One Scrappy Story

I finished piecing a 90″ x 90″ scrap quilt last week, and soon it will head off to the quilter. This quilt and I had a love-hate relationship from the get-go. I blogged about its birth in a post called “Running Smack Dab into Ugly.”

ugly1 One Scrappy Story

While the patches looked great in a pile, they were less enticing when sewn together.

ugly3 One Scrappy Story

Things improved as I added blocks.

ugly5 One Scrappy Story

Nevertheless, it went into the UFO pile for quite some time.

scrappy2 One Scrappy Story

The quilt top improved when I added more units.

It ended up being 17 units across and 17 up and down. I still wasn’t loving it, but then I had an idea.

scrappy3 One Scrappy StoryHow about using a great big multi-colored print for the border? I pulled this Jane Sassaman floral from my stash and auditioned. The narrow yellow border seemed necessary to first bring everything to a halt. Once I put up the wide border, I turned a corner. Now I really liked the quilt!

scrappy4 One Scrappy Story

The border fabric is directional so I had some decisions to make.

I had only enough fabric for the sides of the quilt, so I’d have to use border cornerstones. But there was another issue. The black floral border fabric is directional. The flowers definitely all grow in one direction.

When you have plenty of fabric, you can cut two borders lengthwise and two borders crosswise, like they are in this quilt:

scrappy5 One Scrappy StoryAgain it’s the flowers growing up that make this directional. I bought enough fabric in this case to cut the borders accordingly. The sides are cut lengthwise. The top and bottom borders are cut across-grain and pieced for length.

scrappy61 One Scrappy StoryHere’s a closer shot. The borders are cut so that all the flowers grow upward as they should. The white arrows indicate the lengthwise grain. I’ve labeled the seam, too. It’s good to be aware that this is an option whenever you’re using directional fabric for borders.

scrappy9 One Scrappy StoryHere’s another example of a great border fabric where you’d need to deal with the directional element.

scrappy10 One Scrappy StoryAll of the little houses stand in rows and it’s definitely directional. You’d want to buy enough of this fabric to give yourself options.

scrappy4 One Scrappy Story

I didn’t have much to work with for the scrappy quilt, so I had only two options. I could have the flowers growing upwards in both side borders, and have them growing sideways on the top and bottom (photo above). I liked the sides but I did not like the top border in the photo above. I decided against it.

scrappy7 One Scrappy StoryMy other possibility was to have the flowers grow around the quilt. Think of it as all flowers growing clockwise. I liked this solution. I chose fabric for the cornerstones and on the borders went.

scrappy8 One Scrappy StoryThere is one light spot that I’m unhappy with (see the black box), but after a lot of pondering, I’m going to leave it alone. This was an easy scrap quilt to use up old fabric, not a show quilt.

Takeaway lessons:

• Scrap quilts are usually ugly at first. Just keep sewing.

• A border can pull the whole mess together.

• Be aware of directional fabrics and how you can use them.

If you’d like to make an Attic Stairs quilt and get many more ideas for how this block unit can be used, check out Karen Griska’s Stairsteps Quilts book on etsy for $9.95. Lots of other great patterns by Karen there, too!

About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email:
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13 Responses to One Scrappy Story

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  2. Claudia says:

    I can walk into a quilt shop and zero in on a directional print in seconds. What is there about them? Love your solution.

  3. Paula says:

    Great post! You are so inspiring. I am constantly learning from you to not be afraid of trying something new and thinking outside the box.

  4. Pingback: One Scrappy Story | Kinsey Quilts

  5. I posted a review of your article on my site with a link back to you. I’d love to post a photo of your scrap quilt but I won’t unless I have your permission. Great job. I love scrap quilts and have made many myself. I have a kingsize scrap quilt on my bed in the summertime.

  6. I posted a review of your article on my site with a link back to your article. I would love to post your photo, but I won’t unless I have your permission. Great job. I love scrap quilts.

  7. Barb Johnson says:

    Thanks for the hints about using directional fabric for borders. I understand what Karen is saying about scrappy quilts and borders, but I think in this case, the narrow yellow border and the multicolor border was the right touch.

  8. Liz A. says:

    Wow! What a difference that border makes to the quilt. I love it! In fact, I liked it so much way back when you first showed it that I bought the pattern. Now I think I need to find it and start one of my own…..

  9. Marsha Kestner says:

    It just shows that don’t quit if you are not happy with the scrappy cause in the end it all comes together and it turns out awesome! Good job! I would put that on my bed!

  10. Jennifer says:

    Oh, I love it! I, too, have gone through the exact same processes with my scrap quilts. Sometimes ya love how the little pieces are coming out and other times it’s a chore to plough through until the “inner” beauty of the quilt shines through. Just finished putting the final borders on a quilt and pinned it to the wall for the hubster to admire, he noticed that the blocks had a secondary pattern that I didn’t even realize was there. Now there’s even more to love about the quilt. And since I’m done with that top, until it comes back from the quilter, I can make one of these! Woo-hoo!

  11. Brenda says:

    I’d like to disagree about your statement about scrap quilts are ugly at first. I think value is always key to great scrap quilts, and in my opinion, that’s why you struggled with the top. I’m a committed scrap quilter and if something isn’t working out at the beginning, its usually that I haven’t paid enough attention to value.

  12. Karen says:

    I”m afraid I have to totally disagree with you! scrappy quilts are not usually ugly the whole way through– if they were quilters wouldn’t make scrappy quilts- I think it might be more the colors you choose to use and the way you put them together – I make scrappy all the time and it all depends on the way you put them together. I also am one of those few who think you do not need to grab a floral print from your stash to slap on as a border to “frame” your quilt – that is what can really ruin the look of a quilt. I hate to see that happen. If you add a lot of white or neutral color in your scrappy quilt you can use that for your border and then applique color on to it to join the “scrappyness: of your quilt or put a narrow sashing all the way around the quilt and then do a pieced border to continue the theme – I have seen tons of scrappy quilts that are lovely — or if all else fails do not put a border on at all!! borders are not needed on all quilts.

  13. I love seeing the process here. I often struggle with borders and this will add some ideas to my stasis with some of my projects.

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