Swirls of Scraps with Melissa McGill {tutorial}

Swirls of Scraps_big

This last weekend Melissa McGill joined us in-store to show off her fun Swirls of Scraps technique. You can try it yourself to make a quick table runner or wall hanging.

To make your very own, you'll need:
• a variety of batiks
• batik for backing
• tulle
• basting spray
• small, sharp scissors
• decorative thread (optional)

Swirls of Scraps 1

Stack 3 different squares of distinctly different colored batiks on top of each other; Melissa prefers to use Artisan Batiks from Robert Kaufman Fabrics. Squares can be any size, but must should be the same size. Batiks are very tightly woven and they do not fray too much. If you want to use other cotton prints or solids, you need to make sure that you don’t trim as close to the stitching lines.  By all means, try!  This is a very forgiving technique. 

Tip: If you use batik fat quarters , you will get four 9” squares from each fat quarter.  Or you could use “layer cakes” for easy pre-cut squares. 

 Swirls of Scraps 2

Top stitch all three squares with a loose, sloppy spiral pattern. Make sure to cross over your lines a few times. Fill in the corners with stitching as well. 

 Swirls of Scraps 3

Using a ruler and a rotary cutter, cut each large square into four smaller squares. 

 Swirls of Scraps 4

Start cutting out sections of fabrics between stitching. Alternate between the three layers of batiks to make interesting color combinations. Get creative! Sometimes you can turn the smaller square over and start the trimming away from the back to get a different visual effect.  If you don’t like how it’s looking, you can add an additional fabric color, stitch it on and start trimming more.  Repeat this step for all your blocks. True up the sides of each block to a uniform size (it’s normal for the fabric to shift while sewing your spirals). 

Tip: Use very sharp and pointed embroidery scissors (Melissa loves the 4’’ Gingher Curved Blade Embroidery Scissors). 

Swirls of scraps 5

Place a layer of backing fabric down. Melissa likes a hand dyed piece for the backing too because it looks the same on both sides and both are going to show.  The “wrong” side will be face up with the finished squares on it and the backing fabric will show a bit.  Place the squares, butted up against each other, on top of your backing fabric. Place so that the repositioned squares form a new spiral pattern.

Swirls of Scraps 6 

Using a basting spray (Melissa recommends 505:Spray & Fix quilt basting spray), baste secure your squares to the backing fabric. Then, place a layer of tulle over the top of the squares. Pin baste together. 

Tip: Different colors of tulle will give slightly different effects. If the tulle matches the main fabrics, it almost disappears. 

 Swirls of Scraps 7

Stitch in the ditch between each square to secure the tulle. Then, with a decorative thread, stitch loose spirals on top to quilt everything together. 

When everything is stitched, trim edges and bind your preferred way.


Katherine McGarry

March 14, 2018 at 5:58 AM

I like this! I am saving to try in the future.


Pat Thompson

March 17, 2018 at 9:58 AM

ThisvI have to try!


B. J.

March 18, 2018 at 7:41 AM

Wow! What a fabulous technique. Guess I'll just have to give it a try.



March 21, 2018 at 2:21 AM

It looks beautiful. But I don't get tbe cutting.


Rosemary Patterson

March 26, 2018 at 3:11 PM

I think this is amazing and beautiful!