The value of scraps

A couple of months ago I blogged about our periodic fabric grabs, in which the QN staff get to take home some of the sample fabric we receive from manufacturers. As I described it, occasionally we get half-yards, frequently we receive fat quarters,  but more often the pieces are smaller, meaning that we all have materials for some awesome scrap quilts.

What I neglected to describe are the fabric samples that come glued down onto cardboard folders, which is a great way to see a collection at-a-glance. Some are just attached with thin strips of light adhesive, making it easy to remove the fabric you want from the cardboard. But some are completely glued down, and when removed take a layer of paper with them.

I’ve been in a frugal state of mind lately, so even knowing that it would require some work to liberate the samples from their paper backings, I took home a stack of the folders and spent an evening tearing off the samples I liked (which was pretty much all of them). First I soaked them in hot water and scrubbed the paper pulp off, which still left a coating of glue. So I refilled my plastic tub, added some liquid soap, and soaked again hoping to loosen the glue. Even after soaking for a day, that glue is stubborn and requires a good amount of elbow grease to get rid of. As I was standing there, getting blisters from rubbing small pieces of oh-so-cute fabric together, my husband asked from the other room what I was working on. “I’m washing that fabric,” I said. “Oh good,” he replied dryly, “because if there’s one thing we have in this house, it’s a shortage of fabric.” “Yeah, I know,” I sighed, and kept scrubbing. (What I really wanted to say was, “Yes, just as we apparently have a dearth of guitars, amps, and stereo components. Simply tragic.” But I didn’t.)

After about the third soak, I started to wonder, Is the fabric really that cute? [Answer: Yes, it really is.] Is it worth all this work? I felt so virtuous at first, determined not to let fabric go to waste when it could add up to a charming scrap quilt. At this point, it’s more a matter of  “in for a penny, in for a pound” — I will have that fabric! Will I value it more for having worked to make it useable? Will I use it more quickly than other scraps in my collection to have some fruits for my labor? Time will tell. In the meantime, I still have a half-full tub o’ scraps waiting for me when I get home.

About Mary Kate Karr-Petras

Mary Kate is an associate editor at Quilters Newsletter. If you ask her what type of quilter she considers herself, she'll answer, "Slow." Favorite techniques include hand quilting, both traditional and big stitch, but she also loves her walking foot and keeps meaning to get better acquainted with her open-toe embroidery foot.
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18 Responses to The value of scraps

  1. Patricia Hersl says:

    Info from my sister-in-law: Oil dissolves glue, tape, sticky things. How you can use this for fabric, I don’t know. But I might try the oil, then wash.

  2. Judy Morningstar says:

    Perhaps the fabrics that won’t come off the glue without a fight are meant to be used in wall hangings, where it won’t matter. Actually, the paper and glue is like a stabilizer. Try it the way it is in quilts that won’t be washed and worn.

  3. Diane says:

    I saved some 2 1/2 ” woven plaid squares stabled together for years and made a scrappy 1/2 triangle quilt that turned out great mixed with civil war prints. Now trying to decide on borders.

  4. Rachel says:

    Goo Gone should work pretty well. I’ve used it on fabric before.

  5. peggyann says:

    last night for the first time, I sewed (first glued) some small scraps to cardstock, to make a greeting card. Scraps too small to make a seam with, but too pretty to toss. Wonder if that might salvage those precious scraps?

  6. Dorothy says:

    You might try soaking them in white vinegar. I used to use vinegar to remove white glue from my kids’ clothes.

  7. nora says:

    Just don’t scrub your fingers to the bone !!! : )
    Love ya,

  8. Laurel says:

    I recently read an article that stated you could get rid of glued on lable with vodka. I haven’t tried it but if it didn’t work you could at least relax while your scrubbing.

  9. Nina says:

    olive oil or mayo has always worked for me. I would also try nail polish remover on the corner to test if that doesn’t work a little prayer might! I one time made an abstract picture with my scraps and framed it. It looks great in my quilting room!

  10. Carole M. says:

    There is a scrapbooking product called Undo, that I have used on fabric to remove glue.

  11. ellen says:

    I have made several quilts from swatches gleaned from wallpaper sample books. I just tear off the paper that will come easily and then go ahead and sew them together. Once the piece is sewn and quilted I go ahead and wash the whole thing. The paper just dissolves and the glue does not matter. For the heavier home deco fabrics I do not use a batting, for the lighter weight fabrics I do use a cotton batting. Projects are machine quilted as they are too stiff for handwork. The only thing I do extra is to change the needle after the projects as the paper left inside does dull the needle. No need to go to all that fuss and bother, tear off the easily removed paper, sew, quilt, and wash….I have never had problem with this. Even quilts made from the deco weight fabrics soften more and more with each wash. I think your samples would react the same. I do buy sample boards from on line auctions to use as I love to make scrappy quilts and the sample boards are very economical.

  12. Carol S says:

    Oh, for heavens sake, you could have had a quilt finished by now! I’m a decorator and talk about having fabric around!

  13. Janet C. says:

    I have made quilts with paper backing on and not taken it off a little glue and paper will never affected the quilt in the long run. Don’t worry about it. Enjoy!!!

  14. Kathy says:

    I would try pressing them with your iron. Of course on the wrong side. I tried this just last week. The heat loosens the glue and is easily pulled our scrapped off and the fabric is usuable.

  15. Susan says:

    Warm vinegar removed dried chewing gum so it might work for you

  16. Dawn says:

    I was going to suggest the UNDO product for scrapping as well. You may want to test it on one that’s not a favorite…and it will need to be washed well after. It’s really amazing stuff!

  17. Kerry Hansing says:

    I learned in Library Science to use lighter fluid for sticky stuff. It evaporates. Walmart in the cigarette section behind the counter has it. You squirt it on and let it sit for a few seconds and peel. Works really well with chewing gum in a book. I don’t use Goo Be Gone too toxic in a closed room. I also get fabric books where ever I find them they make great small projects and are already color coordinated.

  18. Tina Sheppard says:

    Ironing the paper softens the glue and it often peels off without a trace.

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