How can I reuse or recycle scraps of fabric?

fabric.jpgProof that great minds think alike. An email from Lisa Chown:

We are a manufacturer of knitted acrylic accessories and end up having loads of waste fabric, from the shaping of our products, is there a way that this can be recycled rather than send it to the landfill?

And another one the next day from Katrina:

How can I recycle all the fabric remnants I have lying around?? When I worked in an Interior Design shop in London, I know a charity would come and pick up the fabric waste for recycling. I don’t know who to contact…does anyone have any ideas??

And I also did some sewing on Monday night and had some tiny scraps left over and thought the same thing.

So any ideas? Fabric recycling ideas would be best for Lisa and Katrina since I suspect they’ll have more than can be reused – but what about reuse suggestions for people like me? The scraps I produced were too small to be used on other projects (even patchwork/quilting) – but I guess they could be used for stuffing or things like that… right?

(Photo by CraigPJ)

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64 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle scraps of fabric?”


  1. Bobbie says:

    Of course, rag rugs come to mind right away. Once, in a craft store, I saw a “machine” that would use long strips of fabric sewn together to scrunch them up into strips of scrunchie looking material which was sewn together to make rugs. Try this link
    http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/treasure/msg112240477894.html

    here it is again in case my html didn’t work:
    http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/treasure/msg112240477894.html

  2. Heather says:

    With small amounts of scrap, one might be able to make fabric yarn, as shown here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ihanna/183962989/

    There also appear to be many online buyers interested in larger quantities of fabric scraps. For instance: http://www.alibaba.com/manufacturer/14968147/Fabric.html

    I have no idea how such large scale transactions would work or what the buyers plan to do with the scraps, but it might be worth some investigation.

  3. trish says:

    Quilts!!!

    If you want to make some cash, cut the scraps up into the same size and ebay them, a lot of people will pay for pre-cut quilting squares. If not, you could even just sell a bag at a time.

  4. mercutiom says:

    For larger scraps, quilts are the way to go, but for those smaller pieces that there’s no way you can sew, I’d suggest leaving them out for birds to use for nesting material. Of course this would only work for the scraps of a small individual project, not a large company. For them I’d suggest looking into a recycling program. Cloth makes a great insulator too, so diversifying into that area might be something to consider as well.

  5. Mary says:

    I have used tiny scraps to decoupage boxes for storage. Just apply with Modge Podge and a brush. They look like a crazy quilt design and have a nice shiny finish that holds up well.

    As for larger amounts of fabric, senior centers and quilting groups look for fabrics for charitable quilting.

    Mary

  6. Fran says:

    If you have lots (and lots!!)of little bits, maybe you could use them to stuff cushions, or soft toys, if you are into making those sorts of things.

  7. Linda says:

    Regarding the e-bay suggestion above, you don’t need to cut the fabric into little bits. Yardage sells nicely on e-bay, even small pieces, as long as you don’t price things too dear. If you’ll have a steady supply, an e-bay store is the way to go as the listing fee is much lower and the listing duration much longer.

    • artsiecl says:

      Hi Linda,

      I am Carol (artsiecl) …..I wonder what the difference is in E-bay and an e-bay store….guess we have to pay more for the ebay store…huh?

      email if you like……I have loads of all types of fabric….old denim too…….and loads of decorator fabric something like 30×30 inch pieces ….. I am artsiecl@yahoo.com email if you will…..

  8. Hazel says:

    Have you got a local “scrap store” that provides schools and youth groups with materials for various craft projects?
    I’ve used the one in Nottingham and found material scraps make wonderful beads. Smaller children can make fantastic collages with tiny pieces — particularly is the material is of different weights and fibre.

  9. Kaz says:

    wasteonline.org has useful info on this including textile banks and charitable organisations. They make the point that your local council’s recycling officer should have information on what’s available locally.

    Ask your local charity shops just what they’ll accept. Ask local schools if they can use fabric for textiles classes (do they still have Art & Textiles classes at schools?) I bet primary schools can use scraps for class projects. And Ebay. Seriously. Especially if there are large pieces, but I’ve seen scraps sold online, too.

