Friday, December 19, 2014

Scraps or Crap? A Leftovers Dilemma

Arrgh - can't sleep so I might as well write the blog that's been rolling around my brain all week.  I want to share an idea I have gotten recently about which I am extremely proud and excited not because I'm certain it is so original, but because it is a solution to a problem I've had for a while and I'm excited about it.

You see, there are a couple of things I find challenging about being organized in my studio. One of those things is scraps, which have always been a bit of a thorn in my side.  Scraps have annoyed me because I seem to lose all logic in the face of them - I cannot seem to apply the obvious solutions, which are to donate them or to offer them to the local quilt guild. I'm not sure why these perfectly excellent solutions aren't happening, I can only say that I seem to have an unnatural attachment them and what they MIGHT become while at the same time, I hate how disorganized they are and how much space they take up in my studio most of the time when I'm not using them.  I know that there are many people who really, really use their scraps all the time.  I just don't seem to be one of them.  So there they sit all fat and wrinkled and fat, and yes, I admit, I've actually thrown a bunch on my burn pile once. But the guilt of that decision is still with me, so I won't do it again - I promise.

Then, too there is the defining of scrap - I mean, how small does a scrap have to be before it is time to throw it away?  Or is it wrong to throw any fabric away, no matter how small? And what, size-wise, is a scrap as opposed to a piece of material that should go back into my stash?  I don't want to have to wade through a bunch of small bits of fabric when I need a large one but I don't really have room for a bunch of smaller bins so all my scraps go into the same bag, which makes them messy, wrinkled and irritating...unless I find the perfect scrap when I need it which makes me happy and glad I saved it.   

In my scrap bags there are several different kinds scraps.  There are fabrics I have used in several projects that are still somewhat sizeable - maybe around a fat quarter's worth or bigger.  I don't want to use them again, but I cannot in good conscience throw them away because they are large-ish.  The second kinds of scraps are bits of material that I love so much I that I cannot bear to throw even the tiniest bit of it away because I would like to use it again, but the scraps are really pretty small, so why am I saving them?   Also in there are irregularly shaped pieces that had weird shapes cut out of them, but aren't necessarily small, just misshapen (Aren't all scraps misshapen, you might ask - yeah, but some are more odd than others). Then there's stuff I got for a specific piece that I don't have any further use for at the moment (the moment lasting about four years) but who knows, I may have use for it at a later date (although I doubt it, but still, you never know).

Again let me point out that while I'm aware of them,  I have emotional difficultly applying the obvious solutions, which even in the middle of the night make perfect sense...so instead I came up with this idea:

I have decided to cut them all into squares. At least as many of them as I can. When I am cutting for a new project, I am vowing to spend up to half an hour extra cutting the leftovers (unless there is more than a fat quarter) into squares.The squares at this point will range from six inches to one and a half inches.  Why squares, you might say...why not strips? Well, strips may be easier and faster to cut, but strips are difficult to keep from getting messy and wrinkled, whereas squares are much easier to store neatly in baggies.  And squares are very versatile, too.  A larger square can be easily turned into a different shape - a circle, a half-square triangle, a hexagon, etc.  And when I want to do a quick easy project with by nieces or nephew or a charity project, I will have squares at the ready and I/we don't have to spend so much time cutting.  I just really like the idea of having a bunch of cut up squares that I can use - whenever.  I will put them in baggies not according to color, I think, but by size.  It may make sense at a later date to do color, too, but I'll revisit that if I have to.

It will be a discipline, I know, because usually when I am cutting fabrics I am all hot and heavy to get started on the project, but hey, it's good for me to add discipline into my life wherever I can - builds character, right?  But I also think I will be glad I did it.  

Now the big question for me is what do I do with my current scrap bag?  I'm tempted to just dump it at the donation center, but I think instead I am going to go through it, pull out fabrics I like want to save and cut them into squares.  Ambitious - yes I suppose it is, but I can stubborn and single-minded when I want to be.  Whatever is left will be donated,period.  No debating with myself. 

And from now on, a new rule: in order for me to save a piece of fabric, meaning put it back into my bins, it must be at least fat-quarter sized or larger, and I must really, really like it and know that I will use it again.  If there are smallish bits that I like, I will cut it into the largest possible squares.  If I think I won't use it again, no matter how large or how lovely, I will donate it.  And I vow to donate at least every other month, that way I won't have such a large amount of stuff taking up space in my studio. And annoying me. 

While I'm at it, I'm also going to donate a bunch of things my excellent mother, who was gadget-addicted, bought.  I haven't used them in four years, so the odds are that I won't ever.  And someone else might.  It's hard to part with them for the same reason it's hard to part with scraps - you never know when they might come in handy...and, well, my mother bought them and they remind me of her...but the truth is that I like to work in a more organized space than I have at the moment.  Mother, I'm certain, understands this.  

Like I said, I am probably way late to the party - many people may already be doing exactly this, but I'm still excited about it and want to share it in case it helps anyone else who might have my weird scrap issues  (Hey, I may be late, but at least I've finally arrived!)

So I'm curious - what are your scrap solutions -what works for you, because I know everyone is different.  Please share with the group, now - you never know who you might be helping...