Paper Bag Quilting


Over the weekend, I attended a quilt retreat at the Southampton Inn on Long Island. The group project was a scrap quilt. Because I’m not a big scrap quilt fan, and because I had a lot of my own projects that I wanted to work on, I decided to bring my own quilt kits and pass on the group project. However I certainly enjoyed the scrap quilts that were brought for Show and Tell.

As we were looking at the quilts, people started talking about the “brown bag method” of selecting fabric. It works like this: Throw all of your scraps into a paper bag. Pick out a scrap. It’s the next piece to be used on your quilt. Don’t match it to the previous piece, move it to another location, or fixate on the color in any way. Just sew it and repeat with the next piece. When the quilt is complete, the fabrics do work together.

If you’re working on a quilt that requires light and dark pieces (such as a log cabin), use two bags. Choose from the light, then the dark, and repeat. If I were to do this, I would pre-screen the fabrics so that they were similar — such as using a Thimbleberry-type line of fabric rather than a mixture of novelty prints, bright florals, and Civil War fabrics.

However the scrap quilt project  at the retreat used all different scraps. They ran the gamut of colors and prints. The resulting quilts were beautiful. I’m not sure how such different fabrics could work together, but they did.

I decided to try the process with this quilt top.  I had to make 4 patches using a total of 14 different fabrics from my kit. I’d already sewn the 2-patches, but decided to just randomly pair them. I followed the same random process with the border (although I’ll admit I did a bit of fudging to make sure the same fabrics weren’t beside each other.) Overall, it worked very well.

As I was cutting out the kit fabric, the light green bothered me. It did not seem to be the same value as the rest of the fabrics. If I were to make this quilt again, I would definitely leave out the light green, or throw in another couple of fabrics that were a lighter value.

I will definitely use the “paper bag” method again in the future. It is quick and the results are very satisfactory.

(If you cannot see the picture, please go directly to

"Stars and Strips" by Atkinson Designs


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