A Basque proverb says: "The thread must be longer than the needle."

Obviously, no one would imagine this would be the case when learning to sew.

After having sewn many pieces of fabric on your sewing machine, by cutting pieces of good quality fabric with scissors, a large choice of material accumulates in boxes or in baskets at the bottom of a closet.

The problem when sewing is that to make a hem, a chiffon fabric dress or to sew decorative fabrics together, you lose a lot of material.

A seamstress or tailor obviously doesn't use all the fabric rolls per metre finely selected in his or her favourite haberdashery for their garment manufacturing.

Therefore, a fundamental question arises: what do you do with fabric that you have accumulated?

Take it to the dump, burn it, or give it to your neighbours for their sewing class?

No way.

And then tirelessly buying pieces of material of one or three meters of all types of fabric really ends up costing a lot if we budget the spending according to our impulsive yet creative ideas.

Remember that we are in the Do it yourself (DIY) era. The ‘D’ system, ie. Having the ability to think quickly, adapt, and improvise when completing a task, combined with the temptation to be ethical, it’s the manager, the location and the organic production that catches the eye, (particularly for the fashionable middle-class left-wingers).

So what do we do with all this scrap material?

Well it's simple: you use it to give them a second life, to make something new with the old.

Or ensure that plain organic cotton sateen, originally acquired to make a duvet cover spends its last days as a wallet…

So without further ado, here are our ideas for recycling scraps of material.

Sewing classes can help you progress faster.

Choose and Prepare the Pieces of Fabric to Recycle

At the bottom of the cupboard stands a basket filled with fabrics that has been there for months: organic cotton fabric, printed fabric, lycra, natural linen, wide-width taffeta, corduroy, silk satin, fine grosgrain fabrics, even knitting wool, lace ribbon and a whole bunch of original fabrics ...

You would think all these pretty fabrics are a basket of dirty laundry.

To start recycling all of this, the first step is to sort them by colour and size.

selection of scrap sewing fabric
In order to know what to do with the scraps of cotton fabric, you have to arrange them by size and colour.

Make space in the largest room in the house - and empty baskets of fabric.

Sort by size

For the initial sorting, separate the large pieces from the smaller ones.

Divide the scraps of material over four or five piles, from 150cm to 50cm and to 10cm:

  1. For very small pieces of fabric
  2. For small pieces of fabric
  3. For medium-sized pieces of fabric
  4. For wide-width pieces of fabric

You should already start to see them more clearly.

Select the fabrics according to their colour

There will be various colours - blue, red, pink, black, off-white, patterned pink, patterned red, green, plain gray, plain blue, peacock blue, etc.

machine sewing polka dot fabric
Pink polka dots on a green background? It just goes to show that sewing from recycled materials can give beautiful creations!

You can also make a variety of fabrics with geometric or animal patterns: pieces of fabric with flamingos, cats, dogs, snakes, etc., fabric with white or pink polka dots on a green or grey background.

And now the room is transformed into a genuine and creative haberdashery.

You can now start looking for ideas to remake custom-made items from what was going to go in the bin.

You will have to resize the pieces of fabric: make scraps out of the scraps.

To make a string quilt, for example, a decorative fabric panel made from a variety of colourful or shiny pieces of scrap fabric, you have to cut many strips of fabric from 5cm to 6cm wide.

You can use the jelly roll or batik roll method: a range of dozens of pre-cut strips of fabric with a width of 6cm which you can sew between them to mkae a larger panel.

Out of inspiration?

We have listed sewing work ideas to make use of excellent quality scraps of fabric.

Also discover how to choose your sewing needles ...!

Sewing small Accessories for Children and Adults

blanket creation from green linen
I doubled a duvet for a baby with half a piece of green linen, originally intended to make curtains for the room

Sewing for children

  • A blanket: with a few pieces of fabric by the metre, the child will not want to let go of their new favourite patchwork
  • Dolls’ clothes: To dress up your little dolls, a hand-stitched array of tiny little dresses may give her the taste for sewing
  • A baby mobile: no smartphone, but a variation of bright colours to liven up the baby when lying in bed (on childcare sites, a mobile can cost up to £40, it's better when it's free)
  • Cushions to light up a baby's room
  • A patchwork fabric ball for your sewing classes
  • A colourful rug lined with fleece
  • Tea bags for a doll’s tea set (for a girl, a little niece, etc., why not)
  • Toddlers clothes: make a dress or pyjamas for a baby - what a great idea! By changing sewing patterns, we will get a new machine-sewn garment with clean finishes.

Everyday sewing accessories

No need to return to a fabric store to redecorate the rooms: ideas and a sewing machine will suffice.

Here is what should please someone the most on all occasions (making them happy, a birthday or Christmas gift etc:

  • A headphone case: a small, round item with a zip so that the headphones do not collect dust on a table
  • A personalised bookmark: book lovers will appreciate this: it’s a very nice idea and a simple, cheap gift
  • A laundry bag: an easy piece of sewing that only requires a piece of string, a bit of sewing thread and two pieces of fabric
  • A trinket bowl: ideal for those who get frustrated with where to put things. A place to store everything that doesn’t really have a place (keys, coins, pencils, various knick-knacks)
  • Placemats and coasters: of course, they will wear out quickly, but at least the dining table won't look like an Ikea shelf
  • A photo album cover: to show off your best holiday memories, a memorable trip, a honeymoon, etc., old fabrics can be used as a photo albums covers
  • honeymoon, etc., old fabrics can be used as a photo albums covers
  • wallet
  • keyring
  • bracelets
  • Fabric labels to personalise items like luggage, musical instrument cases, sports bag, etc.
  • An ashtray for the beach (ecological, no more cigarette butts in the sand)
  • A winter rug

There are still so many objects to list that could be customised.

But let's now look at what could be done inside the house.

Making Household Items

The seamstress or tailor can also be the new decorator and interior designer to customise their furniture and make the standard evenings more exciting.

It’s good to put coloured fabric everywhere in the house.

fabric cushions designed for the home

Who would ever guess that these cushions were made from patterned fabrics from old clothes?

Emma's workshop, a sewing blog, has published a great article about recycling her scrap fabric.

She teaches us how to cut strips from pieces of mismatched fabric, then organise them by piece of the same size and form a long strip of fabric.

She will sew them one by one, at random, and form beautiful patterns, which will be cut into new pieces of various shapes: square, round, star, triangle, etc.

Discover how you can create your own sewing patterns...

By choosing contrasting shades, the organisations of "odds and ends" takes shape, and becomes a cushion fit perfectly on a sofa in the living room.

In fact, it is the patchwork technique: we assemble pieces of contrasting fabrics to make something with the little bits we thought were lost.

It allows you to remake:

  • Cushions
  • Pillows
  • Carpets and bath towels
  • Sofa covers
  • Chair covers
  • Duvet and car seat covers
  • Clothing (customise T-shirts, blouses, suits, trousers)

With a little imagination, technique and creativity, you can even remake blankets by doubling them ready for when the cold weather approaches.

To do this, cut pieces of old sweatshirts and jumpers that you don’t wear then sew them on to a sheet then you have a new blanket.

Who ever said that scrap was fabric was going in the bin?

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Passionate about language, sport, and the great outdoors, I love exploring new places and getting to know new people. There is always something to be learned from every experience!