  10. Elise says:

    There is a fabric manufacturer here in Dallas that gives away bags of scraps using Craigslist. They advertise in the FREE section and are specific about when you have to get there. They bag it in 50lb bags of mixed scrap and they do not allow you to sort through the bags.

    I’ve been tempted many times to go down and get one because I do a lot of art dolls, but just haven’t done it yet.

    • artsiecl says:

      Hi Elise,

      I used to collect stuff to make dolls (was going to make pillows with doll faces and necklines on them)….tip, you can use pretty lace (heavy cotton and all) from clothing from garage sales. Also you can buy old ultra-suede clothing a light tan and paint or dye it different colors and have lots of variety…….carol ….

      artsiecl@yahoo.com

  11. rad says:

    this is a good way to recycled fabric. So it won’t waste money.

  12. Catherine says:

    If you have enough scraps you can make the haybox/fireless oven that someone suggested under moulded polysterene. I’m living in a country with tailors on every street corner, just desperate to get rid of their scraps, and so I’m about to investigate this idea with the help of an old basket and these scraps.

  13. E Beader says:

    What i do woth little bits of scrap material is :
    #1 Look for ideas on the internet
    (Thats how i came to this)
    #2 Make bookmarks and to proit off them sell them. Be a Entrupernuer or however you spell that!

  14. joann says:

    if anybody has extra scraps they are intrested in getting rid of , i can use them !!! no smaller peices than 4 x4 please tho , i am helping out with a cancer group making quilts for sick patients …. if anybody is willing to donate email me at
    bearbeard@comcast.net

    • Kate says:

      I have plenty, what country are you based in? I am in Ireland !

      • A Docherty says:

        Hi there I am in Wales, Uk. I do lots of making with friends for charities localy based – hospital, cancer and Wales Air Ambulance plus any others those who come to make support… Anything from cardmaking panels like for quilting upwards can be used…Basically the larger the better! Can also make favor bags etc… Very interested if you’d be good enough to contact me I know we could put items to good use. Also anyfasteners or items that could be used as toppers or for jewellery or embellishments are very seful for our concerns should youknow anyone else? Thanks for posting and reading!

  15. You can put tiny scraps out in the yard for birds to use when they create their nests.

  16. Mary says:

    You can scrunch the fabric sinto balls, and either sew them or wrap wires to keep them in that shape. Then you can sew them together to make gorgeous necklace and bracelets, or just connect them to hooks for festive earrings. More detailed instructions on http://www.cutoutandkeep.net/projects/fabric_ball_necklace

  17. Gulia says:

    You can donate them to orphanages around the world.

  18. Leah says:

    stuffing cushions etc is the obvious answer

  19. Thank you so much for the above information. I recently started a recycling business making really cute handmade dolls from recycled materials but I do not know where to get a regular supply of unwanted materials. PLEASE PLEASE how can I get the materials you mentioned above. You never know you might even find my dolls on the High Street one day all made of fabric waste.

  20. L.Franklin says:

    Im looking for scrap fabrics send them my way! seriously! got them on ebay yet?

  21. L.Franklin says:

    ps, if anyone knows where i can get cheap pieces/off cuts of fabrics
    please let me know, hard to find in europe.
    doochia3 at yahoo dot co dot uk

    • phuong says:

      hello am come from vietnam in my country i have a lot of scraps farbic from all kind of farbic. and all shape and size tiny to big, if you want i can sell with cheap prices just 0,5 cent to 1$ per kilograms

  22. Melinda says:

    They can be used to make small bags for gift-giving. I’ve made drawstring bags that I use every Christmas and most birthdays. Sometimes it is fun to see how far a bag can go. They can also be patchworked if the peices are too small for the whole thing. fastenings can be drawstring, button, or whatever stikes your fancy. Also, they can be used to make tote bags, purses and other soft containers and book-covers.

