Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Crumbs, Crumbs, Crumbs!

Crumbs, Crumbs Crumbs!!!

Adventures in Crumb-Piecing!

(Click here for printer friendly version!)

I have been asked and asked to put up a tutorial on crumb blocks,but you know, it was one of those things that got put off and put off because there were other patterns in line ahead! Crumb piecing is one of those things that is as individual as every quilter out there. We all have our own way of doing things. There is no one set way to use crumbs. So I am hoping that the ideas you find here will help you in your own path of finding what works for you!

Last New Years (first week of Jan 2007!) I spent a week with my friend Tonya in Florida. We had a "Crumby" week planned to sew with each other's smallest pieces,blending our fabrics and making crumb blocks! You have to understand that Tonya is a lover of brights and batiks and even novelties, and I am much more traditional in my fabric choices...

This was the bag we were working from! Lots of LITTLE pieces!

THIS was the challenge....to use each other's fabrics together with our own! We made OODLES of 3.5" blocks, laid them out on the floor, and then
she and I took turns picking ones that we wanted.

(blocks laid out, not sewn together as it appears!)

"One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me!" It was like a game!

This is the happy-scrappy result of that much-more-than-crumby week with a special friend. The 3.5" (unfinished size) blocks were sewn into 4 patches to make larger blocks.Two blocks contain Tonya's initials, and my own. She also has the same initial blocks in her own quilt!
The quip I composed for the border reads:

"True friends are the Brightest Scraps in the Patchwork of Life!!"

Bonnie ironing Tonya Piecing

"The Best Things In Life Are Quilted!!"

This crumb quilt also used some orphan blocks of the same size. Block size: 4.5" I also used orphan parts in the borders. And all the borders are different widths! There really are no "rules" for this kind of quilt.

Basic Crumb Block Construction:

I have a drawer in my sewing cabinet where I throw all small pieces that might normally be thrown away. This drawer holds things like the triangles I snip off when joining lengths of binding on the diagonal.....little pieces left from rotory cutting that are too small to be a strip, square, or rectangle...end pieces of seamed "strip sets" where I couldn't get another "complete" unit out of them....Anything too short to be considered a "string". The drawer is down low, and hard to dig through because it is so full....so when crumb piecing I tend to grab a basket, put a few handfuls in, like this:

This should give me enough to work with for a while!

Sometimes you need longer pieces, and I'll usually have a handful of longer strings at hand too...but the goal here is to use up as much of the "small stuff" as I can.

To keep things as continuous as I can, and to avoid a lot of long thread ends and waste, I tend to work on two blocks at once, using each as the "leader/ender" for the other. The first thing I grabbed out of my basket was two rectangles. I placed them right sides together, and with a 1/4" seam I sewed them together.

The next two pieces I grabbed were a long triangle (left from a kaliedoscope quilt!) and another short narrow piece. I seamed these together....snipped off the two previous rectangles behind the machine, and pressed that seam open.

I found a chunk of a star print that would fit the width of the two seamed rectangles, and added that on ...then I snipped the triangle piece off behind the presser foot and added another piece on to it...every time leaving one of the units underneat the presser foot so I was never pulling out long pieces of thread....it is very continuous this way!

***NOTE*** although a 1/4" seam is important in MOST quilt piecing, it really isn't with crumb piecing. What you want is a STRAIGHT seam. Seams have to be straight so that the block will lie flat, if you have a curved seam, you are going to have hills and ripples in your block. Shoot for a straight seam every time, even if the edge of your "crumb" is crooked!

See the unit above? The piece on top "corrected" the wonky edge of the piece. I used the straight edge of the top piece as my guide for sewing a straight seam. These are crumbs, and I really didn't want to have to rotory cut every edge straight before adding the next piece. Call me Lazy....I admit it!

I have two sizes of blocks that I like to work with. 3.5" (unfinished) is great for small crumbs. You can join small crumb blocks together in 4 patches (as in the "true friends" quilt above) or even 9 patches. These are great for using your smallest pieces. A 3.5" Omnigrid square ruler makes it easy to trim this size!

I also like blocks in a 5" size (unfinished) as in the "The Best Things" quilt above. I've tried 6.5" blocks, but they tend to start getting unweildy on me and it is harder to use my smaller pieces in them. I start having to use more large strips and strings to fill in the outside of the block. I'd rather make more small blocks than fewer big ones, but that is just me! Remember, there are no rules here!

See those two bottom squares on the right? the yellow and cream one? They were left from making 4 patches...I got to the end of the strip unit while subcutting the sewn strips..and there was this end that was not big enough to get a 2.5" sub cut out of it. I put these "partially sewn" units into my crumb drawer too, and they work quickly into blocks! I added the green square (I love this ugly print! It was a shirt I bought at good will and cut up for quilting fabric!) and then sewed the whole pieced unit onto the block section.

The edges are getting to the point where there isn't a long straight continuous "add on" edge anywhere, so it's time to take a long strip and square it off! I then took two more of the "too short for 4 patch" leftovers and seamed them together into a long strip of peiced rectangles and added it to the other side of the pink "spacer" strip.Here I am testing the size of the block to see if it is big enough to cut. I use the Dear Jane ruler, it is the perfect size of square for the blocks I like! You can twist and turn the ruler on the pieced unit to find a pleasing block alignment and trim!

Don't throw away any of those edges! They can be the beginning of your next crumb block! :cD

What about those little left over triangle crumbs???

I have a lot of these in my drawer. I like to sew a few together in a chain....maybe 4 as above, and press them open. I trim the dog ears. They are not going to be all the same size, in fact they are going to be quite wonky! But these add a fun primitive element to your crumb blocks!

You can twist and turn these to form pinwheels, square in a square, hourglass or broken dishes units!

Use them to piece star points..and let them be wonky! Don't worry if the points get chopped off in the end, it adds to the charm and whimsey of the piece.

I sewed the 4 triangle squares together, addeda red rectangle, then the blue triangle unit, and then the pink strip, log cabin fashion around the triangle squares! More of the leftovers from other partially pieced blocks went around the other side. Of course you can use plain strips, but I am trying to use my smallest pieces here, remember?

The trimmed block!

I really think the triangle units in the center make for INTERESTING crumb blocks. They add motion, they catch the eye, and now those triangles are OUT of the bin...the best thing of all! :cD

Detail of my favorite crumb blocks from my quilts:

Crumb Quilt Ideas!

Are crumbs just for quilts? NO!!!

I've made some great book covers for well loved and well worn books using crumb blocks and orphan blocks! Notice that the center of the star on the book on the left is also a crumb?! Crumbs can be used for block centers and other parts where one solid fabric is usually used. The ideas are endless!

How do you use your crumb blocks? I'd be happy to share your pics and ideas here to inspire other quilters to use it up! Remember, those crumbs cost just as much per yard as the original fabric you bought that they came from!

Want a special treat? Take a look at Barb Horte's Crumb Tutorial! She likes to make blocks in a bigger 9.5" size and sent me great pics of how she does it step-by-step! I love working in collaboration with other quilters, and I thought her directions would benefit lots of quilters out there!


Elaine Eastman said...

Crumb Blocks! A new idea to me and grea. Now I can use all the zip-lock bags of pieces I have in my cardboard boxes under my bed. Elaine Eastman.


and to think I have been giving away pieces of this size for years!!!! what was I thinking?? I need to be keeping everything!! thanks for the ideas!! *~*CAROLE*~*

Pat said...

What a fantastic,glorious project for those of us who are admitted scrap aholics! I cannot wait to get started!I have 9 great nieces and nephews as well as 2 grand daughters {so far...} and wanted a fun scrappy project for blankets for them,and their moms wanted to help as well. This is just perfect for that labor of love. I do believe the plotting and teaching will begin on Thanksgiving! Thank you so much for this perfect technique and project! I will try to learn to upload pics by the time we finish our first masterpiece!

Ferret said...

I'd just about talked myself into throwing out the corners from joining binding. Oh well, more quilts here I come :)

denise said...

