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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Snippets and Scrappy X Plus Method

I am overjoyed to finally get to share this finished X Plus quilt with you!  I feel like I worked on this quilt forever.  I actually started the process of sorting through all of my scraps right before Christmas, but with holiday travel, the daunting task of reclaiming the house from Christmas decor, and working on my Balloon Festival quilt, it has just taken me this long to get this one completely finished and photographed; and let me tell you- I could not love it more!

On the back of my quilt, I pulled a rainbow of colors from my stash.  I have done wide rainbow stripes before, but I really wanted to try to make the colors blend together more gradually, and I varied the width of the stripes to add some additional interest.  Rather than just the traditional handful of colors in the rainbow, I used 15 different shades, and I really like the way it turned out.  It is colorful enough that it looks like it belongs with this quilt, but the simple stripes balance out all of the busy movement on the front.

Another plus to this backing, is that I was able to add a few fabrics that have been languishing in my stash for awhile.  For example, that yellow-orange Priory Square print (6th from the top) is nice, but after I bought it, I realized that it looks orange next to yellow fabrics, and it looks too yellow when beside orange prints.  Another one is the yellow-green polkadot print (8th from the top).  The pistachio hue is pretty, but difficult to match with other fabrics.

I used Kona Coal for the binding, which gives the quilt a dark frame to contain all of that crazy, but it doesn't compete with the colorful blocks at all.  Again, I was able to pull the gray straight from my solid scraps, which means that I made this entire quilt without purchasing any additional fabric.  That's a quilty victory in my book!

Since this quilt is made entirely from bits and pieces from my scrap jars, I decided to name this one Snippets.  Each piece of scrap fabric calls to mind a snippet of the memory of the original quilt that produced it, but also, each scrap itself is a snippet of its previous quilt!  Snippets is a twin size quilt, measuring 70" x 90."

The other reason that this post has taken a few days to put together, is because several people have contacted me to ask about the specific block measurements. Still others have asked about the method I used to sort through all of my scraps to turn them into a quilt with good color distribution, even though it is definitely 100% scrappy.  I'll be honest, it is a bit time consuming, but it's not difficult, and it feels so good to turn all of those scraps into something so fun!

In this post, I won't actually be doing a tutorial for the block construction, since there are already a few readily available.  Badskirt has one with great, easy to follow diagrams HERE which yields a 7.5" finished block.  My blocks finish at 10 inches, but they are constructed in the same way with different measurements.

It is very important to note that I did NOT cut my X pieces on point as the tutorial suggests.  I cut them on the straight grain as usual.  Frankly, since scraps are often oddly shaped, I didn't even worry about keeping the prints perfectly straight when cutting, and within the busy movement of the quilt, that's really okay.  Hey, sometimes you've just got to make it work!

I am also a self-professed lazy quilter, and I DO NOT EVER draw lines on the backs of my corner squares when sewing the corner to corner, aka "snowballing" as this block requires for the X pieces.  I either use a piece of painter's tape on my machine to keep my corners aligned like this-

Or, I take the really lazy way and just eyeball it!  Nope, I wasn't kidding- lazy quilter here!

Instead of the construction, I want to focus on the specific measurements I used, as well as how I actually tackled the task of scrap sorting- which can be overwhelming without a clear plan.  Unfortunately, in the midst of actually doing the sorting, I didn't think that anyone would really care how I did it, so I don't have photos of that process, but I will explain the best I can, and just let me know if something is unclear!  Fair warning, this gets pretty wordy, but I want to be as thorough as possible, and just so you know, this can also be found on my Tutorials page, in case you want to refer to it later.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty details, here is a block diagram with the individual block pieces separated, so that we're on the same page about the names I'm using for each part of the block, and so you can easily see how they go together (check out the tutorial above for more specifics on this).

Background- illustrated in purple
X pieces- illustrated in aqua, pink, green, yellow
Plus (long and short)- illustrated in red
Outer Plus- illustrated in gray

*note that each block has seven different fabrics, and the blocks really look best when there is as much contrast as possible.

Cutting Dimensions-*I am including the cutting measurements for each piece, as well as the size scrap you will need to cut enough pieces for one block.  You may be able to get enough pieces from one piece of scrap fabric for more than one block, or one piece may be big enough to work for several of the block components.  More on that later, though!

