sewing small talk: fabric scraps

What a great discussion during our last sewing small talk! I loved hearing about which parts of the sewing process you dislike most, and I’ll try to address some of your ideas and frustrations in future blog posts. It was really fascinating to read all your answers.

Here’s a topic that comes up frequently in our discussion forums and in our two Facebook groups: what do you do with your fabric scraps?

When you sew, you’ll end up with both tiny and larger pieces of fabric.  (Not to mention the inevitable fabric stash that accumulates, but we’ll save that topic for another day.) The tiny pieces often get tossed since they’re really too small to do much with, but what about the larger pieces? If you’re like me, you probably buy a little extra fabric just to be absolutely certain you have enough for each project. Inevitably, you’ll find that with many sewing projects you’ll have a little fabric left over even if you don’t buy extra. I’m fairly certain you’ve found a use for some of these scraps or leftover pieces, so join in the discussion and tell us how you use them or how you’d like to use them. I’ll bet some of you have some very clever ideas!

 

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40 Comments

  1. If I can squeeze in a bucket hat or hair tie, those are my favorite uses. Also quilts, of course, and for the tiniest of scraps I have a hexagon quilt I’ve been hand sewing for years now.

  2. Emily

    I use leftover woven fabrics for a facing, pocket lining, or binding for another project, or I’ll even add them to a scrappy quilt (I love adding chambray fabrics to quilts!). I never know what to do with large knit scraps, though – what on earth can you make from a 1/2 yard of knit fabric? When my kids were smaller I could make t-shirts for them out of small pieces, but that’s gotten harder as they’ve gotten bigger. Anyway, I’d love to hear other people’s uses for small cuts of knit fabrics.

    1. Pal

      I can get either a bralette or a pair of panties out of most knit scraps…If not for me, for my daughter…
      We have settled on a couple of free patterns that she likes..It also gives me a no risk way to try out a new designer (with the caveat that free patterns may not be as rigorously tested and that is okay too)
      Current favorite bottom is Acacia be Megan Nielsen -but you can a panty pattern from an existing pair
      Bra is Barrett by Madalynne.
      I liked the free one so much, I went out and bought her entire Simplicity line.

      The other thing I do with knit scraps is to back repair patches. For example: If I am doing visible mending with a patch on the outside, I will put a piece of soft knit on the inside.

    2. Lian

      babyhats and drible bibs, toddler scarfs, all for gifting purposes and handwarmers

    3. Faye

      With smaller knit scraps, I’ll make color blocked t-shirts for my daughter and other kids. (It’s easy to modify a pattern you already like.)

  3. Beth

    For small scraps or anything that I know I won’t sew anything from, I collect them until I have a large bag full. Then I take them to H&M to donate to their fabric recycling program. (Not sure if all locations have this, but mine does.)

    Larger woven fabric scraps are becoming part of a scrappy quilt.

  4. My friend and I make flags that represent our project with the scraps so we can hang them and admire our accomplishments!

  5. Phoenix

    Add ruffles to shirts or dresses and make them “new” again. Ruffles to the hem, sleeve hems, necklines, or at the shoulder.

  6. Tiffany

    I’ve always wanted to make a scrap fabric rope rug. But I recently made a quilt for my daughter’s bed from dress scraps over the past seven years. It was really sweet. I had forgotten how bright some of the fabric colors were. She got so much use out of her dresses, that the fabric had that lovely soft fade. It was a little walk down memory lane for us. There were at least four music box jumpers represented and quite a few playtime dresses.

  7. Susan

    I’ve used scraps of silks and cottons to make fabric beads and Christmas ornaments. Larger pieces go to napkins and placemats. I make up bias tape out of all kinds of scraps and have it ready to use for necklines, hem binding or hongkong seams. I cut knits into long strips for binding as well. Of course sewing for grandchildren, especially layettes, or sunsuits or diaper covers, can take care of a lot of scraps. But I am buying smaller pieces of fabric and squeezing patterns out of them better, because I hate to waste fabric. Yesterday I turned a plan for a linen knit t-shirt into a dress when I realized I had enough fabric for that length. It felt so good to have only minuscule scraps leftover. Oh — and bigger pieces I use for toiles/muslins.

  8. Jamie

    I usually use small knit scraps to make sleeves on shirts for my girls since they take so little fabric. If it’s a really small/skinny piece, I save it to use as a neckband. Woven scraps either go into quilts or as facings for things.

  9. Valerie Condon

    I like to make coasters with some batting in between the fabric. They are really good for soaking up the condensation of a cold drink. I also make drawstring bags of any size.

  10. Elizabeth Perez

    I use fabric scraps for Applique, plakets, pocket linings, doll clothes, crossover bags for my grandchild that has type one diabetes and needs to carry her monitor at all times, gowns for the NICU unit at my local hospital. If the pieces are larger I will make a baby outfit, a skirt or shorts for my grandkids.

