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When I first started sewing, I was amazed at how many waste pieces of fabric I was producing. Being a little bit miserly, I really resented the thought of throwing these pieces away. Especially when they are such expensive and lovely fabrics. So here are some great zero waste ideas that I have found for using up every last one of my Fabric Scraps.
This post was originally published in June 2019, but I regularly update it to add new projects. Most recent update – July 2020.
How To Use Up All Your Fabric Scraps
My scrap bag is always overflowing. But I hate to throw even a small piece away. I would rather try and reuse it in some way to ensure it doesn’t go to landfill just yet.
As well as my scrap bag, I have a large pile of old clothes and towelling that is due to be repurposed. I just don’t believe in wastage.
Small Bags and Pouches
For larger pieces of woven fabric, bags and pouches are a great way of using up your fabric scraps and producing great gifts at the same time.
All you need is 2 pieces of outer fabric, 2 inner pieces and a zipper of the correct length.
Small drawstring bags are also really useful. You can make them in all sizes, or unlined bags can be useful for loose produce at the supermarkets
You could also make these great earbud cases. Because they are hexagonal, they are even more zero waste, as the pattern tessellates. Tutorial here – with my FREE pattern!
A little while ago, a friend and I looked all over to find a suitably soft eye mask for her daughter. We didn’t really find one soft enough for her needs, and so when I came home I made her one from the scraps of some lovely Rifle Paper Company rayon that I had in my scrap bag. It was SO silky and soft.
I self drafted my pattern, but there are some great patterns for free out there. Like this one from Tilly and the Buttons.
Reusable Straw Case / Travel Toothbrush Case
When making dresses, I often get left with long thin pieces from the selvedges. These are brilliant for making cases long and thin for holding a reusable straw. And double as a travel toothbrush case too!
So on trend at the minute. These are a great idea for long thin scraps that you have. A great back to school and gift idea, and they only take a few minutes to make.
Reusable Sandwich Wraps
I got pretty tired of throwing away ziplock bags for sandwiches. And then I realised that there was a far better zero waste reusable option. So I made myself some reusable sandwich wraps. Find my tutorial here.
Quilting is a speciality that I have yet to properly delve into, though I have promised myself that I will have a go soon.
There are different types of quilting, but probably the easiest to start with is english paper piecing. Done by hand, in this method you cut geometric paper shapes slightly smaller than the fabric that you are using. You fold over the fabric at each edge of the paper shape, loosely tacking it in place. Then you take the edges of each paper covered shape, and you sew them together tightly. You can remove the paper, or leave it in place.
This is such a good way of using all the fabric scraps, and you can end up with a really eclectic mix.
Making New Fabric From Scraps
Very similar to patchwork, this is a way of using those log strips of fabric. I find some coordinating pieces and sew then together with a 1cm seam allowance. I then trim the seam allowance and press open all the seams well. With enough pieces you can go on to make a whole new piece of fabric. This will be great as a lined bodice for a small girl’s dress.
Small Stuffed Projects
There are so many brilliant patterns out there for making small projects such as stuffed toys and bears. Here are just a few patterns available commercially, and there are lots available for free to download online.
I personally love to make my own projects, a particular favourite is my padded fabric Christmas trees. These can be made from 6 fat quarters of material.
Garlands and Bunting
Bunting is a great way of using up smaller pieces, and there are a lot of tutorials out there on how to make it. Or you could just use pinking shears to cut triangles and use string or cotton to hold the bunting pieces together.
Garlands are also easy to make using scraps. Earlier this year, I made a heart garland for valentines days using a load of red scraps from my scrap bag.See my post here.
Sometimes you end up with massively long thin strips. These are perfect for lanyard making. Heres a great tutorial on how to make a lanyard.
Wash Cloth Soap Holders
These small bags help to keep the soap or shampoo bar from going mushy. A really useful idea. Find my tutorial here.
Free Motion Embroidery
A type of appliqué, free motion embroidery uses small scraps of fabric bonded together and stitched over to produce a collage of pieces. I went on a workshop, and then used the techniques I had learnt to make some Christmas decorations, but you can use it to appliqué onto lampshades, bags, or even to make cards.
These are a great way of using up smaller rectangles of fabric, and can be attached to a keyring or lobster clasp so they can be attached to your bag. Find how to make them here. I can even fit a tiny hand cream in mine.
