Crumb Quilting Tutorial: No Scrap Is Too Small!

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Use this crumb quilting tutorial to learn how to piece together small scrap pieces of fabric easily and simply.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a huge stash of small pieces of fabric left over from other quilting projects that you don’t know what to do with.

crumb quilting

If these small fabric pieces aren’t in long or larger strips, then these are the kinds of scraps that quilters call ‘crumbs’.

If you are the kind of quilter who saves even the tiniest scraps in little bins all around your sewing room then I have a whole range of videos and blogs showing you different ways you can use your scrap fabrics and tiny pieces of material.

crumb quilting

Crumb Piecing

For this post, I will talk about crumb piecing, or what is more commonly known as crumb quilting. 

This crumb quilting tutorial can be used not only to create small quilts but also to let your creativity flow and make bags, blocks for larger quilts, or any other sewing project that requires a panel of fabric.

So What Is a Crumb?

scrap fabric crumbs
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

No, we are not talking cookie crumbs here. In terms of fabric, a crumb is a small scrap of fabric that is usually in the shape of a square or a rectangle. 

Some people also refer to small triangle-shaped scraps as crumbs, and you can totally add them on if you feel confident, as long as you continue to trim down to a straight edge as you go along so you don’t end up with any Y seams on your hands!

I also have a couple of other tutorials with ideas for how to use triangle-shaped scraps!

For this crumb quilting tutorial, you will need scraps of fabric roughly in the shape of rectangles and squares. 

They don’t need to be exact in that shape, but you do need the straighter edges – you can always make those edges with your rotary cutter too as you go along.

How Small Can Your Crumb be?

I am not going to dictate to you how small your crumb can be because this is all about personal preference in terms of what you feel comfortable sewing a seam into and connecting with other scraps of fabric.

However, a crumb is typically smaller than 2.5″ square and at least 1″ wide (I have used smaller, though!)

The smaller your crumbs are, the more intricate and detailed your crumb quilting will become. So, it will depend on how confident you are with your sewing machine and ironing technique!

What Is a Crumb Quilt?

A crumb quilt is basically just a quilt top made primarily using crumbs.

Often, quilters make crumb blocks to a certain size and then add sashing to break it up, but a more modern approach is to go all crumbs in a set pallet of colors. 

The beauty of crumb quilting is you can take any scrap of fabric in those shades and bring them together to create a large piece of fabric, which can become as big as you like.

You can make your crumb quilting into blocks or just make large sections and eventually join them together to make one big crumb scrap quilt!

That is my preferred method, and I currently have a slow project on the go of a low-volume crumb quilt.

crumb quilting
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

A lot of scrap quilters like doing their crumb quilting in a crazy quilt sort of style, pulling random fabrics from their scrap bin, and letting the colors be what they may.

cropped-One-Color-Crumb-Quilt-Block-Tutorial-6.jpg
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

For me, I like to have some sort of theme or color story to my crumb piecing. This helps the overall look to be far more visually appealing to me – but, of course, that is a case of personal taste. 

For the video I made to go along with this Crumb quilting tutorial, I use mostly white and low-volume crumbs, plus a few brightly colored crumbs as accent pieces.

I have another post and video all about one-color crumb blocks as well.

How Do I Get Started?

Once you start it is easy to add to your original crumb to other scraps of fabric you have. 

crumb quilting
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Generally, you start with the smallest pieces and then add to it. Your piece will sometimes grow from the center out like a log cabin block and sometimes you will find yourself piecing strips of crumbs that you then join together.

You may start off with a small square piece of scrap fabric, which you could then find a similar shape or sew in a rectangle shape instead.

If one is longer than the other, you could find another piece of scrap fabric that would fit that missing space. 

The aim is to add to your original crumb and get bigger and bigger, always working to create one bigger square (ish) shape – essentially, your crumb quilting block. 

There is no right or wrong, there are just guidelines for how to start so I’ll set those out below.

Crumb Quilting Video Tutorial

Watch the video below or read on for written instructions and photos if you prefer.

Written Crumb Quilting Tutorial with Photos

Step 1: Sort Your Crumbs by Color

low volume fabric crumbs
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

The first step is to collect all your scrap pieces of fabric together in a pile.

For this crumb quilting tutorial, I used neutral tones and low-volume fabrics for most of it, and I had a separate pile of colorful and printed fabrics to add a pop of color here and there as I went along. 

Step 2: Start With One of Your Smallest Crumbs

I start with small square or thin rectangle-shaped scraps and find two of either width or length.

I sew those two pieces together with a scant quarter-inch seam and then find a third piece to add to one side of the two I already joined.

For this third piece I would usually look to be sewing across the first seam line I made but not always – go with what you think looks best. (See the photo above with the text and the yellow polka dot scrap for a visual of what I mean).

As you sew the two seams together you can then trim the edges to create a straight line. 

You might also want to start cutting some of your crumbs down to size to fit with other scraps that you have.

