In my mailbox nearly every week there will be a new quilting or sewing magazine. I haven't counted how many I get, but I know off the top of my head that I get Threads, Sew News, McCall's Quilting, Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting, Better Homes & Gardens Quilting, and maybe a few more. The joy of opening those covers and checking out what someone else made knows no bounds!
When they first come I spend a few minutes rapidly paging through to look at all the articles and patterns. Then I take them one by one and spend some time studying the patterns. Are they based on 2 inch or 2 1/2 inch or some other size strips or squares? Can you assembly-line sew parts, are there triangle units or geese units? I love figuring that out, and I love it even more when the author or editor has good, clear directions.
Then I spend some time looking at the color combinations. I especially like it when a second color scheme is included. Sometimes I think I don't like a pattern just because it's not my favorite colors, or I DO like it because it is in my colors, so I like to see a second or third colorway to test the theory.
After I've been through the whole magazine I go back with sticky notes or flags and put them on the patterns I most want to try. If there are three or more in one magazine, I will usually keep the whole magazine. But if there are only one or two, I'll make photocopies of the pages I want and recycle the magazine to quilting friends or the local sewing guild free table. This way I can pare down my collection and keep myself from starring in an episode of Hoarders!
A couple of times a month I'll sit down with my patterns and make up a test square. Sometimes I make more than one in different colorways. I test how long it takes to make one, and see the finished size. Often I take these 'tests' to Friday night sewing for 'sew and tell'. Sometimes we're inspired to make more and finish a top. But sometimes the test is the only square that actually gets done.
If they were always the same size or colorway, they might be made into a sampler quilt. But they're not, because, well, that would be boring. So I end up with a box of various sizes and colors and patterns. If I can make a 24 inch square or a 24x30 rectangle, they can become a doll quilt. If the squares are smaller, say 8 inches, I've made them into eyeglass cases and pot holders. That's also a good use for those bits and pieces of batting.
Other things you can use your leftover squares for are purses and bags, table runners, pillow cases, children's clothing (think a square in the middle of a small jacket back!) or cushion covers. I've been wanting to turn some of my nicer squares into a seat cushion for my office chair. It's a wonderful chair but it has a mesh seat and back, and in the winter it gets a bit chilly.
I've also seen very cool covers for the backs of those square-backed kitchen chairs. You make a sleeve that fits over the top third of half of the chair, and it dresses up your kitchen. I want to turn a set of bright colored squares into some valances for the spare bedroom, to dress up the plain white curtains that are in there now.
Lately I've seen those extra squares used very effectively with large chunks of fabric for quilt backs. There's no reason why the backs can't be as lovely or interesting as the fronts, is there?
One other very interesting way I've seen these orphan squares used it for a kind of crazy quilt top. Not 'crazy quilt' in the classical sense. More like a wildly insane top made with bits and pieces. I can't remember who did this, but the person cut the squares on the diagonal and sewed them to other squares, intentionally mis-matching. But because each piece appears more than once in the top, it looks planned. Then smaller squares were enlarged, or sewn together into groups to make a panel, and when the panels were the same size, those were sewn together until the top was large enough.
I think that one will take more planning than I can devote to it right now. Meanwhile, I'm still sewing some sample squares every week. Last week's was Bonnie Hunt's Scrappy Sister's Choice , which you should go and view on her blog. I made some with 2" strips because I already had a bunch of nine-patch squares done. They're super cute! They'll be a quilt for some lucky American Girl doll sometime soon.
Try something new. If nothing else you'll end up with some jazzy pot holders!