Quiltville Custom Quilting

Crumbs, Crumbs Crumbs!!!

Adventures in Crumb-Piecing!

I have been asked and asked to put up a tutorial on crumb blocks,but you know, it was one of those things that got put off and put off because there were other patterns in line ahead!  Crumb piecing is one of those things that is as individual as every quilter out there. We all have our own way of doing things.  There is no one set way to use crumbs!  So I am hoping that the ideas you find here will help you in your own path of finding what works for you!

Last New Years (first week of Jan 2007!) I spent a week with my friend Tonya in Florida!  We had a "Crumby" week planned to sew with each other's smallest pieces,blending our fabrics and making crumb blocks!  You have to understand that Tonya is a lover of brights and batiks and even novelties, and I am much more traditional in my fabric choices!

This was the bag we were working from! Lots of LITTLE pieces!

 THIS was the challenge....to use each other's fabrics together with our own! We made OODLES of 3.5" blocks, laid them out on the floor, and then
she and I took turns picking ones that we wanted.

(blocks laid out, not sewn together as it appears!)

"One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me!" It was like a game!

This is the happy-scrappy result of that much-more-than-crumby week with a special friend.  The 3.5" (unfinished size) blocks were sewn into 4 patches to make larger blocks.Two blocks contain Tonya's initials, and my own. She also has the same initial blocks in her own quilt!
The quip I composed for the border reads:

"True friends are the Brightest Scraps in the Patchwork of Life!!"

Bonnie ironing                                              Tonya Piecing


"The Best Things In Life Are Quilted!!"

This crumb quilt also used some orphan blocks of the same size. Block size: 4.5"  I also used orphan parts in the borders. And all the borders are different widths!  There really are no "rules" for this kind of quilt.

Basic Crumb Block Construction:

I have a drawer in my sewing cabinet where I throw all small pieces that might normally be thrown away. This drawer holds things like the triangles I snip off when joining lengths of binding on the diagonal.....little pieces left from rotory cutting that are too small to be a strip, square, or rectangle...end pieces of seamed "strip sets" where I couldn't get another "complete" unit out of them....Anything too short to be considered a "string".  The drawer is down low, and hard to dig through because it is so full....so when crumb piecing I tend to grab a basket, put a few handfuls in, like this:

This should give me enough to work with for a while!

Sometimes you need longer pieces, and I'll usually have a handful of longer strings at hand too...but the goal here is to use up as much of the "small stuff" as I can.


To keep things as continuous as I can, and to avoid a lot of long thread ends and waste, I tend to work on two blocks at once, using each as the "leader/ender" for the other. The first thing I grabbed out of my basket was two rectangles. I placed them right sides together, and with a 1/4" seam I sewed them together.

The next two pieces I grabbed were a long triangle (left from a kaliedoscope quilt!) and another short narrow piece. I seamed these together....snipped off the two previous rectangles behind the machine, and pressed that seam open.

I found a chunk of a star print that would fit the width of the two seamed rectangles, and added that on ...then I snipped the triangle piece off behind the presser foot and added another piece on to it...every time leaving one of the units underneat the presser foot so I was never pulling out long pieces of thread....it is very continuous this way!


***NOTE*** although a 1/4" seam is important in MOST quilt piecing, it really isn't with crumb piecing. What you want is a STRAIGHT seam.  Seams have to be straight so that the block will lie flat, if you have a curved seam, you are going to have hills and ripples in your block.  Shoot for a straight seam every time, even if the edge of your "crumb" is crooked!

See the unit above?  The piece on top "corrected" the wonky edge of the piece. I used the straight edge of the top piece as my guide for sewing a straight seam.  These are crumbs, and I really didn't want to have to rotory cut every edge straight before adding the next piece. Call me Lazy....I admit it!

I have two sizes of blocks that I like to work with.  3.5" (unfinished) is great for small crumbs.  You can join small crumb blocks together in 4 patches (as in the "true friends" quilt above) or even 9 patches. These are great for using your smallest pieces.  A 3.5" Omnigrid square ruler makes it easy to trim this size!

I also like blocks in a 5" size (unfinished) as in the "The Best Things" quilt above. I've tried 6.5" blocks, but they tend to start getting unweildy on me and it is harder to use my smaller pieces in them. I start having to use more large strips and strings to fill in the outside of the block.  I'd rather make more small blocks than fewer big ones,  but that is just me! Remember, there are no rules here!


See those two bottom squares on the right? the yellow and cream one?  They were left from making 4 patches...I got to the end of the strip unit while subcutting the sewn strips..and there was this end that was not big enough to get a 2.5" sub cut out of it. I put these "partially sewn" units into my crumb drawer too, and they work quickly into blocks!  I added the green square (I love this ugly print!  It was a shirt I bought at good will and cut up for quilting fabric!) and then sewed the whole pieced unit onto the block section.


The edges are getting to the point where there isn't a long straight continuous "add on" edge anywhere, so it's time to take a long strip and square it off!  I then took two more of the "too short for 4 patch" leftovers and seamed them together into a long strip of peiced rectangles and added it to the other side of the pink "spacer" strip.Here I am testing the size of the block to see if it is big enough to cut. I use the Dear Jane ruler, it is the perfect size of square for the blocks I like!  You can twist and turn the ruler on the pieced unit to find a pleasing block alignment and trim!

Don't throw away any of those edges! They can be the beginning of your next crumb block! :cD


What about those little left over triangle crumbs???

I have a lot of these in my drawer.  I like to sew a few together in a chain....maybe 4 as above, and press them open. I trim the dog ears.  They are not going to be all the same size, in fact they are going to be quite wonky! But these add a fun primitive element to your crumb blocks!


You can twist and turn these to form pinwheels, square in a square, hourglass or broken dishes units!

Use them to piece star points..and let them be wonky!  Don't worry if the points get chopped off in the end, it adds to the charm and whimsey of the piece.


I sewed the 4 triangle squares together, addeda red rectangle, then  the blue triangle unit, and then the pink strip, log cabin fashion around the triangle squares!  More of the leftovers from other partially pieced blocks went around the other side. Of course you can use plain strips, but I am trying to use my smallest pieces here, remember?

The trimmed block!

I really think the triangle units in the center make for INTERESTING crumb blocks. They add motion, they catch the eye, and now those triangles are OUT of the bin...the best thing of all! :cD

Detail of  my favorite crumb blocks from my quilts:




Crumb Quilt Ideas!

Are crumbs just for quilts? NO!!!

I've made some great book covers for well loved and well worn books using crumb blocks and orphan blocks!  Notice that the center of the star on the book on the left is also a crumb?!  Crumbs can be used for block centers and other parts where one solid fabric is usually used. The ideas are endless!

How do you use your crumb  blocks?  I'd be happy to share your pics and ideas here to inspire other quilters to use it up!  Remember, those crumbs cost just as much per yard as the original fabric you bought that they came from!

Questions or Comments? I would love to hear from you!!
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