Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Planning Quilt Projects for the New Year - The Method to My Madness

It may be true that 2018 is still a couple months off, but when it begins, I’ll be weather-bound indoors in my studio, and I want to hit the ground running with my quilting plans.

For me (and I bet for many of you in the northern hemisphere) the first four months of the year are the best time to churn out finished UFOs of the previous year, experiment with new ideas, embark on new plans, and set the tone for the entire creative year. Once the good weather arrives, our attention gets diverted to the garden, parties, vacations, holidays, etc. And before we know it school days, autumn and holidays are upon us once again.

Do you use Pinterest to save ideas? I’d be lost (and so would a few forests worth of wood and paper) without it. Throughout the year I use Pinterest to save pictures and ideas as I come across them. The ideas are not only for quilting (although I have a dozen or more quilting boards), but also decorating - it was indispensable when we remodeled the living room last year - needlework of many types, travel, recipes and other things that interest me. You can follow me on Pinterest HERE.

Sometimes I will pin two nearly identical quilts if they are in different colorways or have a different setting. The quilt police and Pinterest don’t care. I’m continually adding new ideas and even deleting some now and then (as in “what was I thinking?”)  I also have a locked board (meaning only I can see it) called Rainbow Scrap Challenge ideas. That’s where I pull ideas from all my other boards as future project possibilities. I highly recommend setting up your own boards, organize them how you like, and refer to them often. Another great source of quilty ideas is Pinterest user Dorte Rasmussen. She has thousands of pins organized into dozens scores of quilt boards. For antique quilts alone she has 4 boards with a total of over 2300 pins. A.MA.ZING. If you can’t find inspiration there, please check your pulse.

Sometimes as we’re visiting blogs or surfing online, we can't pin a picture to Pinterest. In that case I’ll try to bookmark the idea (like on Instagram, which has a function that will let you do that) or even on my iPad. Check your device to see if it has a bookmark or other function to save that picture to a file.

And don’t forget the hard (paper) resources - books and magazines. Naturally, those get physical bookmarks which I review at least a couple times a year. It’s nice to revisit their content and at the same time weed out things you no longer love.

Sometime in the fall I begin sorting through the pictures (paper and virtual) from all my sources with an eye toward getting them together in one place - the Rainbow Scrap Challenge folder that resides on my computer desktop. Some ideas have come close to being chosen several years (multi-colored spool blocks come to mind), but never make the final cut.

An idea gets double merit if it appears more than once or if it is a bucket list item that I can combine with another idea. Past bucket list goals that I’ve accomplished through the Rainbow Scrap Challenge (RSC) have been using vintage sheets, using selvages, and making a Dresden quilt. 

Often I defer items on my Bucket List because my skill set hasn’t grown to include it yet. The best example of this for me is the Storm at Sea pattern. It may be easier than I think, but for now I’m not comfortable tackling it. Maybe in 2019…..

So now you know where I get my ideas. What about you? Where do your ideas come from? Do you, like me, lust after 80% of what everyone else is doing in the RSC? I am ALWAYS pinning your ideas for consideration! Just this year I’ve seriously considered Scrap Jar Stars, Burgoyne Surrounded, Talking Turkey, HSTs with pinwheels, and Lady of the Lake. They will not be part of my 2018 plans, but they’re all still in my Pinterest files and on my Bucket List!


Let’s talk about our scraps themselves, because they play an important role in what projects we take on. Do you sew your RSC projects with ONLY scraps? Or are you willing to cut into an old FQ or (gasp!) yardage to supplement your work? Kudos to those who have enough scraps to last them until the Second Coming, for their cups overfloweth. But for the rest of us, I bet we go to scraps first, but then are not above using other fabrics as needed. Nothing wrong with that! And what do we consider scraps to be, anyway? For me, scraps are anything less than a full FQ or maybe larger if it’s an odd-sized leftover from something.

Do you cut your scraps down into certain sizes? If so, how? Personally, I don’t cut scraps down into strips when they are first assigned scrap status, but I do get rid of unusable areas, selvages (saved separately), and thready edges. That way the scraps can be cut into strings, squares, triangles, etc. when and as needed. There is no right way or wrong way, just what works best for you.

A final question about scraps for you -  do you save other forms of fabric - shirts, vintage sheets, etc. How do you cut and store (and use)  them?


When planning Rainbow Scrap Challenge projects, do you consider the SIZE of your scraps (as opposed to just the quantity)? This year I planned too many projects that required 2.5” scraps; Friendship Stars, Plus blocks, Geese Migration and Bowties. It wasn’t a mistake, per se, it’s just that I had to cut so much fabric down to that size. Too many projects were competing for the same size scraps. I had lots of strings and crumbs to use up in miscellaneous blocks (slabs) or to save for later. If I’d planned a project that used larger size pieces, (like my 2016 Dresdens or Cats) and fewer 2.5” projects, I could’ve cut those first and not had so much cutting. Live and learn.

