Sunday, July 26, 2009


I decided to try to write a tutorial on how to make a "Down To The Last Scrap" quilt block. Blocks like this have other names, too...string blocks, crumb blocks, mile-a-minute blocks, and more. But I like to call it "Down To The Last Scrap" because you use almost every bit of your scrap fabrics. These blocks are not necessarily quick, but very satisfying for me. My favorite size to make is 12.5" unfinished, so these intructions show that size. But you can make any size you want! The most important rule...NO RULES!

The first step is to gather together your scraps. I have so many scraps, I decided to use just blues this time. So, I got together small blue squares and rectangles, including odd shaped ones; strings (uneven strips/trimmings leftover from previous projects); and strips I've cut in the past, any width. It makes it a little easier to work on the blocks if you sort your scraps into 3 different groups...1) Small squares, rectangles, triangles, & short strips...2) Longer, narrow strips - up to about 2.5" wide...3) Longer, wide strips - wider than 2.5"

I usually start this way....I pick-up a long narrow strip. Don't think about which one to pick! Lay it right side up on your machine bed. Now pick up a small scrap, and lay it right side down on the strip, and stitch it on with a 1/4" seam. Add another small scrap and stitch it on. I like to work on 4 blocks at a time, so I make 4 of these starters. I leave at least 1/2 inch between each piece for trimming, especially if there is an angle on one of the pieces because you'll have to continue the angle out onto the piece you are adding. You'll understand this better when it happens to you!
Take this strip to the iron and press. Pressing is the most important part of this process, so don't pass it up! (OK...this is a rule!) It doesn't matter which direction you press, but I usually press toward the piece I just added.

After pressing, you can cut the segments apart. Sometimes I just use my scissors, and cut them apart right at my ironing board. But if there is a wide area to trim, or an angle, I go to my cutting mat and use a ruler and cutter. Since this is a "wonky" block, and each one will grow at different rates and shapes, DO NOT square up until you are finished with it....the only trimming you have to do is make sure the outside edges are straight after each addition. (OK...there are 2 rules!)

Take your segments back to the machine and pick up another long strip, and stitch as before. Press and cut segments apart. If there is part of the long strip left, put it in your scrap pile!

Usually at about this point, I start using my short strips to add onto the segments. At anytime you can use any scrap you want. But to make it truly interesting and fun, DO NOT "decide" which fabrics to put together into a block! I use any scrap that will fit the side I'm adding onto. The only rule I have about fabric choice is to not use the same fabric more than once in each block. But that is a rule for myself, and you can do whatever you want!
Keep adding onto you block. I add onto a side that will keep the block more of a square. I use the small and/or skinny pieces in the center of the block, and when it gets close to the right size, I start adding wider strips on the outside, so that when I square it up, I'm not too close to a seam.

When the block gets close to the right size, I'll start using my 12.5" ruler to see where I need to add onto. Remember, this is a "wonky" block, so you can lay your ruler on it at an angle to get your square. If you have bits that you trim off that are at least an inch wide, throw them in your scrap pile to use in another block! You'll be surprised how little you end up throwing away.
When its big enough, lay your ruler on and carefully square up your block. I usually press it one more time, using fabric finish or starch.

These are the 4 blocks I worked on for this tutorial. As you can see, they are fun to look at! And it makes the pioneer woman in me happy to know that I didn't waste fabric! If you've made blocks like this, or if this tutorial prompts you to try it , please send me pictures! I'd love to see them!

1 comment:

  1. This tutorial is really helpful--I'm starting to gain scraps and this is a perfect use for them!


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