  11. Leftover scraps are great if you make quilts and other things like cloth dolls. I save mine according to color, labeled, in various containers including clear canisters and shoe boxes. And I use them!

  12. Some patterns, like the Hide and Seek dress, are good for scraps (along with a non scrap sized piece of fabric). That front piece is small enough that it can fit on a larger scraps. Otherwise, smaller scraps can be pieced together to make a bigger piece of fabric. I like to make bias tape out of scraps too. And patches. If I’m being honest though, I tend to save my scraps for years before I actually make anything with them! I have to really force myself to use them. I’ll also let my daughters rummage through my scraps for their sewing and art projects. Makes me feel less guilty about keeping them around!

  13. Suzanne Fragale

    I just finished 20 lavender sachets from fabric I made a dress for my granddaughter a few years ago.

  14. M

    I save the tiniest scraps for stuffing for rag-filled pillows and toys. They make a nice firm durable filling.

  15. Kathleen Carlsen

    Dolls clothes, of course! I have five 18″ dolls that use most of my scraps…ones that are too small for an entire dress, usually go for a sleeveless blouse or bodice. Others, small pockets or accents. Very little goes to waste, unless we are talking about prints that are way too large; however, I’ve used those at times for a full skirt where the print isn’t shown in it’s entirety.

  16. I’m working on this, trying to use scraps of cotton for pocket facings, bindings, and facings, as well as quilts (I just don’t make enough quilts for that to be the main use of scraps). Bias binding can be cut from small pieces and adds a pretty touch. Scraps of knits can be used for short sleeves on a t-shirt or for undies for me or the kids. Small pieces can also be great for small projects like totes and wallets. Half yard pieces of woven fabric are enough to make my kids shorts and half yard pieces of knit can be used for sleeves on a raglan sleeve or maybe even a body for my daughter. I managed to squeeze a pair of sailboat pants out of 3/4 yard of sun-damaged twill recently, just putting the faded parts where you wouldn’t see them! O+ S has several patterns that are great for scraps, including the covered headband, bucket hat, sunny day shorts, and other items from the Little Things to Sew book.

    All this said, I have more scraps than I really have time to make things with. #thestruggleisreal

  17. Sil

    I was cleaning out my scraps area the other day– I have them sorted by color when they are cottons (most of them are cotton) and by type if they’re rayon or linen or knits… Cotton for quilts is a good idea and is my plan; also one of these days I’m going to make bags using cotton. Coasters is a really good idea too! I was also planning to make panties with the leftover knit pieces– But I never know what to do with rayon challis leftovers. Any suggestions?

    1. Elisabeth

      Maybe as binding for ”Hong Kong” seam finishing? Or hankerchiefs?

  18. I convert a lot of medium pieces of scrap to bindings or strips to be used later for binding. As a great grandmother and great aunt, there are always baby clothes and baby quilts to make. The remainder, including lengths from my stash I know I will never use, go to our local Senior Center. they are so grateful for these sorts of donations because there are so many quilters and fabric crafters among their member ship. They sue a lot of the fabric to make items to sell at their annual rummage sale to generate income for the center.

  19. Phyllis

    I make placemats similar to the coasters Valerie mentions above. A layer of batting between two layers of fabric. Very nice. They also work without the batting. Then I get crazy and use various stitch patterns for making a border.

  20. I used scraps for child sewing lessons. They are great to practice creativity.

  21. I keep all the scraps and use them for wee details like pocket linings, hanging loops, or wee bits of bias binding. Really small bits I keep and use to stuff cushions as I’m not made on overly puffy cushions. I feel so bad about waste that there’s always something to be done with the wee bits!

  22. Addie

    My favorite thing to do with scraps is make drawstring bags to use instead of wrapping paper for gifts. They are also good as shoe bags and laundry bags while traveling. My go-to patterns for small amounts of leftover fabric are the Grainline Studio Tiny Pocket Tank and the Lisette B6296 PJ shorts. I have plans to make the free Acacia panties from knit scraps but I have not done it yet. For really small scraps, I have made decorative garlands using strips about 2″ x 6″ each and leftover yarn. I would like to try English Paper Piecing too.

  23. Ellen

    I make fabric scrap “koosh” balls to toss indoors. Safe for wide age range if securely sewn in middle. Great texture and grasping to develop motor skills for little ones.

  24. Nicole

    I have a template for a small purse. If scraps are smaller than that they get put into a large zip lock bag. Once it’s full, I take it to my son’s class. Early childhood classes are often looking for interesting scraps of fabric for craft. All too often, it’s the boring, bland fabric that’s left for the kids to create with. I also make scrappy trivets, use them to line pockets, for facings, for mending and even to add a bit of length to a length of fabric that’s too short and won’t actually be seen in the finished product.

