might be meaningful to read a statement from a “real” teacher. 🙂

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    I don’t have a huge stash due to space constraints but hated to throw away my left overs/scraps. Bonnie’s method got them out of their separate “project leftover” bags and into a big mixing bowl of scraps. I like to combine scraps and stash in my projects but also love to “collect” fabrics for a certain quilt idea. Someday, when I have my own sewing room, I will have all my fabric where I can see it and pull from it!

    • 11.1


      Annie, what really matters is that we use what we have and we enjoy the process. Sounds like what you’re doing is working great for you and whether you have your own sewing room or not, please continue to enjoy what you’re doing!

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    I call dibs on the strips you don’t want. LOL! I’m becoming a very scrappy quilter within the last 5 yrs or so. $$ is tight here and my most fav finds at quiltshops are their “Scrap bins.” I can usually get a ziplock baggie for $1 or $2 each. I’ve been getting some colors/types/styles that I’d *NEVER* choose for myself. ROFL!!!! It’s fun to see my quilts emerge.

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    Because of you Heehee, lol, I bought fabric that I can use in more than one way—not just beautiful prints. I bought 6 or 7 brighter clear reds, joyful yellows, etc. These are going to be more versatile (sp) in my stash. I am so much happier with my purchases in Paducah as I had a purpose in my shopping. Thanks so much for all your inspiration and encouragement.