Sep 25

I hate to get rid of even the smallest fabric scraps. I just KNOW there has to be something fun to do with them. Do you have a lot of fabric scraps too? How about making some easy crazy quilt blocks? They’re great for quick and easy projects like coasters or placemats, or put a few squares together and try a more ambitious project like a tote bag or a quilt.

The basic process for making these is sewing scraps to a piece of stabilizer like interfacing, muslin, or light paper. I’ll get into the process of how to make the blocks in a minute, but first let’s talk materials.


  • Stabilizer
  • Fabric scraps

Stabilizer choices: You have two basic genres to choose from for a stabilizer. Either fabric-type stabilizer (muslin, other scrap fabric, or light interfacing), or paper-type stabilizer (tracing paper or plain newsprint from a pad). If you choose the fabric-type stabilizer, you can just sew and go. If you use the paper-type stabilizer, you have to remove the stabilizer after you’re done sewing. I recommend these lighter papers if you are going the paper route, because removing anything heavier than this is ANNOYING! For my quilt, I used good-quality printer paper (that had already been printed on one side and was supposed to be thrown away), and then it took FOREVER to remove it all from my quilt.

There is also such a thing as tear away paper specifically for quilting, and there’s also a kind of paper that dissolves when you wash it in the washing machine. Personally, since I don’t think you should invest a lot of money in a project like this (i.e. a STASHBUSTING project), I’d recommend using whatever you have on hand, with the fabric-type stabilizers being at the top of my list. If you can avoid the paper, I recommend avoiding it.

Another cool thrifty option is to use old used fabric softener sheets for stabilizer. You just have to do a LOT of laundry. The drawbacks to these are that they are a lot smaller than a piece of paper, so you’ll need even more blocks if you’re making a big project. I used dryer sheets for the coasters shown above; they were a perfect size for that particular project.

Scrap choices: Don’t try to match fabrics up, just use whatever scraps you have. The amazing thing about a crazy quilt is how once it’s all sewn together, it looks like the pink and orange actually go with the turquoise and brown. If you don’t have that many scraps, ask someone who sews if they have any leftovers (your grandma, mom), or just buy some remnants (leftover ends of fabric bolts at a fabric store — usually marked down from 25-75%), or recycle some old clothing.

Other tips:

  • Each square will probably take you about 8-15 minutes, so it takes awhile to make a whole quilt. If you do it, put on Arrested Development and sew while you watch.
  • Even though this quilt takes awhile to complete, it’s actually not that tedious. It’s kind of fun to sew wacky fabric scraps together into something. And the fact that you are sewing without major planning does something for your creativity.
  • If you don’t have time or patience for a quilt, four blocks would make a spiffy pillow or tote bag! Or, put three blocks together to make a purse with a flap. You’re creative, you’ll think of something.

Now, on to the instructions:

To make a block:

Step ONE: Prepare your stabilizer. Square it up if it isn’t already. We all know how to make an 8.5×11″ piece of paper into an 8.5×8.5 square, right?

Step 2: Put a piece of fabric face up on the corner, across the diagonal folded line. Make sure the fabric hangs over the edges of the corner.

Step 3: Put another strip of fabric face down on top of the first piece of fabric. If you are using paper as a stabilizer, set your sewing machine stitch to fairly small (this will perforate the paper to make it easier to remove later).

Step 4: Sew the two pieces together along the edge.

Step 5: Open the fabric so both pieces are facing up, and finger-press to flatten them.

Step 6: Repeat this process with other scraps of fabric, until you have covered the whole diagonal of the paper.

Step 7: Put a long strip of fabric face down on the edge of the diagonal section. Sew across.

Step 8: Finger press and repeat this process for both sides, until the whole square is covered with fabric. Make sure there is no part of the paper showing!

Okay, now the square looks funky, right? Not really like a square exactly, anymore. And you may have sewed your rows kind of off center (like I did on this one). It doesn’t matter! This is a crazy quilt block.

Step 9: Iron, iron, iron.

Step 10: Turn over and trim excess fabric.

Step 11: Admire your new cool square! And repeat!

