Thursday, 8 March 2012


n. the science of scraps - Just Jude Concise Dictionary

I love working with scraps ('tell me something I didn't know' I hear you say!).

The other evening I was over-analysing (again!) while putting together a bag for my daughter's friend's birthday (clearly I need to get out more!).

Is the ability to put scraps together cohesively an art form or a science?

For me most of the time it is just instinctive.  I pull out what I have, audition pieces together, and get a 'feel' for what works and what doesn't.  You have to be brave doing this, because the nature of working with scraps from different decades means they don't necessarily 'match'. 

But on closer analysis, I think that's where the science comes in.

Taking this bag as an example, I realised there were certain 'rules' at play, that I was subconsciously following, but had never really verbalised them before.  

Side A
As a tutor, it's not enough for me to just 'know' how to do something, I also need to be able to effectively communicate the process to others.

Side B
So the rules I found myself following last night were:

* Start with one or two scraps that you like and build around them:  I had started with the brief that this person isn't a girly girl, but not a tom-boy either, who loves the colour purple.  So I'd pulled out some purple, aqua, orange & red to get me started.
* Go with your gut (not v.scientific I realise!): I somehow knew that true green wouldn't work here, despite getting short on a variety of scraps and trying green in there.  It was horrible, and I just proved to myself what I already knew.
* Keep the scale of the prints as similar as possible.  Larger scale flowers or patterns won't work in with these smaller prints - the squares are only 4" finished.
* Occassionally put squares side by side which have an element of the same colour in them.  E.g. you can have 2 v.different squares, which may both have a bit of purple in them.
* Don't be afraid and don't discount anything until you've auditioned it.  I was initially staying away from pink due to the brief, but realised I needed pink in here to lift the other colours and bridge the darks and lights.
* Even fugly fabrics can work alongside 'nicer' prints!  I realise I'm walking on dangerous territory here with some of you, but I've never been in the luxurious position where I can afford to be picky, and have proven to myself time and again that you can still get a cohesive and beautiful whole from parts that aren't necessarily pretty.

Now this finished item will not be to everyone's taste.  But when I step into certain high street bag shops, I don't always like what is on display, but they still 'work'.

Personally I love this bag!  It reflects the personality of the recipient and the maker.  And if someone made this form me when I was turning 13 I'd be stoked!

An inner pocket peeking out!
So, is scrapology an art form or a science?  I think, as with all patchwork and quilting, it is both!

I'd love to hear what 'rules' you follow when working with scraps.

 P.s. Thank you everyone for your patience as I transition from Rags to Bags to Just Jude.  It's been quite a challenge for this techno-numpty, but I'm getting there with a little help from my friends!  Jxo


  1. I love the bag!! I think my rules are much the same as yours...I always start with a focus fabric. It doesn't always make it into the final cut (but usually does!) but it I find it helps to focus my mind on what I want...good luck with the new blog - I hope the transition becomes less bumpy from now!!

  2. For a self-confessed techno-numpty you're doing grand my friend. You are much loved and will be forgiven all sorts just so long as we can all still reach you!!

    Gorgeous fun bag for the friend's birthday - hope it's appreciated.

    I am probably a scrap coward - I lack confidence in putting scraps together and worry that it's just going to look like a random fabric dump! Or even that it will look too controlled and then not really scrappy at all! I love the current resurgence of the granny square blocks, but just know I will have a scrap crisis if I start down that path for these reasons - how do you balance fabric dump vs controlled pattern to achieve a proper scrappy look? Hmmm, now you've got me thinking I might just have to have a go at granny squares to challenge myself!

  3. I really like this bag to the point of lust! I don't have the knack of putting colours and prints together and so often my makes look a little 'samey' (not sure that is a word but you get my meaning). I am trying to broaden my horizons as I really like the scrappy but balanced feel. Interesting post Judith and it gives me much to think about! Di xo

  4. I love the bag Judith, I'm big into bags also.
    I think when I'm working with scraps I pick one of my fav fabrics first then just add what I feel looks good with it, I would always as you have done here put a good size piece of either a solid or a fav of mine black with tiny white polka dots.
    I'm gonna try some granny squares soon also :)
    Karen x

  5. I agree, thats an excellent bag to get when one is turning 13! Thanks for the tips, I will keep them in mind as I muddle through the next scrappy piece.

  6. I think value is key to deciding which scraps will play together. As a keen gardener I strongly believe that nature rarely gets it wrong so nothing really goes badly with something else - isn't it hard to explain!? But you can break all the rules and get something really beautiful. Sometimes you have to take risks. And you are right you can 'lose' fuggly fabric amongst beautiful scraps. My hexie quilt is case in point. Some swappers got very precious about what they'd swap because they only wanted certain designers. Mine worked so well because I mixed in a range. Some fabrics were truly ugly but mixed in amongst others they shone and looked better as a whole.

  7. I am so happy to have found your blog. I think so much of what an artist creates is from a native instinct. This instinct or sense of creativity can be enhanced through study.....learning about focus fabric, etc. The idea that the beauty of a piece comes from the sum of its parts is so true as seen in this lovely bag you've made. I love creating from scraps and just finished a mini quilt that I posted about today. I am a new follower. I don't want to miss a thing you post! Deb.

  8. I would be happy if someone made me that at any age. Great gift and thanks for talking us through the fabric picking process. I tend to go with blind luck and faith most of the time, and then rip out when I realise how wrong it is.


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