Before I started cutting my scraps into usable pieces, I used to keep them all in paper shopping bags. I'd just keep piling them on with each new project and then dread the thought of going through the mangled mess every time I needed a small piece. It took forever to find just the right piece and then I'd have to iron it, etc.
I came across Bonnie Hunter's site, www.quiltville.com a few years ago and fell in love with her philosophy on cutting scraps into usable pieces. The thought of not having to dredge through a pile of small pieces and working miracles to get all the wrinkles out was just sew easy, why didn't I think of that in the first place? Sew, I went out and bought plastic shoe boxes to store all my bits and pieces.
I went through the bags of fabric I had and cut as much as I could before finally pitching the rest because the pieces were too small. Don't even ask me what I was thinking when I decided to hold onto certain pieces. I wasn't even into applique back then!
Now, when I have fabric less than 1/4 yard, I usually try to cut it down into usable pieces. I'll cut squares in various sizes such as 5", 3.5", 2.5", 2" and yes, even 1.5" squares. I'll also cut 2.5" strips and 2" strips. Anything smaller than 1.5" usually gets tossed but if it's a color that can be used for petals or leaves in my applique, I'll stuff it into another plastic bin.
I've also started cutting 2.5" x 4.5" rectangles. These are great for a scrappy piano key border but they can also be used in blocks. If I have a project that I'm collecting certain colors for, I'll put those into a plastic baggie to keep them separate from the rest cut into that size. I tend to keep my batiks separate from my other fabrics and keep my novelties separate as well. I don't know why, it's not like they don't get along, just my type A personality, I guess!
I've even participated in some online swaps for 5" charms and 2.5" strips. I've really enjoyed participating in these. It's a great way to send off a bunch of strips or charms of the same fabric and getting a wide selection in return. I received a lot of Halloween, Christmas and neutral strips and charms this way. It helps build up the variety of the stash very quickly. In fact, I'm using my Halloween charms to make a quilt out of one of the Nickel Quilt books by Pat Speth.
If you love scraps like I do I highly suggest Bonnie Hunter's book Leaders and Enders. She also has two other books but I only own the one right now. I also highly recommend Pat Speth's books for those of you that like to collect the 5" charm packs. It's amazing what you can do with those little suckers!
Cutting up your scraps into usable pieces isn't for everyone. I have students that will hand over their scraps to me. I've also been known to take them out of the little baskets we have on each table for thread and fabric snippings. New Englanders are known for being resourceful (I prefer resourceful to thrifty) but I hate the thought of usable fabric sitting in a landfill somewhere, especially when fabric costs anywhere from $9 - $12 a yard these days.
OK, I'll get of my sewing box now. I have bindings to sew in order to get my quilts ready for my guild's show next month. Yikes, it's coming up quick!!