fabric recycling : what do you do with your scraps?

Okay so today is the day where I talk about scraps. What on earth do you guys do with them? I am going out of my mind with fabric scraps. I’m pretty good at fabric yield (I get a lot of practice at work) so most often my scraps aren’t big enough to make anything out of, and if they are I keep them with any leftover yardage. As for all the sewn garment muslins, if they are made out of pieces large enough to recut into another piece I will do that, but mostly they aren’t. Unfortunately between muslins and garments for hound, garments for myself and muslins from pattern testing I have a lot of fabric garbage. I’ve tried googling ‘fabric recycling’ and variations on that and basically everything I’ve come up with (repurposing scraps, donating old clothes to goodwill etc.) don’t really apply. I found one place called Chicago Textile Recycling and sent them an email but from their site it looks like they also only take full garments. This is where I start asking around, what do you do with your scraps?! In my head there is a place that will recycle them and turn them into some sort of super fabric, but apparently not? Help! I can’t keep throwing out this much fabric and I can’t keep hoarding small scraps in my apartment, it feels horrible to do both!

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55 Responses to fabric recycling : what do you do with your scraps?

  1. Jody Pearl says:

    I did a swap years ago with an artist that used fabric in her paintings.

    What about kindergartens or schools – children are always doing art projects or the like which require scraps of fabric.

    Thrift Stores.

    Quilters & Scrapbookers would have a use for smaller pieces of fabric.

    I recently turned some scraps into brooches.

    • jen | grainline says:

      I’m worried that most pieces are too small for a thrift store to take, the biggest scrap pictured is about 2×4″ (the pile in the center of the grey is my pattern pieces), but I will look into the Kindergarden + scrapbookers/quilters! I give my mom my largest wool scraps already for her applique things so that makes sense. Thanks!

  2. woah mind reader! I’m struggling with this exact problem too. I really hate to throw away fabric, and my scrap bags are getting ridiculous… really ridiculous.

    Since I have kids I’ve been using some to makes small stuffie toys, and headbands, tshirt appliques etc… but that hardly makes a dent. i’m stumped!!

    Can’t wait to see other peoples suggestions!

  3. Leah says:

    I make cat toys, little things filled with catnip, and you can even use cut up scraps as stuffing, which gets rid of the tiny bits of fabric. I found some tutorials for covering things with fabric, like notebooks etc, and you could use anything as big as the sole of your foot for a fancy sole to put inside shoes, it’s silly but actually kind of fun…also, bias tape, if you have enough scraps on the bias.

    • jen | grainline says:

      Oh my cat would be SO happy if I would make her some toys! I can’t believe I never thought of that, I’m pretty sure that is definitely going to happen, thanks!

  4. Grace says:

    I try to reuse as much as I can. I have 2 scrap bags under my sewing desk, one for large scraps (I always over estimate yeild) and one for the smaller scraps. Both are always bursting. Every few months I sort threw them to cull the ridiculously tiny & useless pieces. I try to be practical about how much I can actually reuse. Sadly, I have had to resort to garbage for the useless bits. I would love to find a textile recycling otpion.

  5. Andrea says:

    This resource may be useful for some people: http://www.lancastercreativereuse.org/directory-creative-reuse-centers.html . It’s a list of Creative Reuse Centers around the U.S. and some other countries. Many of these places take scraps and other materials for use in schools and other non-profits for crafts and other projects. So if you’re overflowing with buttons, yarn, paper, ribbon, etc. in addition to fabric — this could be a good option!

  6. Heather says:

    Quilters love tiny bits of fabric. All kinds, not just cotton. Maybe you could contact someone at the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild for a way to donate them.

    • jen | grainline says:

      Aside from the good idea of contacting them, they look awesome! I’m going to tell my mom about this guild, she’s not really into the one she’s in. They always think her more modern leaning choices are ‘different’. Ha!

  7. indigorchid says:

    Oooo, Columbia College to the rescue (maybe)! This is *literally* the same thing and sinking stone in my heart of a feeling I had before the summer. Ok, yes. I’ve been watching too many episodes of Parks & Rec in a row.

    Anyways – get in touch with the Center for Book and Paper Arts, if your scraps are natural fibers they can make paper with it! I’m not sure who to ask, but hopefully you could get in touch with someone who knows something. Also, that center holds workshops on paper and book art stuff which looks really cool.

    • jen | grainline says:

      OH heck yes! I am definitely emailing them. If it’s true this would be SO easy! someone else will turn them into something and Columbia is so close to my house…AHHHH I hope this works out! Also YESSSS for getting your all your stuff back!!!!

  8. Morgan says:

    I’ve been wrestling with the same issue! So far, my best way to use up fabric scraps has been using them as stuffing for plush toys (lighter weight wovens work best) . I’m also going to make some floor cushions soon, which should take up a lot of scraps as well.

    I also just looked up “fabric scraps” on pinterest and got some lovely ideas, such as fabric ornaments.

    Happy de-scrapping!

