Scrappy Sundays – Log Cabin

Log Cabin is such a classic (and simple) design; although often seen with a limited number of fabrics it is one that cries out to be made from scraps – as it would have been back in ‘the Olden Days’. These are two of Barbara’s vintage quilts – the black and light one is just a coverlet (no wadding) while the other one is a folded Log Cabin.

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The basic premise of the block is that you start with a central shape – usually a square and then stitch strips around. The strips are usually the same width so you should end up with a neat collection of squares when you finish. The number of strips you add is up to you – stop when you get bored! The more strips you add the bigger the block; the wider the strips, the bigger the block; the bigger the central square, the bigger the block. Talking of which – your central square could be an orphan block or a random orphan unit such as a half-square triangle. Likewise, in theory, you make half the block from light fabrics and half from dark – like the black and light quilt above. But you don’t have to. These blocks are again some vintage ones from Barbara’s collection.

If you use different width strips – narrow light ones (say) and wider dark ones then you can get the illusion of circles or curves in your quilt. You do need to make a less than subtle difference in the widths for this to show up properly. Chris’s autumnal quilt only has a slight difference in the widths of the strips.

Autumn woodland LC

Having half the block light and half dark – whether the strips are the same width or not – can allow you to play with all sorts of settings before you decide which one to stitch together.

You don’t have to have all the same size strips either – you can make a ‘wonky’ log cabin block by randomly stitching different sizes of strip around the centre and then trim everything square and the same size at the end (thus creating even more scraps, but tiny ones), or add a border around each block to make them square.

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You can find the pattern to make the quilt this collection of blocks eventually turned into in British Patchwork and Quilting magazine July 2019 issue – and the finished blocks did not look like the photo above, that was just one try-out!

Or you can, as Ann Jermey has done with these ones, stitch random strips around squares and/or rectangles to make a variety of blocks to put together into a quilt, with a neat sashing to hold it all together.

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Although all these quilts are ‘scrappy’ they have one thing in common – they stuck to a particular colour palette (autumnal) or a particular fabric type (hand-dyes and flannels).

And one thing you can never have too many of – books for inspiration!

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Scrappy Sunday – hexagons

The humble hexagon is perfectly suited to scrap patchwork – it’s an easy shape to work with whether hand piecing or English Paper Piecing (EPP) and it offers countless possibilities for arrangement.  There are many resources for instruction and information on hexagon patchwork online and in print – put “hexagons” in a Pinterest, YouTube or Google search as a starter and in recent print we would recommend “All Points Patchwork” by Diane Gilleland and “English Paper Piecing” by Florence Knapp (aka Flossie Teacakes).

Here are some details from one or two of the vintage hexagon pieces that have found us over the years – first careful joining to create a specific effect, careful joining to make sufficient fabric to complete the hexagon shape and thirdly not quite so careful joining of two different hexagon pieces together to make something larger –


For our first Scrappy Sunday featuring hexagons we are going to take a quick look at just a few of the different arrangements in small, manageable units.  Start small and build up to using many small units to make something of size.  If you catch the hexie bug (and many people do) we recommend investing in a pad of isometric graph paper for planning larger scale all-over designs.


One of the most familiar hexagon arrangements is a rosette – six hexagons surrounding a seventh, central hexagon.  We think the easiest way to piece the rosette is to make a strip of 2 hexagons, a strip of 3 hexagons and a strip of 2 hexagons and then work 2 zigzag seams.



We rather like a “wave” arrangement –

Six hexagons make a triangular unit which has some possibilities –


4 hexagons can be joined together to form a lozenge shape which will tessellate as an all over pattern

or, add a hexagon to opposite sides of a rosette –

We wanted to include a piece that Chris made quite a few years ago – how good does this look?  Bright scraps, strongly contrasting fabric and stitching -great result.


So much to say and show on the topic of hexagons, but we’ll call a halt here and revisit the humble hexagon a little further along in our Scrappy Sundays series.  Happy stitching!



Scrappy Sunday 3

One idea we both had was to cut our scraps into 2½ inch wide strips. Barbara even went one step further and cut strips from all her fabrics. We have also been seduced by the handy packs of 2½ inch strips (a.k.a ‘jellyrolls’ etc) and each have a little selection of unopened as well as part used ones. But what to do with those strips and squares once you have them?

Here’s one idea from Chris which used 2 1/2 inch strips and squares but could be used with any size – providing they were all the same width.

jellyroll leftovers

You need a collection of leftover (or newly created from scraps) 2½ inch strips and squares in assorted colours and /or prints and in a contrast plain such as white/cream or navy/black/dark grey. The plains can be all different fabrics – they are in Chris’s quilt – but they need to be the same colour and value. The block will finish at 12 inches if you use 2 1/2 inch wide strips and squares.

4-patch centreMake 4-patch centres either by joining two strips and then cutting into 2½ inch slices, turning one slice and stitch together or by joining four 2½ inch squares. You can find out more on how to make these units here.

You need one of these units for each block.

Corner units are made by again either joining two strips and cutting into 2½ inch slices or joining two 2½ inch squares. These pairs of squares are then stitched to a 2½ x 4½ inch strip.  Use a background strip with pairs of colour/print squares and a colour/print strip for pairs of background plus colour square. You will need two of each sort for a block.

other unitsRemaining units are 2½ x 4½ inch rectangles of background and colour/print stitched together.

You need four of these for each block.


Stitch the units together as shown – taking care with the placement of the background strips.

top row

centre row

bottom row


Stitch the rows together – reversing the bottom row – to complete the block.

Make as many blocks as you can or you feel like. Join them together to make a quilt top, or a runner, or a wall-hanging or  . . .

