Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Scrap Attack {with Badskirt Amy}

Artamer.
just one of Amy's iconic hippos.  See more of her animals here.

This is Amy.  Isn't she adorable?  Ok, so this is actually just the face we know and love her by on Flickr, but you get the point.  Soooo much personality.  And lots of fun.

When I first contacted Badskirt Amy about joining in with our Scrap Attack Quilt-Along she was very upfront about having a "unique" perspective on scraps.  She said, "I don't actually own a "scrap bin" of any sort.  I work from FQs or 30cm strips, and cut off what I need as I use them.  Reasonable size pieces are folded back into the fabric shelves rather than put into a scrap bin. If I don't think I'll use it, I give it to local friends who use them in craft fair projects for local school..."

Well, I couldn't leave that alone!  I mean, here we are scrap attacking and there she is humming along with no care scraps in the world.  So off we go on a little interview!

**************

RachelDid you decide from the get go not to keep small scraps or was this approach something that developed over time?  We want the full dish!


Colour and Shape Test.
Colour and Shape test, at Badskirt


AmyI used to be a scrap keeper. When I started out, they filled one small tub. Then two. Then three... The theory was they were scraps and I could use them as I tested out patterns or new ideas. What I realized though is crap is at the core of the word scrap. And if it's crap, why keep it?  To me a piece of fabric is either useful or it isn't. I either love it or I don't. I'm judicious now in deciding what I'll keep. If I have an offcut that's usable to me, then I fold it up neatly and put it back in my fabric stack. Otherwise it goes to donations, friends or sometimes the trash.  (And friends have been known to pick through my sewing room trash in the hopes of finding little scraps.)

I think there is an important distinction between a scrap and a small, special piece of fabric. Not every fabric I buy is special. Not everything I cut is worth keeping.

I'm not sure what brought on the mental shift, but my husband was a big influence. He's the kind of guy who keeps very little.  It evolved over a period of a few years but I soon realized bins of scraps were weighing me down. Though I kept them sorted by colour and size, I'd still spend hours looking through them for just the right fabric for a project. It made no sense, I'd wade through stacks of fabric that I no longer loved in the hopes of finding a tiny square of something I did.

the blacks
part of Amy's stash

So I let them go and haven't looked back. My sewing room and sewing time is much more functional because of it. I don't have a hard and fast rule about what I keep. It's more of a mental checklist.  

a. Do I still like it?
b. Am I likely to use it?
c. Do I think it will play a role in my evolving creative style?
d. Can I store in neatly in a way that I will easily find it?

If it passes all four questions in that checklist, then I keep it. Otherwise, the fabric goes out the door.

Me:  Do you think you have less fabric diversity in your creations since you don't have a scrap stash?  Or does donating scraps actually increase variety I wonder?

Amy:  The truth is that I find having too much fabric paralyzing. As it stands, I have a large and usable stash. Let's be honest for a minute. If WW3 broke out tomorrow, I'm comfortable that I'd have enough fabric to survive a long war.   That's not to say my stash is huge. It's not. As a lover of colour and design, I buy new fabric because I am enamoured with the print. I buy new fabric because it helps me move in a new creative direction or helps me explore colour, shape and scale. Buying new fabric is a good thing. By purging scraps and old fabric, I keep my stash in check.  My stash is also evolving. Fabrics I like today are different to fabrics I liked three years ago.  So I've adopted an "out with the old and in with the new" approach.  

Purging scraps means I have less variety immediately available, but in the long run it has led to more diversity moving through my stash. It also helps me overcome fabric paralysis. For me, having too much choice can be just as bad as having not enough.

More tidy shelves.
Amy's tidy space

Me:  From examining your notes on your stash picture (see notes on Flickr) it seems that you organize your fabrics sometimes by color and sometimes by project.  Does it get pretty crazy in there sometimes?  How easy is it for you to find things?  Is an organized stash important to you anyways?

Amy:  If you asked me last year about how crazy my studio got, I would have have a different answer. Today though, I can honestly say that I've found a system that works for me. I could walk in with my camera and take a photo and it would look much the same as the one shown. It is exceptionally well organized and tidy. I've tried a number of organizational methods. I've sorted purely by colour. I've sorted purely by size. I've sorted by designer. For me, I found those methods didn't gel with how I approach projects. While the themes seem random, I've mentally categorized all my fabric by potential future project. I know that the orange stripes are with the teal dots waiting for me to dive in to the road trip print. I know there's a stack of yellow and black intended for  my pinwheel project. I know the nature prints are all near each other. Most importantly, I've mentally catalogued every piece of fabric in my stash. I'm lucky that the database in my brain is a good one. Aging has taken it's toll on historical dates, science formulas and mathematical thereoms; but I've still got a strong memory for my fabric.