Each block requires-

*X pieces- (4 contrasting) 4.5"squares

*Background- (8) 2.5"squares

*Plus (short)- (2) 2.5" squares
(long)- (1) 2.5" x 6.5" strip
OR (5) 2.5" squares to create the entire plus shape

*Outer Plus- (4) 2.5" squares

Notice how everything except the X pieces are cut 2.5 inches wide, which makes everything line up nicely when the block is constructed.  This will make great use of all of your leftover binding strips!

From here on out, I am going to number the steps I used to make sense of all of my scraps, to (try to) keep things concise.

1. Start off by making four signs to help keep things straight.  My signs were made with index cards, and had the name of the block part, as well as the number of pieces needed (Ex.  Background- (8) 2.5").  The sorting process took a few different sessions for me, so the signs were very helpful so I didn't forget what each pile was for.  Remember, you won't be looking at piles of cut fabric yet, so trust me- take a few minutes and just make the signs.

2.  Start sorting!  Make sure you have your cutting mat handy for easy measurement.  There are some scraps that you can put aside right away that are obviously too small.  Anything that is narrower than 2.5" can be tossed aside for another day;  and even though this quilt is scrappy, you do need certain amounts of each fabric, so any single piece smaller than 4.5" square can also be put aside.

As I went through my scraps, I kept some basic measurements in my mind that I needed for each block unit.  These measurements are the minimum size your scraps should be.  If they are slightly bigger, that's great!  You can just trim them down to size.

X pieces- 4.5" squares
Since there are four different X pieces in each block, you can use a single 4.5" square.  You don't have to have four of them.  Of course if you have more than one from a single fabric, great!  You will just use them in different blocks.

Background pieces- any of these will yield (8) 2.5" squares
   -one 2.5 x 20" strip
   -two 2.5 x 10" strips
   -two 5" squares
   -one 5" x 10" rectangle

Plus- any of these will yield the necessary plus pieces (2) 2.5" squares, plus (1) 2.5" x 6.5" strip
   -two 2.5" squares, and one 2.5" x 6.5" strip
   -five 2.5" squares (you can make the entire plus from squares if necessary)
   -one 2.5" x 11.5" strip
   -one 5" x 6.5" rectangle

Outer Plus- any of these will yield (4) 2.5" squares
   -one 2.5" x 10" strip
   -four 2.5" squares
   -one 5" square

3.  Without a doubt, you will have some pieces that will work for a couple of different block components.  When that happens- put the scrap fabric in the pile for the biggest possible block component.  For example, if you have a 5" square, it could be used for an X piece or the Outer Plus pieces.  Put it in the X piece pile.  The bigger pieces are much more difficult to get, and don't worry, we will count and redistribute later if necessary.  Keep at it until you have all of your scraps sorted.

4. Start with the X piece pile and divide the scraps by color.  You want to be sure you have good color distribution, so jot down the number of each color you have, as well as the total. (Use pencil- trust me.  I made my tallies on the back of my sign cards and it worked out well).

Chances are, since they are the biggest pieces and hardest to come by (for me anyway), the number of 4.5" squares you have will likely determine the number of blocks you are able to make.  You need four for each block, so as an example, if you have 100, you will be able to make 25 blocks.  Don't cut yet though, because you want to be sure you have enough of the other block components to make a decent sized quilt.  If you need to, you can always move some of these to another pile.

5.  Background squares are next!  The background requires the next biggest amount of fabric (technically, you need more fabric for these than the X pieces, but since they are smaller pieces, I found it much easier to get these from my scraps).  So, follow the same process and sort these by color.  Tally the number of each color you have, as well as the total number of block sets of 8.  Still, don't cut yet!

6.  Move on to the plusses. Again, we're moving in order from the block components that require the most fabric to the least.  Remember you can either use two 2.5" squares, plus one 2.5" x 6.5" strip for the plus, or five 2.5" squares to construct the entire plus, so any scrap fabric that works for either one can be used here.  I have a mix of both in my quilt.  I let my scraps dictate when I needed to use all squares instead of the longer strip in my plus.  Use the same method to sort by color, then tally by color and count the total number of block sets.  Put that rotary cutter down; it's still not time to cut!

7.  Finally, it's time to work through the Outer Plus pieces in the same manner.  I know you know the drill by now, but...sort, tally, jot down by color and total number of block sets.  No cutting!

