Zero Waste Quilting

Weird concept, right? The idea came to me a few months ago after chatting with Liz Haywood. She’s a former fashion industry designer turned zero-waste garment maker. Her designs are lovely and they utilize every inch of fabric with virtually no waste. Genius, right?

After our chat, I started to ponder the idea of zero waste quilting and why we relegate leftovers to overflowing scrap bins instead of having an intended purpose for them; other than “I’ll throw those in another quilt down the road”. As quilters do we need scraps: 100%! And I LOVE a good scrap quilt but, if you are anything like me, you don’t need copious amounts of strips in bins taking up space in your sewing room. It gets overwhelming and then instead of action, we do nothing out of fear.

I know a lot of quilters that use leftovers for the backs of their quilts and I’m a huge fan of that but, again, if I’m honest, it’s not my go-to for making quilt backs. I generally like the backs of my quilts made from yardage. So what do I do with all the leftover pieces I have from making a quilt top? And, as a maker, how do I create and add beauty to my world and my space AND handle scraps all while considering the impact of my work on the environment? Enter the zero waste concept.

In my mind, this is really about intentionally creating and simultaneously considering how to use all the fabric you have for multiple quilts instead of making a quilt and tossing scraps aside for later use. How to get two (or three) quilts from yardage by cutting a specific way or buying slightly more fabric so you can get more than one quilt from the yardage you purchase? There’s definite forward thinking involved here. Or, as was the case with my Aether Quilt and All Squared Up quilts below, it was me thinking through how I could use leftover pieces using designs I already had.

The first quilts I made with this concept in mind were my Aether Quilt and an updated version of my All Squared Up quilt. I cut the background pieces for my Aether Quilt in such a way that I could use the remaining blocks to make another version of All Squared Up. I have a 7″ x WOF strip of most of the ombréd fabrics and I’m working on ideas to use those all the yardage is used in 3 quilts. Genius, right?

Aether Quilt
All Squared Up

Some of this is luck. Much of it, really. My original All Squared up design was made in 2006 but the math for both quilts worked out so I could get two quilts from my yardage. Two quilts. Two different looks. One collection of fabric.

The second set of quilts in my zero waste series is my Little Lone Star and a yet to be named scrap quilt. I used the scrap diamonds on the back of the quilt but still had more diamonds remaining in a pile I wanted to use. The shape limited options so I decided to insert the diamonds between dark grey fabrics to create a quilt with negative space.

Little Lone Star Quilt
Little Lone Star Quilt Back
Quilt made using Little Lone Star scraps

At the time, I did not realize I was working on this concept. I just wanted to use the scraps. Like all things, concepts and ideas evolve without even realizing it. This is one of those moments. I’m sure I am not the only quilter to have this epiphany.

The third set of quilts in my zero waste series are my Little Lone Star quilt and my yet to be named Sawtooth Star quilt. After making the Little Lone Star I had leftover triangle scraps. Big enough that they needed to be used but I didn’t want to toss the fabric. So I thought about how I could use the pieces. What am I going to do with a scrappy triangle that doesn’t have a place in another quilt? Make a Sawtooth Star. I already had half the flying geese made.

Each of these quilts measures 40″ square so if you need to make small, coordinating quilts or want to have a few small quilts on hand for future use (I’m looking at you, baby quilts), this is a perfect combination! I’m currently working on quilt 3 using the the remaining triangles I have made and hope to have that completed soon.

Little Lone Star
Sawtooth Star

Will this work for every quilt and every design? No, it won’t but if makers and designers can consider how to bring designs to the market that try to embrace this concept we’d really be able to introduce something specific and intentional to the market that has great value. Perhaps a solution is to include a bonus pattern for the zero waste quilt in our pattern offerings? Or list it as a separate pattern at a slightly lower cost? Bundle patterns that allow makers to have zero waste quilts?

I don’t know what the answer is, and every maker will have his/her/they opinion about it but nothing will happen if we don’t try to create change. So this is my first (and apparently second and third) attempt at creating change. My hope is that we can share options for bonus quilts (zero waste) to bring immediate satisfaction and use to the market. Use the fabric. Make the quilts. Help our wallets. Help shrink our stash. Help the environment by keeping pieces that might otherwise be discarded out of landfills.

Happy Quilting, everyone!


Published by Patty Murphy

Designer. Quilter. Fabric Hoarder.

One thought on “Zero Waste Quilting

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