For the Quilt:

To make a quilt, sew these squares into rows. Then sew the rows together. (Try to match up the seams between each square with the seams of the squares next to them)

I chose to sew these together so that the diagonal is alternating like this: /\/\/\, but you can lay it out so it does this: ////// or \\\\\\ or just let it do whatever it wants to do.

If you lay it out alternating, like I did, your quilt will have a cool diamond pattern-y thing going on.

The quilt pictured here isn’t actually big enough for even a twin bed, but I made 56 squares — phew! I’m just going to sew some strips of plain fabric around it until it is big enough to do something with.

To complete the quilt, you will need to cut out batting in the same size, and also a quilt back (you can use an old sheet). You can either do some kind of binding around the edges (wide bias tape?), or do what I do and cut the quilt back larger than the front and fold it over the edges and sew around it, or you can make a quilt top, quilt bottom (facing the top), batting sandwich and sew around the whole thing leaving a decent-sized hole somewhere so you can turn it inside out and then finish the hole.

To “quilt” you can just use yarn or embroidery thread to make ties (google this for more info), or quilt any other way you know how or want to try.

Let me know if you have any questions!

For more thriftastic projects, check out my blog, Dollar Store Crafts.

Oct 27

Quilting stuff everywhere!

Every year, my mom and I like to have a quilt “sweatshop” to make quilts for an entire year’s worth of baby shower gifts. In years past, we have made 20 and 17 quilts, respectively during our sweatshop marathons.

In years past, our sweatshop has been at least five days of sewing, but this year I just had time to devote a single day to the sweatshop. I got to craft for one entire day with no interruptions (which is rare these days, with my two kiddos in the picture!) Our final tally for this year: Two completed quilts, and one top (not finished)

The first sweatshop year, we used up about half of our collective pre-cut 5″ blocks, and last year, we used the rest of our pre-cut blocks up. It felt so good to bust that stash!

Quilt #1 with bias tape binding

This year was also all about stashbusting, but all our fabric was in full pieces, not already-cut blocks, so we played around with a different design than our go-to “Trip Around the World” one patch.

Our design was inspired by filminthefridge’s Blocks & Stripes Quilt.

We used fabrics that we had on hand (stash-busting!), an old Ikea sheet for the background, and an old comforter for the batting. Just trying to use up the stash!

My mom made bias tape for the first quilt. Binding a quilt with bias tape was a first for us! (Link: a nifty tutorial for a DIY bias tape maker!)

Our quilts were planned on graph paper, but the rows of random blocks and stripes were only loosely laid out, making these half-planned, half-improvised quilts.

I designed the block rows to use a combination of 6″, 4.5″ and 3″ colored blocks along with either 3″ or 1.5″ lashing between them. Then I calculated how many of each block one row would need, and sewed nine of those rows (for the three quilts). I threw in a few random blocks while I was sewing the block/lashing rows.

Jul 2

A few weeks ago, my mom and I went to a the Northwest Quilters 2007 show. We had to kind of “hit and run” the show, and we only spent about 30 minutes looking, but it was fun to see all the different quilts. They even had a special display of quilts made by the men who are members of the group.

This quilt shows a stairway (the view from the top of the stairway looking down). Very cool!

The next quilt is a repeating pattern of leaves. I love the colors and the design!


Mar 29

So, my mom and I finished our baby quilt sweatshop, with 17 quilts completed. Guess what, we used up our 5-inch quilt block stash! Woo hoo!

Our 2006 quilt marathon was begun because we had two huge bags of 5-inch blocks between the two of us. We sewed for a week straight last year, and finished 20 baby quilts, but we still had (it seemed) as many blocks left as we used up. Flash forward to 2007… we finally recovered from our week of intense baby quilting, and decided to try to use up our remaining stash of 5-inch blocks.

My mom did the math, and each quilt takes 81 blocks. If you mulitiply that times 20, it means we used up 1620 blocks last year. This year we used 1377 more blocks, which means that we had 2997 blocks between the two of us. How on earth did we get that many blocks? (I personally won’t be cutting up fabric to use for quilt blocks… ever again.)