Like this year, the first quarter of the next year will see me finishing up any of this year’s flimsies (Rainbow Selvages, The Plus Quilt and Friendship Stars) that haven’t been quilted and bound by the end of this year. And in 2018 I will be working to finish 3 ongoing RSC projects: Geese Migration, BowTies, and my Rainbow Strings and will need to factor those into my plans. Do you only have certain colors you need to fill in the blanks? I’ve made a special note to sew and cut those first when the 2018 RSC starts.

Ultimately, I will probably choose another 2-3 Rainbow Scrap projects. Also, I remember Angela mentioning that she and Mari of The Academic Quilter have an (optional) RSC Challenge quilt they’re planning for us. We may need to save room on our plates for that!  
The hardest part for me is always the CHOOSING what to work on. I like having a full pipeline of activity, from the planning stage to the binding stage. Luckily, I have a few more weeks before I have to make those hard final decisions!!

I hope that if you’ve read this far you will add your ideas and comments so that others in the RSC can read them. I will link to this post in our Saturday (Nov 4) link-up. Some final questions and/or Food for Thought: Have you begun to plan for 2018 projects, including the RSC? What do you do with your smallest scrap crumbs? Do you use a planner of some sort? How do you keep track of your RSC projects and WIPs?

Quilty Hugs,
Cathy maroon


  1. Oh my goodness, you have a lot on the go! My RSC planning is much simpler. Pick a single block and do that one once a month :) Of course, I make much less of a dent in the scrap pile! I'm in awe of all you plan and then accomplish.

    As far as scrap organization, I did try cutting my scraps down to specific sizes a few years ago, but then found I didn't have any left for other sizes when a project called for it. Now I just tidy up strips to the nearest 1/2" and store them in bins according to size, and leave any other scraps in a large bin to dig through as needed. That one could probably use a little color organization...

  2. I am already looking and planning. I use trello to keep my ideas in a photo list that usually comes from my pinterest boards. I will try to find my rsc project from my bucket list rather than pick something new.

  3. I didn't participate in RSC this year as I had too many bed sized quilts to make for my grands and family members-( 8 in total--some lap size, but still...;ooo).

    I personally do not cut any of my fabrics into certain sizes ahead of time (cause for sure as shootin' I'll want a BIG piece of that if I have precut-- and it won't be available anymore--ask me how I know this)...
    I cut mostly--only strips and squares from LEFTOVERS and previously cut-into FQ's.

    Most of my fabric collection consists of 1/2 yds and fat 1/4s...I buy mostly online and those are the sizes available...once in a great while I buy a whole yard...if it calls my name loudly enough.;)))

    Smaller projects are on my agenda for this year...enough with the hauling of big pieces through my machine already!! I need to list out the types of blocks that I want to try and perhaps make small pieces for each month's color??

    Frankly, I usually fly by the seat of my pants as this is supposed to be a FUN hobby for me and I am anal enough with everything else around here...(according to the hubster!!)just sayin' hahaha

    Hugs and thanks for a terrific thought-provoking post:["I'm undecided now, so what am I gonna dooo?..."--file under Songs for All Occasions] Julierose

  4. Wow! What a great read!!! I am so impressed with how much you have in the works for next year. Must be super organized. I've always wondered how you "scrappy" quilters managed your stash...I bounce between solids and prints so I am very inspired by all you folks who do "scrappy" all the time.

    Now a great tool for snatching images and saving them to your PC or whatever is SnagIt. You can take it for a test drive for 30 days free. You can capture anything & save it. I got addicted to it at work and now I have it at home as well.

    Thanks for the inspiration! I look forward to a colorful year following you!

  5. I focus on the Rainbow part of the challenge.

    I store everything 1/2 yard or less in bins...and from these I cut away as much as I need as I the pieces do look they have been attacked by sharks. That said, I cut off what I will use, so I don't really end up with scraps (except for 1.5 and 1.25 inch shards).

  6. I can't plan ahead. I procrastinate. I just punt. I use Pinterest. But I use EVERNOTE to store tutorials. I am happily stitching again. REALLY. Thanks to you because you told me you wanted to see me post something stitchy. You Rock!!
    xx, Carol

  7. PINTEREST board is only in my head. A lot of the time if I see a block I like I just make one and throw it into a box of possibilities to work on or not.

