Make your own Precuts - Scrap Management Series
Today I want to give you a peek at how I keep my fabric stash and my scraps organized. I have a dedicated sewing room, but it's quite small and doubles as our guest bedroom, so I don't have a lot of space to play with. I wrote a little about how I keep it working efficiently in this post a while back, if you'd like to see more of the whole room.
How I organize my fabric stash
I try to keep my stash to a minimum, and only buy fabrics when I have a project in mind for it. I do that partly to keep my budget in check and to be mindful of the limited space I have, but also because I will inevitably buy the wrong amount for whatever project I decide to use it on down the line.
Most of my stash is actually fat quarters and leftovers from larger cuts, and mostly used for scrappy quilts. I keep those fat quarters and the likes folded like they do at the quilt shops, and sorted by colour, and any half yards and bigger get a slightly bigger footprint. This helps me to know at a glance what I have, and I don't have to look through an entire stack to see if I have enough yardage of something. I keep prints and solids separated, too. I sometimes mix them in a quilt, but I like the overview over what solids I have.
The only fabrics I'll buy without a plan is backing when there is a big sale on, because I know how much I'll need for my preferred quilt sizes. And I'll buy a few fat quarters here and there when I'm running low on a certain colour in my stash. The backings, flannels/linens, and themed fabrics (I have a little bit of christmas and baby fabrics) all have their own cubbies on my shelf.
All this means that my scrap bins actually take up nearly as much room as my stash and need to be organized, because I don't do well with chaos, creative or otherwise ;-)
How I organize my scraps
I used to keep all my scraps in big bins sorted by colour. But I noticed with that system that I rarely used the scraps because it was too much work to get them ready. I'd have dig through the bins, pull out everything that looked big enough, iron all the pieces because they were totally scrunched up from being shoved in the bins for months, and then see if they were even big enough to cut what I wanted. Often they ended up being a hair too small, so I had to go back through the bins to find more pieces in a colour that worked, and I often found myself just grabbing fabrics from my stash instead.
That is, until I heard of the precuts method. A colleague of mine at the quilt shop was doing that, and I thought the idea was brilliant. She cut all her scraps into squares and strips she knew she would use before putting them away in bins. I knew I would use scraps more if they came in a usable size and without the need to iron first, and since I use a lot of similarly sized pieces in my quilts, that whole idea made so much sense.
I've been cutting up my scraps into my own personal precuts ever since, and I am almost finished cutting up all the "backlog" from my big bin days.
In addition, I keep a small (!) scrap basket on the cutting table so it fills up quickly and I'm forced to deal with scraps often, in small amounts, before they all pile up and it becomes an overwhelming task.
Why make your own precuts?
I love this method because my scraps are ready to go as soon as I want to make a quilt. All I need to do is look through the stacks to find the colours I need, and I know whatever I pull out is the right size.
I also like the fact that I can cut the sizes I know I will use, which are not just the standard precut sizes that are available from fabric manufacturers. You're not limited to charm squares or mini charms, or even squares at all. Rectangles, triangles, strips - you can cut whatever you know you will use.
What sizes to cut?
That's the beauty of this method, you can literally cut whatever you want.
I stick with some standard sizes, because a lot of patterns use them. So I have 2.5" and 5" squares, and I keep 2.5" wide strips as well.
I also cut a few additional sizes to give me room to play. There are 3" squares because they make 2.5" HSTs to go with the 2.5" squares. I also like 4" and 6" squares because they'll work with the standard 5" charm squares in many ways.
For strips, I'll keep 2.5" or wider strips whole, to be able to cut sashings or generally larger pieces. Narrower strips get trimmed to 6" long for a project I've had in mind for a long while now.
Anything smaller than a 2.5" square, or wonky shapes like triangles etc. go into a bin for crumbs. These I'll use for making crumb blocks, or for FPP. Although my cut-off is at about 1.5" square. If a scrap is smaller than that, it goes in the garbage. I know some people keep those bits for pillow stuffing, but I don't.
And lastly, anything that's bigger than 6" one way or the other stays whole and goes into a box of large scraps. These are the pieces that are too small to go on my shelf, but I want to keep them whole so I can cut larger pieces from it for backgrounds, or flying geese, log cabin blocks etc.
How to store your homemade precuts
I keep my precuts in various clear bins, sorted by size. I have a bin for long strips, a small one each for the crumbs and the 6" strips, and a couple of them for the various sizes of squares.
I try to keep them sorted by colour, too, but some days I'm too lazy to sort the newly cut squares into the right order so I'll just put them on the top of the bin, and sort them some day when I have time and feel like it.
In those bins I also don't keep my solids and prints separated, because I know I'm more likely to look for colour or value than print vs. solid when selecting fabrics for a project.
Quilt patterns that use precuts
I've written a few patterns that use precuts, and I've made my samples for almost all of them using my cut up scraps. Hopefully they will inspire you for a next project, or even to give the precut method a try if it's new to you.
The Tumbled Love table runner is specifically written for scraps and uses 2.5" squares for the hearts (and some 3" squares for HSTs).