Scrap Quilts: A Mini History Lesson

There’s no use denying it; I love history. From period dramas to documentaries and historical fiction to memoirs, I love learning about the past. So many actions, ideas, and practices have historic roots including our mutual pastime—quilting.

Quilting itself has such a storied history, but so do the individual quilt blocks and the materials we use. One of my favorite modern quilting books, Vintage Quilt Revival by Katie Clark Blakesley, Lee Heinrich, and Faith Jones, has mini history lessons interspersed throughout the book in between block tutorials and project patterns.

The one that has really resonated with me on this last read through the book was the section about scrap quilts. They are so popular (and fun to make) because we’ve all got a stash of leftover fabric, whether it’s big or small.

Here’s a look at their mini history lesson about scrap quilts:

“Sorbet Mini Quilt” by Katie Clark Blakesley

Scrap quilts often bring to mind the image of a resourceful pioneer woman cutting up worn clothing to create bedcovers for her family. But the truth may be that scrap quilting didn’t become as commonplace as we think until the Great Depression when hard-pressed quiltmakers were forced to use every bit of fabric they had on hand. Along with feed sacks, women also used bits of old clothing, worn-out bed linens, and anything else they could get their hands on. Often quilters made “britches quilts” from men’s old denim work clothes or wool clothing.

When scraps were used, it was often in the form of small units for Nine-Patch quilt blocks, small hexagons (as in a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt), half-square triangles, or Log Cabin blocks. Log Cabin and half-square-triangle scrap quilts were often made as value studies, with lighter scraps contrasting with the darker pieces. Today, these are still popular ways for quilters to use their scraps.

How do you use your scraps in quilts? Do you use leftover pieces from previous quilt projects or do you make your own “britches quilts” out of that favorite pair of jeans you can’t bring yourself to throw away?

“Double Dutch Table Runner” by Katie Clark Blakesley

I love this book for its bite-sized bits of history alongside block tutorials and charming projects. It marries my love of history with my love for modern quilts by placing traditional blocks in new settings, encouraging new color approaches, and re-imagining blocks from the past. There’s so much great information and inspiration (including a CD of full-size printable template patterns) in Vintage Quilt Revival, you won’t regret adding this to your library of quilting resources! And if you want to get started learning and working your way through the 22 quilt designs, you can download the eBook instantly.

Happy quilting,

P.S. If you are interested in using traditional quilt blocks as inspiration for modern quilts, you won’t want to miss the video series Quilt Remix available at The Quilting Company. Learn to make quilt patterns your own with hose Kelly Bowser as she gives vintage quilt patterns a modern twist.

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