Seven Ways to Make Quick Work of Fabric Scraps

pokey boltonNo matter what kind of quilts or fiber art you create, fiber and fabric scraps are a fact of life.

fabric scrap fortune cookies
Fabric fortune cookies made
from scraps.

Many of us hoard these little pieces of textile temptation because we know they come in handy some day: you never know when you're going to need that perfect piece of orange to highlight a quilt design or that amazing bit of silk ribbon to frame an artist trading card.

But, these piles and bags of scraps do have a tendency to build up and take over the studio. Or so I'm told (wink).

That's when you need a project or technique that's tried and true for zapping that scrap basket pile down to a manageable height. Here are seven ideas, that have worked for me, all of which we've explored on "Quilting Arts TV."

needle felted fiber art
Needle-felted fiber art.

1. Needle felt. Is there an easier way to turn random bits of fibers and fabrics into beautiful, textural designs? I can't think of one. Ever since I got a needle-felting machine, I've been turning fiber "trash" into gold faster than you can "Rumpelstiltskin." I demonstrated this technique in the first season of "QATV" and since then we've had several other artists reveal their own twists on needle-felting.

Mixed-media fabric charms.

2. Fabric charms. Ruth Rae first showed me how to make these in the second season of "QATV." You can turn these tiny mixed-media pillows into jewelry or use them as embellishments for a wall hanging.

patchwork purse
Easy patchwork purse.

3. Patchwork. Quilters have always used scraps to make patchwork designs, but the recent revival has a fresh, contemporary spin. Plus, we've learned you can apply patchwork to pretty much anything, like the crazy patch modern purse Darlene Zimmerman made on Season 3.

4. Banish UFOs. OK, they're not really scraps, but unfinished objects (UFOs) take up space in your studio and clutter your mind. In series 400 of "QATV," I demonstrated how to finish your small art quilts in five minutes with no fuss.

5. Make cookies. One of my all-time favorite projects from series 500: no-sew fortune cookies. Just cut circles out of your scraps, stiffen the fabric, fold, and stuff with fortunes. I predict you'll have fun with this scrap-zapper.

fabric scraps treat bags
Doggie treat bags from fabric scraps.

6. Give them to the dogs. Not literally, of course, but scraps (of fabric) are perfect for making fabric collages featuring your pooch (or cat), pet apparel, toys, and patchwork bedding. We've shown them all on "QATV," but one of my favorites is the Doggie Treat Bag by Carol Ingram from Series 600. This project uses just a little fabric and it's very stylish.

fabric scrap embellishments
Scrappy Boro Bobble embellishments.

7. Embellish. Another way to use up scraps is to make embellishments, and Victoria Gertenbach's Boro Bobbles project from Series 700 is easy and fun. After the circles have been cut, you can hand-stitch and stuff them with filler while watching TV or your child's sports practicea perfect take-along project.

There you have it: seven ways to bust your fabric scrap and fiber stash, all from "Quilting Arts TV."

Did I miss something? Tell me how you use up scraps in the comments section. I'd love to know some new tricks.

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Embellishing, Quilting Daily Blog

10 thoughts on “Seven Ways to Make Quick Work of Fabric Scraps

  1. I like to take a few hours,go through my scrap stash and pick out a stack as varied as can be,get out the fusible web and fuse several sizes. It is wonderful to have a ready to go supply of “iron-on patches” or whatever I might want them for. Just draw the design on the paper side and I’m good to go!

  2. Re: scraps. Great ideas. But, one very important use of scraps is for dog/cat beds for the animal shelters/rescues. Any fabric/batting scraps can be placed in a pillow case (2nd hand stores have lots of them). Once 3/4 full, sew it closed and donate to your local shelter. All of the animals will thank you for a soft, comfy bed.

  3. My quilt guild makes premie quilts for local hospitals. They are roughly 16″ square. I delight in using my scraps in these along with donated fabrics received by the guild. It is so fun building color groups and making each little quilt “by the seat of my pants.” No two are alike. They just grow like Topsy. We do not add batting but use flannel or poly fleece for the backs. They are “birthed,” meaning we seam them RS together leaving an opening through which to turn the quilt. I always edge stitch and quilt by machine or hand. I shop the Goodwill for baby blankets I can wash and cut up for backings.

  4. I’ve been making a puff quilt for my bed and started looking at my bedside lamps. The lamps are in great shape but the shades were looking a bit dated. I cut little squares, about 1″ x 1″ from my scraps, using liquid stitch, I applied them to my old lampshades! When I finished applying the squares, I painted the entire lampshade with modge podge. It is now easy to keep clean and matches my new quilt!

  5. I cut my scraps into rectangles that are 3″long and anywhere from 1″ to 4″ wide,it is not necessary to be on a straight line. When I have a stack accumulated I sit and sew them,long sides together,using a quarter inch seam. Press all seam allowances to one direction. Wind the strip around a dowel rod piece or cardboard,just keep adding to it. Before you know it you’ll have a 3″wide crazy strip that you can use for countless parts in your next projects!

  6. Our foremothers knew how to make a quilt using only what they had, from scraps of fabric to natural dyes. But, quilt making the frugal and eco-friendly way was easier for them: