Monday 18 January 2016

Scrap And Small Piece Busting

(my 'collection' of woven scraps and small pieces)

Do you ever feel like you are at risk of drowning in fabric? That's how I'm feeling at the moment. I'm not talking about the (relatively) nicely folded, garment-sized pieces that live on my set of shelves. I mean all the bits that are left over from completed projects that are too nice to chuck in the textile recycling bin, but too small to make much from.

I have one sizeable tub for scraps and small pieces of woven fabric, and another for knit, that are meant to stack up neatly next to my sewing table. Except they don't. They are now too full to stack neatly, and are over-flowing onto the floor. I'd estimate they currently contain (and I use that term loosely) double their suitable volume of fabric and it's time to do something about it. I don't mean that negatively: these tubs are full of really lovely fabric that deserves to be turned into things that will be loved and used. Perhaps you too have a similar treasure trove to mine.


I am NOT planning on or advocating making stuff for stuff's sake just to reduce the volume of scraps and small pieces. I've seen a bunch of links on Pinterest to lists of projects designed for using up scraps and most of them seem to me like an utter waste of time and fabric-potential. I'm talking about making great stuff that will see lots of use and enjoyment, but might require a tiny bit more thought than if you were to cut into a fresh piece of adult garment-sized fabric. It's an extension of the points I made in my Sewing When Your Skint post: finding the value in what you already own to make the kinds of things you really want to make.

I've been giving it some thought, and aside from kids clothes (more on that in a bit), here's what I'll make a more concerted effort to use it for:
  • contrast pocket bags
  • contrast facings (always makes garments look fancy, eh?)
  • bag linings (the Anya shoulder bag, for example, only requires 35cm of lining fabric)
(image source: Emily's Three Things)
  • headbands (I'm wondering if I could rock a headband like the one pictured above whilst my fringe grows out)
  • vests and pants (someone messaged me recently saying that they use my pants pattern to squeeze a pair of pants out as well whenever she's cutting out a knit garment)
(image source: Making Ends Meet)
  • cloth sanitary pads (yes, I am genuinely considering trying this. Call me a big ol' hippy if you wish. You can't argue that they wouldn't get used!)

And of course, if you have children in your life to sew for, little clothes, bags and toys are a great uses for smaller pieces of nice fabric. Things I plan to sew for Dolores and her friends include:

(image source: Kixx Online)
  • vests and pants (I've got both kids vest and pants patterns in one of my copies of Ottobre magazine to try, but panelled pants like the ones pictured lower down in this post would mean even smaller pieces could be used)
  • dribble bibs (Dolores is still a heavy dribbler, even now she's two. Plus, some my friends are busting out  new babies in the next few months)
(image source: Dana Made It)
(image source: Swoodson Says)
  • beanie hats (I'm going to check out this blog post (pictured above) for the low-down on some freebie pattern options)
(image source: Purl Soho)
  • skirts (skirts can be as fancy or as simple as you like I guess! This gathered version pictured above would take so little time to make, it's the clever colour combo that makes it pop)
  • patchwork duvet cover (Dolores is still in a grobag/sleep sack at night, but before long we'll have to upgrade her to a duvet set. I'm thinking about making a basic patchwork duvet cover when the time comes)

And when the scraps and pieces are too small to cut even a child's sized garment out of it, there's always combining, panelling and colour-blocking to make the most of the hoard. Here are some images I collated via Pinterest that are inspiring me in this fashion:

(image source: Boden)

(image source: c'est bien fée

(image source: groovymama via Burdastyle)

(image source: Upcraft Club)

(image source: Boden)

(image source: thatdarnkat on Etsy)

(image source: Delia creates)

(image source: Craftaholics Anonymous)

(image source: Sloppop Yeah)

(image source: Une Rose Sur La Lune

(image source: The Chriselle Factor)

(image source: Carolyn Friedlander)

(image source: Blune)

(image source: Shwin Designs)

(image source: Boden via Nordstrom)

(image source: Zulily)

(image source: Sloppop Yeah)

(image source: Boden)

I would love to hear your thoughts. How do you make good use of your scraps and small pieces? 


OrloSubito said...

Nice post, I'm just publishing 7 posts in my blog with 7 garments made off left over fabrics:-D

Mother of Reinvention said...

I am feeling your pain. I am going to admit that yes, I am an inveterate hoarder of fabric (and stuff - I have a Konmari free home and am unrepentant) and even small scraps are never tossed as they could "come in handy". I do use some from time to time making patchwork but some of the lovely things you have posted above are really inspiring. I love colour blocked clothes, especially when they are patterned. I do make bias binding from odds and sods and do try to use them up but it is hard to keep up. I think that a patchwork duvet sounds beautiful. I saw this coat recently on Facebook and nearly fainted with want. It would take forever but a great way to use up wee pieces. Xx

Mrs Juzzie Green said...