Cogwheel
Cogwheel, a "random" block at Badskirt


An organized stash is important to me because it allows me to work without hangups. Pairing fabric is the slowest part of the creative process for me. Doing it in advance gives me a leg up when I'm ready to sew. The IKEA tubs that hold my stash work well for me because it keeps things organized and portable. I can easily move a stack of fabric from the shelves to my desk. I can easily grab a stack of fabric to take on the road for a camping trip or day at the beach. Tubs fit with my lifestyle.

Me:  So be honest (and I know you will), do you ever wish you had small scraps when you see pictures of them piled on the cutting table or neatly gathered in bins or jars?  Or... or... or.. is your honest reaction something along the lines of "thank goodness, not for me!"    And, ok, also was there ever any project that made you wish you had saved scraps?

Will be loved despite it's 
flaws.
 Amy's most recent quilt, at Badskirt


Amy:  I've been looking at the jars of fabric scraps in the Scrap Attack flickr group. They are admittedly pretty, but they aren't for me. What is great about quilting is that everyone can find their own niche. Some people are amazing when they work with tiny pieces. They bring out the best in those tiny morsels. Right now, I'm not one of those people and that's ok with me. I'm not turned off by their pictures, but I'm not envious either.

As for scraps that I've left go, nothing zings to mind. There are some prints where I feel a pang of sadness when I use the last piece, but I can't think of anything that I've given away or purged that I now wish I'd hadn't. That said, I can't wait to see how the Scrap Attack projects evolve. I know some people have amazing style when it comes to scraps. Who knows, maybe I'll be lured back into saving my own scraps?! 

**************

Thank-you, Amy, for letting me pick your brain over this scrap business.   I don't know about you, folks, but I love mulling over a completely different and thoughtfully cultivated perspective like this.   I do value the idea of letting one's stash "evolve" and perhaps sometimes the best way to accomplish that is to pass unwanteds along.  I know I've felt that drag before... "I don't really like this, but maybe I could use it somehow???"  Sometimes I do find a way to use it and to enjoy a project in spite of those feelings and sometimes I use it and regret it.  Other times, Aria uses it!  

Also, I think Amy's mental checklist for keeping or passing on fabrics is right on the money. What a freeing, self-aware way to live.  If you likely won't use it, why keep it?  Someone else might love it.  There's no reason it should go to waste.

What I'll take away from this conversation is still-emerging.  But, how about you?  Hmmm?  What do you take away?  Shiny thoughts welcome! 

34 comments:

  1. I loved hearing Amy's perspective! I'm so attracted to scrap quilts but I've never made one because I really don't have that many scraps. I was starting to ponder how on earth I was going to manage all the scraps I collect in hopes of making a true scrap quilt someday. I even buy charm packs and layer cakes as scrap "seeds". After reading the interview I feel like I can let go of quite a few and just keep the ones I really love. Sounds a lot less frustrating to dig through. Of course my idea of a scrap is pretty small (fat 8th or maybe even around 5 inches). We'll see how my definition changes over time. Thanks to you both, this was such an interesting read!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am linking to this post on my blog. This is a fabulous interview and really speaks to me! Thank you soooooo much!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fantastic interview. I appreciate the viewpoint. My scrap bin is pretty small and consists of only really tiny pieces I plan on putting into a quilt sometime this year. In that way, I think I am making good use of the little bit of scraps I have. I certainly see where she is coming from about keeping a LOAD of unwanted and unused fabrics as many do. I cannot afford to just buy buy buy and often have to wait a really long time to buy only what is my favorite. So hoarding a ton of fabric with no purpose is not for me. Thanks for the interview! I really enjoyed reading Amy's perspective, which I think is not a common one!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love Amy's perspective. I've spent a lot of time deciding the types of fabric prints that work for me but I still hang on to some pieces that obviously don't fit what I'm doing now just because I hate to throw away the money.

