Mindful Monday: What do you do with your fabric scraps?

Welcome to Mindful Monday, the weekly series where I talk about the intersection between mindfulness and creativity. How can we incorporate more mindful practices into our creative lives? How can being more mindful of our creative practices enrich our experience of them?

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I’m not sure if it’s just the New Year, or the home stretch of my pregnancy (5! weeks! left!), but I have had a strong urge to sort and organize during the last two weeks.  I probably should have focused on “practical” spaces in my house– like, say, the kitchen. But instead, I dove in to my stash of art, knitting, and sewing supplies.

I mean… that’s practical, right? The more organized I am with my supplies, the easier it will be to maintain a creative practice post-baby… not to mention sew adorable baby clothes!

In the process of digging through my fabric stash, I found several 5-gallon zip-top bags filled with scraps I had packed away during a move a few years ago, fully intending to re-purpose them for projects “someday.” I’m starting to feel like “someday” may not materialize for those scraps.

Naturally, discovering the scraps led me down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what to do with them.

Sure, I could just throw them away. But one of the reasons I enjoy sewing my own clothing and accessories is because I worry that industrial textile goods produce too much waste.  Some of that waste comes from hastily- and cheaply-produced items wearing out quickly, a lot of it comes from the culture of “disposable clothing”, and some of it comes from the manufacturing process itself (eg. the amount of energy it takes to produce, ship, and sell an item). Creating your own clothing allows you to be more mindful about how you’re using the resources that end up as clothing on your body.

For example, I’m confident that the quality of things I can sew has finally surpassed what I’m willing to spend money on at big box stores. I can make something more durable than a blouse I buy at Old Navy, and it is more likely to be made from sustainably (or at least thoughtfully) produced textiles. The fact that I made it myself means I am far more likely to invest time in mending or repairing it if need be, before I give it away. Granted, this might be due to the Ikea effect… but also possibly because I genuinely like everything about the item I made because I selected each component myself– style, fit, fabric, etc.

I realize that my home sewing scraps are a drop in the bucket of total textile waste, but tossing them in the trash still feels like a waste of resources, and runs contrary to my goals and motivations for sewing in the first place.

(as a side note– I also can’t abide wasted paint, particularly not acrylic! I take anything left on my palette after a project and create a new background in my sketchbook, or use it as an excuse for a little messy art journaling)

However, a lot of the ideas floating around out there for “upcycling” fabric scraps seem a little…. how do I put this? Making something just for the sake of making it. Like, it’s not something that I would need or use, and making it would be roughly equivalent to performing retail therapy in the dollar section at Target (yes, guilty). If I’m going to make something from my scraps, I want it to be something that I’d actually like to have– otherwise, I feel like there must be people out there who can put the scraps to a good/ needful purpose. Novel idea, I know.

My first question in contemplating my scraps is whether I have any projects already on my list that could *use* them. With a little creative forethought, I could create some awesome colorblocked kids’ clothes, like the examples included at the end of this post. I think that is probably at the top of my project list/ plan for these scraps.

The remainder of my scraps that are too small to use will probably be held in a box until I have enough to serve as stuffing for a pillow or plushie (I do envision a number of plushie projects in my future…).

I also contemplated taking my scraps to a Creative Reuse Center. The nearest one(s) to me are about a two-hour drive, but I do occasionally make the trip up that way for other reasons. Unfortunately, none of them have responded to my emails asking about fabric donations! Alas. Many thrift stores also take bags of fabric scraps to sell to textile recyclers, who shred them and downcycle them into industrial fillings or insulation. And– the best option in my opinion– sometimes thrift stores will even take art and craft supplies to sell as art and craft supplies! Which makes them both a great place to donate your unwanted items and to shop for your next project!

These would be my top three options for repurposing fabric scraps, but the following project ideas also held some appeal. If I ever get through my currently way-too-long backlog of intended projects and UFOs, I will tackle one of these (or, when the need arises 😉 ):

  • If you enjoy making jewelry, or need some new accessories, these fabric button necklaces are a cute idea.
  • I could possibly see doing something like this somewhere down the line, and making “fabric twine” out of larger scraps that I don’t want to use in a sewing project for some reason (maybe they’re too ugly??). The twine could be used as piping or other embellishment… or simply as twine around the house!
  • On one blog I read, a commenter said she sewed all of her scraps together to make a larger piece of scrappy fabric. I thought that sounded pretty cool– frankenfabric! You could potentially use it in a quilt project, or for a pillow sham, or even to make one of these floor cushion/ poufs (which could also be *stuffed* with scraps when you’re done assembling them). This lady has another option for turning teeny tiny scraps into “new” fabric that is more like a fabric collage and involves quilting and iron-on sheeting. I don’t think I’d ever do it myself, but if you enjoy fabric collage it would be a fun idea.
  • My great-grandmother used to make braided rugs– the consistency of her colors makes me think she used fresh cuts of fabric, but you could very easily use scraps as well. You could also make a slightly different style called “Amish knot”. We have enough rugs around our house, so I probably wouldn’t do this until we needed a new one.
  • Annika Victoria has a whole series of videos about projects she made with scraps– including this cute plushie that is both sewn from scraps AND stuffed with scraps. I especially like this project because she was filling a need by making it (she needed a gift for her niece), rather than just making something for the sake of using up supplies. (If anyone knows where to get that transfer paper for less than a gabillion dollars, please let me know!!)

What do you do with your scraps, fabric or otherwise? Do you repurpose them? Donate them? Toss them out?

 

 

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