Waste and foundations

November 16, 2017


Today a blog inspired by a student in class. She was foundation piecing a pattern she had found in a book. It is a lovely pattern, but she had precut all the pieces as the book instructed and was as horrified as me by the amount of waste. I think she was throwing about half of her fabric away. Even though I now sell fabric, and in theory should be pleased to have patterns use as much as possible this was just too much. Always remember you pay the same per yard for your rubbish as you do for the bits you use. Now if you really like crumb quilts or minatures you could argue the precut a huge rectangle method of foundation piecing is fine but personally I make enough scraps when I try not to. I don’t have space or inclination to store ones I could avoid.


So when I woke up this evening (hospitals really wear you out) I unpicked the 2 foundations I got wrong last time and did a new set. I am working from fat quarters and this is how many I get from one set of strips. You can see I don’t have a huge amount of trimmings, and this is more than there needs to be to be honest. I have a bit extra because I want to use a strip and add all the pieces. I think if I did them one at a time I would save a little more but not enough to get another arc out of. I really wish I had photographed the pile of waste from the class. I didn’t so you will just have to imagine. Whenever I foundation piece I work from strips. I always measure the size strip I need for my pieces then work off that strip. Ideally I sew it onto one piece, press, trim off the spare then add it to the next piece working production line style. It’s quick and you get so much more from your fabric.

Unfortunately my method is not approved by pattern designers or the quilt police. They say that sure the other method is wasteful but it’s easy. I am not so sure. It is easier to write instuctions for yes. Easier to do, not so sure. On the bright side it was nice to be able to really help a student. Some days they all seem to do too well on their own and I feel a bit redundant but a few tips on foundation piecing and she was motoring along with far less errors and much much quicker. Next week we will be able to move on to waste reductions (she had everything cut ready for this week).


Please excuse the typos, this editor doesn’t mark them, I am correcting the ones I spot.

5 comments on “Waste and foundations”

  1. Teri Lucas says:

    I paper/foundation piece the same way you do, cut strips, stitch, trim and move along. When I figured that out it made my life so much easier, and it’s how I teach that type of piecing. You’re not alone Ferret.
    Happy Stitching

    1. ferret says:

      That is so good to hear :) There is no need for all this precutting and waste, maybe we can change the world :)

  2. Janet says:

    I am constantly telling my ladies the same thing Ferret, when I see what they throw away in the little bins on the tables I am stunned. No doubt the shops and manufacturers love this paper piecing malarkey for the wastage. I know it is accurate and great, but come on if someone such as yourself comes u with a better way, I am all for it.

    1. ferret says:

      There really doesn’t need to be any waste. OK, let me rephrase that, no more waste than any other kind of piecing. It just seems to be the way most patterns tell you to do it causes huge amounts of waste.

  3. Helen Ducker says:

    Snap ! I too hate waste. Precut a strip the width of biggest pieces I need and jiggle into the corners to save more. From my first attempt at this method I had a small jam jar with some slithers at the bottom. Took 2 years to fill it with waste.

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