After making a quilt top we can often be left with lots of small pieces of fabric that we don’t know what to do with.
If they aren’t in long strips or larger pieces 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. This is one of them.
Here are some fun ideas for turning small scraps into quilt blocks:
- How to Make Fabric from your Scraps – Part 1: Irregular Shaped Scraps
- How to Make Selvedge Fabric (Make Fabric from your Scraps Part 2)
- How to Sew Scraps to Adding Machine Tape – Fabric from Scraps Part 3
- Scrappy Improv Quilt Squares
For this post, I’m going to talk about crumb piecing, or what is more commonly known as crumb quilting.
You can use this crumb quilting tutorial not just to create small quilts, but you could let your creativity flow and use them for bags, blocks for larger quilts, or any other sewing project where a panel of fabric is required.
So what is a crumb?
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!
- Mini Flying Geese Free Foundation Paper Piecing Pattern & Tutorial – for small triangle shaped scraps
- How to Make Fabric from your Scraps – Part 1: Irregular 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 of course 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 to sew a seam into and connect with other scraps of fabric.
However, typically a crumb is smaller than 2.5″ square and for most people will be 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 your ironing technique!
What is a crumb quilt?
A crumb quilt is basically just a quilt top made using primarily 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 shapes, 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.
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.
For me though 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 did to go along with this tutorial I use mostly white and low volume crumbs plus a few brightly coloured crumbs as accent pieces.
How do I get started?
Once you start it is easy to add to your original crumb to other scraps of fabric that you have.
Generally you start with the smallest pieces and then add to it – your piece will sometimes grow from the centre 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 just 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 if desired
The first step would be 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 colour 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 find you want to start cutting some of your crumbs down to size to fit with other scraps 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.
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 just 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.
Then I go back to my pile of crumbs and start a new section with smaller scraps and I keep checking back to the first section until I get the second section to a length or width where it can be joined on to 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 am always trimming the edges and pressing them. Sometimes you will find that the sections might need you to cut down scraps to fit, but this is a great way to add the same fabric at different sections of your crumb quilting.
Step 5: Putting it all together
A great idea is to see this as a jigsaw puzzle.
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.
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!
Each of these sections have already been pieced together from smaller crumb blocks that I made at different times. 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 colours 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 colours 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 are most likely to be wasted and tossed into the scrap bin.
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!