From The Workroom / MN2302 Hovea / Sewalongs

Hovea Sewalong: Tips For Scrap Quilting

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting

Whether you’re looking for a project to bust all of those fabric scraps you’ve been collecting, or you just love the style – Hovea or Hovea Curve is the perfect pattern for a scrap quilt jacket! While scrap jackets have recently come into the fashion spotlight again, the concept of quilting with scraps & recycled fabrics isn’t a new one! From techniques such as Boro (discussed by Mari in her post), Jogakbo (featured in Youngmin Lee’s post) and Kantha (explored by Manjari in her post) to Victorian era crazy quilts or the rich traditions of African American quilting that are almost as old as America itself – in some form or another, scrap quilting has existed in almost every culture throughout time!

With great awe and respect for the long & colourful history of scrap quilting, today we’re going to explore how we can bring this amazing & practical art form into practice for our own Hovea Jackets! There are so many ways to approach scrap quilting, but in this post we’re going to explore a basic method that without a pattern, blends organic lines with basic shapes in a wonderful organised chaos! It’s the process I used while making our Hovea Curve scrap coat and one that lets the fabric pieces we have at hand guide the design. Whether or not this is the style you’re looking to achieve though, a lot of the principals are universal and can be applied to other methods too! So if you’re interesting in creating a truely unique design and giving new life to your fabric scraps – strap yourself in, we’ve got a lot to cover!

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Scrap Quilting Your Own Hovea Jacket Or Coat

The basic plan

As we go through this process, keep in mind that it’s not exactly a linear one! I am constantly swapping back and forth between steps, recycling pieces that didn’t work back to the start, swapping things around and flitting between my overall design and the tiniest details. But, as a general outline it goes something like this:

  1. Assess, group & dissect the scraps, decide on style & colour scheme
  2. Matching & joining up pieces that fit together in interesting ways, starting to build blocks/groupings
  3. Crumb quilting smaller scraps to use in block building
  4. Using blocks to layout & construct larger pieces to turn into jacket panels
  5. Cutting out pattern pieces, ready for quilting & construction!

Assessing & Dissecting Your Scraps

Time to have a look at what we’re working with! Pull out your scrap stash and start to sort them by size, colour and texture. It’s at this point that I start narrowing things down to the general colour pallet and feel that I’m looking for. It’s good to be specific about what you’d like, but also try experimenting with different colour combos, sometimes two fabrics you wouldn’t naturally put together end up looking awesome next to each other when blended into a quilt top. You don’t have to only have a mix of colours though, you might want to make a patchwork completely out of the same colour or even fabric for a subtle and understated look!

Putting all the teeny tiny pieces aside for later on, I focus my attention mostly on the mid size pieces – the weird and wobbly shapes that were the negative space between the pattern pieces of your last project. It might be a curved shape cut away from a neckline or crotch curve or an angled triangle shape off-cut from something cut on the bias – the more abstract the better! In its original state they may be intimidating but I try to look at them as simple more usable shapes that are stuck together, just waiting to be released. Cut them into different shaped rectangles, used angled edges to make triangles and save your interesting curve shapes – we’ll get to those soon ;). Don’t think too hard about it, we’re just creating a little stash of pieces to pick from and play with, but do your best to minimise tiny offcuts/waste.

 Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Dissecting Your Scraps Once you get in the swing of it, it’s a lot of fun! But don’t get too excited and cut all of your mid-sized scraps up, you may need some for some custom cuts later on, when you’re trying to fit an interesting shape piece together with something.

 Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Finding Shapes Within Your Scraps

Matching & Joining – One Scrap At A Time

Now that we’ve tapped into our source of interesting shapes, we can start to find pairs and groups that look like they will fit together. We want to create unusual and exciting joins that will turn our garments into captivating murals that every time you look, you see something interesting you didn’t see before. I usually start with one interesting shaped scrap that will be my little feature piece and either find one that matches to it or if I have to, cut one to fit. With my interesting join as the base, I then add to it however I can, finding the next piece (or grouping of smaller pieces) that will fit the size of one of the group’s edges. Then it rolls on from there – one strap at a time!

