Scrappy Improv Quilt Squares

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One way I like to cut down on my growing scrap fabric pile is by making what I call my scrappy quilt squares.

At the end of an evening, when I’m too tired to work properly on whatever my main sewing project is, I make a couple of scrap fabric improv quilt squares to wind down.

scrappy improv quilt squares

An update version of this post including a video tutorial can be found on our sister site Upcycle My Stuff.

scrappy improv quilt squares
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I don’t call them quilt blocks because they really are just little squares!

They measure 3 & 1/2″ square.

Three and a Half Inch Squares

Why 3 & 1/2″?

Well because I got a set of acrylic templates 3 or 4 months ago when I started making these squares and out of the different sizes that were in the pack it just seemed a manageable size!

You don’t have to sew for very long to get your scraps large enough to cut a 3 & 1/2″ square out of!

So it’s satisfying to finish a little something at the end of the night without too much effort.

scrappy improv quilt square pile
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I have a pretty large growing pile of them now. The intention is to sew them together into a big scrappy quilt when I get enough.

Background Fabric

Because I have a quilt in mind for them, I am trying to use either white or black on the edge of each square and the coloured scraps in the middle.

scrap fabric quilt squares
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

The idea is that when I sew them together it will look like little peekaboo colour on a somewhat homogenous background – albeit they aren’t the same whites because they are scraps too!

So it might be one white based scrappy quilt and one black or maybe I will use the black squares to make a stripe on the quilt backing as I have less of them than the white based ones.

It will still be a long time until I get enough of these to add up to any real size, but I have been enjoying making them and it definitely does help keep the scrap pile at bay…a little!

Improv Sewing Method

I’ve used a few different ways to make these, but my favourite is the one I’ve illustrated in the images below.

Basically unlike a log cabin sort of approach where you are trying to line up straight edges I let myself cross over at angles and then trim a bit of excess fabric off when I need to.

It gives a more organic, almost floral look – or at least I think it does!

Really I suppose I am just trying not to think about it too much as I’m doing it, except for reaching for my whites or blacks to finish it off at the end.

Here is how I do it:

scrappy improv sewing
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I start with two pieces not necessarily exactly the same size, but relatively small – crumbs essentially.

scrappy improv sewing
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Then I pick another piece and maybe lay it at an angle. I’ve show above where I would sew and what I would trim off.

scrappy improv quilt blocks
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Then repeat again with the next piece.

I personally iron in between each piece but I know many other folk would probably just finger press to make the whole process faster.

scrappy improv sewing background fabric
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Once I have enough of a coloured centre as I like to call it, I start adding my background fabric – basically whatever white, off-white, or sometimes black fabric I can find to fill in the edges and make up the size of the 3 & 1/2″ square.

In this case it was white scraps for the background from a quilt I’m making a special someone for Christmas – yes I have already started!

ironing scrappy improv block
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

If you weren’t ironing all along, of course you should iron when you have a scrappy improv piece large enough to cut your square out of.

scrappy improv quilt block
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I find the whole process fun, but I really love this bit when I put my acrylic template down and angle it around different ways before squaring it off.

You can get a number of different looks with the same square depending where you choose to cut.

scrappy quilt block square - finished
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

And here is one finished square.

I haven’t yet done the math to figure out how many of these squares I would need for a biggish quilt – don’t want to depress myself!

I’m just going to keep making them until they seem to be too big for my box and then I’ll lay them out and see where I am.

scrappy improv quilt squares
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I’d love to hear your favourite ongoing method for clearing your scrap pile.

I think making a point of using scraps for something specific on a regular basis is a great habit to get into, so I’d love to get some more ideas from you too! Drop me a note in the comments!

The other one I’m doing a lot lately is foundation paper piecing – I’ll write about my favourite free patterns to use with scraps in another post, so stay tuned.

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scrappy quilt blocks

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