    Amy is inspiring in her clarity - and since I want some of that, looks like I've got a project!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very timely interview for me. Over the weekend my Mom and I started going through my scraps. She's cutting out pieces for an applique quilt and I cut some squares for hexi's. The rest I separated into give away and keep piles. The keep pile is rediculously small and I am rediculously happy about that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a refreshing take on scraps. I think I am a lot like Amy's husband who keeps very little. I have felt pressure through blog land to save my scraps. But taking on the scrap attack made me realize I was saving a lot of unusable (for me) pieces. I love hearing that someone else is discerning about what they save. I'm not going to feel guilty the next time I throw out a piece of scrap I know I won't use!

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a great interview. I'm one of those people who have a hard time letting go of any scrap, even if it isn't my favorite fabric. One thing I've been doing in an attempt to purge my scraps without actually throwing anything away is to make scrappy baby quilts for donation. I love how all those previously unwanted scraps are turned into something cute and snuggly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where do you find the time? I'd love to say that I use YARDAGE to make a baby quilt for donation, but I only ever manage donating fabric to a group that makes quilts...

      Delete
  8. It was very interesting getting a glimpse of Amy's process today. Great interview, Rachel! I enjoy using teeny tiny scraps, like in the Bottled Rainbows blocks. Ways I definitely agree with Amy: 1) I try to consider if I will really ever use the piece before it goes back in my bin and 2)I do throw things away or pass them on if I don't love them anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love Amy's process & go through that in cycles - except I also give away YARDAGE, but I also see that tiny 3 inch star quilt & think that I need to raid my scraps for cat beds bag... (Oh yeah, my scraps are used a filling for cat beds at a local animal shelter.) & I have some fabrics that I have hoarded for quite some time now!

    ReplyDelete
  10. That hippo is simply the cuttest thing I have ever seen! I completely LOVE it! Also, I am inspired to use up my scraps and join along in your scrap attack. I am going to combine the Solstice Stars Series Faith is hosting over at Fresh Lemons with my ever growing bin of scraps and see what comes out in the end. I know I will need to add blocks to the five she has planned for a full quilt top - but there is plenty out there for inspiration and plenty of scraps to make it happen. Thanks for the motivation!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. scratch that. It turns out my scrap pile isn't quite large enough yet to make a quilt top. Most of the scraps I have are teeny weeny and won't work for the Stars I was planning so I will have to come up with a new project for the Scrap Attack. Maybe just a mug rug or doll quilt, lol. Here I thought I had tons of scraps! WRONG!!! Still love that hippo though!

      Delete
  11. I can see keeping monochromatic scraps, because I have seen "Bottled Rainbows" & Quilter's palette type quilts that use tehm well - On the other end of the spectrum are some equally pretty fabrics that are not so easily sorted... I am turning mine in to a hexagon mosaic quilt, but I have a hard time using them in general...

    ReplyDelete
  12. One of my favorite things about this interview is the message I get of "no RIGHT" way! So often ideas are presented as the only way to do something and we can feel guilty if we don't do it that way.
    I never kept scraps (small pieces) until I started peeking into this modern quilt world. Using tiny pieces (whether in a quilt or a pouch or ??)was everywhere. Now I feel guilty throwing away selvedges! I've already decided 2012 is for purging my "guilt" stuff and keeping what I love. This interview re-confirms that for me. Thanks for posting the interview.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome! I don't save selvedges and sometimes I feel silly about that, but mostly I like that I drew the line somewhere ;) I'm so glad to hear that the message came across as "no right way". So true!

      Delete
  13. recently, i realized that most of the scraps i have been keeping were just collecting dust and would likely never do anything but. i do have one bin of scraps i keep that are really just fabrics i cannot bring myself to part with. so i decided to give away (to a local art therapist) the three huge boxes of gathering-dust-scraps and it felt so good! i've been working through my small bin for the scrap attack, which has been fun b/c it's like reuniting with old friends :) though i definitely won't be making anything very big, as the one bin i have isn't going to go too far.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Such a great interview. I have a pretty large scrap bin, but that's because it's mostly scraps from before I became a quilter. I think a lot of other sewing projects leave bigger, more usable pieces, so I always kept them. Now that I'm a quilter, I have even more use for them. I still love a lot of them and feel happy when I get to use them again making my japanese + & x blocks. (Amy's block-ironic?)

    However, I definitely do not like keeping tiny pieces. I trash most things under a couple inches, and even if they are two or three inches, they have to be a long strip I can use. That's why even though I think they are beautiful, a project like bottled rainbows never appealed to me as far as the process. I totally know that feeling of being "weighed down" by things and feel that way about all our stuff. We live in a pretty small apartment so making regular Goodwill drop-offs is one of my FAVORITE things to do. So freeing. Honestly, I think in another life I could be a hippy living in a winnebago with minimal possessions. Oh man, I want to go organize and purge my fabric real bad now... and everything else in the house.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, I ADORE Goodwill drop-offs too. Such a fantastic feeling! I also love going through papers and throwing what's not needed away. Yes, I like organizing...

