Scrap Squares.

Scraps! I’m not sure where you fall on the scrap spectrum, but for me they can get out of control. In an effort to cut down on my scrap pile, here’s a new thing I’ve been trying this year–and I think it is helping. These scrap squares are just the colorful break and productive way to deal with scraps that I needed.

scrap squares . carolyn friedlander


I’m a scrap saver, mostly because I find scraps to be handy. Whether I’m paper piecing, appliquรฉing, thinking about new color schemes, it is less daunting to work from a pile of scraps than it is to work from something more precious and pristine like yardage. But then it is hard to part with scraps, and the piles become unruly.

scrap squares . carolyn friedlander

The Plan

The idea is simple, but by giving myself clear direction and purpose it is much easier to act. Any random pieces of fabric–usually leftovers from a project–are cut into 2 1/2″ squares. Then I sew them back together into 16-piece scrap squares (4 squares x 4 squares). Of course, you could do more/less squares, choose a different size, whatever. This is enough of a plan for now for me. I am going for a bit of a checkerboard in terms of the value with repeated fabric choices in a block or split up depending on what is available in the fabric pile.

scrap squares . carolyn friedlander

This strategy has been especially helpful after cutting out a garment or other project that leaves you with random sizes and shapes of fabric. It’s satisfying to cut those things down into tidy stacks of squares. Plus, I like seeing remnants of those garments in my patchwork.

scrap squares . carolyn friedlander


After I cut the scraps into squares, I file them away in this handy little box. Having a place for things and everything in its place is key. Then when I have a few extra minutes, need to clear my head, want to explore a color combination and/or just want to sew I can hit the box. It’s a great creative reprieve when you need it.

scrap squares . carolyn friedlander

Sometimes I get an idea for fabrics that I want to see together, and this is a satisfying way to put an idea into action without getting too carried away. There are some fun finds here that I could explore more in other projects or just enjoy that they found their way in to this one.

scrap squares . carolyn friedlander

I’m sort of keeping the blocks similar in terms of color, but who knows. Maybe that’ll change if the mood strikes. Every once in awhile I’ll pull out the blocks and think about different arrangements.

scrap squares . carolyn friedlander

This is also a great place for mini charms that I’ve picked up at shows from other designers. I love seeing their prints next to mine and the variety they add to the project.

scrap squares . carolyn friedlander

There we go. I can’t say that the scrap piles have fully disappeared, but I can say that a lot of it has been diverted to a more orderly place with a colorful outcome in mind.

scrap squares . carolyn friedlander

Pattern: None. It’s 2 1/2″ squares sewn together in groups of 16.

Fabric: Scraps from many of mine, plus others’ like Elizabeth Hartman, Violet Craft, Anna Graham and Liberty Of London.

scrap squares . carolyn friedlander

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35 Responses to Scrap Squares.

  1. Karen July 14, 2020 at 3:42 pm #

    I love what I’m seeing on your wall, Carolyn! It’s always so much fun to play around with fabrics and see where it leads!

    • carolyn friedlander July 15, 2020 at 9:07 am #

      For sure! It’s a great creative challenge.

  2. rebeca July 14, 2020 at 3:54 pm #

    Your scrappy idea is fantastic as well as all your other non-scrappy ideas from this month-plus your garment sewing. You were born with great talent-your blocks really look great on the wall. thank you.

    • carolyn friedlander July 15, 2020 at 9:06 am #

      Thank you! It’s nice to mix things up sometimes. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Marcia July 14, 2020 at 6:11 pm #

    This is a great idea! I want to start doing it today. Would you mix substrates in the same block or in the same finished top, such as Essex, straight linen and quilting cotton?

    • carolyn friedlander July 15, 2020 at 9:06 am #

      Yep! I have a mixture here. It’s mostly quilting cotton, but there’s some Essex as well. If down the road I add anything that is too drapey, I’ll just be careful, but so far everything is stable enough that it all works out. Also, I’m pressing seams open, which might matter less for different fabrics, but it’s keeping everything nice and flat.

      • Marcia July 15, 2020 at 4:45 pm #

        Ooh good tips! Just finished cutting all the 2 1/2 inch squares from my current mask making scraps. I’m loving that these scraps will be part of a positive memory of a small constructive action taken during this tough year and beyond.

        • carolyn friedlander July 17, 2020 at 3:16 pm #

          I love that, Marcia! ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Gayle July 17, 2020 at 3:52 pm #

          Marcia, Iโ€™ve been doing the same thing with my mask scraps – 2 1/2 and 2 inch squares and the kid sized quilts go to a program in Michigan for children of prisoners. Makes all this staying at home just a bit more purposeful.

          • Marcia July 17, 2020 at 5:04 pm #

            Beautiful Gayle!

          • carolyn friedlander July 20, 2020 at 12:07 pm #

            Love that, Gayle!

  4. Marcia July 14, 2020 at 6:12 pm #

    Also, that combo on the wall is inspiring!

    • carolyn friedlander July 15, 2020 at 9:06 am #

      Thank you! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with too!