Instead of working on them all at once (in one week), we have been spending most Thursdays for the past two months working on this project. We laid them all out one week, and then sewed about three to five quilt tops per week until we finished, with a few extra half-days added in during the past two weeks just to finally wrap the project up. After all the tops were done, we assembled the batting and quilt backs. Using up our stash was the name of the game, but we managed to find enough cozy flannel for quilt backs between the two of us (and a donation from my friend Cassie) to finish up without buying any new fabric. The only thing we had to buy was one roll of batting.

One of my favorite things about this project were the last three quilts we laid out. Why? Because we had to use what we had left and make it work. And because we finally used up the stash of blocks – few things in this world compare to the feeling you get when you use something up! It’s an amazing feeling!

<–This quilt was one of the last ones we did. Who would have thought that the burgundy, pink and various plaids would work together with some leftover surfboard fabric? I love that these baby quilts are unexpected in color palette and fabrics. Not your typical choices for the nursery, but awesome! Also, notice the scottie dog fabric around the border – that quilt back was made from a recycled thrifted flannel sheet.

What do we do with the blankies once we have them completed? We usually save them until we come across someone in our vicinity who is having a baby and use them as our baby gift. I love handmade quilts so much; I can’t think of a better gift to welcome someone into the world with!

The epilogue to the story is that once we had used up our entire stash of blocks, my grandma gave us a huge bunch of vintage blocks and strips. My mom and I are brainstorming what to do with them. They are almost all unique blocks, and almost all 20 years old or older (mostly older). We are selfishly thinking maybe we’ll make quilts to keep in the family with these blocks.

A few ideas are a crazy version of the Arkansas Crossroads pattern, any number of inspirations from Hillary Lang/Wee Wonderful’s arsenal of awesome ideas, this quilt (seen on Wee Wonderfuls) by Josie of Mr Monkey Suit.

<—I love the greyish fabric with the pink clocks on it. Love the color palette and so cute! All of these vintage blocks are so inspiring. I want to scan them all into my computer so I have a record of them for inspiration!

Okay, on to the next project!

Coming soon: forays into altered clothing.


Feb 23

Quilt Sweatshop II Update

(This picture is from last year’s batch of quilts)

Update on Quilt Sweatshop Marathon 2007: Thursday, my mom and I got 5 baby quilt tops sewn together. We decided to tag-team sew them, so we each sewed half of each quilt together and then joined them at the end. It helped us feel like we were making more progress, since one quilt comes together in half the time that way. Not too bad for an afternoon!

Today: added 4 quilt tops to the collection, bringing us to 9 finished quilt tops and 8 left to go (I thought we only had 15, but apparently we have 17). We’re over the hill, with more tops done than we have left to finish. We are going to wait to do the finishing work on each quilt until all the tops are completed.

*UPDATE on today’s update*

Since I typed that last little bit, I have put together 5 quilts with tops, batting, and backing. They’re all sewn together and ready to be tied, and then they’ll be done! I ran out of batting, so I guess I’ll have to hit the store up for more before I can finish assembling more quilts.

I used a thrifted Scottie Dog flannel sheet for 3 of the quilt backs, and some of a bolt of cream-colored flannel for the other 2. I set up two 4-foot tables in the living room for my quilting ease (although, it would be nice if they were counter-height instead of table-height, as hunching over the tables doesn’t really do the back a lot of good!), which was SOO much awesomer than finishing the quilts on the ground, which is what I have always done, and I just HATE. (I am the kind of person who will only play a board game if a table & chairs are involved – I hate to play on the ground, I don’t know why. Oh wait, yes I do, it’s because I don’t like to be UNCOMFORTABLE!!)


Feb 16

Well, my mom and I have launched our annual baby quilt sweatshop with a few good hours yesterday (we laid out 13 quilts), and I continued today, laying out 2 quilts (and using up the balance of our blocks! boo-yah! That’s what we set out to do LAST year in our first annual baby quilt sweatshop marathon – and we only managed to do 20 last year, and still had tons of blocks left.)

Let’s do the math: 15 baby quilts at 81 blocks each = 1215 blocks so far!

Once we get these sewn together (they each take about 2 hrs per quilt top, and then another 30 mins of finishing work), I plan on starting on our bigger pieces of material. Must bust stash!