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There is a Mystery in My Sewing Room

Where is Nancy Drew When You Need Her?

by Beth Cooper

I need a detective.  There is a mystery in my sewing room.  It is a strange phenomenon that confuses me.  Where do all of these scraps come from?  Do they multiply within their tubs?  I make several scrap quilts per year to use them all up, yet I end up with more.  How does this happen?

Oh, so you understand?  But you have the same problem?  Don’t we all!  What is happening here and how can we stop the madness?

I keep my fabric stash in small clear plastic tubs.  I try not to have an enormous stash because that system doesn’t work for me (I’ve tried!).  I do better with about 15 small tubs.  I would prefer to have five (but that is just me).  The problem is that I keep having to buy more tubs.  I sew daily and always have a project going.  With each project, I use something from my stash.   Sometimes, I use a lot of things from my stash, especially the tubs labeled scraps.  The strange thing about those scrap containers is that they are always full.  Like, I can’t-even-get-the-lid-on-kinda-full. 

As they fill up, I make scrap quilts.  Last year I made 6 scrap quilts in two months as Christmas gifts.  Did I even make a dent in my scrap tubs?  Nope.  What. The. Heck.  And I don’t even keep the tiny scraps.  I know some of you are gasping in surprise at my wastefulness, but I just don’t have room for it all.  And I don’t have the desire to make a project with those tiny pieces.  So in my sewing room, all that gets pitched.  If it can’t be cut into a 2 ½” square, I don’t keep it. 

One of my favorite scrap quilts to make. There are different versions but this is Scrap Happy featured in the October 2017 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting Magazine. The quilt is designed by ChristaQuilts and is a gorgeous way to use those scraps!

My best guess is that there are elves who come into my sewing room at night and add to my scrap boxes.  The truth is that I am just creating scraps at a faster rate than I am using them (even though I don’t want to admit that!  The elves story is much cooler.)  So, how do I stop the insanity?  Here’s what I am doing to help the situation:

1.  Throwing more scraps away or donating to someone who loves working with scraps. If I don’t think I’ll use a certain fabric again, why keep it?  I am allowing myself to throw some things away.  It’s okay.  I’ve already gotten the good out of the fabric.  I never signed a contract stating that I would use 100% of said fabric when I purchased it.  Let. It. Go.

2.  Pre-cutting those pesky scraps.  I’ve started cutting odd leftover pieces into 2 ½” squares, 5” squares, 10” squares, and 2 ½” strips.  It’s like making my own jelly rolls and layer cakes.  It’s working out beautifully.  I am more organized and it takes up less space.  I’ll eventually have a small clear tub for each category instead of just a haphazard pile of scraps in a tub.

3.  Plan more scrap projects.  If you don’t like having a huge scrap bin like me, the only logical solution is to use them up.  I am obviously not using mine fast enough.  I am going to step up my game and throw more scrap projects into my game plan.  There are approximately one jillion projects out there that work well with scraps.  Game on.

My goal is to have my elf scrap problem under control a year from now.  I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

‘Til next time,


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Ruth Fedora
Ruth Fedora
1 year ago

I understand your scrap problem. I am presently making a scrap quilt. I like, but it is not solving my problem. Husband just shakes his head. I have a small room and thought I try to clean up. My children really don’t care to sew or quilt and am 82 yrs. old. Solution I will continue to quilt and they can deal with the scraps. Really liked your note. Happy holiday.

Donna Haft
Donna Haft
1 year ago

Dear Beth,

How you inspire me! Like you, I have had to buy more bins, more times than I can count. I even switched to decorative boxes, thinking they would be a prettier presence in the many places I have found to display and store them. I have been hard at work this year making many uses of my scraps and stash. One good thing is I never get bored. There is always something different to work on, and there is no better feeling than watching the look of wonder on the faces of those who receive their own quilt to love. They are so happy to hold the magic of warmth and time-tested beauty in their own hands.
I love your featured quilt so much, and I am so happy to see it for the first time. Perhaps you will see one of my quilts here soon.
Thank you for your inspiration and sharing your wonderful project. It is absolutely beautiful!

Happy Sewing,

Mea Cadwell
Mea Cadwell
11 months ago

I have this same problem.
Personally, I believe those lost socks and/or missing mittens go through a vortex and end up as fabric scraps on the other side.

11 months ago

Can I just say… I love your fresh take on quilting, crafts and notions. Love your weekly newsletter and really love how you’re keeping Nancy’s Notion alive! Thank you!

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