Further strips can be used to construct a border.

You can find another free pattern to make two little quilts from left-over 2 1/2 inch strips on our Free Patterns page.

cot quilt

Or there is this quilt from our Payhip shop which uses 2 1/2 inch strips and squares.



Scrappy Sunday 2

Still talking about the management of scraps –  one noteworthy system that is quite widely practised (but not by us!) is to cut leftover fabric into useful sizes and shapes.  So for example you could cut leftovers and oddments into 2 1/2inch squares and store them in a box marked 2 1/2inch squares.  Similarly, cut smaller scraps into 1 1/2inch squares and store them in their own marked box.  Other boxes could contain 2 1/2inch width strips of varied length, 1 1/2inch strips of varied length, 5inch squares, 10inch squares (think Charm Packs and Layer Cakes here).  Once upon a time Barbara even devoted a book and scores of classes to a system for cutting up fat quarters into useful shapes with minimum waste (Fast Quilts from Fat Quarters, pub David & Charles 2006).  But we digress….

Barbara is not necessarily more organised than Chris when it comes to scraps but she does have a great fondness for ziplock bags and those lovely stacking storage boxes with lids. So there’s a bag of blue scraps, a bag of red, a bag of shirtings and neutrals, a bag of black and white – well, you get the picture. These bags contain odd sized bits and small pieces that are left over from previous projects and are fairly easy to switch between the Rural Office and the Overseas Office when necessary. There are two small handy stacking boxes at the Overseas Office and three four five much larger but equally handy stacking boxes (OK, crates – Barbara) at the Rural Office.  Handy stacking boxes in both locations contain fat quarters, fat eighths and other regular sized pieces of fabric and a couple of lavender sachets in each container for good measure. And it really is amazing how much fabric you can squash into one of those boxes if you fold it carefully.











One of Barbara’s wilder ideas for scrap and stash management back in 2017 was to cut a 2 1/2inch strip off  EVERY SINGLE piece of fabric in her stash.  The concept originally was that this would create a stash “reference” which could be kept and possibly eventually used.  It was a very satisfying project to undertake, every piece of fabric was handled, the strip cut and folded and the parent fabric pressed and refolded into the relevant crate. The reference strips are all carefully boxed up at present but may be released and cut into at some point in the near future – perhaps a megahexagon quilt, who knows?!

Several years ago Barbara “rescued” the scrappy quilt below and stored it in The Cupboard – every star block is different and the unknown maker certainly seems to have made great use of her scrapbag.

Scrap (or scrappy style) quilts are enjoying yet another revival at the moment – our long-time favourite print references are “Great Scrap Bag Quilts” and “Scraps can be Beautiful”, both self-published by Jan Halgrimson in the early 1980s.   Well worth searching for secondhand copies and also a great reminder of just how far quilting-related publishing has come over the past 30 years.

More scrappy stuff next Sunday ….

Scrappy Sunday

Welcome to the first (probably) of various posts (probably on a Sunday) about scraps.Before we look at what we/you can or could do with all the accumulated scraps we thought it might be an idea to take a look at organising those scraps. We use the term ‘organising’ very loosely here!

2019-06-23-10.33.10.jpgWe define scraps as those pieces that really aren’t all that big – less than an eighth (fat or thin) – usually, but its a bit of a loose definition. Less than a fat quarter sometimes gets classed as a ‘scrap’, a lone strip from a jelly roll is a scrap, trimmed off triangles are scraps, so are excess units (those ones that get made when you aren’t really concentrating and make twice as many HST units as were required) . . . and trimmings when squaring up a quilt before binding it – those are scraps.

Where do we put them all?

Chris chucks everything into a large plastic sack that hangs from a door, the floor is also a recipient of many of these pieces – her aim isn’t that great! Eventually the sack gets too full and heavy and its time for a sort out. Very small pieces and bits of wadding are either recycled into cushion stuffing, donated to the nursery school for ‘art’, or handed over to the recycling centre. Small cotton shreds are composted. Bigger, usable (possibly) pieces are sorted by colour and chucked into other plastic bags in the cupboard – out of sight, out of mind. Eventually some of these get used: a small piece of a particular colour may be required – there’s sure to be one in a scrap bag, which gets tipped out onto the floor to be rootled through in the (usually) vain hope that a big enough bit in exactly the right colour will magically appear.

Very occasionally the urge to make a truly scrappy quilt arises and all the bags are tipped out, fabric bits are sorted out into different sizes and shapes and usability and then, after a mammoth pressing session, they can be used – providing the urge to make a scrappy quilt has survived all the pre-preparation! If it all gets too out of hand the larger ‘scraps’ get donated (unsorted, unpressed, sorry) to a local Linus group.

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As for storing larger bits of fabric – half-metres, fat quarters, and slightly smaller pieces are stored in baskets, largely by colour. Big chunks of fabric (backings etc) are in another cupboard.

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Barbara is considerably more organised than Chris – as she does a lot of hand-piecing her scraps are sorted into bags ready to be turned into (or already turned into!) hexagons or diamonds or . . . While larger pieces are neatly folded into large crates under the cutting table, fat quarter sized pieces are, again neatly folded, stored on shelves along with pre-cuts.

Some exceedingly organised folk we know cut all all their scraps into sensible sizes – squares, triangles, strips and then store them in labelled boxes. Chris can only marvel! Yet others profess to just binning all left-over pieces. Eek!

So, join us as we try to impose order on the chaos that is Chris’s scrap collection and come up with ideas to use some of it up. (Note – ‘ideas’, not actually do it; never make a promise you can’t keep!)