Step 3: Iron as You Go

Each time I add a crumb to another piece, I then press the seams with my iron to keep everything flat. 

You don’t have to do this, many people would just finger-press seams in one direction or another, but I find it is easier to get everything looking neat if I iron as I go. 

crumb quilting ironing station
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

A great tip is to have a station set up at the side of your sewing machine with a small wool pressing mat so that you can easily pivot in your chair to do small bits of ironing like this rather than having to get up and go over to an ironing board every time! 

Step 4: Work in Sections

I start a section and grow it until I feel like I don’t have scraps that are long enough to add to it. 

crumb quilting in sections
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Then I go back to my pile of crumbs and start a new section with smaller scraps.

I keep checking back to the first section until I get the second section to a length or width where it can be joined onto the first section to create one big block.

This helps you to make as much use of as many of those little pieces as possible. 

As I keep going and add more sections, I always trim the edges and press them.

Sometimes, you will find you have to cut down scraps to fit your sections. This is a great way to add the same fabric to different sections of your crumb quilting. 

Step 5: Putting It All Together

A great idea is to see this as a jigsaw puzzle. 

crumb quilting
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Once you have your different sections you will want to piece them together.

Again you may have to trim the edges to get the right size or even look to add more crumbs to sections for them to piece together nicely.

Once you have joined the sections together you can then press them to complete the crumb quilting block or whatever other size you are going for.

crumb quilting in sections
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
crumb quilting low volume
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Above are some photos of some larger crumb quilt sections I’m working on currently with the aim of creating one big low-volume quilt top. They’ve been folded that’s why they are so wrinkly!

Update: This low-volume crumb quilt is finally finished! You can see the finished quilt in my YouTube video about it here: Low Volume Crumb Quilt Video

Each of these sections has already been pieced together from smaller crumb blocks that I made at different times starting with tiny scraps and getting bigger.

As you can see from the images I do use triangles and other shapes besides just squares and rectangles.

Top Tips for Crumb Quilting

  • It is always a good idea to work in sections. Especially if you are bringing similar colors and accents together. You can then piece the different sections together to create a bigger piece as you continue with your crumb quilting. 
  • It is such a great way to make use of even the smallest of scraps. Especially if you are fond of the colors and prints. No piece can be too small, just remember it is what you are comfortable sewing a seam into, and ensuring that it fits with the other crumbs you are connecting with it. 
  • Press each crumb block as you go. 
  • This is not about perfection. Don’t worry about nesting your seams or always getting the perfect seam allowance. This is not about precision. This is about having fun and making the most of fabric scraps and things that will most likely be wasted and tossed into the scrap bin.

FAQ

Do you need to sew crumb quilts to a foundation?

Some people sew crumb quilts onto a foundation of paper (or even a dryer sheet), but most people don’t and it certainly is not necessary.

If you want to make a long strip of crumbs (for example for a border) you can try sewing them to adding machine tape which makes it easier to manipulate until you join it to other elements of your quilt. I have another post about sewing scraps to adding machine tape.

What is the difference between a crumb quilt and a postage stamp quilt?

A crumb quilt is more like a crazy quilt in the design whereas a postage stamp quilt has a uniform pattern made of small squares of all one size – usually 2″ or less.

What can you make with crumb quilt blocks?

– Join multiple crumb quilt blocks with or without sashing to make a crumb quilt.
– Replace elements of an existing quilt pattern with crumb quilt blocks to make it your own.
– Use single crumb quilt blocks to make coasters, pot holders, placemats, or wall art.
– Use a larger crumb quilt block and some additional fabric to make a tote bag.
– Make zipper pouches.

crumb-quilting-

How to Make a Crumb Quilt Block

Use your small leftover fabric scraps to make a unique and modern crumb quilt block.

Materials

  • Small fabric scraps
  • Matching thread

Tools

  • Sewing Machine
  • Rotary Cutter
  • Cutting Mat
  • Iron

Instructions

  1. Sort your tiny fabric scraps by color if desired (optional)
  2. Starting with the smallest pieces start joining in pairs - chain piecing can make this step faster.
  3. Press open and trim your pairs so that you have straight edges on your crumb 'units' - they don't need to be any particular size.
  4. Join first crumb units either to each other or to slightly larger crumbs.
  5. Press, trim and repeat - keep joining units to units or adding new crumbs, strips, or other fabric scraps as your quilt block gets larger.
  6. It is often helpful to create multiple 'sections' that you then join to each other to make up a quilt block.
  7. If you have a set size in mind keep checking your block against a ruler of that size so you know when you are done - then trim your block to size.
  8. Use crumb blocks in small projects or join multiple crumb quilt blocks to make a totally unique crumb quilt!

Just have fun with it! Life is too short to be stressing over quilting rules!

Hopefully, you have found this crumb quilting tutorial useful and I hope it helps you to create your very own crumb quilt!

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