    I don't cut fabric to any sizes ahead of time. But I do organize scraps that result from a project where I cut fabric or fabric left at the end of a piece by 1.5 or 2.5. Over the years I also ended up with 3.5, 4.5 and 2 inch scrap boxes. I don't arrange scraps by color. I also have bags or boxes of long strings, short strings, waste triangles, crumbs and selvages and chunks. When some scrap bag or box gets pretty full I try to figure out what to do with those things. I try to use only from the scrap bins for RSC projects. If I don't have enough scraps I usually just carry on the project from year to year. I usually have a project for each size of scraps I have on hand. A scrap for me is anything less than a FQ.

    I'm not organized. I just go into the sewing room and sew on whatever suits my fancy for the day....something old, something new, something scrappy, something blue.

  8. Hi Cathy, I'm back on blogger. Just getting started. I was happy to see you still here.

  9. Frankly, I don't have enough room to be organized, so my scraps go into a big bag I can store at the bottom of my stash holding bookcase. Er - make that bag and two boxes under the cutting table. When I make RSC blocks, I go through them looking for the color I need. Sounds time wasting, but really it is a meditative time for me. I'll see a fabric and remember a quilt I made from it, or see another and think about putting together an idea I saw on the next. Like others, I don't cut certain sizes. I leave it to serendipity to what I will do with them.

    Great post! Got me thinking.

  10. I try to keep my stash and scraps organized, but it's hard to keep up with the scraps and leftovers from projects. I do cut some fabrics into strips for scrap quilting, generally 1.5", 2", 2.5" and 3.5", sometimes 3". However, I don't cut up everything, trying to hang on to some bigger chunks for when those are needed.
    I LOVE Pinterest! I have many boards, probably at least 50, all quilt related. It's so easy to get absorbed in looking at Pinterest ideas and lose a whole morning.
    I'm hoping to do Bonnie's mystery this year. I've done a couple of previous ones and really enjoyed them. I love the colors she chose this year, but will probably do something else just to keep from ending up with a quilt that looks like 100 (or 1000) others.
    Thanks for the great post!

  11. I don't take part in all the challenges because I'm not a 'sane' quilter (as you know) so can't offer much to the discussion. That's not to say I didn't read your post and all the comments with great interest! Pretty much my entire stash could be classed as being of the beauties of being a crazy quilter. Now I'm branching out into barn landscapes I'm amassing a small stash of cottons.

  12. I'm a big Pinterest user, too. I'm now following you and was tickled to see you pinned one of my quilts-in-progress! I've also used Evernote for storing inspiration pictures - mostly because I could view the info across all platforms (phone, ipad, laptop). However, they recently p***** me off by not recognizing a payment I'd made for their premium service, so I've uninstalled the app from everything but my laptop. I'm also big on just grabbing pix from the computer screen - I have a huge file on my laptop of quilt inspiration pix. On a Mac, use Command-Shift-4 to do a screen grab; on a PC, use Snip It. I usually save the screen grabs to my desktop, then process them later with a photo-editing program and save them as jpeg files. I use the Save feature on Instagram, but I also will sometimes view IG on my laptop (it's not an app, it's the IG website) and screen grab pix as I'm scrolling through.

    Anything too small to be folded and placed folded edge up in my fabric drawer is a scrap or a chunk. Scraps get trimmed to the largest appropriate size: 1.5, 2, 2.5 or 3.5 inches. Sometimes chunks get cut up into strips and sometimes I leave them as chunks. It depends on how much I feel like cutting or how emotional I feel about the fabric (favorite fabrics = don't cut! older, uglier or utilitarian fabrics = cut). Once the fabrics are cut into strips or squares, I sort them by color and store the different colors in zip-top bags. I used to just toss all the strips into a bin, but I got frustrated by all the loose threads and frayed edges that got out of control as I dug through the bin.

  13. Wow, lots of food for thought and planning, both the post and the comments. I've been thinking about what's on tap for RSC 2018. I look at my Pinterest pins, patterns, flagged quilting magazine patterns for inspiration. Past years have shown me that if I don't have a setting plan, the RSC quilts don't get done. This year I had a plan before I started making the blocks. That has helped a lot, so that's an idea to carry over to next year. I've been willing to make some of the more complicated blocks (Vintage Dresses) since I often set it ups so I'm only making 1 or 2 blocks for the project each month. That's worked well too.

    I'm a fabric junkie and fat quarters help feed that without ramping up the stash too much. I store all those by color and use those in making the RSC quilts. I do have some left over strips/ blocks that are stored by color and size, but I tend to forget about those and use just the FQs. I'm contemplating finding out which size strips is the biggest and building next year's project around that so I can at least clear out some of the precut scraps. We'll see. Still contemplating.

  14. Lots of good points and questions. I’m still pondering, but first I have 8 quilts to get finished and out of here. Of course, I have a few other ufo’s too. I love finishes, but I’m tempted to start other things. So many beautiful things to see on the internet and want to make.


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