My best advice would be to give your self a deadline- or two. Perhaps you could write a date on a post it and put it at the midway point on the box. If it hasn't shrunk down by that date, then it's off to recycling.
I know you want to do the right thing but you don't want to have this fabric albatross around your neck !
Still those pads look great and according to your government and mine they're a luxury item.

Unknown said...

Great minds think alike! I went through my scrap baskets tonight trying to work out what I could squees out of some small and odd shaped scraps. Be good to use them if I can.

Christals Creations said...

Love some of these ideas. I donated three shoeboxes full of fabric scraps to school for crafts, I wanted to keep them in case I decided to use them for patchwork or applique but I had so many small scraps I felt I needed to be a bit ruthless. I wondered in the past about cloth pads, I mean my kids have marked pants on regular occasions and surely it's no more gross to wash than that. But I have never actually made them. I did makr reusable paper towels as a gift one Christmas. I don't know it the recipient really got the idea or not though.

Philippa said...

There are some really good ideas here. I agree that many of the scrap-busting ideas around are for little cute things that are unlikely to see much use (although I would occasionally sew them as gifts). It's probably easier to go down the garment route if you have a little one to dress, I don't have that at the moment, so I am thinking along the lines of contrast waistbands, hembands and side panels. Boden do seem to have cornered the market in creative colour blocking so there is inspiration in the adult section too. I have also thought about adding applique or patch work panels to clothes too.

Turbo said...

I use really tiny scraps to stuff floor pillows. I think little draw-string bags are also nice scrap busters. I use draw-string bags of all sizes when I shop in the bulk section of the grocery store. You can also make little gifts -- sachets, eye masks, zippered pouches, catnip mice, etc. Or how about a crazy quilt to remember all your favorite garments? I love your blog!

badmomgoodmom said...

I make clothes for little people from small bits.
Larger, thicker pieces become reusable cleaning rags.

Smaller bits get used instead of paper towels for messy cleanup jobs.

Where I live, 100% natural fabrics can be thrown in with the compostables.

Megan said...

Great post with some really fun ideas. I love seeing all the contrasting fabrics put together - it gives me the notion that I might be able to do the same and not look like a complete lunatic, lol. I always save my scraps since I Just can't bear to waste them. I say go for it on the cloth pads though - I recently "came out" about using them myself on my blog and put up the pattern I use and all the innards too. They are SO much more comfortable. I'm no "hippie", but I am quite cheap and on a tight budget and those pads have saved me so much money in the past few years. This is my post on them if you need a tutorial:

Anonymous said...

I have a book with beautiful vintage style projects for using up pretty fabric scraps, 'Chic on a Shoestring' by Mary Jane Baxter.Projects include hats (including a beanie), headbands, flower brooches, bags, collars, belts, fingerless gloves/wrist warmers as well as two tops and a skirt.

Sharp Little Needles said...

On a recent trip to San Francisco's Asian Art Museum, I spent some time in a display of Korean silk wrappings called BOJAGI.

They are made from tiny scraps of fabric, meticulously hand stitched into a large rectangle, with ties on the corners. They are used to wrap gifts, and then they become table or furniture coverings.

Or, the recipient could use it to wrap a gift to another person, and then that person could do the same ... to infinity. What a lovely idea, to make something beautiful that replaces the wasteful mound of wrapping paper at holidays and parties. I imagine, after a while, the bojagi would pick up quite a few stories of celebrations and gifts.

A gallery of bojagi from Youngmin Lee, whose work appears at the Asian Art Museum:

You can guess where this is going, stash-scrap-wise. Traditional bojagi are time-consuming and made of tiny pieces, but maybe a simplified version, with much larger color blocks (or even one piece, with contrast ties), would be just the thing ... with an explanatory note to the recipient about just what the heck that thing is and how it can be repeatedly repurposed.

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

I have two ideas for knits and one of them sort of shows up in your photos - a company here overlocks scraps of knits together then makes undies from them. tat would be rad! Also, there's a thing called Zpaghetti which is basically strips of knit washed to make them curl that you knit up or crochet with big needles into bags and mats. Is that too Pinintersty though? I'm not convinced as yet myself!
I have so much bloody fabric I don't really know what to do. Probably donate the cottons to the quilters who make charity quilts, as that's what I have the most of. Must get onto it, thanks for the push!

Unknown said...