When joining pieces, I simply pin it, sew it with a 6mm (1/4″) seam allowance and press it to the side that will add the least amount of bulk (i.e towards the lighter weight fabric) or if one fabric is a little sheer, to the other side which will show the seam allowances less. I work on pieces until they feel like a finished little chunk or “block”. While I know that’s a bit vague, it’s something that happens organically as you go. Alternatively though, you can be more organised and regular with your block shapes if you like. It will result in a lightly more organised overall layout, but if that’s what works for you, go for it.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Finding Pieces That Fit Together & Building BlocksWhen scrap quilting you can keep things in a grid format, where lines tend to be parallel & perpendicular, or you can throw that out the window and play with angles and completely free-form shapes. The latter will tend to give you a more higgledy-piggledy look and the former a more organised chaos vibe. While I love having random angles and curved shapes throughout my patchwork, for this project I was going for the chaotic grid format so I tended to fit these irregular pieces as little features, back into blocks that were roughly rectangular or square. Having my collection of blocks as rectangle/square-ish shapes meant they were also easier to mix around in different arrangements & then fit together into my larger pieces later on.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Finding Pieces That Fit TogetherAlthough it’s time consuming, I press after every seam I sew! The finished result is neater and the process of adding to a group of pieces is easier when they have been settled flat and into shape. Alternative to pressing each seam, you can also use a little seam roller that does the same job and means you don’t have to get up to go to the iron every 5 seconds.

I try to be as relaxed as I can, keeping it moving and not getting too caught up if things aren’t perfectly straight. If I stall on a piece and am not sure what to add onto it next, I just put it aside and move onto another group of scraps that I can see will fit together. I’ve lost count of how many times an off-cut from one block turned out to be the perfect addition to a block I got stuck on previously, so I definitely recommend moving on and circling back later, than getting bogged down & frustrated!

Continuous lines

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Continuous Lines

Lines that spread from one panel to the next and stripes that match up and intersect are fun little details that can bring a cohesiveness and flow to the chaos of scrap patchwork. Sometimes they will happen on accident and other times it will take a bit of extra effort, but the result is oh so satisfying! You can create contrast by intersecting curved lines with straight or you can coordinate the angle of lines and stripes of your fabric so the work together on a larger scale. Without noticing, our eyes tend to follow lines and find patterns everywhere we look so we can also use that to our advantage to feature a specific fabric or section you’re particularly proud of by having multiple seams pointing towards it!

When trying to intersect two seams in another joining seam, I find pressing the seam allowances of the initial seams in opposite directions can help line things up.  The little raised edges you get when pressing seam allowances to one side will be facing in opposite directions that will lock together slightly and help you get that perfect alignment! It will also spread the bulk of the seam allowances out so they aren’t all on one side.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Intersecting Lines

Experimenting With Textures

Something else that’s really fun to play with are textures and the parts of the fabric that you might not usually use! If your fabric has an interesting selvedge edge, why not make it a feature? Maybe your fabric has different textures on each side that you can juxtapose, by making a little panel where the two contrasting sides sit next to each other. Or maybe, like in the image below, you have a fabric with a frayed edge that’s too nice to trim and you want to top stitch it into place instead of hiding it away! The possibilities are endless.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Playing With Textures In Your Patchwork

Curved Seams

One of my favourite techniques that I used in our Hovea scrap coat was curved seams! They really add to the organic element of an irregular patchwork design and can be a refreshing contrast to a rectangular heavy piece. Curved seams might seam a bit tricky because they do take a little more effort than straight line seams, but I can assure you that the extra effort is worth it!

Method 1 – Custom Fit

The first method we’ll go through is the slightly trickier one, where you cut your pieces so they will fit together perfectly. I started with two scraps I’d found that had similar curves, but you can just as easily cut the curves yourself.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Curved Seams - Finding Curves To Fit TogetherFirst step is to place one of the pieces (whichever has the curve shape you’re wanting) over the other piece at the angle you want them to end up. Both pieces should be right side up and there should be an overlap of 1.2cm (1/2″). If your pieces aren’t exactly the same curve like mine, there will be some places that are overlapping more than 1.2cm and thats ok, as long as 1.2cm is the minimum. Trace along the edge of the top piece onto the fabric below. As well as the general shape, you’ll also need to mark some notches across both pieces approximately every 5cm (2″) or so along the curve that are going to help us line up the pieces. The more notches you draw the more accurate you can be.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Curved Seams - Mark Your Curve & NotchesFocusing on the bottom piece, measure and draw a concentric curve 1.2cm (1/2″) out from the original one and trim any excess that you don’t need. You can also redraw your notches so they continue further towards the cut edge.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Curved Seams - Add Seam Allowances & Trim Excess Time to do the joining bit now! Turn your pieces so that the right sides are together. Starting by matching the ends of the curves so the straight sides of the pieces are aligned. Then begin to match the notches, pinning the two pieces together so their raw edges are aligned. I find it easier to work with the convex piece as the stationary base and the concave piece as the one on top that I am working to fit around the shape below.

