6 Waste-Free Ways to Use Quilt Scraps

Wander into any quilt store today and you’ll see aisles and aisles bursting with a rainbow of fabrics – and the hardest part will be deciding which prints to bring home. In the presence of so many amazing patterns and products, it’s hard to remember that quilting has a surprisingly thrifty background. Some of history’s most amazing quilts are rendered from the leftovers from other projects.

From feed sacks to clothing, yesterday’s quilters gathered and saved every scrap they could find and incorporated them into the art we admire and emulate today. Ready to embrace the history and spirit of these pioneering quilters by making the most of your scraps and leftovers? Read on.

When you finish piecing a project, sort your leftover fabrics into scraps by size. Pieces that are large enough to be considered fat quarters or fat eighths can be stored away until needed for your next quilt. Don’t throw the smaller pieces away though – there are plenty of ways to use them up and make sure you don’t waste a single scrap.

1. Use your quilt scraps to make a traditional charm quilt.
While the term “charm squares” is widely used today to refer to the 5” pre-cut pieces sold in bundles, the original charm quilts featured much smaller pieces. Often referred to as postage stamp quilts due to the size and shape of the pieces, many charm patterns use a single template and every piece is cut from a different fabric. A true charm quilt offers you the opportunity to use up scraps as small as an inch wide; the template you choose will determine how large your pieces will be. You can use traditional methods to piece a charm quilt, or use a fusible product to speed the piecing process.

2. Turn small pieces into big pieces.
Love the look of crazy quilts but keep ending up with an orderly pattern when you sit down to make one? Consider piecing your smaller scraps into larger pieces of fabric as you go. Each time you complete a project, combine the scraps into a single piece; the more projects you complete, the larger your piece will be. Don’t worry about layout, just stitch your scraps wherever they fit; make sure you use straight, not curved lines for best results. Once your scrap piece has grown large enough, use it for a whimsical base for embellishing or for a decorative accent project.

3. Save your selvages.
The selvage edge of fabric often features interesting logos, colors, and designs; instead of throwing this finished edge away, make use of it in a simple project instead. The finished side of the selvage edge is designed to be stable, so you can make ruffles and other dimensional effects without having to hem the edges. Consider piecing your selvages into a line, using them as ruffles or accents, or gather and coil into a circle to form dimensional flower pins or appliques. Once you look at the selvage as a piece with a conveniently pre-finished edge instead of a piece to discard, the possibilities are endless.

4. Applique.
If you enjoy machine or hand applique, scraps in a variety of sizes are a must, and even your smallest pieces may be of use. From flower stamens to eyes and other tiny details, your scraps don’t have to be big to be useful. Save all of your scraps in one bin, and dig through it as you complete your next applique project; you’ll be surprised at just how many embellishments you have on hand.

5. Use as stuffing for toys or pillows.
Tired of paying high prices for those lofty bags of fiberfill? Use your scraps instead. The small pieces you just can’t piece or applique and the cast of edges from your serger make a great replacement for fiberfill. Snip your scraps into confetti – the pieces don’t have to be perfect—and use in place of commercial stuffing. The weight of the cotton is an added bonus for stuffed toys and home projects and your improvised filling will be machine washable, too.

6. Swap it away.
Even if a charm quilt or tiny applique project doesn’t fit you project goals, other quilters are actively seeking your scraps. A true charm quilt may hold thousands of unique fabric pieces, so swapping your tiniest bits can help another crafter meet her goals. Bring your bag of scraps to your next guild meeting and watch them disappear!

No matter how you choose to use them, your scraps can be a valuable resource for your next quilting project. We’d love to see what you do with your scraps! Do you use them, save them, or swap them away?

Related Videos:
Organizing Your Scrap Basket
Making Scrap Quilts with Torn Bits and Strips
Log Cabin Quilt Squares with Scraps
Quilt as You Go: Easy Scrap Quilt Ideas

Have something to add? Leave a comment or email editor@nationalquilterscircle.com.

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28 Responses to “6 Waste-Free Ways to Use Quilt Scraps”
  1. Diana

    I loved this suggestion. Think I’ll use some of my scraps cut in strips as a Christmas gift for my Daughter-in-law. Diana

  2. Elizabeth

    My friends give me their scraps which I sew into charity quilt tops for my church. No perfection needed. And I take strips of fabric, 1 inch to 4 inch, about 20 inches long and sew them into “new” fat quarter sizes for making rail-fence style quilt tops.

  3. Susan gose
    Susan gose

    I like your ideas I use some of them already I sort out all material you’d be surprised how.they fit for square blocks as a

  4. Gail

    I use mine in strips and make shapes out of them. Carrots, Snowmen, Christmas trees, then you can make them any size.. wall hangings, big enough for the center of your table, heat pads, etc.

  5. Catherine

    I am new to quilting, and am inspired by this web site.Want to try some of your ideas for stocking stuffers.

  6. D Norotsky
    D Norotsky

    I use mine for string quilts, have plans for crumb quilts, pieces too tiny for that have been used for years for stuffing, especially large bolster pillows for 4 grandsons. I had made my daughter in law a quilted pillow cover to match a lap quilt I made her for her teen room colors. It was stuffed with scraps…it went into labor with her for all 4 boys until it wore out.

  7. Rosemary B
    Rosemary B

    These are superb ideas. If you have tiny tiny snips of left over fabrics, I save those in a two gallon size zip bag and about twice a year I toss them into the woods for the squirrels and birdies. They like the make quilts too, you know ❤️

  8. Jeannie Holler
    Jeannie Holler

    Terrific ideas. Am fairly new to these projects. How do I find Guilds appropriate for my talents?

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Dear Jeannie,

      Thank you for your patience. In response to your question-

      Here is a website where you can easily find Guilds worldwide so you can find one in your area:


      National Quilters Circle Video Membership

  9. Marcie Smith
    Marcie Smith

    Outgrown or worn out blue jeans make great scraps for quilts for picnics, carrying in back of car for emergencies. Warmer than cotton, heavier and still washable.

    • Brenda Daily
      Brenda Daily

      I sew leftover strips together, then cut into hearts then sew them onto blank notecards.

  10. Donna

    Great ideas! Whenever I make a quilt, I don’t save anything smaller than 2 1/2″ square. I just don’t have the patience to fool with anything smaller. But I don’t throw those pieces away. They go into a plastic bag next to my sewing machine. When the bag is full, I take it to a lady who uses them to fill dog pillows to donate to the Humane Society for the dogs there. That way, not even the smallest scrap goes to waste! 🙂

  11. Deborah Butler
    Deborah Butler

    Just wanting some ideas what to do with squares to make some different designs

  12. Cathie F
    Cathie F

    Love cutting my scraps into squares. Have bins of 2″ 3″ 4″. You can do alot with these squares and when you get and inspiration they are ready to go.

  13. Elizabeth Rivera
    Elizabeth Rivera

    I just started yesterday cutting my scraps and found this tutorial. Great ideas and great ways of using scraps, I hate to waste fabric. Thanks