8.  The next step will take a little bit of careful thought.  Take a look at your totals, and try to move fabric around to make the number of blocks possible for each pile as even as possible.  You can only move those fabrics that would work for more than one block component.  For instance, you couldn't move a 2.5" x 10" strip from the Outer Plus pile to the Background pile, because it wouldn't be enough fabric to cut all of the Background squares needed.  See why we didn't jump in and cut anything?  If you had jumped ahead and cut pieces for one component, you may have rendered the fabric useless for another, and you will almost certainly need to move a few things around.

This is also where the color tally comes in handy.  If you notice that a certain color is lacking in one component (or you have too many of a certain color), you can switch a few fabrics around to make things more even.  Try to get the best distribution of color within each pile as possible.

Just FYI- the numbers of each color for each block component were not perfectly equal in my quilt.  This is a scrap quilt after all, so use the fabrics you have, but distributing the colors as best you can will help the quilt look balanced, even if you happen to have a lot of one or two colors.  My quilt is a little heavy on oranges, reds, and lime/chartreuse, but I scattered them out across the quilt pretty evenly, and I still love the result.

Keep in mind that you will only be able to make as many blocks as the least number of your total block components.  For example, continuing the example from above, if you have (100) 4.5" X pieces (which would be enough for 25 blocks), but only enough plus fabrics to cut (22) plus fabric sets, then you will only be able to make 22 blocks.  BUT, if you happen to have extra fabrics in another pile, you can move some over to give you the maximum number of blocks.

9.  Once you have everything as even as possible, figure out the number of blocks you're going to make.  Really, your scraps have decided that for you, but you definitely need to take note of the actual number- remember it will be the smallest number of total block sets from all four piles.  Once you have that number, feel free to take fabric out of your piles that have more, so that you are only cutting exactly what you need (I would suggest pulling from colors that have higher tallies).  Or, you may choose to go ahead and cut everything so that you have some choices when you're deciding which fabrics to put together in your blocks.

10.  Cut, cut, cut... and count, count, count (again) as you go!  Make sure you end up with the correct number of pieces for one complete block component set, and that you have enough sets of each for the number of blocks you want to make.  I only cut one pile (for example, all of the Background squares pile) at a time so that my brain doesn't have to constantly switch between measurements, which would just be inviting mistakes.

11.  Sort your blocks.  I always use the paper plate method.  Clearly, this is a photo from another quilt, but I thought a picture would help break up all of this text.

I bought a cheap package of plates years ago, and I just use them over and over.  They stay out of sight in a cabinet when I don't need them, and they really are a godsend when distributing fabric for quilt blocks.  Just lay out the number of paper plates equal to the number of blocks you're making.  Then start putting the fabrics together on the plate.  I started by putting all of the background fabric square sets on the plates.  Then I distributed the plus sets, then the outer plus sets.  You can "build" your block and see exactly how the fabrics look together, and move them around if necessary.  I put the X pieces on the plates last, because those are four different fabrics and everything else is in sets, but it would also work to do those first.

By the time you're finished, each paper plate has all of the pieces needed to make one block, with seven contrasting fabrics, all ready to sew.  The plates stack up neatly, and can be stored easily on a shelf if you need to work on something else.

I know staring at your huge pile of scraps can be daunting and it is tempting to shy away from using them in a quilt pattern that requires so much planning; but even though all of this sorting, counting, and cutting can be a little bit time consuming, it's not as tedious as you might think, and in my opinion, the end result is totally worth it!

If you don't think you have enough scraps for a nice sized quilt (or not enough scraps that are big enough), you can always sort, cut, and keep a tally of what you have, and as you finish quilts, it would be so easy to cut the scraps into the sizes you need.  Before you know it, you'll have a scrappy masterpiece!  I love mine!

*Edited to add- These block measurements are also the perfect use for precuts!  You can get an entire block set (plus, outer plus, and background) 2.5" squares from a SINGLE jelly roll strip, and of course, all four X pieces from a layer cake square.  That means that a single layer cake, plus a single jelly roll with 42 pieces each, would yield a 60" x 70" lap size quilt!


  1. Thanks so much for showing how you managed this quilt. I love the scrappiness and have a ton of retro fabrics I need to clear out. My version won't be as vibrant and fun as yours, but if I can use up a tub of fabric I will be very happy.