I have the exact same two tubs and they are not currently stacking either, lol! Love that you had to tape yours up :) Did it burst at one point? ;) I need to use mine up for sure...

Unknown said...

I have the exact same two tubs and they are not currently stacking either, lol! Love that you had to tape yours up :) Did it burst at one point? ;) I need to use mine up for sure...

Rosy said...

I do the same thing as your other reader - cut out pants with any leftover knit scraps. Currently trying to lose some weight which will have the added benefit of needing smaller scraps! I do the same thing with wovens - cut out a pair of Measure Twice Cut Once Lydia knickers. They do use more though as they are cut on the bias

Elisabeth said...

Yes, I have to tubs that look very much like yours. I have used scraps for pocket bags and boxers for the boys, and also to stuff the tailor's ham and sausage I made. Now I think most of my scraps are too small to be made into anything, so I've started throwing away the smallest pieces when I cut *scary*

eimear said...

great post. I currently keep on bag for large scraps too big for the bin, and too small to go back into the 'fabric stash'. I have pulled out some wool knitted scraps as I am going to make a tailors roll and have found out that wool can be used instead of sawdust. I am making an 'accessory' wallet for my teenage niece out of some others, and made gift bags at Christmas out of some.

I also managed to give two lots on freecycle by 2 separate posts looking for scraps, one chap was learning patchwork, and the other was a girl learning to sew.....

Pippa said...

Oh yes I know this feeling, Although I have a big cardboard box of mixed scraps of all sizes that I need to go through. Anything too small and thin goes in the bin straight away and the rest go in this box, it keeps my sewing area tidyer.
I also cut underwear from the scraps, I use the seamwork geneva pattern which I have cutout in all the different views and have sections for the front panels, which makes the scraps needed smaller.
Living in a cold house we have been known to use fabric scraps (and odd socks) for stuffing for draught excluders, with patchwork covers!

Also in an attempt to make less scraps in the first place, at least less small scraps, I cut all of my patterns flat and pretty much ignore pattern cutting diagrams to get the most economical layout for my pieces.

Fabric Tragic said...

Great ideas! I tend to buy the bare minimum to begin with, and cut flat to maximise leftovers into useful sized pieces. Then yes, pocket bags, facings, bias binding is usually their future. Feral or too small bits tend to go into the garage to be used on the incontinent Kombi. But I literally just bought the Ohh Lulu Grace undie pattern as it uses both knits and wovens (cut on the bias) to be able to use up some silk scrap leftovers.....

Knitlass said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Knitlass said...

Oh, yes, scraps.

My only tried and tested approach so far has been to make washable wipes, and dribble bibs with scraps. They make good baby gifts too :-) I've been meaning to whip up a pile of dishcloths/polishers for the kitchen (woven on one side, and knit on the other)

If you fancy quilting/patchwork, there was a nice tutorial recently on sew mama sew about making floor pillow covers with scraps:

Meg the Grand said...

I finally decided to tackle a quilt - something I've always wanted to make. I'm using up all my blue scraps, and it feels so good to see that pile getting smaller and smaller! I love your ideas for using up knit scraps - I have so many of those, and the neighbor girls next door might like some funky bird printed t-shirts :)

Anonymous said...

I know just what you mean and I'm having a concerted effort to use them up.
I gave a bag full to my neighbour's teenage daughter who has lots of sewing ideas and needs something to practice on.
Otherwise it's patchwork and I'm doing a lot of that. My house should look pretty bright and cheerful when I've finished.

jessica said...

Oh, I have tons of scraps as well - one reason my "stash busting" felt slow last year - lots of scraps to use up! I do like making quilts. In addition to all your tips above, I like to keep a couple pants patterns on hand - sometimes your scraps are long and narrow and sometimes they're wider and narrower, and its nice to have a couple options to choose from (of course, you have to like the different styles you have on hand, otherwise it's a pointless exercise!) I also have started making Watson bras, which are great ways to use up tiny bits of knits as well. Zippered pouches, if you need them, seem like a great way to use up tiny wovens (or drawstring bags). Also sometimes make cloth napkins for a scrappy set.

And yes, I regularly underbuy fabric amounts. Rarely more than 2 yards at a time! It's only bitten me in the butt once or twice.

French Toast Tasha said...

I also find I can cut a pair of undies (for me) along with practically any knit project, so that cuts down on scraps (and makes sure all my dainties don't wear out at the same time)!. I made some oven mitts for gifts this winter that had different fabrics on the top and bottom of the hand, all from leftovers. I also end up using a fair number of scraps for patching parts of garments that wear out.

You have some great suggestions here, I like the idea of contrast panels, pockets, etc. quite a bit!

Izy said...