  23. Danielle says:

    I save really tiny scraps of fabrics and yarns to use as stuffing for toys or stuffed animals, or anything else that needs a bit of padding. Also, whenever I have scraps of lace fabric, I use them to wrap gifts for my best friend, since she uses the fabric to make sculptures.

    And, for scrap ribbons and lace strips, I use them to tie up herbs for drying.

  24. lizzie says:

    have literally loads of offcuts etc
    and pieces never used any where in brighton that will take and reuse ?

  25. Lizzy says:

    Depending on size: quilt squares , or keep them in a big jar until you have the need to stuff soemthing

  26. Jessica R says:

    I was in a mechanical supply shop a while ago and they had huge bags of cleanup rags that they were selling. I took a second look – all their ‘rags’ were clean, good quality oddly shaped pieces of corduroy. They had obviously been cut from clothing as some had seams and/or labels but there was no wear and the pieces were nice and large. It was a mystery where they originally came from but I bought a bag and picked thru it for the pieces I wanted then gave the rest to my man for his work shop. I was tempted to keep the whole thing and plan a quilt but the colours were a bit too varied to look good together without a lot of work.
    I also like to find a charity shop that sells their silk ties in packets. You can’t pick thru them but for the price you tend to get enough of what you can use that it is worth while. I throw everything I am interested in into the laundry along with a dye magnet sheet* and wash it on a cycle that is a little harsher than what I ever plan to wash a completed project (even if the ties are silk). If the fabric comes out the laundry looking good then I know that it is going to stand up and be worth my efforts to encorporate into a project. Ties and tie shapes can be used as to sew into clothing (dresses, belts, & skirts are the most obvious and popular but I’ve seen a smock top, vests and a bandeau too)

  27. Natalie Robertson says:

    This is really of interest to me. I myself am a textile student and it is quite unbelievable how much waste is produced.
    I am currently in discussions about setting up an organisation where scraps and fabrics which would either be put in the bin or sent off to charity shops could be sent to a collection point. I would then hope to have a team of volunteers in place that could help transform these into practical items such as aprons, bedding etc that would then be distributed to charities and people in need or into charity shops where by they can be sold on to make more money.
    I hope this would help cut down waste that would end up in a landfill but also be profitable for charities.
    I would really appreciate your feedback on this.
    Thanks for raising such an important issue.
    Natalie
    nattyrobertson@hotmail.com

    • Kate says:

      Hi Natty, like the sound of your proposed project. What country are you based in though, I am in Ireland with sacks full of remenants !

      • A Docherty says:

        Kate is me again in Wales, jsut occurred to me that years ago what first got me into crafting and creating was local store selling small bundles of fabric suitable for projects like small dolls clothes at £1 a bag. Pocket money prices is your key… They shall soon go! The folk I craft with are usually those who can when they can due to ill health themselves… Schools will often be greatful for a free termly supply too!

  28. Jessica R says:

    For really small threads and scraps you can make lace. Start by making a sandwich – lay down a rectangle of water soluble stabilizer then scatter your bits evenly around the stabilizer. Lay a second piece of stabilizer over the top and carefully pin everything in place – lots of pins everywhere so no shifting! Take the sandwich to your sewing machine and start sewing. You can sew in a grid or in loops or in any manner you like but the lines must cross because the stabilizer will be washed away later and the lines of sewing will be the only thing holding your new lace fabric together. As you sew you will sew through your scraps, catching them in your lace and making them part of your new fabric. Be sure you get enough lines of sewing to create a fabric. If you are sewing in a pattern and you don’t want to mess it up with more sewing lines but you need more lines to hold your fabric together solidly, change to invisible thread and sew with that for a while.
    After you are finished making your lace you need to soak it for a while until the stabilizer melts. You will have to rinse it a couple times after because the stabilizer stays in the fabric and makes it stiff even after it looks like it is all out.
    You can use your new lace as a scarf or an overlay (where it kind of looks like boucle).

  29. Lizzy says:

    Cut patterned pieces into squares/rectangles to wrap gifts instead of wrapping paper.

