Happy New Year! 

This is the time of year we get organized, sort our belongings, and create piles of things destined for the yard sale. I’ve been doing a bit of that while I’m on vacation this week, and my pet project for this year involves scrap fabric. Actually, it’s something I began working on last spring, but since I have so many scraps, it is absolutely going to be an ongoing effort. I don’t just have my scraps, oh no. I also have Grandma’s scraps. I have two generations of scraps! That’s a lot of fabric to be storing. I have one large tote, a box, two suitcases and a couple of small totes. Um, yeah, it’s a problem…..


Sadly, this isn’t even close to all my scraps in the stash.

Every sewing project leaves behind unused fabric. Sometimes the pieces are too small to be good for much, while at other times you may have half a yard, a yard, or two. It’s the nature of the process; it’s very difficult to not have any waste. Of course, there is a growing awareness of the waste generated by the clothing industry and there are avenues being explored to try to reduce that waste. Changing the layout of the pattern pieces, designing to avoid waste, and using the remnants up as accessories or embellishment are a few ways people are thinking differently about the process. Which is terrific on the industrial level, absolutely. We love responsible, ethical and environmentally friendly practices in manufacturing. I hope someday that will be the standard practice for all garment production.

It’s a bit different for the home sewist. At home, we can adjust the layout for our pattern pieces to be more efficient in our fabric usage. It’s a great way to squeeze multiple projects from some yardage that you love. Rearranging the layout is especially helpful if you got more shrinkage than you expected, or if you found the perfect fabric on the end of the bolt and are just a little short of what you need. If you are very clever, you can make that shorter yardage work when you carefully plan your pattern layout. But what about leftover yardage or small pieces that can’t be used easily?

The scraps and I have a love/hate relationship.

Hate: I have been trying to figure out what to do with all these oddball remnants. They take up a fair bit of space, and I’m trying to be more organized and less cluttered. They aren’t helping me there.

I’m not a quilter, and I don’t intend to become one because I know I’m not quite that level of patient. I might do some quilting for small projects, perhaps, but an actual quilt? Maybe not for me. I have tried giving these scraps to local churches or my hobby groups, but nobody seems to want them. So far, the only thing I’ve done successfully with them is to put them in a box in the attic until a brilliant idea strikes me. Not the greatest plan of action, is it? More like a plan of inaction!

Unfortunately, out of sight isn’t out of mind.

In my quest to have less, I discovered Project Linus, an organization which takes cottons and blanket materials only, and makes blankets for kids, which is great. I started a box of cottons for them. Check out their website here:

Yet I still have a lot of non-cottons floating around that I need ideas for. I don’t particularly want to wear Grandma’s scraps of 1970s polyester suiting. I don’t mind some polyester, but the new stuff feels much nicer than the vintage, which doesn’t breathe and is kind of rough on the skin. What to do with it?

You might say, toss it in the trash! However, throwing it away isn’t a good solution. Sure, it’s gone from your house, but it isn’t gone. Unlike natural fibers, synthetic petroleum-based fabrics don’t decompose in the landfill. Lots of polyester leisure suits from the 1970s will still be recognizable several centuries from now when your many-times great-granddaughter the archaeologist comes along to dig up 20th century artifacts. It might even still be around for a few generations of her great granddaughters. Yikes! I’m not sure this is a legacy I want to leave for the future. Even if it does provide fascinating insight into twentieth and twenty-first century social history, I’m afraid it might be an insight that says, “These people were drowning in their own garbage caused by rampant consumerism and irresponsible practices.”

Unfortunately, textile recycling isn’t a reality in my charmingly rural area, either, so that’s out. I must come up with creative ways to use them up on my own. Ways that are somehow pretty, practical and good for the environment. That’s the challenge.

Love: Sometimes those fabric scraps are exactly what you need for a project. They can find a new purpose in small items, as bias tape or crafting material. I love giving things a new life, so this always makes me happy! Not to mention lessening the pile of scraps. That’s a big win right there.

In fact, I used my scraps to concoct some Christmas gifts this year. I hand-stitched a passport cover for my brother, who is currently in Europe on business. It’s really neat, with a little pocket section for a credit card and driver’s license or cash.


Passport cover in faux suede.

I used scraps of a faux suede from Grandma’s stash. It was a little tough to work with. My hand got a bit sore towards the end. You must be very careful stitching, because any needle holes are permanent and obvious! Faux leathers are a solid surface, so they don’t really forgive you for stabbing them the way a cotton woven or knit would. I have around a half yard left and some scraps, so this fabric might appear again in another project later. It’s super fuzzy and I love touching it! I got my pattern from here:

I also created a travel pillow for my mother out of some cotton leftovers from a sundress I made some time ago. Hers was a lovely blue and green cotton with leaves. I made a couple of extra pillows for me, too, shown here:

It was a very easy project, and would be terrific for a beginner, plus it’s very practical. I used quilting cottons for all three pillows, about a half yard for each. I used most of a bag of fiberfill, stuffing them firmly. I used this pattern:

Scrap fabric has also made a wonderful backing for displaying my great-grandmother’s doilies. These beauties hang in my living room as an art collection over my television. I had some linen left from an earlier project and found that it did very well as a neutral backdrop to show off the intricacies of the doilies. That was two birds with one stone, because when we went through my grandparents’ house, we found about 80 doilies and antimacassars sets that were made by my great-grandmother. I ended up with all of them. I’ve been finding ways to display/use them, too, but that’s probably another post altogether! I took the most interesting ones and did collages with them and I am very pleased with the results. There is no stitching involved, I just laid them on the glass, laid the linen on top, inserted the cardboard, et voila! Here are some of them:

There are no doubt going to be further posts on the subject of scrap fabric as I come up with ideas on how to use it up. Wish me luck!

Now to work on the rest of that box….



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