How to Make a Modern Scrap Quilt – Improv Style!

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This modern improv scrap quilt was a super quick make. The quilt top took me just two and a half evenings to finish.

I’ll show you how I got started and how I put it all together. This isn’t a modern scrappy quilt pattern, but rather a guide on how to make your own unique scrappy quilts.

modern scrap quilt

There are also a few video tutorials that visual learners will probably find easier to follow. You can find them dotted throughout this post.

modern improv scrap quilt

Fabric Requirements

  • Ruby Star Scrap Bag (my scraps were between 3″ x 4″ and 5″ x 7″. The scrap bag I bought was from a local quilt shop. I’ve seen lots of these on Etsy with scraps in various sizes).
  • Low volume fabric remnants (2 or 3 roughly a half metre large or less)
  • Low volume fabric strips (roughly 2.5″ wide – length varied)
  • Accent colour scraps (optional)
  • Backing Fabric (I used teal fleece for this particular quilt)
  • Quilt Batting (yes, I still used a cotton batting even though I used fleece for the quilt back)

Quilt Finished Size

modern scrap quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

As this was an improv quilt I wasn’t super set on the exact size it would finish when I started, but I knew I wanted it to be a throw quilt.

It was made as a wedding gift for a friend. I wanted them to use it on their sofa when they watch TV, so I was aiming for a 50″ x 60″ size.

The actual finished size was 52″ x 62″.

You can aim to make your version whatever size you like!

How to Make a Modern Scrap Quilt

Step One: Designing my Quilt Top

I knew I wanted to make my friend a modern quilt. I also knew it had to be quick as the wedding was approaching.

So rather than looking for a pattern made up of lots of intricately cut and pieced blocks, I decided to design my own free-form, also known as improv quilting.

modern scrap quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I started by laying out some large low volume, solid background remnants on the floor to make out the basic background of the quilt.

I didn’t keep them like that but this was just to get a rough idea of how much fabric I needed. I wanted to get a rough visual of what I would do.

On top of the low volume fabric, I just randomly placed some of the Ruby star scraps from my scrap bag. You can use any scrap fabrics from your scrap bin.

I also put down a few small ‘orphan block’ flying geese blocks with half square triangles that I often make with scraps to see if I could use any of them in the quilt.

modern scrap quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

When I saw them next to each other I liked the kind of teal color ones I had. They seemed to go with some of the ruby star scraps. I knew I had another little scrap of a similar teal color that I could use in the quilt as well.

Although I laid my scraps and orphan blocks out in this way, I wasn’t deciding on exactly where everything would go. I was just getting a rough concept of what I thought looked good together. I like this part of the creative process.

More Advice on Choosing Your Fabrics

You can design your quilts in other color palettes depending on the different colors you want to make your modern scrap quilts.

Choose one color family for more modern designs. Choose lots of larger scrap pieces and bright colors for a more scrappy look.

If you’re looking for more advice on choosing the right fabrics for your improv quilt, you can watch my in depth video below. The video was week 1 of a quilt along using this modern improv scrap quilt approach that I did on my YouTube channel. It it I was more specific about potential measurements for accent and background fabrics.

Step Three: Piecing the Improv Units

I started piecing my quilt units by taking some low-volume strips. A unit in this instance is similar to a quilt block except that they don’t need to all end up the same size.

Some were Jelly Roll strips, and some were leftovers from other things. I chain-pieced them with the Ruby star scraps and the flying geese blocks.

I was trying to add the low volume fabric to one side of each of the scraps or oprhan blocks.

It didn’t matter if it was the long side or the short side. I just grabbed them and put them wherever they fit on the strip.

Rather than showing photos of the steps here, I think it is easiest to watch the video tutorial. It will give you a better idea of how the quilt block units are formed. The instructions for piecing start at 02:14:

More Piecing Advice

Once each scrap had been attached to a low volume strip, I trimmed and pressed each unit.

I only trimmed one side at this point – the side where the seams joined between the low volume and the scrap – so I could then sew on to that.

I didn’t trim them all down to a set size, I just tidied them up a bit and moved on to the next step.

Basically, you just need another straight edge to sew on your next piece of fabric.

Next I took one of the larger low volume remnants, I didn’t measure it so I don’t know exactly what size it was, I didn’t even iron it.

First, just cut it along the fold lines as I had it stored. At this point, I was looking to create pieces of fabric that were at least long enough to sew onto my existing units.

