Bonnie Hunter and her scrap obsession
If you’ve ever thrown away scraps in a Bonnie Hunter class, there’s a good chance they made their way into her pattern Pineapple Crazy in her book “String Fling.”
The bed-sized quilt is made up of 5-inch paper-pieced pineapple blocks with impossibly small pieces. And all those pieces you thought you couldn’t use and tossed, well Hunter scooped them up and put them in Pineapple Crazy.
The quilting queen of scraps, Hunter is known for her ample stash of scraps and fun ways to use them, as well as making quilts from recycled fabrics. She is so well known for her love of scraps that she has returned home to find 50 pound boxes filed with them on her doorstep.
In her quilt designs she will mix and match batiks, 1930s reproductions, modern prints. As long as the color value fits, it goes in the quilt regardless of the original fabric design.
“That’s what I love about being a scrap quilter,” Hunter said. “It’s more about the color and the variety, the value and the contrast. And the more the merrier in a scrap quilt. You can hide a multitude of sings by putting a lot into it. Things don’t stick out like a sore thumb the more you put them together in the quilt. And if things are ugly, you just cut it smaller.”
Hunter has developed what she calls the Scrap User’s System for organizing her ample stash. The idea is that all quilt blocks are built on a grid, and there are some common sizes one can cut just about anything from. Armed with an Easy Angle Ruler so she can cut triangles out of strips, Hunter saves scraps in one-and-a-half-inch, two-inch, two-and-a-half-inch and three inch strips.
“It’s what I call the four core, because these work in different combinations to give us those basic building blocks,” Hunter said. “So when I’m finishing up a project, it all happens in the clean up process. I don’t cut down new yardage to be scraps. This is all the left over backings, the let over backgrounds, sashing, borders and the backing fabric when you trim that off after getting the quilt quilted. There’s usual a lot of fabric there.”
One of Hunter’s projects that she travels with is the ultimate scrap quilter’s dream. For years she has been bringing her “busy bag” with to doctor’s appointments, teaching engagements, guild meetings. Anytime there’s time where she’s just going to be sitting, she’s typically sewing a few paper-pieced hexagons together. The result has been one bed-sized paper-pieced hexagon completed and a second one nearly done.
“I do English paper piecing on planes, in airports in hotel rooms, wherever I find I have wasted time,” Hunter said. “Some days, with a hectic work schedule, just holding that one little hexagon and basting those little corners down, that day I only sew three hexagons they gonna stay sewn. That’s my accomplishment for the day, but it was something.”
She also travels with projects already kitted up and ready for travel and asks to borrow a Singer featherweight, her antique sewing machine of choice. Right now she is reviving Scrappy Mountain Majesties, a delectable mountain variation and one of her first patterns, to celebrate her 11th year of blogging at Quiltville. She’s redoing the quilt in recycled shirt fabrics, plaid stripes and prints for a very rustic look.
Besides filling nights alone in a hotel room with something other than whatever is on primetime, traveling with one project is a great way for Hunter to make progress on a quilt.
“Because I’m not distracted by the other projects and fabrics that’s at my home, just what is in my suitcase, I can push these to block status,” Hunter said. “Sometimes I’ve even laid out the blocks on the extra hotel bed and used that as my design wall and got the whole top sewn together in a hotel. It’s time spent away from the family that’s put to good use, otherwise I’m jealous of the students who get to spend time with the machine.”
Want more Bonnie Hunter? Listen to her interview on Sit & Sew Radio!
Hunter saves scraps in one-and-a-half-inch, two-inch, two-and-a-half-inch and three inch strips.
You might want to edit this to three-and-a-half inch strips. As Bonnie says, “three inch strips don’t play nicely with others.”