  9. maggie says:

    I fold mine up into the leftover yardage so I can’t see them. If there’s no yardage left I put them into a bag at the bottom of my fabric bin. Problem solved! But seriously, this is something I struggle with too. Most of the recommendations for fabric “scraps” are to repurpose them, and require bigger pieces than I typically have leftover, or could consume maybe 1% of my total scraps. I’ve tried using them for pillow stuffing, but the result is just too lumpy, even after cutting them into smaller pieces. I’d like to think there is some sort of fabric recycler that pulls apart the fibres and then turns them into something new but I have not found such a thing.

    • jen | grainline says:

      Same here, so many little tiny scraps, so much garbage guilt. I sort of want a recycling option that doesn’t require me to make anything, I’m making way to many things as it is! Where is the magic recycler?

  10. ebony h. says:

    You might try cutting your scraps into even smaller pieces, stuffing them into an open weave netting of some sort, and then hanging this outside come spring so the birds can use it in their nests. You could also make yourself a pouf and use the scraps as stuffing. Or make someone else a pouf: cheap gift idea?

    pouf tutorial: http://www.bhg.com/decorating/do-it-yourself/accents/make-a-pretty-pouf/

    • jen | grainline says:

      Ooh this I like! I do a version of this with my pug’s hair but using fabric scraps had never occurred to me

      • Denise says:

        I actually made that pouf. I used some old clothes in the middle. I’m considering making another one using the scraps.

  11. I tend to keep scraps in the hope of one day making a quilt as I use alot of second hand liberty prints. I’ve also cut them into tiny pieces for stuffing. I also saw a post on fabric covered buttons necklaces or bagdes or any of the sort here—>http://verypurpleperson.com/2010/04/fabric-button-necklaces.html
    This is one thing I want to do with my scraps although I can’t find the supplies :)

  12. little betty says:

    I cut mine into 1 or 2 inch shapes (fast and rough) and give them to my kids pre school. They glue them onto collages and the like. Lots of fun.

  13. Kati says:

    I use mine for everything!
    I use small cotton scraps to wax my eyebrows, I use other scraps to stuff pillows and plush toys.
    I’m also working on a lifelong project, a hexagon charm quilt so all my pretty cotton wovens get saved for that, I only need a 2.5″ square to make my hexies.

  14. lauren says:

    I’m hoping to one day hoard enough to make and stuff one of these… http://pinterest.com/pin/8092474299930759/

    • jen | grainline says:

      Oh man, I should hook you up! That pouf is cute, wish I had room in my apartment for one

    • Barb says:

      Hi Lauren

      I know I am about a year late, but I saw your comment about fabric scraps going into a pouff. Well, I have made about 6 (and counting) of them so far. Jeans works great for the pouff and the recipeients can’t believe that I have given them this. I always have one pouf sewn together in my sewing room so each time I have a scrap, I just put it in!!

      Barb

      • lauren says:

        Thanks for your reply…never too late. It just so happens I have about enough scraps to make one finally , and in those scraps I have an old pair of jeans not knowing what to use it for. Colored jeans would be cool..maybe checkout the garage sales. Am I right in assuming the jeans go on the outside and just regular fabric on the inside? Did your pouffes turn out like the pictures? I would love to see how they turned out! Thanks for responding; it couldn’t hacve been more on time! -lauren

        • Barb says:

          Hi Lauren As mentioned before I have made many pouffs. And yes, they turn out just like the photo. I did the fancy blanket stitching on the one I kept for myself but the pouffs I give away I do not do that stitch. The jeans fabric goes on the outside of the pouff. I have made pouffs out of jeans and they are great. I also put thread scraps in the pouff. I usually surprise the recipient of a pouff and they are amazed. The pouffs can be quite heavy – but that’s ok. I used corduroy on the outside of several and they turned out great too. I want to send you a photo of the two that I presently have in my house but I don’t know how to do that via a blog. I know how to send via e mail.

          • lauren says:

            Courderoy sounds like it’d be even cooler! If you want you can email me pics at . Is there a pattern on the website- I forgot. Thanks so much! I will definitely have to make a pouffe now!

        • Barb says:

          Hi Lauren IAs I mentioned previously, I want to send you two photos of the pouffs I made but I don’t know how to attach a photo to this site. Do you know how to do this? I have the photos on my desktop. Thx

          • lauren says:

            Sorry so long since I wrote. I don’t know how to post pictures. Sorry. If you find out I would love to see pics of your pouffes. I will let you know if I find out how to post pics.

  15. Hannah says:

    Hexagon Quilt! I’m making one from all the fabric I have ever made something with. So When I am old and wrinkly I can look at it and be like “oh that was the fabric from my Favorite pair of plaid pants” and such.

  16. Rosanna says:

    I literally only just thought of this and so have no idea how it would actually work but all those tiny little shreds of fabric could make a good stuffing/insert for a cushion…?

    • jen | grainline says:

      Someone else suggested that as well…I am going to google it and see if there are any sort of reviews on lumpiness or whatnot. Thanks!

  17. Neus says:

    I sew it in my tags, and sometimes I use the fabric for some pendant, you can have a look here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=328360160526040&set=pu.203889942973063&type=1&theater

    Stuff for a cushion is a good option too!

