This year was always going to be about reducing my fabric scraps, but Covid-19 restrictions have really shown me how much waste we produce as a family. Until this spring, we regularly decluttered and sent our unwanted things to thrift store, consignment stores and gave them away on buy nothing groups. All of our regular avenues to get rid of stuff have been closed off and it’s become extremely clear just how much we get rid of. We try to recycle as much as we can, but I’m aware that a good amount of what we send to the local charity shop – or the fabric I send to H&M – ends up in landfill. My closet currently houses our ever-growing “outbox” sorted into categories: e-waste, donate to charity shop, send to kids’ consignment store, give away on (currently closed) local buy nothing group and a really large bag of fabric off-cuts.
I had been planning on making a run to the mall to drop off my scraps just before the world basically shut down, so I had a good 4 or 5 grocery bags full of fabric waiting to go somewhere. We live in a very small two-bedroom apartment, so I very literally have no room to store any more old t-shirts or failed projects. While annoying and sometimes overwhelming, my garbage bag of scraps has really reminded me of how much better I’ve gotten at using everything I possibly can, but also how much better I can still do. This post is a roundup of my favourite strategies and projects for using up and eliminating fabric waste.
- Buy less than you actually need. Most indie patterns tell you to buy more fabric than you actually need. I regularly squeeze projects out of 1/4 to a 1/2 metre less than the envelope says. (It bears noting that I’m really short, so definitely don’t rely on this if you’re above average height.)
- Only buy fabric you love. I find it way easier to motivate myself to use every tiny scrap if the fabric is special in some way.
- Cut out everything at once. I’ve started cutting out my “scrapbusting projects” with the original intended pattern for a length of fabric. This way I actually get to making the littler projects and I make sure I have enough fabric for them. I managed to make a tank top, shorts, a bra and underwear out of one 1.5 metre cut of pink jersey.
- Keep your scrapbusting patterns handy. I keep patterns for pockets, bibs and underwear all pinned to my bulletin board for easy access.
- Make kids or doll’s clothes. I didn’t have to buy any bottoms for either of my kids this summer and it was kind of amazing. If you don’t love sewing for others (guilty), pick the easiest possible pattern so you can get them out of the way quickly and sew things you actually want. My daughter lives in yoga-waist bike shorts in the summers. Even if you don’t have kids, someone you know will be really happy to receive free, well-made clothes for their kids (RTW kids clothes can be total junk). Especially bottoms! People love to gift tops, but never pants. Both of my kids have about three times more tops than bottoms.
- Colour-blocking. Patterns like the geranium top or the Linden sweatshirt are great for this because you can Frankenstein together scraps from two (or more!) projects.
- Don’t give up on failed projects. There was a time when I would just chuck a top that didn’t work out into the garbage. Now, I do as much as humanly possible to make it work. Or just chop it into something for my kids.
Here are some of my favourite projects:
- Underwear. Buy a pattern or just cut up your favourite RTW pair and make a pattern.
- Bias tape.I love using a contrasting bias tape on hems.
- Zipper pouches and jewelry rolls.
- Waxing strips.
- Closet Case Pouf.
- Braided rug.
- Wreaths. Wrap strips of fabric around your form, make teensy pennants or make little fabric rosettes!
- Bibs. Either big ones for mealtime, or smaller bandannas for drool.
- Sleeping eye mask.
- Bucket hats (for you or your kids). They’re trendy again, y’all.