When I was younger I was a massive fan of Sindy dolls. And I was really happy to find a few vintage books on how to make clothes for my old collection. There are also commercial patterns available to make small dolls clothes, and obviously these are very easily cut from the small remnants in your scrap bag.
I’ve even drafted my own fashion doll summer dress pattern. Get the free pattern and see my tutorial here. Why not make your little girl’s doll a matching dress out of leftover remnants of fabric?
Another project that only requires small remnants of fabric, I made a friend’s dog a dog coat using some fat quarters of fabric and an up cycled old fleece blanket. If you watched this year’s Great British Sewing Bee, you will have seen the contestants epicycle some old tents to make a waterproof version!
Dog Poop Bag Holders
And whilst we are on the subject of dogs, this handy bag holder/dispenser is easily made from scraps, and is a great gift for any dog owner.
See my tutorial over in this post.
Reusable Kitchen Towels
Although the backs of these are made from old towels, I do like to use fabrics from my scrap back to make the backs pretty. Find how I make these brilliant zero waste items here.
While we are in the zero waste kitchen swaps groove, why not make these plastic free pan scrubbers from small pieces of fabric and up cycled towelling or flannel? I even made a pan scrubber version using hessian from my rag rug making. See how you can make your own.
Reusable Make Up Remover Pads
Similarly, whilst the actual removing part of the pad is best made from new or upcycled towelling, the backs can be made as pretty as possible using some of the cute girly dress fabrics from the scrap bag.
I prefer to have square or hexagonal remover pads, as this does not waste as much fabric. See my tutorial here.
These are a great idea as a stocking filler for a bookworm, or teacher. Perhaps you could give them with a favourite book? Find my tutorial here.
Reusable Sanitary Towels
In my tutorial on how to make reusable sanitary pads, I used quite a few pieces from my scrap bag. And because I make quite a few girly garments for me and my little girl, my sanitary pads are ever so pretty.
This is a great zero waste alternative to toilet paper. Have a stash by the toilet in a basket, then soak and wash them.
One of the best things about sewing is the fact that you can personalise each garment or piece you make to the recipient.
One of my favourite things to do is cut letters, shapes or details from fabric, and then appliqué them onto bags and garments.
Some of my first makes as a sewist were fabric bags. One of the recipients of a bag was a huge Disney fan. I had used a Mickey and Minnie print as the interior of the bag, but I ironed some of the remnants onto a piece of bondaweb (or vliesofix) then them out. I could then bond them to the exterior fabric of the bag, and sew them onto the fabric with a small zig zag stitch.
Letters and numbers are great for putting onto pump bags and pencil cases for school gifts. Or even for pimping up teeshirts.In my advent bag tutorial, I cut out numbers to go on each bag.
A couple of years ago, I saw that Liberty London were selling these (Liberty London Party Picks by Meri Meri) in a shop in the Lake District.
For 24 picks I considered that the price asked was quite steep. And so I decided to make my own.
Again, using Bondaweb or Vliesofix, you can bond your fabric. Then remove the backing, stick the fabric to itself around whatever length of cocktail stick or wooden skewer you wish – and hey presto, your very own personalised sandwich picks or cupcake flags. Or we take them to the beach as sandcastle flags.
Bunny Rabbit Ears
I made these from some leftover wool felt
For small pieces of jersey fabrics and old clothes, one of the best uses is to cut the scraps further into long thin strips. And to make these into a rag rug. Find my tutorial here
Hessian Shower Pouf
And small pieces of the hessian left over from the rug bases can be made into zero waste scrubbers for the shower.
For long thin lengths of coordinating woven fabrics, why not consider making a rag wreath? These do not just have to be a Christmas decoration. See here how you could also make one.
Got loads of long thin strips? Learn how to turn them into fabric twine that makes a great zero waste alternative to string for packages, bunting, for making coasters and garlands.
See how you can make this too in this post. And see my you tube tutorial.
Stuffing For Other Projects
What if the piece is too small, or too ragged, or just on the selvedge etc? I still don’t throw these away. They make great stuffing for other projects, such as my Padded Christmas Trees, Pumpkin Garland or Felt Hearts. I also use old pillows that have lost their bounce for these projects. Nothing need be wasted.
I even had enough tiny scraps to fill my Closet Case Pouf in my living room!
So there you have more than 20 ideas on what to do with all the fabric scraps in your scrap bag. I hope that you have found this post useful, and that you have a go at some of these.
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