6 Waste-Free Ways to Use Quilt Scraps

Waste free way to use 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.

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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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57 Responses to “6 Waste-Free Ways to Use Quilt Scraps”

  1. j s

    used a ton of scraps for a “birch tree”. vowed to try to not get to that point ( 2 garbage bags full of very small pieces). Next kwandi style and instead of very small scraps I used other pieces cut into usable pieces for 2 quilts. Trying to keep my latest scraps down to one gallon zip lock bag….

  2. Pam

    Enjoyed reading your ideas for scraps. I have learned a lot about crumb quilts through Quilts for Kids of which I am an avid quilt top maker. I love scraps and use them all the time. We also make dog beds and stuff with batting and too small material scraps, which go to dog and cat rescues. I am 81 and only started quilting about 10 years ago. Have me so many wonderful quilters such a great group of people

  3. Diana D Moore

    I have scraps of all sizes. I began a project to use them by sewing the big ones together until I get a size I like to make a tote bag. I’ll line it to cover the raw edges of the scraps. I had thought about using the small scraps as a pillow stuffing – you advised cutting them in small pieces… thank you for that..

  4. Cynthia Howey

    Recently retired. Tho’ I did garment sewing, I want to quilt, started w/squares…thinking a nice next step! Thanks! (Cute hairdo!)

  5. Cynthia Howey

    I recently retired & tho’ I’ve done lifetime sewing I want to do quilts, started w/embroidery squares…thinking this would be a nice next step! Thanks! (Cute hairdo!)

  6. Cynthia Howey

    I recently retired & tho’ I’ve done lifetime sewing I want to do quilts, started w/embroidery squares…thinking this would be a nice next step! Thank you! (By the way, cute hairdo!)

  7. Cynthia Howey

    Great tutorial! You thought of everything! I recently retired & tho’ I’ve done lifetime sewing I want to do quilt,started w/embroidery squares…thinking this would be a nice next step! Thank you! (By the way, cute hairdo!)

  8. Cynthia Howey

    Great tutorial! You thought of everything! I recently retired & tho’ I’ve done sewing (garment) since I was a child 4-Her, I now want to do quilting & started w/embroidery squares…thinking this would be a nice next step! Thank you! (By the way, cute hairdo!)

  9. Marca J Byrd

    The extra pieces from your bindings are great for strip blocks or Log Cabin blocks. Also great for little cute bags as gifts. I love this article.

  10. Florence Wilson

    I am so glad l read your article. I was going to mention but found it at the lower part of reading! I cut my scraps into pieces an use for stuffing in toys, etc. Done it for years! Also lately l sewed sqs. together and made a darling skirt with elastic waistband. So comfy. The hem row l made into a row. I have had a lot of sweet compliments even from guys! FUN!

    • Rachel

      If I filled a cushion with scraps, (memory style of my parents clothes) could the whole thing go in the washing machine/tumble dryer? I imagine it would never dry if just left to dry naturally?

      • Customer Service

        Hi Rachel,
        Thanks for contacting National Quilters Circle with your question. Washing and drying would be an issue. All the fabric is washable but drying would take forever. I think the best solution is to place the scraps into an interior “bag”. This would require the cover to be removable and have either a zipper or a lap back opening. This way you could use the scraps for the “stuffing” but remove the outer cover for ease of laundering. That solves the drying issue.
        Happy Quilting
        National Quilters Circle

  11. 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

  12. 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. Deborah Butler

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

  14. 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! 🙂

    • Brenda Daily

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

  15. 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.

  16. Jeannie Holler

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

    • 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

  17. 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 ❤️

  18. 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.

  19. Catherine

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

  20. 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.

  21. 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

  22. 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.

    • Diane

      Love ideas I’m just starting my first quilt after taking lessons at a neighborhood Quilt shop. It’s addicting. I will be broke before spring. Seriously how do I find a where a quilting circle might meet ?

  23. 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