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The Sewing Report: Using the Scraps


The one downside to sewing, and specifically clothing construction, is that there’s a certain amount of waste that gets generated. After all, there’s only so much you can do with the whole rectangle of fabric and most pattern pieces are not rectangles. So you get little bits and pieces of scrap fabric and finding ways of using the scraps can be tricky. You could throw them out and lots of people do. But we’re pretty committed to avoiding waste around here – you know, that saving the planet thing. And, yes, there’s that cheap side of me thinking, “But I could make….”


So I took a class a number of years ago taught by expert quilter Dorine Nieuwenhuijs, that showed me a really fun way to use even the smaller bits of fabric to create another fabric – and that’s without using more fabric as a base. What she does is take the bits of fabric and sew them together to make all kinds of shapes, or just a new piece of fabric. Dorine even cut up some of the larger bits she’d made and sewed them together at different angles. 

There’s a real trick to the process, and you can read about it in the book 15 Minutes of Play, by Victoria Findlay Wolfe. And, yes, the class and the book are actually about quilting – which I have yet to try. But here’s the thing – you don’t have to make a quilt with your resulting fabric. You can make a dress or a top or a tablecloth or whatever. Some folks have made vests. I can’t quite imagine a whole closet filled with clothes made this way, so I guess somewhere along the line I am going to have to bite the bullet and learn how to quilt. Because I do have a lot of scraps that I’ve been saving for years and years.

Going through the scrap bag

Seriously. Going through the one scrap bag I brought was almost like going down memory lane. I even found a scrap from a blouse I’d made when I was an undergrad in college.


The bottom line is that it can be worthwhile to save those bits and pieces of fabric and even if you get bits so small that you can’t even use them to make more fabric, you can save them, then stuff a doggie or kitty bed with them – one of things that Dorine does with the scraps generated from her classes. The trick is finding new and creative ways of using what we used to consider trash. It’s not always easy, but it can be fun. For example, I use the top parts of old jeans and pants to make bags, then cut up the legs to make yarn. I even did that with an old dust ruffle that I couldn’t sew back onto its base. It’s now a very nice seat cover.

And I have two and a half lovely panels of bits and pieces that I eventually used as the front to a shirt.

4 thoughts on “The Sewing Report: Using the Scraps”

    1. Tee-hee. I’m not always sure why I do, either. Especially when I look at how much space my scraps take up. But someday…..

  1. I don’t sew, but my late mother did – before rheumatoid arthritis stilled her hands. She had a comforter with a zipper, that was on my bed. One day (I was perhaps 10) I unzipped it – and found a quilt inside. I never found out if she had made it. Perhaps it was her way of recycling.

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