September 2013

Tricks and Tips to Make a Scrap Quilt Sparkle



Without careful planning, a scrap quilt can quickly become dull and uninteresting. Care needs to be taken to balance light, medium and dark fabrics, and to choose a background that will enhance the colorful mix of fabrics. Use these techniques to make your scrap quilt sparkle.

Stick with a Particular Color Palette

Choose a mood for your scrap quilt and stick with it. If you are making a quilt with an Autumn mood, use a variety of light, medium and dark fabrics that are in a warm color palette. Use caution when including cool colors in this quilt. An occasional blue may be added for visual interest, but audition the fabric carefully and use these colors in very limited amounts. A scrap quilt with a Winter mood would include a variety of cool colors, with very limited amounts of warm color.

Highlight a Dominant Color

Using one strong, dominant color will help give a scrap quilt a pulled-together, structured look. For instance, a quilt with a variety of star blocks will look coordinated if all of the blocks are made from a variety of light, medium and dark red fabrics with a neutral background fabric. This makes the stars the strong point of interest, not the scrap fabrics. The variety of fabrics will make the stars visually interesting, and the neutral background color will ensure the star patterns dominate the quilt.

Use Different Colors in Repeated Blocks

Choose one block pattern and make each block out of a different color theme. This is an excellent technique for structuring a very scrappy quilt. This quilt benefits from the use of the same neutral background color in each block to help calm the visual intensity of the multi-colored scraps. This scrappy quilt can also be pulled together by using a solid color sashing (a strip of fabric that creates a frame) around each block which will help unify the design.

Coordinate with Your Decor

A scrappy quilt can lend a homey, warm appeal to a room. When making a scrap quilt that will be displayed in a particular room in your home, let the room décor help you choose the scraps to be used. Choose scraps that coordinate with your wall color, carpet, and furniture in the room. The finished quilt, while looking scrappy, will complement the room perfectly.

Be Sure to Vary Color and Value

The value of a color (how dark or light it is) is a very important consideration when deciding which scraps will be placed together. This is particularly important when you are making a quilt that features a single color palette. If you are making a quilt out of blue scraps, care needs to be taken to place a light next to a dark, or a medium next to a light, not two darks together, or two lights together. To make a quilt sparkle, there needs to be contrast between every scrap. The greater the level of contrast in color, the more each piece will stand out against the next. If two fabrics of the same value are place together, they will read as one piece, not two, which interferes with the block design. Make sure there is enough value contrast between your background fabric and your scraps. If they are too similar the block pattern will become interrupted. The most successful scrap quilts are made with off-white or other light neutral color, which allows the scraps to be the stars of the show.

(Excerpted from my article at

Until next time,


Making Quilts Using Men’s Neckties

I have published an article on about using discarded men’s neckties for quilt-making. You can read the tips in the article, which I have linked at the bottom of this post.

This subject first came to mind a couple of years ago when a friend of mine gave me a huge box of beautiful silk neckties. Her husband, a physician who wore a lovely tie to work every day, had died and she couldn’t bring herself to throw them away. I have taken the ties apart, sorted them, and cleaned them. What now?

I have been considering two patterns for this project (which I will return to my friend as a loving memory of her husband). The first is the classic pieced “Bow Tie” pattern. Necktie fabric would translate well, and the solid background fabric would make the tie fabric pop.

Bow Tie

The templates for a 6 inch Bow Tie block can be found here: BowTiePDF. You can easily increase the size of the block by taking it to the copy shop and increasing the size of the templates.

The second block is a very easy foundation-pieced block called “Starched Shirt.”

The Shirt


It would be fun to make 12 to 16 of these blocks and use Oxford cotton or other men’s shirting fabric for the shirt, and a variety of beautiful silk ties.  This pattern is for a 12 inch block and it will print out on four pages. Tape the pages together, using the registration lines in the margins, and cut out the foundation pieces.

(3/1/2015: UPDATE. The digital paper-piecing pattern I originally posted had an error that I have been unable to correct. I am posting a new link for templates for the same 12 inch block. I apologize for the failed original link! Happy piecing.) The new link is here: StarchedShirtPDF.

I have noticed a number of unique ideas for quilts using men’s ties on Pinterest.  This “Tie Burst” quilt from is terrific because the entire top surface of the tie is used without the need for piecing.


This quilt, which was inspired by the book “Daddy’s Ties,” by Shirley Botsford, was made and pinned by blogger, Shout4Joy. The pointed angles at the end of the ties are a perfect fit for the blades of a Dresden Plate block.


This quilt, based on the Storm at Sea pattern, was made by the pinner in memory of her father. It was posted by Thimblebug6000 at Quilting Board.


Men’s neckties can be used effectively in a variety of quilt patterns. They are generally busy prints with strong directional patterns so they need lots of solids around them to calm things down visually.  Visit a closet near you, or take a trip to the thrift store, and try your hand at making a unique quilt using men’s neckties!

Here is the link to the article: Tips for Making Quilts Using Men’s Neckties.

Until next time,