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5 ideas for using large-size leftover fabric in quilting projects

by Paul Leger

During the past four days, I highlighted the cutting tools and sewing notions I used to make the three scrappy quilts. They’re all important tools but the one notion we sometimes ignore the most is the sewing needles. Yesterday, I wrote a little about thread size versus needle size and the importance of using the correct needles. For those who are unsure of which to buy, the most popular needles with quilters are the SCHMETZ #1709 Universal Needles 80/12 and the SCHMETZ #1710 Universal Needles 90/14. Always have some in your notions drawer.

Two – five packs of SCHMETZ needles, size 80/12 and 90/14

SCHMETZ needles

Like sewing machine needles, we don’t change our rotary cutting blades often enough. When should the blades be changed? Well, in my opinion, these are some situations, but not limited to when to replace rotary cutting blades:

×          when dull,

×          when nicked,

×          when cutting but some of the fabric’s threads remain uncut,

×          when it sounds like it’s cutting through paper, and

×          when cutting batting, fibers get stuck in the cutting mat.

Remember a blade should cut through fabrics like a hot knife cuts through butter.

OLFA rotary cutter and package of 45mm OLFA rotary cutter blades

OLFA rotary cutter and blades

Today I’m talking about sharing ideas on ways to use larger scraps or fabrics from your stash.

The first idea is one of using strips. Use them as bindings. What better way than to use scrap strips for a scrap quilt?


In the photo below I used 2” wide strips as I was machine sewing the binding. If I would have hand sewn it on, then I would have used 2½” wide strips.


How long were the strips? Some strips were regular lengths of fabric others were shorter and one was longer as it was cut from a long length of fabric.

The corner of a quilt shows the binding made with two different fabrics.

A binding made with a variety of 2” strips.

How many times have we gone into a quilt shop and purchased a yard of fabric just because we liked it? Too often in my case!

And so, what to do with all those beautiful fabrics? Backings, make large backings. This is a great way to use up those yard cuts.

Nine different fabrics are used to make a queen-size quilt backing.

Backing made with unused fabric.

Another thing I do all the time is when I buy fabrics for a specific project is buy more than I need. I ask for an extra ¼ to ⅓ yard more. “Just in case”. I have made mistakes and I’ve been happy to have the extra to fix my mistakes but in many cases, I still had an extra ¼ to ⅓ yard of unused fabric. What I’ve done in this case is I make sure they’re the same width and length, and then I sew them together to make backings.

Multiple pieces of fabric are pieced together to make a wonderful backing.

Using leftover yardage for backing.

Now what to do with all those fat quarters (FQ) we buy, because they were cute or on sale? I make sure to cut them all to the same size, which should be approximately 18” x 21”. Like with the above two ideas, I sew the FQs to make up a backing.

A quilt backing made with 12 fat quarters.

Backing made with fat quarters.

I know we all have great intentions to use what we buy for a project. Unfortunately, for many reasons, some of those projects do not get made and the fabrics remain in our stashes. The fabrics do look good and tempting, but they don’t get used. Make backings.


When I do these backings, I don’t have any particular quilts to match them to. Because I like to make large quilts, the backings I sew together are approximately 80” x 100” in size. I also make some smaller backings knowing I’ll also make small bed quilts for my nieces and nephew.


Now there’s one more small dilemma. As many of the backings are always bigger than the quilt itself, what to do with all the extra fabric from those backings? Cut more scrap squares and strips to make more quilts. Don’t waste anything.

Cut squares from scraps using the OLFA rotary cutter and an OLFA 6” x 12” ruler.

Cutting squares from scraps

Before I finish, I wish to highlight again some of the tools I used this week in the making of these quilts.

GÜTERMANN Cotton 50wt Thread 250m – Lt. Slate

GÜTERMANN Cotton 50wt Thread 250m – Ivory

INFINITI Thread Snips – Black – 4½” (11.4cm)

OLFA QR-6×24 – 6″ x 24″ Frosted Acrylic Ruler

OLFA RTY-2/C – Splash Handle Rotary Cutter 45mm – Aqua

OLFA RB45-2 – Tungsten Tool Steel Rotary Blade 45mm – 2pc

SCHMETZ #1709 Universal Needles Carded – 80/12 – 5 count

SCHMETZ #1710 Universal Needles Carded – 90/14 – 5 count

Two spools of Gütermann Cotton 50wt Thread in a light Lt. Slate and Ivory color, an OLFA 6″ x 24″ ruler, an aqua coloured OLFA 45mm Rotary Cutter, a package 45mm OLFA rotary blades and two packages of SCHMETZ Universal Needles Carded, one is size 80/12 and the other is 90/14.

Quilting tools and notions

This brings this week’s posts to an end. It’s unfortunate as I have more ideas to share. Now everyone, go cut up those scraps and make a fun quilt.

This is part 5 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 4: Scrap Quilt 3 – working with 1½” x 1½” fabric scraps


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