Hi Zo, I downloaded you pants pattern (can't wait to make them!!) I tried to buy you a coffee, but the link wasn't working!! Please let me know if/when it's working again and I'll certainly buy you one!! :)

Sara Mayo said...

I love the patched-together, raggedy Andy look for kids and for myself. Very inspiring post, I will be cobbling some scraps together into some usable garments.

Unknown said...

Big idea met together! I went through my scrap basket tonight trying to figure out what I can squeeze out some small scraps and odd shapes. Be good to use them if I can.
Great idea!
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Kestrel said...

I REALLY need to use up some scraps too. I've been thinking about making a quilt for ages so if I could even get around to cutting the pieces soon that would be good. It's nice to have some scraps handy for facings and pockets and I donated a big black bag to Mabel's nursery for craft projects last year. I don't know if they ever used them!

Anonymous said...

Wow Zoe, this is exactly the problem that I am facing at the moment, though I have two under bed storage boxes overflowing of scraps……! I have cut out some more Anya bag pieces for later assembly and to be given as gifts, (and I am heavily promoting your pattern everywhere I go with my lovely bag  ). Im blessed with a 4 year old daughter to sew for and I use a lot of the scraps to applique motifs on to her t-shirts and tops. We are lucky and get clothes passed on to us from my friend’s older children, so applique is a great way to hide the odd mark etc on a second hand piece of children’s clothing. I cant bear to discard what can be used. I also want to applique some cushion covers for my son’s room. Other things that my 4 year old daughter constantly desires are fabric hair bows, hair flowers and purses, all scrap friendly projects.
Cloth sanitary protection is also a brilliant stash busting idea, it is cheaper, more environmentally friendly and so much more comfortable if you have sensitive or allergy prone skin! I have seen some for sale on etsy made with unicorns and rainbow fabric – how awesome is that?!
But my plans also include: An EPP hexagon cover for my sewing machine (s), patchwork quilt, and *wispers it* bunting ;)
Good luck and let us know what you make! Cassandra

Anonymous said...

Oh and I forgot, I keep a box of really small fabric scraps for Ophelia (my 4 year old) to make fabric collage pictures with. Then you can post the pictures to relations as birthday cards etc! Cassandra

Unknown said...

I have a ridiculous amount of scrap fabrics. I can't throw anything away, even scraps. I have containers of new metres of fabric stacked on shelves, then largish scrap pieces neatly folded and this is ok, but I also have a whole laundry basket worth of small scraps. I did momentarily toy with the idea of throwing it out, but that would never happen. It's gotta come in handy for something right?!

I do go to this scrap pile sometimes to rummage through for a project, so I better keep it. I use it for things like decoration on cushions, sewn toys/ bears, children's clothes, christmas sewing, all sorts really when I need a small piece of fabric. I tend to have something in there suitable, whether it's from taking up a friends curtains or left over from making a dress.

Anonymous said...

Cloth napkins. (Small is actually better for every day - less laundry). Kids' scraps for making clothes for the action men someone gave them (divine, hilarious). Raglan tshirts for the small piece colour blocking. And if you're down to really unusably tiny scraps, then that's stuffing for poufs or floor cushions. Made By Rae has a good post on making square cushion and stuffing it with scraps. Plus, if you add a zip, you could *always* dive back inside it if you needed a specific colour or fabric you remembered... it's SO hard to let go of the small ones when you realise how teeny a bit of fabric you'd need for an accent pocket on a kids' garment! But storing them in a pouffe might convince me. {This does not count as fabric stash hiding duplicity. I would be totally honest with my husband if he asked whether the pouf was stuffed with a secret stash of fabric. Of course I would.] - Janome Gnome

Naomi said...

Very thorough post, thanks! I just posted about some of my scrap busting if you're interested. ( The gist of it is - kids fancy dress! I found that this is a good way to use up some of the scrap fabrics that I don't really like that much but hang onto out of guilt. I've definitely tried to force myself to use up scraps on projects that my heart just wasn't into and although it's virtuous in some ways, it kills your spirit a bit. Costumes are fun!

katherine h said...

Hi Zoe,

Your post spurred me to action and you can see my scrap busting efforts here

thanks, Katherine

sheabella said...

Wow, great ideas! Thanks for sharing!
I keep the unusable (too small, too worn out) scraps in a separate bag. When I have enough, I make cat nip pillows and give them to the SPCA or cat rescue. I use the stronger material for the outer covering and stuf the pillows with the rest. I double or triple sew the seams to make sure that they don't come apart.
I thought this would help my stash busting and nothing would go to waste. Now that my friends have gotten wind of this, they keep donating their scraps to me! Ha!

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