  30. Just finished a communal rag rugging project using scraps of fabric donated from individuals (old garments), charity shop and local curtain company. http://abscraft.blogspot.com/

    In my research, I also found out about several other kids of rag rugging including a fantastic contemporary kind where you use circles of fabric and poke it though the centre with a prodder (could be made from an old fashioned broken peg or a shaved down toothbrush) partially through a backing (hessian) then glue the back (I think you could stitch the back to save using latex glue).

  31. Billy Marie Sell says:

    I have a pick-up load of quilt scraps and yardage. Come and get ‘em.
    FREE

  32. Billy Marie Sell says:

    I have a pick-up load of quilt scraps and yardage. come and get em
    FREE….eiram@netptc.net

  33. binla says:

    cut the scraps into very small pieces, stuff toys with the scraps, if you bagful of scraps stuff your pillow with them.

  34. Cipollina says:

    I’d use them to stuff mattresses in different sizes for animal shelters as charity. They’re always in need of suff like that. Bigger bits could be quilted double and used as blankets.

  35. J says:

    Fabric scraps can be used as embellishment for pillow and bed covers, clothing, tote bags, etc.

    Idea (DIY Project – Refeshing Old Bed Linens): http://www.designspongeonline.com/2010/04/diy-project-refreshing-old-bed-linens.html

    You can also make a Miniature flower garland:
    http://www.oncewed.com/23104/wedding-blog/diy-wedding/diy-miniature-fabric-flower-garland/

  36. Whitney says:

    I have a regular supply of scrap available in Grand Prairie, Texas

    You can come by the shop:

    Razzmatazz Resale Shoppe
    107 W. Main St
    Grand Prairie, TX 75050

    or drop me a line!

  37. Judi says:

    A very dear senior friend of mine has a quilt that her Mother made for her–a postage stamp quilt. The “blocks” are the size of a postage stamp. It is a lovely quilt!! Maybe some of the small scraps of fabric could be used for such a quilt. I can’t imagine how long it took to create it!

  38. R.sridhar says:

    i would like to buy apparel waste in fabric & garment waste in cotton immediately ready to buy in Tons,
    Please suggest a place in Hyderabad to get this, which is the area we get these waste,
    Regards,
    Sridhar.

  39. Lucia says:

    Hi,
    I have a lot of new fabric to sell. I also have rolls of fabric to get rid of. I am downsizing my business.
    Any person interested can contact me for more information.
    My email is : kosykennels@btinternet.com Tel 07876727740 (UK)

  40. Laura says:

    Well small non-profit amateur/ community theatre groups like us can make use of fabric, old clothes etc for costuming and suchlike – we have a page on our site specifically listing the things we need at any given time, for easy reference. The worst thing is that near where we are, charity shops tend to throw away “fabric”! ( we tried contacting them to ask for such fabric to be put aside so we could pop round at least once a week, but in most had a very unfavourable response to the idea even though we were offering donations in return for items that they would not usually think to sell :( )

    Our list of things we can make use of is at http://southdevonplayers.weebly.com/recycling.html

  41. Penny Mayor says:

    I have quite a lot of fabric from pairs of curtains some about three and half metre drops, although most are not pairs of curtains.
    They are very expensive fabrics that came from a palace in Paris and They are free to whoever would like them.
    I am in balham, london. email me pennymayor@hotmail.com

  42. nahid dehestani says:

    I have a lot of fabric from clothes, sheets, quilting material; I live close to Titusville, Florida; I would like to donate them; I would appreciate if you could make a donation for the many animals I am taking care of. I just lost my home to a horrific house fire which claimed the lives of many of my four legged family members.
    email me nahiddehestani@bellsouth.net

  43. kayleigh says:

    hiya, i am looking to buy scrap fabric for my partner as she is keen on making new things and i want to see a smile on her face again. things have been real tough and she has no time for herself anymore so i’m hoping this hobby with be good for her. i am based in the UK and am willing to pay if need be. if anyone could help me out that would be great. many thanks :D

    • Laura says:

      Hi Kayleigh! I have just been sorting out a bagful of scrap coloured felt. I was going to put it up for auction on ebid.net for £2 plus postage (£2.50) for my amdram group, but let me know if youre interested. englishgirl2009-theatregroup @ yahoo . co . uk (remove the spaces, thats to stop spam!)