      Delete
  15. Very interesting interview. I had never looked at scraps that way before. I still haven't decided how I feel about my scraps and what I do and don't want to save. I'm a work in progress, but I like to hear what other people do.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thank you for sharing this interview. Just this week I bought a basket to hold my scraps. It sits on the floor in my sewing studio and is a tidy way to house them. I made a rule that my scraps cannot exceed beyond what fits in the basket and I plan to abide by that rule. I have a four year old cousin who loves to sew with her grandma, after reading this interview I have decided to go through my scraps and gather any pieces I no longer need and add them to my cousin's sewing box.
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I loved hearing Amy's thoughts on this - it made me feel less guilty about my own militant scrap-chucking. I end up feeling as though sewing is a chore when I do it with scraps which are too small - which is no good at all.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'll link this to my blog... great interview. I am working on organizing my quilting space and this speaks volumes to me. I store a lot of fabric that was given to me, or I bought long enough ago I'm not wild about it and I struggle with getting rid of what I'm not using. Then I do sometimes pick a fabric I don't like as a challenge to make it work (with success I must say) but at what expense when I start new projects and am shifting through so much junk? Off to sorting my heap. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  19. Great interview. I recently got rid of some scraps that I didn't love and it felt like my stash was better for it. I have two small children so I keep a lot of small bits for them to craft with. I love Amy's idea of donating scraps to a school because I see how much fun my two smalls have here and this is a good way to inspire children through colour, print and the wonderful world of textiles.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Amy, I'm not sure I could adopt your methods completely but I find it very liberating and refreshing. Thanks for the great interview!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I really love having scraps, and I keep quite little ones too. For some reason, once I've made the main project with my fabric, I see the scraps as a bonus. An extra little project that I didn't plan or budget for. I also find it helps inspire me as it's easy to play around with smaller pieces sometimes, rather that sorting through larger stacks of fabric. I keep mine on the back of my door, in one of those clear plastic pocket contraptions for holding shoes. Keeps them out of the way but easy to access/look at. I generally find I am drawn to using the smaller scraps for non quilting projects, such as embroidery or wall art Gee, I hope I did that code thingy alright.
    I like how Amy embraces her lack-of-love for scraps and passes them on to others who love 'em. Win-win situation, I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good thoughts, Kristy. Thanks for joining in the discussion. Sometimes I like the convenience of not working with big cuts too. Just feels more manageable some days!

      Delete
  22. What a great interview!! I often feel weighed down by scraps, like a first-world guilt that I have to use everything and not be spoiled and throw the small bits away. Nice to hear "permission" from a "web authority" to move on ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  23. I love the hippo! And I am like Amy, in that I don't keep too many of my scraps, just the ones I want to use. I recycle the rest!

    And all I can think of now is that I am called Rachel and my sister is called Amy.....!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thanks for the trip through Amy's space, and of course i love that hippo!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I do keep scraps but I also purge them just like I do my stash. Not often, but I get rid of scraps I won't use, or demote them to stuffing. My willingness to part with unwanted fabric makes me feel free to collect odd bits when I find them, knowing that if I don't find them a use they'll just move on, and also that I have room for them because I don't keep everything.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Wow! There is a lot of good perspective in this interview. I really enjoyed it. I am not where Amy is but I sure did appreciate the four questions about what stays and what goes.

    ReplyDelete
  27. i'm very late catching up on your blog and reading this post. but, i want to thank you for this one. i adore Amy's style and i love the fresh perspective in whether or not to save scraps. i store my scraps separated by color in a pocket shoe organizer. every time i pull out the reds i wonder why i kept a few of the scraps of fabric that i never picked out and never liked. now i'm determined to toss them the next time i see them. i may post those 4 questions right on my fabric shelves.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Clicking on the Hippo below your post today brought me to this interview. What a relief to read, because I think I could do with a lot less scraps too. It is a very good interview, thanks a lot. I'm looking at Amy's blog and that looks very minimalistic if I can say it this way, but very nice.

    Groetjes
    Annemieke

    ReplyDelete
  29. Great interview! I saw your post on Amy's curate post and came to see what the Scrap Attack was all about. I really enjoyed this perspective.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails