I'm a fairly new quilter, having only taken up the hobby about three years ago. I had no fabric stash at all, and started by buying a few fat quarter bundles. Of course, I had no scraps. After making my first lap quilt, a blue and yellow floral and butterfly design for my Mom, I actually threw away the scraps. Why would I need to save those small pieces? It was several months before I started reading quilt blogs and discovered that entire quilts could be made from what I casually tossed in the garbage can. I still regret that little pile that ended up in the landfill.
I bought more bundles and made more quilts, and started saving my scraps. The very first thing I made with them was a Covered In Love block, my first collaborative "bee" creation. It was fun to make, and I felt good about contributing to such a good cause, but mostly it was just satisfying to get rid of a few scraps.
Meanwhile, I was still making quilts for friends and family from brand new fabric, carefully shopping for just the right colors and motifs that I hoped they would love. I'm particularly fond of using novelty fabrics to capture someone's interests: a beer-themed quilt for a cousin, sweet doggy faces for a friend's granddaughter, fun scooters for my husband. And I discovered the love and joy that comes with sewing gifts, the meditative time watching the fabrics pass under the presser foot, while thinking, "Oh, she's going to love these beautiful yellow flowers!"
But my scraps? They were just sort of extra bonus fabric available to try some new blocks, and often ended up in Kat's hands. Then one day, I had an epiphany when Kat wrote this:
I checked in today with one of the chaplains who delivers these quilts and he said, "This is a wonderful, powerful gift. [I] placed the Route 66 quilt on a bed Tuesday and the family cried and cried. He had lived for many years in Amarillo and it was on the quilt! It was perfect!"Kat had sewn a quilt using scrap/remnant Route 66 fabric, and it ended up in the hands of just the right family. In their grief, they connected so emotionally to that memory of their loved one. And that's not the only time a personal connection has been made through these quilts. The wide variety of colors and themes, sewn out of our scraps, has produced Just The Right Quilt for many, many grieving families.
Each time we select a fabric for our own loved ones, we open up the possibility that it is also the perfect fabric for a stranger in need. Your aunt loves purple? So does another aunt. Tiny butterflies on a 2"x2" scrap? That will certainly be found by the family of another butterfly fan as they sit by a hospital bedside. After all, we humans long for connection, for meaning, especially at times of sickness, grief, and loss.
Scraps now have been elevated in my stash to much higher status. They are the basis for the very best charity quilts. I believe that scrappy quilts provide extra visual and emotional interest at a time when people are searching for meaning and comfort. I'm deeply moved by the chaplains' stories about how the families often find a special connection hidden in their quilt. So I try to make my own donations full of little glimpses of flowers and birds and scooters and Snoopy and music and much more. Maybe something will resonate, providing a bit of light and love during a dark time.
By passing along the fabric that we filled with love the first time around, we do so much more than make efficient use of our stash. We touch our common humanity. And by combining my scraps with yours, we create something larger than each of us. Did you know that Kat puts a special label on the back of each Covered in Love quilt? She writes the names of each of us that has contributed a block, the backing, the quilting, the binding. Some of the labels have a dozen names, a whole cadre of loving strangers who have stitched in solitude to make together something that quite literally covers a family with love. Powerful stuff from scraps of fabric.
So as you sew donation blocks or quilts, use your scraps with pride. Tap into the joy and love as the fabric passes through your machine and your fingers. Think to yourself, "Oh, she's going to love these beautiful yellow flowers!" even if you've never met her and never will. Your scraps are destined for greatness.