Do Something Different with Your Fiber and Fabric Scraps

handspun yarn stoneI have collected a ton of fibers in my career as a quilt artist. Everything from novelty yarns, to silk carrier rods and cocoons, to felt balls, ribbons and metallic threads, wool and silk roving. Not to mention the scraps of thousands of quilting fabrics, sheers, gauzes, saris, and the like. And don't even get me started on found papers and other non-fabric tidbits.

I've used these fibers in my art in many ways, couching them onto Artist Trading Cards or needle-felting them onto a base to make new fabric and as surface design, for example.

But I have to admit, sometimes I just like looking at the heaps of fibers hanging out in baskets and bins around my studio. The inherent beauty of the juxtaposition of these colorful tactile lovelies just stirs my senses and makes me happy.

twisted fabric yarnSo when I opened the latest issue of Fiberarts magazine and saw how artists are making handspun yarn out of fabric scraps and other random bits of fibers, I was intrigued. Handspun yarn is catching on like wildfire, but these fiber artists incorporate fabric or paper and metallic threads, as well as constructed or found add-ins such as beads, shells, wire, and felted or sewn shapes.

What's more, the resulting yarn is becoming an end in itself, a piece of fiber art with meaning and value on its own. In the Fiberarts article, the artists talk about how they imbue the handspun yarn with meaning as they go, while also making a sculptural statement.

handspun yarn sunI was particularly taken with Laura Mayotte's "Elusive Sun." The yarn resulted from a diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency after prolonged ill health. She began by dyeing yellow wools and silks and then proceeded to write a letter to the sun on the silk fabric. She stitched the silk into sun-rays that are spun in throughout the yarn.

I could easily see myself making mounds of handspun yarn art out of all the bits of scraps, fiber, and found objects in my stash-sort of like a spun fiber collage. All you need is the fiber and a drop spindle (which I'm told you can easily make).

Then again, I would love to pack my bags and head to one of the many schools that specialize in fiber art classes so I could learn to spin from the pros. This same issue lists 25 terrific schools where you can learn to weave, quilt, knit, or spin. There's quite a bit in this issue of Fiberarts for you to check out!

I'm curious, have you tried spinning with fabric and other fibers? If so, how have you used the resulting yarn? Any tips for me? Leave your comments below!

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Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog

11 thoughts on “Do Something Different with Your Fiber and Fabric Scraps

  1. I have made years my own yarn as well.
    to weave , i have sew on clear plastic strokes with the zig zag stich yarn on it so when you weave with them it will give an graffic result.
    and i used only small strokes too with sewing lines too.
    or you can use some other results by using suddenly an other stich or colours.
    or sew on them pieces of fabric on it or thick yarn.
    or paper.
    and with spinning i used too plastic clear tape with out glue and then the fabric strokes and when you pull on the other harder then the other the fabric will be on the outside or just in the inside .
    it give a great strange effect.
    but designing your own yarn is still a great hobby of mine;-D
    hope you like this comment and it is helpfull for the others as well
    have a great good creative spunning day;-D

  2. I’m currently spinning silk scarves which I cut into 1/2″ strips and then plied them with Sulky threaded with clear crystal beads to pick up the print in the scarf. The yarn is so soft and wonderful, I’m planning to make a vest with a large shawl collar that will be quilted around the flower pattern so I can use both the fabric and the yarn. Jeanne

  3. I have been making yarn from fiber scraps for many years. Here are a few things I have learned:
    *I take the bits and pieces and twist them just like I would in spinning wool. The size of the zig zag depends upon how thick the “yarn” is, although, I have been known to use the widest setting on every thickness and it works just fine.
    *After twisting the fibers together they can be wrapped in solvy to hold them together and keep them out of the bobbin chamber.
    *The color of the zig zag thread does add to the overall look of the yarn. I am particularly partial to shiny (either metallic or rayon).
    *I have the local sewing shop save the thread and fabric pieces that is discarded after the sewing classes. This gives me quite a variety of colors to work with. The contact person gives me a call when they want to get rid of the ‘stash’.
    *All of the usual rules of thumb apply well to this application: shiny/matte, color combos (monochromatic, complementary, etc.)
    *I try to have one unifying component, although, do not rule out sweeping up the stuff off of the floor and putting it together! Random is good and the thread used for zig zag will unify it.