  2. Love this blog. I don't have enough fabric yet, but can see how fun it would be to do this when I obtain more!💞

  3. I've made this quilt twice, a scrappy one with lots of fussy cutting based on the Badskirt dimensions and a controlled color one with the 10" blocks. I will have to say that they are among the favorite quilts I have ever made. I think this is a perfect pattern!

  4. Enjoyed reading about how you sort fabrics for the scrappy quilt. Beautiful quilt.

    Barbara at Stash Overflow

  5. Thanks for sharing this! *bookmarks for a later project* :D

  6. Thank you for this post! I'd love to make one.

  7. What a process! I never have seen the paper plate method, but what a great idea. Love that they can stack up for sewing later. Plus, you can basically see what your color combinations are. I'm still in love with this one...Yikes...I better get sorting!!

  8. Thanks for posting this. Your paper plate idea is a handy one.

    I really like how the kona coal binding frames the quilt, not a colour I would have thought of for a scrappy quilt binding but it works so well.

  9. Thank you so much for putting this post together - so thorough! I don't know if I will ever manage to make this pattern which I truly love but I have saved your post so I can return when the time comes.I can already feel my fingers itching!

  10. Genius. Thank you SO MUCH for the tutorial! And I love the paper plate idea! I'm already thinking of other ways to use it...

  11. That is a HUGE quilting victory all the way around, I'd say! How awesome. And it's so good of you to put all those thoughts into words for the folks who are interested. Having written a few tutorials, I know how long that can take! I think I missed what you are going to be doing with the quilt but I sure hope if you're not keeping it that it's going to a very worthy home. What a great use of your scraps. :) love it!

  12. What a great way to use up scraps! Love the finished quilt. Thanks for the tutorial.

  13. Appreciate the detail of your explanation!! And it's a great quilt!

  14. I love it! So bright and vibrant...

  15. What a lovely scrappy quilt! You obviously have great taste in color, and I love the rainbow back and the charcoal binding. The paper plate idea is pretty awesome as well. I will have to try it myself!

  16. I love it!! Now I want to make one like this too. But, oh my, so many projects under my belt already.

  17. I love this!! Seeing it kicked me off an hour long X-plus quilt research binge!

  18. That's outstanding! I need to make two of these for my dd12 and dd16. Subscribing to blog and bookmarking this page! Thank you for the tute.

  19. I love the quilt, and your description of the process is wonderfully helpful to someone who is more of a 'planned' quilter. Nice to know I can plan my scrappy-ness, too. Love the paper plate idea. Pinned and I'll be working on this bit by bit. Thanks!

  20. Thanks for the info. I love the scrappy look of your quilt. Job well done!

  21. beautiful quilt and thank you for sharing your info.

  22. Fantastic quilt, super scrappy and works so well!

  23. I love your scrappy quilt! It is so bright and cheerful! Thanks for the pattern, too!

  24. It's a beauty. Is there anything more satisfying than making a scrap quilt (using ONELY scraps) thanks for the run down on the method you used. very helpful!

  25. What a lovely happy quilt Kelly! Thanks for stopping by and linking up! We featured your quilt over on the FWFS blog!


  26. What a great tutorial Kelly and I had to laugh at you being a lazy quilter.....I have a tendency to be that way also!

  27. Thank you! This is just what I have been looking for: an X + Plus that can eat up my pre-cuts. Masterful!

  28. Oooo. The pattern is cool, but the method you use for sorting the scraps is the best bit for me. Brilliant technique, will be trying it, thank you! :D

  29. It is beautiful! Thank you for sharing with us and also for the great tutorial and a way of using our scraps up!

  30. Newer(ish) quilter here, I love this pattern! Could you please explain this the painter's tape, though? I've never seen nor do I understand this method

    "I am also a self-professed lazy quilter, and I DO NOT EVER draw lines on the backs of my corner squares when sewing the corner to corner, aka "snowballing" as this block requires for the X pieces. I either use a piece of painter's tape on my machine to keep my corners aligned like this-"

    1. Hey there! Please use the Email Me button on my right sidebar so I can reply with more information and another pic that will help you understand my method. Since your comment is Anonymous I’m not able to email you directly, and it requires a bit more space than I have here.

      :) Kelly


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