Bonnie, I love you ideas of using up small pieces of fabric. As i cannot bring myself to throw away any cut fabric. My friends tease me and laugh when I rummage through their fabric rubbish bins. they are in for one big SURPRISE when they see my finished crumb quilt. Thanks for your inspiration. Cheers.....

Anonymous said...

Dear Bonnie,
I am very enthouziastic with your methods to use crumbs or leftovers. So I have begun trying your method. I think post all these blocks on my flickr photostream. Of course, I'll put your name as the creator. I'm not very good at computers so I'm afraid by the copy/paste of your address; I'll do my best.
Many thanks, your method is veru funny.
Helena 408c@yahoo.fr

Anonymous said...

I have just finished a top following your examples. I don't know how I can send you a photo but you can see it in my gallery flickr at helena408.

Anonymous said...

Where is your old post on how you store your scraps? I can't seem to find it. I am finally ready to get organized. gelswood@aol.com Thanks!!! Gloria

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say "Thanks!" for this post. I've been making these blocks for years but mine were 6-7" squares and never did turn out like I wanted.After reading this post I made some 4" blocks and am much happier with the results. Who knew that just this change in size would make such a difference.Thanks again!
Mary from Alabama

Anonymous said...

Loved this project and just finished making one. I made my blocks 7" but just now saw the comment about them getting a little unwieldy :) I need to read things more carefully. Thank you so much for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful idea for newbe quilters like me. I've been throwing out scraps of fabric and I always felt guilty. These quilts are so full of energy that they must feel good to be around. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE You. i thought i was the only one who used misfits

Unknown said...

What size was the crumb quilt when you were finished?

Judi said...

What a GREAT idea! I've only recently taken up patchwork and quilting, but am already starting to collect little offcuts, so now I'm all prepared with ideas of how to use them up before they take up too much room. Thanks for sharing!

Judi (in the UK)

Anonymous said...

I have used my crumbs to stuff pillows for a local quilt shop who then gives them to a cat shelter. Perhaps I will save some for a crumb quilt!


Marna said...

When I attend a retreat I set up a box on my table asking for other quilters' scrap donations. They say they are happy to donate since they would ordinarily throw their scraps away. They don't have the temperament to deal with them. I take anything larger than 1" square. One quilter's throw away scrap is another quilter's creative treasure!

Jeanne said...

I noticed in your Live Feed a viewer from Toa Baja. I was beginning to think I was the only quilter in Puerto Ric. I would love to get in tough. Thanks

Anonymous said...

What a crumby site.... It's just crumby. :) lol I couldnt resist. I am amazed at your creativity with all the little crumbs you've kept. I've always had a hard time throwing my crumbs away and now I have the best reason not too! Yippee, thanks for sharing
your talents and ideas.....

Unknown said...

Thank you for this. My family has fits because I save all my bits and pieces! Now I can get to work empty all my baggies!!!

khowardquilts said...

Maybe this will give me some incentive to use some more of my small pieces. Many are sorted and squared up, but many more odd shaped ones are in boxes by colors. I started to sew some into long strips, but it is hard to keep them straight. I would chain piece a group and when they got big enough, I would find wonky strips that I could use to combine them. Nothing is finished yet. The tutorials make me think that I should stay smaller instead of going bigger. I am not so good at making them completely scrappy with anything together. The strips I have sewn are mainly blues together, because this was my largest group of scraps.

Rita Silveira said...

Beautiful,innovative,useful project to use bits n pieces of scraps.Thanks for sharing. God bless you dear.

Flower girl said...

I sort my bits into colours and then join them. It looks a little less "scrappy" and a bit more coordinated. Somehow I always seem to end up with just as many scraps!!!!

sewsandquilts said...

My iron is not next to my sewing machine, it is across the room. Because of that, I find it easier to work on about 5 blocks at a time, so that I have 4 seams to press each time I go to the iron.

Unknown said...

I,m a new quilter and I love your quilts,your directions are so easy to follow. Thank you so much. I have a feeling alot of other quilters feel the same.

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