  4. Hello, I have used all my tiny scraps of fabric and thread and also a most unusual fiber, Dryer Lint to create a few collages and ACEO’s . Id love to send a picture.

  5. Spinning paper is a very old technique used in Japanese textiles and Korean basketry. You can buy very thin Habu paper yarn and spin several lengths together.
    I’ve also used 1/2″ strips of newspaper. When I spin newspaper, I apply glue as I’m spinning, and I get a really solid cord that I can weave with. Let it dry, and if it’s too stiff to weave with, you spritz it with a bit of water.

  6. New concepts with fiber is always exciting and several years ago at Quilt Market I introduced
    my techniques of knitting with leftover quilt batting. I created several projects with patterns to knit, using quilt batting. I call them earthknits ™. Quilt batting is a delightful fiber to knit with. It is easy on the hands and can be easily dyed. You can check them out here and look under the headings, bags or pillows.

  7. I have made chenille yarn from fabric for many years. I have an article in the Winter 2006 issue of Spin-Off magazine, “Making Real Chenille”, page 69. Unfortunately due to last minute editing one of the most important pieces of information regarding sewing machine adjustment was left out. Without it success is haphazard at best. I have often wondered how many people tried my technique only to be disappointed because of that one missing bit of information.

    For another technique see: Bedouin Weaving by Joy Totah Hilden, page 113

  8. Hello,
    I have been making yarn out of scrap polar fleece. Cut the scraps into thin strips (a very scant quarter inch) then gently stretch it and roll it into a ball. It makes a variegated yarn that works well to make dimensional fabric.

  9. Like the others, I spin and love to do the art yarn stuff, adding anything I can find into the mix. I have knitted with the softer stuff, and have also used it in weaving, and I have sold some of it, particularly the wilder stuff. I use a spindle and a charkha for this, as I feel I have better control over things than with my flyer wheel, and if I am adding beads or anything with a hole in it, I add one of those long eyed beading needles to my yarn and use it to add even the tiniest seed beads, about a yards worth at a time, and move the needle and the beads up the newly spun yarn as I go. This gives me a fantastic single that holds the bead or fabric piece firmly in place, and avoids stringing a core yarn and having it showing. I use a lot of large resin flower and butterfly beads as well as bells and its important to make sure that they are not colour coated, that the colour runs through the bead and that way your yarn becomes washable and can be used in felting too.
    I’m lucky in that if I do use my flyer wheel, I can bypass the orifice so that I am less prone to art yarns catching, though hooks still remain a bit of a problem. I think we all develop techniques that work well with the equipment we have so we all produce unique yarns that meet our individual needs.
    And best of all, its such great fun making these yarns!!

  10. I am such a saver. Recently I have begun converting tshirts to yarn. If the shirt is decent I cut blocks for tshirt quilts, then from the round tube at the base, or up to the arms if not salvaging blocks, I cut slits part way around, then cut diagonally between to produce long strips of the knit fabric. Not all types work, but most tshirt fabric will curl up lengthwise when you stretch it, and can be rolled into balls. The “yarn” is great for washable crocheted rugs or colorful but heavy bags (hubby calls them t-bags). The rest of the scrap I cut into short strips to hook into rugs or pillows, in coordinating colors!
    I also “process” plastic in my house in many ways, with appropriate material cut into loops, connected into “plarn”, which I use to crochet lunch or shopping bags or other items. Scraps go to the recycling container at the market.
    I have used strips from serging mixed with leftover yarn, ribbon or other scrap in two ways. Strips which are wide/long enough can be hand woven into interesting pillow covers, and short pieces are fun to collect onto soluble stabilizer, stitch together decoratively, and then wash away the substrate to leave fabric suitable for scarves, pillows, lapels, pockets, or other decoration.