It will require a little easing and finesse, but if you focus on matching the stitching lines of the two pieces (which are 6mm (1/4″) in from the raw edges), not the raw edges themselves, the should fit together. Use as many pins as you need to help the two edges sit nicely together and sew the two pieces together with the 6mm (1/4″) seam allowance being careful to avoid any tucks.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Curved Seams - Pin Your Curved Pieces TogetherAfter you’ve sewn your seam you can press your pieces so that the seam allowances are pushed towards the convex piece and marvel at the amazing curve you’ve created! If your curve isn’t sitting nicely, trim you seam allowances back a little further with pinking sheers or clip into the curve in small intervals.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Curved Seams - Press Your Seam To Settle Things Into Place How easy was that! The wonderful thing about this method is that it doesn’t rely on having perfect circles – or even circles at all for that matter – you can do the same with other organic design lines like the wavy seam below.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Wavy Seams

Method 2 – Appliqué

A second, simpler method is to sew the curved piece to the others as a kind of appliqué piece. To do this, fold under the raw edge of the curved piece by approximately 6mm (1/4″) to it’s wrong side. If you find it difficult to get a smooth curve, try sewing a line of stitching around the curve to use a guiding edge to fold on.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Curved Seams - The Applique MethodYou can then place the piece on top, pin in place and either top stitch or discretely hand stitch it in place. One of the benifits of this method is that you know you will get a flat join and you don’t have to worry about a slight difference in curves causing any warping.Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Curve Seams - Top Stitching Your Applique Piece In Place

Crumb Quilting

Alongside the larger pieces and blocks, I also like to work on a little a crumb quilting piece! When I say crumb quilting, I’m talking about a patchwork piece of really teeny tiny scraps or “crumbs”. It’s a style of patchwork that can use up even the smallest of scraps that otherwise would be pretty useless – meaning even less fabric waste, yay!

My process is to simply start with one piece, then find another which matches the size of one of the first piece’s edges – and join them. Then you can just continue to add more & more as you go, taking each off-cut from your block building and joining it to this wonderful, ever-growing creature!

 Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Crumb Quilting Progression

As I’m working I don’t stress too hard about the shape of the piece that I’m building, as I generally will end up dissecting or taking fragments from it to add into the larger blocks when they need a feature point or more density. Scattering fragments of the crumb quilting throughout your piece is also a good way of spreading snippets of the colours you’re using evenly over your piece.

Below is a little example – where I have joined some scrap strips in a relatively simple piece, but then dissected it to then add into other blocks. Alternatively, you can also simply swap the pieces around and rejoin them in a more interesting combination. Joining, cutting and rejoining (even multiple times) is like putting things through the blender to mix them up and is an easy way of getting really little pieces in your patchwork without having to actually sew the tiniest of scraps together one by one.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Dissecting Your Crumb Quilting

Bringing Your Building Blocks Together

Once I’ve built up a collection of blocks, I start looking at potential layouts for the larger pieces that will become the panels of the jacket. I start by laying out pieces, seeing which will match in size, while also thinking about the spread of colours, fabrics and density of patchwork. If I’m feeling like things are looking too dense or there’s a space that nothing is fitting, then I will take out my larger pieces of scraps and cut panels of plain fabrics to fit in between the patchwork ones. Adding spaces between the detailed blocks also means you don’t have to do as many, as well as giving them space to breath & be featured.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Playing With The Layout Of Your Blocks

When figuring out your layout of blocks, quilters often use a piece of batting or felt hung on a wall where they can pin up their pieces to play with arrangements. Being able to stand back, squint your eyes so you’re just looking at the general shapes and spread of colours is really helpful to check you have a balanced overall look and to spot any unconscious patterns or double ups you’ve made. I find another really useful way of doing this is to take a photo on your phone and to assess that instead! This is a useful tactic if you are working in a smaller space where you cant take a big step back to reflect your work as a whole and there is something about looking at the flat image which gives you a really different perspective on things.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Using Your Phone To Assess Your Block Layout

It can be tricky, but to maintain the casual randomness of scrap quilting it’s best to avoid long continuous straight seams, so when you start to join your blocks, try to stagger and offset them. If you really commit to this, you’ll end up in situations where you have to sew a block into a corner, which is when I will snip into the point of the corner of the larger piece, pin the new block in place starting from the corner and moving out, sew along one of its edges, pivot at the snip and continue down the other side.