  44. Jane says:

    Sewing & making things out of recycled fabric is my passion! I’m not mobile all the time, so making something is my salvation, I would be happy to pay postage if anyone in UK has bundle of scrap fabric going free please? Big ask I know….I make quilts down to star patchwork cards, so any material would not go to waste…..email me @ Thimbleshanks@gmail.com. Thanks.

  45. Kates says:

    Best Recycling Place I’ve ever dealt with. Polite & efficient at the job.
    Nothing go’s to waste.

    http://www.smartasn.org/contact.cfm

    For more idea’s check out:
    http://greenupgrader.com/17992/reader-question-fabric-recycling-options/

  46. Patricia A. McNally says:

    When I think of interior design samples (or scraps from design sources), I automatically think of totes. The rectangular samples that are no longer offered and the shop owner would like to magically disappear can be turned into sharp looking totes. While totes seem to have been delightful since the beginning of time, they now have new popularity with grocery stores asking if you want the white plastic bags, the brown paper bags or if you have your own recyclable bags. I have the recyclable bags, many of which were made from upholstery fabric remnants that were no longer wanted. Even the ones that seem too small for totes can be pieces together like your favorite quilt or they can be used to make make-up pouches, eye glass holders, plastic bag holders (like a tube where you stuff white grocery plastic bags in the top and pull one out frm the bottom so they get at least a second use) or hats for women who have lost their hair and want an interesting look in their millinery et al. The heavier fabric doesn’t have to be limited zippered make-up pouches or coin purses, now they can be protectors for iPods, Kindles and anything that a user wants protected. There is no end in sight to recycling fabrics and all the other stuff here on our earth at the moment….

    The questions were not solely about upholstery fabric but also about knits, and I suspect knitted acrylics would be fabulous with turbans, especially to remember Pink Ribbon Day. Whether you have hair or not, make yourself and a few friends a turban. Instructions are all over the Internet from different sources, although a basic pattern has become popular. I think I may have seen it last on Pinterest, but if my memory has faced, just search Google for turban instructions. If knitted acrylics leave only small amounts of remnants in strips, maybe striped turbans would be smashing. Never throw any fabric out.

    Doll clothes are another hit for remnants of all kinds. Some scraps will be perfect for a vest for a 11.5″ doll like Barbie, some would be enough for an 18″ doll or any sized doll. Making doll outfits can be amazingly fun, and you can delight a little girl. If you don’t have a little girl of your own at home, try delighting a little girl in the local hospital. There might be more than one little girl who would delight in your creations. The nurses and physicians too might get a big bang out of your creations, and they take such little swatches of fabric. If you want your Barbie to match Grandma, I’ll bet you’ll find many small scraps to make Barbie a turban like Grandmas, and when Grandma gets better, they can both get new hairdos and less concealing hair garb.

    Then there are the inside purse liners that you make with pockets so you can transfer all your purse belongings to the Purse-of-the-Day without any hassle. They’re easy to make, there are a million patterns for that online also, and they can be so fun with outlandish designs, conservative solids or even political statements that will only be seen by people you want to see it. Make anything that will save you time — life is too short not to save time. Moving your belongings in an organized fashion from one purse to another is worth the effort. Make it as easy on yourself as possible so if you have extra time, you can sew something for the little boys in the hospital who aren’t impressed with cute and foxy Barbie clothes.

