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Scrap busting & quilting with Sanne

Quilted oven mitts made from cotton fabric scraps

I love all kinds of sewing, not only making garments but also quilting. I enjoy working with different kind of fabrics and patterns but the downside of using so many types of fabrics, or sewing in general, is that you often create a lot of scraps. I try to use up as many scraps as possible and these summer months I want to focus on getting creative with the scraps I have. For fathers day I wanted to make my dad something he would actually use and the first thing I thought of were oven mitts. I dived in to my cotton scraps and collected a mix of different kind of reds and burgundy fabric scraps to use.

I choose these colours to fit in with the colours my parents have in the kitchen. I took out all cotton scraps I had, they all had different sizes. As a quilter I decided to piece my own fabric by using squares together to make a piece of fabric big enough to cut out the pattern 4 times. The first thing I had to decide was the size of the squares I would cut the fabric scraps to piece together. I decided to cut my scraps in 2.5" (6.35cm) squares, the smallest width of one of my scraps.

The next step was to calculate how big the piece of fabric had to be in the end to be able to cut out the pattern 4 times. For this I multiplied the width and length by 2. So this meant I needed a piece of fabric of roughly 18 x 24" (45.7 x 61cm). The general rule with quilting is to use a 1/4" seam allowance, so when calculating how many pieces to cut you take off 1/2" of the cut square to know the finished size. For the oven mitts this meant that each finished fabric piece would end up 2" (5 cm), so I needed to cut 9 x 12 pieces of fabric, a total off 108 squares.

To speed up the process of cutting 108 squares I started with cutting out strips that have a width of 2 1/2" (6.35cm) and stack those before cutting the squares. To speed up the process even more I lined up 3 stacks above each other on my cutting mat so I could cut out multiple pieces at a time. I used a rotary cutter and ruler to make sure each square ended up the correct size.

The next step is to decide on a layout of all the squares. My goal was to keep it random, but to make sure the light and dark fabrics were spread out even. A great tip to check this is to take a picture and change the colour to black and white, this will give you a great view of how the colours are divided.

Now that I decided on a layout, the next step is to sew all these little squares together to create my piece of fabric. I've been quilting for a few years now, but when I first started the thing that often held me back to start such a scrap project was the time it would take me to sew all those little pieces together. Over the years I've tried several techniques to go a little faster or to make this part of the sewing a lot more fun. My favourite techniques are chain-stitching and web-piecing. Chain-stitching means that you don't cut your threads in between sewing different pieces of fabric, so you create a long chain. Another big benefit of this technique is that you save on a lot of thread this way.

The next step that will help a lot with time management, but also with keeping track of where which row goes. After you created the first chain, by sewing together fabric piece 1 and 2 of each row, you keep them connected, so don't cut the thread and you add on the next piece of fabric. By doing so, you will create a kind of web of pieces of fabric all sewn together. I continued this until all the rows were constructed and sewn. If you want, you can now cut the rows apart to make ironing easier, and sew them together row by row. I decided to keep everything attached and ironed the seams of row 1 to the left, and row 2 to the right, and so on. By ironing the seams to opposite directions, they will nest when put together. Meaning, they will fit together perfectly and this will help a lot with lining up seams an creating a lovely quilt top.

After all rows are sewn together and given a good press, it is time to make the quilted fabric. Quilting is the process of sewing through three layers, a backing fabric, a batting or filling and a top. For the backing I decided on a red brownish piece of cotton, I don't really like the colour and it has been in my stash for several years now. For a quilt backing I would normally choose a fabric I like, but since this fabric will be on the inside it doesn't really matter. Using up a piece of fabric that would normally just stay behind fits really well in this scrap project. For the batting I used a piece I had leftover from another project and the top is of course the fabric I created from all the squares. To actually quilt these 3 layers I decided on a simple pattern, I sewed next to each seam using the side of the foot as a guide.

After the quilted fabric was finished, it was time to construct the two oven mitts. I cut the pattern out 4 times, making sure to mirror two pattern pieces. I reinforced the seams by going over them a second time, especially between the fingers and the thumb. To help with turning the patter inside out I using pinking shears to help with the curve. A great tip I found online is to cut in the narrow part between fingers and thumb to help with having the seams lay flat, because there is a lot of bulk at some narrower points.

To finish up the oven mitts I added a binding and make a little loop from some other scraps in a matching colour. I sew on the binding on one side with machine and use a ladder stitch to hand sew on the other side to create an invisible seam. I just love these little details to give a finish project a nice finish. I'm really happy with the finished result and my dad also loved them.

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