I am really trying to get my scraps cut into usable sizes. I started with Bonnie Hunter's Scrap User System on quiltville.com, and I'm trying to tweak it to what I really use. I use lots of strips, so if it's at least 12 inches long, it becomes a strip in either 1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2, or 3 1/2 inches. I like using squares, and I am constantly rethinking what size squares I should save. Right now, my latest square sizes are 2", 2 1/2", 3 1/2", 4 1/2", 5", and 6 1/2" I don't save 1 1/2" squares, even though my finished quilts have a lot of them. I prefer to strip piece that size, and if the fabric is too small to get a 2" square out of it, I throw it in with my crumbs. I save 5" squares because I have several patterns using nickels that I want to try. I don't save bricks at all anymore. I don't use them that often, and when I do, it's easy enough to subcut them from strips. This is what is working for me right now, and that may change.
I am making progress on the scraps, or at least thought I was until I cut out nine more scrub tops :-) You see, I make a lot of garments, but a few years ago, I stopped using anything but 100% cotton fabrics to make them. There are a few exceptions, like DD#3's kimono, but most of the fabrics I make garments out of are suitable for quilting. So, with that information, you should now know that when I say I am sorting scraps, I mean scraps, as in leftovers from garment making. Leftover quilting pieces are easier to deal with, since you're mostly going to be dealing with strips, rectangles, or squares. Garment leftovers leave you with pieces like this....
How do you iron that shape, or figure out which size pieces to cut from it? I am usually mentally exhausted from a scrap cutting session, because it just takes so many decisions. I have gotten a bit faster at doing it. I have learned that when the weird shapes of things are getting to me, cut it into more workable pieces to start with, like this....
These pieces fit in the ironing board better, and I can easily see that I have a string, and a few pieces to cut squares from. It may seem like a no-brainer to cut it up to make it more easily workable, but it took me a while. I was so concerned with cutting the largest thing I could from each piece that I was actually trying to deal with the top mess. Now that I realize I'm just going to cut it up anyway, I can cut it up into smaller sections, so what if I end up with different sized pieces, they'll all end up in a quilt sooner or later.
I just ordered a couple of new rulers to help in my scrap sorting goal. I hunted around, and found a 5 inch square ruler. I haven't found a two inch square ruler, but if I come across it, I'll buy it too. I use a lot of novelty prints, and fussy cutting squares works much better for those than haphazardly cutting strips and sub-cutting into squares. I find it easier for me to have the exact size ruler as the square I want. I know how to use a larger ruler to get a smaller size, I just prefer not to do it that way when dealing with a huge pile of scraps. I have a small rotating cutting mat, so with the correct size ruler, I can make short work of a scrap by cutting around a square ruler in the size I want. I had to hunt a while to get my 3 1/2 inch square ruler too, but I have really enjoyed having it. When my new 5 inch ruler comes, I will have a ruler in each size of the squares I keep, with the exception of the 2 inch ones.
Now that I've been seriously quilting for a couple of years, I'm also figuring out what I like to do, and what I don't like to do. It's like finding my quilting identity. I'm not limiting myself on trying new things, but I consistently find myself drawn to similar things. I like scrappy quilts, multi fabric quilts, the 'why use one green when you can use 20, 30, or even 100 greens' kind of quilts.
I like smaller pieces. I think nine patches that finish at 3" are so cute! For the most part, a 6 1/2 inch square is the largest piece I'm going to use in a quilt. I consider that a large piece. The patterns that take a fat quarter and cut it into three pieces to make a fast quilt are not my thing. They are pretty, just not me. I do have a quilt in the works with big pieces, and I'm not having fun with it. I have another I will probably make with large pieces, but only because I want to use the fat quarters I bought in Hawaii in the the same quilt, and I want the pieces large enough to not lose the designs. The Hawaiian prints are large scale and would be lost in 1 1/2" strips.
I was thinking about my liking small pieces, and I even came up with a theory on that. I love to piece, and don't enjoy the quilting part nearly as much. Large pieces give all that empty area that screams for fancy quilting. I don't like to do fancy quilting, but I like to do busy piecing, which looks better with simpler quilting. Lots of pieces + simple quilting = my style!
I like small pieces, but I also like to make lots of quilts. Strip piecing really works for me. It lets me have the look of small pieces, without ever having to cut lots of tiny pieces. It seems faster to me, but since you are sewing exactly the same amount of seams it may not be. It feels faster, and I like that.
I don't ever want to make an heirloom quilt. NEVER. I want my quilts to be picnic friendly, and grandkids making a tent approved. I don't want to ever freak out about pets getting on a quilt, or something being spilled on it. If a quilt gets ruined, it just gives me an excuse to make another one, right?
That's what I like to do, and some of what I don't like to do. How about what I want to do in the future? I want to conquer free-motion quilting! I want to have someone teach me how to paper piece and have it make sense to me. I want to make a crumb quilt. I want to take a class on free motion quilting, I want to go to one of Bonnie Hunter's classes. I want to keep a quilt that I make. I have given them all away.