How to Quilt With Charm Packs

Create a scrap quilt look with fabric charm packs.
quilts image by Christopher Martin from

Say "quilt" and the image that likely comes to mind is a scrap quilt. These quilt designs were traditionally made from hundreds of different fabrics, and it often took years for the quilter to collect enough pieces to finish the quilt. "Charm packs" take away the waiting and give you the means to make a scrap quilt right away, without having to create a fabric collection. These packages include a variety of 5-inch fabric squares--up to 100 different fabrics in each pack--giving you an instant fabric collection for your scrap-quilt designs.

Search your pattern books for quilt patterns based on squares. Charm packs are already cut into 5-inch squares, so square-based patterns are the easiest ones to make with these pieces. If your pattern is based on smaller squares, like the Irish chain pattern, you can easily cut the squares into 2 1/2-inch pieces by cutting them in half in both directions. Whatever the size, make sure that the main quilt patch shape is an even square.

Find a pattern with a strong contrast between the featured fabrics and the background fabric. The charm squares are going to be the star of your quilt; you don't want them to fade into the background when the quilt is finished. You can convert any quilt that is shown in two colors into a scrap quilt by simply substituting a variety of darker scraps for every dark-colored square.

Use white, gray or unbleached muslin as your background fabric, unless you have a very controlled charm pack done in all one color and need another color for contrast. Neutral colored backgrounds make it easier for the charm squares to stand out in the quilt top.

Redesign your quilt-top pattern based on a 5-inch patch or 2 1/2-inch patches if it isn't already based on that size square. Figure out the size of your quilt block based on these patches. Keep in mind that you should subtract 1/2 inch from each patch to account for seam allowances. If your block is based on three 5-inch patches across, you would multiply three by 4 1/2 inches to get a total block width of 13 1/2 inches. Figure out how many blocks you need by dividing your finished block size into your desired quilt size.

Place the charm patches into a basket or bag and choose the next one that you will sew without looking. True scrap quilts are made without concern with placing individual pieces of fabric. The design works because of the random nature of all the fabrics scattered across the quilt top. If you have two patches near each other with identical fabrics, it doesn't matter. That will only add to the random look of your finished quilt.