Alternatively, if the snipping & pivoting is a bit tricky you can sew both edges separately, leaving a few centimetres on either side of the corner, then fold under the seam allowances of the new block’s corner to then secure them with a top stitch or discrete hand stitch.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Avoiding Obvious Block Joins By Staggering Blocks & Sewing Them Into CornersA third, even even easier approach though is to create faux disruptions in the seams, by using the same fabric on two sides of a seam to create an irregular shape like in the image below. You can still see the seam of course, but at a glance it can be relatively hard to spot, especially in patterned or chambray fabrics.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Faux Disruptions In Joining Seams

Working To The Pattern & Cutting Out

While working on your larger pieces, remember to be checking your pattern pieces against them for size reference and placement of your feature blocks & sections you want to show off most. If your piece ends up significantly bigger than a pattern piece, that’s ok – the offcuts can just get added to another piece. If you’ve decided to make your coat or jacket with pockets, consider using a plain piece of fabric for the jacket front section that the pocket will sit on top of – that way you don’t waste any of your interesting patchwork on a place no one will be able to see!

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Checking Your Layouts Against Your PatternIt’s up to you whether you cut out your pattern pieces now to quilt or construct into a lined jacket or you decide to quilt the larger pieces to cut up later. I decided to cut out my pieces with a small buffer of a couple of centimetres that if necessary, I could trim back. If you do cut your patchwork piece, I recommend sewing a row of stitching around the edge to make sure everything remains secure & none of your seams start to come apart.

And with the exception of a couple of notes & extra thoughts (I do tend to have a lot of them!), that’s it to my scrap working process! You can then continue on with the quilting & construction as if your amazingly intricate patchwork was just a simple piece of fabric.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Cutting Out Your Pattern Pieces From Your Scrap Patchwork

Other Tips & Notes

  • I didn’t use a ruler at any point during the scrap quilting steps of the Hovea Curve scrap coat! I just eyeballed things and cut – it was amazingly freeing (and a bit scary). It also meant though, that not all my angles were exactly spot on and not everything fit together perfectly to sit nice & flat. All of the different grainline directions that I didn’t pay much attention to also added to the situation – which meant that the finished quilt top was actually a bit wobbly and wonky – but that was ok! Because when I went to quilt it, the volume of the batting beneath filled those wobbles and the securing quilting stitches stopped things from stretching and warping in different directions. It just sorted itself out! So while it’s good to strive for accurate angles and things to be sitting just right, don’t stress if your quilt top isn’t all perfect!
  • A densely scrap quilted piece can take quite a while and I find my approach can change from day to day, reflecting in variations in the style and density of the blocks I make. If like me, consistency isn’t your strong suit, then sometimes it can be a good idea to work on a larger collection of blocks before splitting them into groups that will form your jacket pieces, rather than joining your blocks as you make them. That way you can spread your different styled pieces throughout the whole garment for a more cohesive look and you wont end up of having one arm made on the day you were really jamming on curved seams and the other that you made while in a rectangle mood.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Hovea Sewalong: Scrap Quilting | Extra Tips & Notes

  • Don’t be afraid to play with scale in your patchwork. My pieces ranged in size from itty bitty, to moderately large, but you might prefer to use only really big pieces or only even smaller pieces, or a blend of the two. You might have whole pattern pieces of plain fabric to contrast, or to leave just a small section of patchwork as a feature (like the pocket’s of Jodie’s gorgeous Hovea!).
  • If you end up with off-cuts after you’ve finished your Hovea, while you have all your batting & quilting still out on the table think about how you can use them up straight away! The project I’ve been meaning to get around to and that would be perfect use of Hovea scraps is the super cute Bombazine oven mitt! (Just be sure to only use your scraps if they’re natural fibres so they don’t melt!)
  • And finally, I encourage you to take your time and enjoy the process as much as you can – taking breaks if you need them and keeping your plans flexible as your work develops. Hanging on too tightly to certain ideas or pieces that just aren’t working can just make you frustrated and can even ruin a project. It can be a long process so you want to sure you still love it at the end!

And that’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed what we wen’t through today and that you’re feeling inspired & prepared for your own scrap patchwork adventure. If you have any tips of your own or experiences you’d like to share while having a go at this process yourself, let us know in the comments section below!

Naomi xx


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About Author

Naomi is the Design Assistant here at Megan Nielsen Patterns, and our resident helping hand. She stays busy assisting Meg with pattern development leg work, getting super excited about good instructional diagrams and making green coloured fabric suggestions for every sample we make. She’s a problem solver, a fabric addict, a serial tea-forgetter and a passionate maker.

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2 years ago

I have been wondering how people make this happen! Love the tips about chopping the bigger quilted pieces into smaller pieces to get tiny pieces without sewing the tiny pieces. I had not realized to do it that way. So many great tips!