  5. Diana July 17, 2020 at 3:11 pm #

    I have been trying to wrestle my scraps this summer and chose to cut my scraps to 2.5 inch squares. I happened to group the fabric into colors and have been placing in a clear box just like yours! Now I have a wonderful idea on what to do with them!

    • carolyn friedlander July 17, 2020 at 3:15 pm #

      Oh nice, Diana! Great Minds… ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. DeeDee July 17, 2020 at 3:36 pm #

    Just gorgeous, Carolyn!
    I love your idea but I always have trouble sewing 2.5 inch squares.
    Somehow they never measure up well after sewing 4 or more together into a patch.
    Any tips for accurate sewing these babies?
    Thanks again. You are so talented!

    • carolyn friedlander July 20, 2020 at 12:11 pm #

      Of course, DeeDee! I might put a quick video together, because I think this is a great question. In general I’m always careful not to stretch at any step–sewing, pressing, etc. Also, you can be conscious about cutting your fabrics on grain, or parallel to selvage as opposed to on the bias. This will prevent stretching as well. I’m pressing all of my seams open, with a seam roller first before pressing with an iron. I find this works well. Another consideration is that you can plan to trim your 16-patch blocks down, which will assure they’re all the same size no matter how you sew them together. Hope these ideas help!

      • DeeDee July 20, 2020 at 1:03 pm #

        Wonderful tips, Carolyn!
        I so appreciate your taking the time to help me out. I’ve been wanting to get a seam roller and you just reminded me to follow through. And maybe I will try cutting little squares just a wee bigger, too. I am probably just not taking my time.
        You’re the BEST!

  7. Candace L Strong July 17, 2020 at 7:47 pm #

    Question: when using scraps, do you make an effort to cut on the grain of the fabric? If so, how much of an effort? Clearly if you aren’t too concerned about following the grain, you can get more squares from your scraps. And I would guess grain doesn’t matter a bit when improv piecing of with non-90 degree shapes.

    • carolyn friedlander July 20, 2020 at 12:06 pm #

      Great question, Candace. In general, I do try to cut along the grain, just for stability. However, I can totally see what you’re saying, and if that were the case I might choose to cut according for the best yield. Just be careful not to stretch when sewing them together.

  8. Julie July 17, 2020 at 9:02 pm #

    Love scraps! Love the inspiration!

    • carolyn friedlander July 20, 2020 at 12:04 pm #

      Glad you like it, Julie!

  9. donnac368 July 18, 2020 at 5:12 pm #

    16 Patch! Like it better than 9.

    • carolyn friedlander July 20, 2020 at 12:04 pm #

      Yeah! Gives you more options to spice it up. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Susan Nixon July 19, 2020 at 10:16 pm #

    2.5″ is the size I cut my scraps into, also. 16-patches, 9-patches, 25-patches, and lots of Wedding Dress Blue patterns that use them up. Yet I’m never without a huge pile. How does that work after making a dozen quilts?

    • carolyn friedlander July 20, 2020 at 12:03 pm #

      Sounds great, Susan! I know, it’s such a mystery how it never ends! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Therese July 20, 2020 at 1:31 pm #

    Such a fun project! Using up scraps is one of the projects I like best. No pressure if something doesn’t come out like I planned! At times I over think using precuts, looking for the perfect thing to make. Give me scraps!

    • Janine Nankervis July 21, 2020 at 8:56 am #

      You hit the nail on the head there! Those dang things multiply when Iโ€™m sleeping!!

      • carolyn friedlander July 23, 2020 at 9:25 am #

        they do! haha!

    • carolyn friedlander July 23, 2020 at 9:26 am #

      Yes, exactly! Not feeling precious makes it super liberating!

  12. Jodi July 21, 2020 at 12:44 am #

    Thanks for the reminder! I have a bin full of different size scraps squares – and I need something mindless. Perfect! Yours are lovely!

    • carolyn friedlander July 23, 2020 at 9:25 am #

      yeah! Can’t wait to see what you put together. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Amanda July 27, 2020 at 10:02 pm #

    This is such a great idea, Carolyn! I have so many scraps that are sentimental to me (dresses for my growing daughter, baby quilts, etc) that I hate to part with but with odd sizes Iโ€™m not quite sure what to do with them! Iโ€™ve also never considered a seam roller, will have to check it out!

    Unrelated to the quilt, I just LOVE your wall paint color. Do you mind sharing the name of it? It reminds me of Kona Fog in the best way (my favorite solid, if I had to choose). ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • carolyn friedlander July 30, 2020 at 4:51 pm #

      Yeah, the color is definitely Kona Fog-ish, which I love too! It’s Behr Marquee in Rhino, and I’m so glad you like it. ๐Ÿ™‚


  1. Colorful Quilts for my Niece : carolyn friedlander quilts - October 9, 2020

    […] from the 2 mini charm packs from Bunny’s with 2 1/2″ squares added in from my stash (my 2 1/2″ square stash!). It’s a simple, checkerboard layout with the stash pieces going between the Japanese prints. […]

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