  25. Heidi

    I’ve started cutting out a baby pattern as well. Lots of my friends have babies and young kids. The pants and jacket from the Lullaby layette are perfect for using up the extra at cuttin time.
    I like to Tetris it as cutting time as I can normally get more from my fabric. 🙂

  26. Anna

    I keep a bag under my sewing table to collect scraps that I don’t think I’ll use. When it’s full, I give it to the art teacher at my daughters’ school. She finds a way to use the scraps in art class.

  27. Liz

    I used to save all scraps in an old pillow case but it got really full and it was hard to rifle through it and make any use of the crumpled offerings. After a little reflection on what I sew and a little research on how others sort scrap fabric (quilters tend to meticulously organise scrap fabric), I came up with my own system. Now I sort my scraps by size and fibre. Anything smalller than a fat quarter is classified as a scrap. Cotton, linen, denim or chambray fabric scraps are cut into 10 X 10, 10 X 5 or 5 X 5 inch squares. I identified these as the main sizes I use for patches, scrap quilting, hair ties, coasters, pencil cases, drawstring bags, pocket linings etc. Anything smalller than that goes in a donation bag for the school where I teach sewing (amongst other subjects). I tend to sew only with woven natural fibres. Any other fabric scraps I sort to use as patches or I donate to school. I don’t tend to sew with knits but I do keep knit fabric scraps especially from old clothes as patches for my children’s clothes. I have been using this sorting method for a few years now and it works really well for me. I think it’s helped me to sew through my stash and it has helped to limit the purchase of extra fabric. I must say I really don’t miss the huge lumpy pillow case!

  28. Wanda Quist

    Last Christmas I made gifts for all 31 of our grandchildren and used only scraps I had saved. I made lots of small bags, some journal covers, and bucket hats. I used decorative stitching and used my machine’s alphabet to personalize each gift.

  29. I use the really tiny scraps as stuffing for poufs/foot cushions or doorstoppers. They’re fun to make and the scraps are satisfyingly heavy used this way. Bigger pieces I use for facings, linings and underwear. I’m planning napkins and placemats soon too.

  30. Penny Hammack

    My niece makes doll clothes for collectible dolls. I send her all my usable fabric scraps and pieces. They would be a little “old lady” for infant dolls but the dolls my niece dresses look like adults. I’ve also cut up and repurposed clothing that I couldn’t wear into linings and facings and even patches for tears in other garments.

  31. Francesca Ronchi

    I keep all small remnants in a basket, and once in a while take them to one of those shops that collect and recycle fabrics. For larger scraps and left overs, if they’re really good quality, I keep them for pockets, bias making, etc. I’ve also made buntings for my garden and to give to friends. Once in a while I sew a lot of pouches and keep them just in case I have to make a little present to friends (when we go out for dinner I give one of them to our hostess along side wine or cake or flowers). I recently cleaned up my sewing room and sorted out my fabric stash: I gave thefabrics I didn’t like anymore (impulse shopping) to a refugee’s association that teaches refugees to sew. Charities are often interested by fabrics and yarns, check those around you.

  32. Joyce

    Lots of my uses have been mentioned aready. But a few others is bunting, and re-useable shopping bag. In Australia we’re about to outlaw plastic bags so even using scraps to make bags to put veg / fruit in when purchasing. Or the other use is my sons both work on cars and are always after rags…. Oh, one more,my Mum use to make childrens clothing to be sent to third world countries.

  33. Reminds me of this old Flickr post: https://www.flickr.com/photos/theglittercup/3475344414/in/faves-79002066@N04/ – I actually created a place to save up my too-small scraps after seeing that, and now have (more than) enough to fill a much-needed tailor’s ham. Perhaps I’ll finally get around to making that today…

  34. Sarah

    Lavender sachets or lavender wands

  35. Holly

    I make a small pillow, stuff them with scraps and put them out for the cat to sleep on. When they get dirty, I toss it and make another. Cat’s happy.

    I have sooooo many scraps. I save linen scraps for practice embroidery. Wool scraps I felt and use for applique. I save the legs from jeans for patching other jeans….but everything else goes. There’s no room at the inn. I barely have room for my stash and patterns.

    I’m planning a big purge later this year. I used to put them up on Etsy, but they’ve raised their fees, so c’est la vie off they go to the thrift shop. And I want to know who sent me that twee red/white/blue plaid wool? Do I look like a flag waver? I’m dyeing that purple.

  36. I like to save the scraps to make really small gowns for the local NICU. As a member of the Smocking Arts Guild of America, our members donate little gowns to NICU’s all over the country to be used as bereavement gowns or gowns for the babies as they are being held by parents and grandparents. We also make small blankets for the parents to hold the baby skin to skin which speeds their bonding and recovery.

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