I cut them much wider than the initial low volume strips. You can make them as wide or narrow as you like.

I was prepared to just keep adding fabric to my units until the whole quilt top was the size I wanted it to be – this is the perfect way to use up your scrap stash.

Once I had these new pieces of low volume fabric I chain pieced again, adding the units created above to these new pieces of fabric – again on any side.

I then repeated the process of trimming and pressing and repeated the same again on the remaining sides with other large low volume remnants.

So eventually the aim is to have the colored scrap surrounded on three sides by your background fabric whether that is all one fabric or lots of different remnants like mine.

Watch A More Detailed Video

Since making this quilt, I’ve made another Modern Improv Scrap Quilt, where I went into much deeper detail about how to piece the scraps and fabrics into units and sections. You can watch it here:

Step Three: Joining Sections to Make Your Quilt Top

Then you will have these units or blocks, and it becomes a kind of jigsaw puzzle operation of trying to fit them together.

modern scrap quilt blocks
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

The aim at this point is to build and build into larger sections that can be joined to eventually make the quilt top.

modern scrap quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

More Advice On Joining Sections

To do this you will start by combining some of the smaller units you have made to each other and then trimming off one side or another to make a straight edge that will allow you to join it to another group of units.

If something doesn’t completely fit, add a low volume strip of fabric, or a small scrap of colour. Just add or trim away until you can make your larger units fit together into sections.

This is the fun part! You can see how mine came together over time in the video tutorial above.

Or, even better, you can watch a new video where I describe in much more detail how to join and finish your quilt.

This more recent video was part of a series of three videos that I made for a fun quilt a long.

modern scrap quilt blocks
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
modern scrap quilt tutorial
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
scrap quilt sections
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
modern scrap quilt top
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I eventually ended up with three large sections that I joined together and then the whole thing was trimmed and squared up after I quilted it to the fleece backing.

I pieced my batting for this quilt using my favorite ‘franken-batting’ technique and then did some wonky straight line quilting to join the quilt top, batting, and fleece backing.

You can use your sewing machine to free motion stitch to join all the layers in your quilt or follow the seams of each block.

I used the rest of the low-volume strips I had to make a scrappy low-volume binding.

I love how it turned out, and I think it makes a nice modern wedding quilt.

Finished Modern Improv Scrap Quilt!

modern scrap quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
modern scrap quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
fleece quilt back
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
fleece quilt back
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
scrap quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
modern scrap quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Another Version of my Modern Improv Scrap Quilt

Since this post was first published I have made another version of this quilt as part of a 3 part quilt along series on my YouTube channel (you’ll find the videos throughout this post linked to the different steps). Here is the finished second quilt I made using this method so you can see the difference when using different colors.

improv scrap quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
modern scrap quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Top Tips for Modern Scrap Quilts

  • Before you start, make sure you lay out all your fabric choices so you have an overall plan in your head. You want a well-balanced quilt, with a good mixture of bold colors and solid fabric, patterned fabric, and background fabric (some would say for it to really be modern it should be all solids…but I say you do you!).
  • If this is your first quilt, use one color as the unifying color, and you can’t go too far wrong!
  • Choose a pattern if you’re not sure about the improv style, especially if you’ve never made a quilt before. Not using patterns works better for me, but all our brains work differently. Patterns are great too and you’ll learn a few different quilting techniques by following patterns and then you can have a go at improv later!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make a quilt look modern?

To make a quilt look modern, choose current and on-trend colors and fabric patterns. Negative space (as in more background fabric) is often a hallmark of modern quilts. Bold geometric shapes can also feature. If you want to make your quilt feel typically modern, don’t add different colored borders, and don’t use repeating traditional blocks.

What makes a good scrap quilt?

What makes a good scrap quilt is one of those things that is in the eye of the beholder, but for me a degree of color coordination even when it’s scrappy can make it easier to look at and more pleasing to the eye.

However, there are plenty of folk who love the randomness of picking scraps blindly from their scrap bin and sewing them together without over-thinking…there is space for both approaches with scrappy quilts.

I’d love to know if you try this technique and see how your scrappy quilts turn out!

I’m sure your finished quilt will look completely different to mine – that’s the beauty of this. Every new quilt will be one of a kind.

Tag me on Instagram @scrapfabriclove to show me your creations!

Happy quilting!