I’ve confessed before about my overflowing paper stash, but I haven’t been as candid about my fabric hoarding. Let’s just say that collection is quite healthy, too, with a scrap pile that’s getting out of control. Determined to whittle it down, I came up with a few quick fabric scrap projects that have made a dent in my stockpile and provided some great creative time.
We’re talking true scraps here—little pieces that you feel guilty about throwing away, but not so large that they can be used on their own. First up: a journal tie. I use a lot of purchased art journals and sketchbooks that come with elastic closures, but since my journals tend to expand significantly with extra pages, embellishments, etc., those elastics either break or become unusable. So I typically cut them off and create my own closure.
For a 5½”-wide journal, I started with a strip of linen fabric 1″ wide by 30” long (long enough to wrap around the journal and tie), fabric scraps trimmed to be a little wider than the linen strip, and some lace scraps for extra texture and interest. The fabric scraps were anything and everything, with a good mix of colors and values.
Starting at one end of the linen piece, I placed a scrap on top of the strip and sewed it with a straight stitch and a neutral beige thread. I slightly overlapped another scrap on the strip, stitched it, and repeated that all the way down. Some scraps were layered under the previous pieces, and some over, just to lend a little variety.
The more stitching on a piece, the stiffer it will be. I wanted this tie to be flexible but also pretty sturdy, so I when all the scraps were sewn to the linen strip I created about five more rows of stitches, both straight and zig-zag. You can also sew this by hand, using a simple running stitch or more decorative stitches. After trimming all the loose threads I thought it needed one more element, so I fussy cut some bold modern flowers from a piece of fabric and stitched those on top.
To attach the tie to my journal, I punched a hole in the middle of the back cover with a Japanese push drill and another hole in the middle of the tie (you can also use a sturdy awl). The bottom part of a metal rivet was pushed through the inside back cover of the journal, and through the tie. The prong was topped with a rivet cap, then hammered down, following the manufacturer’s instructions. You can also use an eyelet for this, or a sturdy brad.
I now have a unique journal that can expand and still be corralled.
Next on my list of fabric scrap projects: a frame for a simple collage. The elements included a walnut ink-stained piece of cotton batting, a fussy-cut fabric flower, a vintage ledger page, and aqua fabric scraps. For the fabric I decided to go monochromatic, and since turquoise is one of my favorite colors, I had a lot of scraps in that shade.
The fabric scraps were trimmed with pinking shears and arranged around the ledger paper, and the flower was tacked onto the ledger page with glue stick. Then everything was sewn on the machine using zig-zag and straight stitches. For a final touch, I added some acrylic paint around the flowers, creating an inner frame.
Third on the fabric scrap projects list: a fabric tassel. I’ve been a little obsessed with mixed-media tassels lately; they really pretty up a room, and you can use them for gifts, as zipper pulls, and on bookmarks.
For this tassel I tore 22 strips from larger fabric scraps to about ½” wide and about 11″ long, then gave them a quick press with an iron. There are countless ways to do this—you can trim the fabric with scissors or a rotary cutter, cut them with pinking shears, use monochromatic shades of fabric, etc. Each variation will result in a completely different look, which is half the fun. I placed the strips across a piece of 24-gauge wire, slightly criss-crossing them.
The strips were gathered with the wire, and the wire was twisted tightly at the top. I cut a 30″ piece of 20-gauge copper wire and messily wrapped it around the strips about an inch down from the top, wrapping as tightly as I could and tucking in the end. I pushed a chunky faceted bead through the top wires, coiled the ends into a loop, then added a jump ring and piece of ribbon for hanging. The ends of the strips were trimmed, so the finished length of the tassel (not including the bead) is about 5″. I know just the doorknob to hang this on.
Fabric scrap projects can go abstract, too. Tansy Hargan creates beautiful abstract designs using bits of fabric, ribbon, fiber, and embroidery thread. Her article “An Abstract Spring Landscape” in the March/April 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors details her easy method of creating a stunning abstract landscape using the tiniest of scraps. This piece will have you thinking about how to create texture, build layers of color, and how to render images and scenes in new ways.
On the practical side of fabric scrap projects is Linda Willis’ funky stitched keepers. These fun sewn pouches, featured in the article “Free-Style Patchwork” in the January/February 2015 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, are made by sewing patches of random fabrics to batting and lining fabric all at once. Because this project doesn’t use traditional quilting techniques no quilting experience is necessary, and this is a great way to pare down your stash. Sew up the sides, add some fun embellishments, and you’ve just made a useful and eye-catching accessory.