Handmade kitty and bunny stuffed animals created with pink scrappy quilt fabric

Quilt As You Go: Turn Scraps into Usable Fabric

One of the reasons I love making stuffed animals is that they don't require much fabric. They are a great way to use up a scrap pile, however, I also tend to create scraps in the process.

Pile of fabric scraps

I really don’t like throwing away perfectly good fabric, but not all remnants are big enough for a new project. This problem combined with all the quilt jackets I’ve been seeing on Instagram lead me to think differently. What if a scrappy quilt top was seen as a new piece of fabric instead of a potential blanket?! Also, what if I could make this new fabric without fiddly shapes or cutting fabric strips?! Enter a quilt as you go method.

Use this quilt as you go method to create new fabric from your scrap pile

Tools and Materials

  • Fabric scraps
  • A yard or so of backing fabric*
  • Rotary Cutter
  • Cutting Mat
  • Sewing Machine
  • Thread
  • Quilting ruler
  • Add-A-Quarter Ruler** 
  • Iron/Ironing Board

Tools and Materials for turning scraps into new fabric

*Please refer to the section below for more information

**This ruler is not absolutely necessary, but quite handy

Backing Fabric

The purpose of this fabric is two-fold. It serves as something to sew the scraps to and reinforces the scraps so that once everything is sewn together, the resulting fabric can then be used to create something new. Here are a couple of notes on what to use:

  • Woven Cotton - This doesn't need to be high quality and can even have a pattern on it. Just be sure to match light scraps to light fabric and dark scraps to dark fabric to avoid any unwanted patterns peeking through. Also, don't use anything too heavy like canvas.
  • Interfacing - no need to be fusible, but it can be. Go for a light to medium weight interface so that the finished fabric isn't too stiff. Try not to use wash away or tear away as they won't reinforce the scraps. 

Sort Your Fabric Scraps

Although many different fabrics can be used together and there are no rules, it is a good idea to create some cohesion. I sort by hue, start with darks and lights and then split those into piles based on color. Of course you can sort however you like. Mostly, you want to be able to just grab a scrap and sew it without thinking. Also, if the scraps are particularly wrinkly, you may want to iron them just to make things a little easier.

Piles of fabric scraps sorted by color and hue

Set Up Your Quilting Station

Okay, so this isn't totally necessary, but I find it helpful. If possible, use a long table, put your sewing machine on one end with your pile of scraps, then your cutting mat/rotary cutter, then your iron/ironing board. This will just streamline the process.

Sewing station setup for scrappy quilt as you go at a kitchen table

Prepare the Backing Fabric

This is probably the simplest step. Divide the backing fabric into strips. I like mine at 4" because then I can use bigger scraps, but you can cut them as small as 2" or as big as 6" depending on the size of scraps you are working with. Use the quilting ruler to get a straight edge, or, if you are using a cotton woven, tear the strips instead of cutting them. Prewashing is always a good idea when working with cottons.

Image showing fabric being torn

Quilt As You Go Tutorial

Next, let's bust out the sewing machine. Start with 2 small scraps, right sides together on top of a strip of a backing fabric. I like to start with at least one scrap  that has a straight side just to make sewing a little easier. Also, I start in the middle of the backing strip, but you can start on the end or really wherever as you will work your way outward until the strip is covered.

Two images stitched together, one showing two fabric scraps on a strip of backing fabric, the other showing the two scraps sewn to the backing fabric

Now, sew along the straight edge with at least a 1/4" seam. 

Cut Off the Excess Fabric

Take the fabric scraps you just sewed together to the cutting mat and place them with the backing strip up. Fold the backing against the seam and cut the scrap fabric to 1/4" seam allowance. This is where the Add-A-Quarter Ruler comes in handy. It has a 1/4" thick lip that you can butt up to the seam to cut a perfect 1/4" seam. Of course, a regular quilting ruler can be used instead.

Two images stitched together, one showing where to cut the fabric scrap and the other showing the resulting cut

Top Stitch the Scraps

Unfold the backing, flip over the strip so the scrap fabric is up, fold open the fabric and iron the seam. Then, top stitch along the seam, catching the seam allowance to re-enforce the sewing.

Iron and then top stitch the scraps

Continue Quilting As You Go

At this point you will just continue adding fabric scraps, one at a time until the whole strip of backing is covered. You may need to occasionally cut a straight edge on a scrap so the sewing stays clean and you may want to test scraps out to ensure they will cover the strip once sewn, but otherwise, this quilt as you go method is pretty straight forward:

  1. Place fabric
  2. Sew together
  3. Cut excess
  4. Iron open
  5. Top stitch
  6. Repeat steps 1 - 5

Multiple images showing process for using scraps to quilt as you go

Also, I like to work on more than one strip at a time because I find it's more efficient.

Finishing Up

Once all of the strips have been covered in fabric scraps, trim the edges and then place the backing strips right sides together and sew along one of the long sides using a 1/4" seam allowance.

Trim the edges of the backing fabric strips

Iron open the fabric and top stitch along the seam catching the seam allowances. Continue until all of the strips of backing fabric have been connected/top stitched and then use your new fabric to create whatever your heart desires!

Bye for now!

  Hey Kitty Rae Fabric from Scraps Hey Kitty Rae scrappy fabric handmade stuffed kitty and bunny Hey Kitty Rae Scrappy Fabric

Here I am on Studio 5

What an absolute treat to share this quilt as you go method with Brooke Walker on Studio 5! Hope you enjoy a quick run-through of this tutorial!

More Options

By the way, this is also a great way to upcycle old clothes, especially if a favorite item has lots of holes or stains. Check out my Reclaimed Collection for some ready to ship handmade stuffed animals from thrifted shirts.

Handmade stuffed kitties and bunnies created from upcycled striped shirt Handmade stuffed bunnies and kitties made with upcycled blue checkered shirt Handmade stuffed bunnies and kitties made with upcycled yellow, blue and orange shirt

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