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Using Up Small Scraps of Fabric

Updated on October 12, 2014

Layered Fabric Scraps

Layered scrap textiles piece waiting to be sewn
Layered scrap textiles piece waiting to be sewn

Why Use up those Pesky Fabric Scraps?

Why bother to use up those pesky fabric scraps? After all you've got bigger and better things to do!

  • It's thrifty and frugal. You paid/sourced that fabric in the first place so why not get your full money's worth out of it.
  • It's environmental - instead of your scraps ending up in the landfill with everyone else's scraps, you'll be using them to make something beautiful and/or useful.
  • It's creative. You’ll come up with patterns and combinations and projects that you would never have thought up on your own.

Would You ever Bother Using up Scraps?

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Organize Your Fabric Scraps

Before you are going to do anything else it's a good idea to organize your scraps of fabric.

You'll want to think about the sort of project that you're interested in doing.

What colors do you need?

How big is this project going to be?

At the very least I would organize your scraps by color to make it easier to pick your scraps when you need them.

I also like to organize my scraps by size. Some scraps are going to be much too tiny to use in some projects. Other scraps might only be useful as stuffing.

Layered Textiles Pieces

I've been making gorgeous, thick, layered textiles pieces for years.

I think of this technique as being an easy way to create your own texture and color-rich textiles pieces. You have to reconcile yourself to the fact that this is a chaotic process and your scraps are going to move around a lot as you sew.

This technique is better if you have a lot of differently textured scraps rather than just the cotton scraps which quilters are mostly left with.

For this technique you will need:

  1. Sewing Machine
  2. Scissors
  3. Wadding or batting or a backing fabric
  4. A background fabric
  5. A sheer fabric like organza
  6. Lots of scraps of fabric in your chosen colors
  7. Scraps of off-cut threads and yarns
  8. Sewing machine thread

A Layered Textiles Piece

Lots of tiny scraps of fabric caught under a layer of organza
Lots of tiny scraps of fabric caught under a layer of organza

Layered Textiles Technique

This is the basic process to making a layered textiles piece:

  1. Lay down your wadding/batting/backing fabric.
  2. Lay the background fabric down on top of that.
  3. Start to add you scrap fabric threads and yarn on top of the backing fabric.
  4. Cover the whole lot with the sheer fabric.
  5. Pin everything down like crazy.
  6. Sew the whole piece until your satisfied.

Machine-embroidered, layered scrap Textiles piece

Paper and fabric scraps layered up under organza
Paper and fabric scraps layered up under organza

String Quilting

I've recently discovered string quilting.

The "strings" are made from long scraps of fabric that are often left over from other projects. You start with a shape and cover it with the strings. Each string is laid on top of the last and sewn down until the background shape is covered.

I hadn't given much thought to patchwork quilting before as I figured it would give me a headache. I like to sew in scribbles so I thought all those straight lines and trying to get everything to fit together properly would be a nightmare.

Then I discovered String Quilting.

OK, so you do have to be accurate when your sewing your blocks together and when you actually quilt your work but your strings can be any width (within reason - you want to be able to sew it down) and they can also go off at funny angles.

This is how I started:

  1. Cut out a square of fabric and iron it.
  2. Pick out some long thin pieces of fabric that will cover your square length-ways.
  3. Place one string down so that it's covering the top of your square.
  4. place another string over the top of the first (right sides together).
  5. Sew the strings to the backing fabric at the lower edge of the strings.
  6. Press the second string open and flat.
  7. Place another string over the top of the second string.
  8. Sew the strings together along the lower edge.
  9. Repeat.

Remember - squares made out of strings can be cut into triangles to give you more options.

You can cover any shape you like with strings - you don't have to stick to squares.

String Quilt Blocks

String Quilt blocks ready to be sewn together
String Quilt blocks ready to be sewn together

Quilting with scraps - Foundation Piecing to make the String Quilt!

Bonnie K Hunter's String Fling

This is one book I'd love to get my hands on.

Judging by this page String Fling has got some beautiful ideas for String Quilts.

Neat Lines or Not?

The video opposite gives you some idea as to the sort of quilt you can make. The quilt block featured is a very neat block - not like my version.

Don't be afraid to make a less regular-looking block. When I started making my string quilt I didn't have all the fancy rotary equipment and I had a lot of irregular scraps. I just went with the odd angles.

Rotary Cutting Set

A rotary cutting set (rotary blade, self-healing mat and quilter's ruler) are awesome tools for accurate piecing. As soon as I get some spare cash I'm going to buy myself a set so I can easily turn my string squares into triangles to make the flying geese pattern.

A Patchy String Block

A mix between string quilting and a wonky log cabin block!
A mix between string quilting and a wonky log cabin block!

Making a Fabric Scrap Structure

  1. Grab a structure that won't get damaged from the PVA glue (use something plastic, washable or old).
  2. Mix some PVA glue with some water (you don't want it to be too watery - maybe half and half is a good mix).
  3. Soak your fabric scraps in the PVA mixture.
  4. Start layering the scraps over your structure.
  5. If the fabric isn't sticking then you can always pour more glue over the top of everything.

Glue for Creating Stiff Structures

PVA glue will work great for making stiff fabric sculptures - remember that you will lose the texture of your fabric so stick with cottons and save your fancy scraps for something else.

Sculpting with Fabric


If all else fails you can use your fabric scraps for stuffing 3D objects - think artsy fabric vessels, soft toys, soft sculpture.
Maybe your scraps have got so tiny you couldn't sew a single line through them without them falling apart or maybe they are the seams from clothing you've cut up, or pieces with stains or tears. These bits and bobs are great for stuffing.

Fabric stuffing might make your pieces a bit lumpy and bumpy so think about using it for vessels etc that are made out of thick fabric that holds it shape well. You don't want to distort your vessel or sculpture.

I keep a large plastic bag in my sewing room that I fill with all the awkward scraps. I use a lot of old clothes so often I pop cuffs, collars and seams into my "waste" bag.

Fabric Scraps

Scraps destined to become stuffing in a future project
Scraps destined to become stuffing in a future project

© 2013 MeltedRachel

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    • bead at home mom profile image

      Teri Hansen 2 years ago

      love the ideas and love finding new ways to use any kind of scrap fabrics.

    • idigwebsites profile image

      idigwebsites 4 years ago from United States

      Nice... I might do a bed cover or a pillowcase out of the fabric scraps :)

    • MeltedRachel profile image

      MeltedRachel 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks so much for commenting :)

    • MeltedRachel profile image

      MeltedRachel 4 years ago from United Kingdom


      Perhaps a baby blanket would be better seeing as they're so much smaller and therefore so much quicker to make :)

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      You've provided great ideas for things to do with scrap fabric. I really like your liberated quilting. I've often wanted to try the first two -layered textiles and string quilting, but unfortunately haven't gotten time to try either one.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      These are so neat! I wish I was a sewer. I like the fact that you are using something in a creative way that might have otherwise ending up in the trash!

    • MeltedRachel profile image

      MeltedRachel 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks so much :)

    • jabelufiroz profile image

      Firoz 4 years ago from India

      Great article about Scraps of Fabric. Voted up.