    And speaking of little girls and boys, how about making some backpacks with the firmer woven remnants. Small, long pieces could make distinctive straps. Put plenty of pockets on the bag so there’s room for all the child’s “extras.” Don’t give up on the knits that aren’t woven; they may work better as hairbands (to keep hair out of your face), headbands (so people don’t realize in your infinite glory you’re dripping sweat) or anklets. Anklets don’t have the popularity of bracelets, but you could change that. People can have a great time if you make anklets like stretchy headbands or bracelets. In an office it can symbolize a team spirit, in a school it can symbolize one giant step for mankind as the youngsters learn about our first landing on the moon in 1969. They may be the next astronauts that return. Are you ready? Make sure they have what they need to get there.

    There is no end to what you can sew with scraps and remnants. Thongs are so brief these days maybe you could sew a few with a single remnant that you can barely see if you have enough elastic. Look for elastic scraps too. There are a million uses for that!!!

    Now we haven’t considered Mother and Dad’s need even after considering the needs of children and our own need for speedy purse transition, and they’re changing as they grow older. With woven remnants or stretchy remnants, you can make the matriarch and patriarch of the family special bracelets with a plastic slot to insert vital information like their name in case they ever get lost. If you do themes they like, they may not resist wearing the bracelets, and if they do resist, ask them for their ideas even if their mumblings don’t sound like ideas. Make sure you make something that is useful and entertaining for them. Their medical staff and the caregivers want ease of identification, and the right theme could always trigger their memory in ways you didn’t expect. The other information is critical too, like your phone number, so if they’re lost, whomever finds them can call you regardless of what time of day or night it is. If Ma and Pa Kettle are losing their memory and not functioning like they used to, they may need domino bracelets to remind them how many children they raised dutifully.

    Start looking into ways of transferring images onto fabric because they might like picture of their adult children and grandchildren on their bracelet. If they used to play dominoes or cards, maybe your sewn bracelets with the plastic slot for vital information to be included can reflect their earlier fun with the spots on a domino or appliques of the suit of cards. If their ears are cold in the winter weather, maybe you could make them some unique earmuffs that are warm and sharp looking. Learn as you become more and more productive, and don’t just Google — stop by the library and see if they want some book covers made from remnants. You might be surprise with the response you receive, and while you’re at the library, see what books they have on making handy items with small pieces of fabric….

    Have I mentioned belts? You can make belts with long strips of remnants, or you can make belts that you’ve pieced together like a quilt. And belts aren’t the only accessories you can make from remnants. Make a collar or two with snaps that can be snapped into your favorite vest and your favorite sweater or dress. There are infinite possibilities when it comes to fabric and accessories. Don’t stop now. Ask around at the mall when you see things you like and figure out if you can make them or it they would look good made up in pieces like a quilt. Let your imagination run wild, and then if you’re ready, redo your bathroom. That metal scale might serve you better if it wasn’t so cold to step on, and while you’re redecorating items on the floor of the bathroom, get something cute to use to cover the rolls of toilet paper.

    As long as you’re in the house thinking about decorating, how about some new pillows for the couch or for the beds. While you’re in the kitchen thinking about what type of pillows to make (or if you’re going to stuff them with remnants you haven’t figured out how to use yet), don’t forget to design your own apron and a few extra in case your teenagers bring some friends home to bake Christmas cookies, Halloween slime or Easter eggs in style. A round of aprons is always nice to have on hand. But that’s not all.

    Keep a notebook, and make notes of inspirations you see in nature and tangible items as well. If you keep a list of what you want, what you like or what appeals to you, the inspiration may come at a more rapid pace and then you’ll be ready to roar. And if anyone has the audacity to confront you about your choice, feel free to make that person a personalized muzzle. You’ll always find a use for fabric if you give yourself the opportunity, and if you can’t find one, I’ll give you my address.

  47. hemaid says:

    I have access to large quantities of tailor fabric waste of all kinds, tailors, storage / work area and would like to set up a production line for useful things such as oven gloves, coasters, hot pan bases, kitchen aprons, table covers, cushions etc… I’m looking for a creative person who can come up with ideas / designs and manage the project.
    does any one know a person or where to hunt such a person?
    I’m reachable on my e-mail: ajob.qatar@gmail.com



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