    Neus*

    • lauren says:

      What about cloth glued/sewn to cardstock base to make cloth luggage tags? Got the idea because u used the word “tags”. Mog podged maybe.

  18. Lavender says:

    Obviously I struggle with this, too. I keep saying I’m going to shred them smaller to make Mushka toys, but that doesn’t happen. Like you, I simply want them to be thrown into some hopper and magically reused! The yo-yo thing I posted on is hopefully helping, but then there are all the little scraps STILL leftover after cutting the circles. The guilt!

    • jen | grainline says:

      Totally! I keep thinking ‘Oh I can make some cat toys and this and that’ but in reality I don’t have any time for that. Where is the magic?! I did read somewhere you can compost cotton but alas, I don’t have a yard. Ha!

  19. Leith says:

    I send my fabric scraps to my son’s childcare for art and craft projects. I think I keep the whole Melbourne area in stock with the amount I supply. It is funny walking in there and seeing an artwork matching the dress I’m wearing!!

  20. Sarah says:

    I used scraps to make sachets as presents. Depending on the size you want to make you can use small or large scraps. http://wearsthemanual.blogspot.com/2011/12/i-smell-crafted-gift-part-2.html

  21. Rebekah says:

    I’m planning on using a ton of my old scraps to make a rag rug. Something like this
    or this.

  22. Sarah says:

    My search for the same led me to your site, but to another, which might help:

    http://g-lishfoundation.org/recycled-bolga-basket-producers/donate-fabric-scrap-to-africa/

    The site explains that you can send materials to Ghana to assist basket makers in earning a fair income. The site states a preference for some materials over others, but it’s not a bad idea to inquire with them as to whether they would still accept whatever you have. I’m currently inquiring about suede/brushed leather.

    Good luck!

    • Sarah says:

      Another possibility is vermicomposting your scraps, or donating the scraps to someone who vermicomposts. Vermicompost is a high-nutrient organic fertilizer, usually expensive when purchased commercially, but practically free when DIY. I was very wary at first of the process, but vermicomposting yields zero smell or mess, and is a gardening miracle. …and handling worms is, after the initial shock factor, a good way to feel like a kid again :) For more info:
      http://craftingagreenworld.com/2009/04/22/diy-gardening-how-to-build-a-worm-compost-bin/

  23. Beth says:

    Hi. I know you posted this about 6 months ago, but as a fellow Chicagoan with fabric scraps taking up precious apartment space and no time or desire to turn them into another project I thought I should let you know what I’m doing with mine. Goodwill accepts fabric donations. This was there response when I contacted their regional headquarters:
    Thank you for choosing Goodwill for your donations. We accept fabric as a donation. If it cannot be sold in our stores then it is sold in a secondary market still generating revenue towards our mission. As you may know, we depend on generous donors, like yourself, and shoppers to earn revenue to support our Mission and provide training, employment and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you and for your support of the Goodwill Mission.
    I hope this helps you as much as it helped me!

  24. Christine says:

    I know you posted this a while ago, but I have three options that are great!

    1. GrowNYC: Textiles are sorted into different grades including usable clothing, cotton scrap, cotton blend scrap and synthetics. These commodities are then sold for reuse as clothing, linens, etc or to recycling markets that turn materials into wiping rags, fiber for car door panels and insulation.

    http://www.grownyc.org/clothing

    2. Cooperativa El Nido: fabric donations are sent to a self-sustaining community of women and families in Panama, to be used in local handcraft traditions for financial independence. US donations can be sent to:

    Kathryn Wellemeyer
    5542 Silverleaf Court
    Haslett, MI 48840
    … or questions can be sent to cooperativaelnido@gmail.com

    3. G-lish Foundation: You can make a great difference to rural basket weavers in Ghana by donating your scrap fabric. Your scrap fabric is better than money because the women basket makers use scrap fabric to weave baskets and your fabric will help them earn a fair income. Any donations can be sent to:

    G-lish Foundation,
    PO Box 367,
    Bolgatanga, Upper East Region,
    Ghana, West Africa

    http://g-lishfoundation.org/recycled-bolga-basket-producers/donate-fabric-scrap-to-africa/

  25. Molly Curry says:

    I am so happy to have found this site. I am attempting to “use” dozens of fabric pieces of at least a square yard each. I have already done cat toys, grocery totes, etc but need a way to remove these boxes now. Thank you for many good ideas.

  26. Judith says:

    Here in Germany you can dispose any textiles in containers provided by the German Red Cross (DRK). They donate and sell clothes that are still in good condition, the rest goes to recycling companies that use the textiles to make insulation material or cleaning clothes etc. That means that those “old clothes container” can be used to dispose of any textile scrap or clothes that are not wearable or damaged. Maybe your Red Cross does the same?

    for those who understand German: http://www.drk.de/aktuelles/fokusthemen/kleidersammlung.html

  27. Melargin says:

    Donate stuff.com will send a prepaid envelope to you for all your scraps!! Pretty easy.

    • Scott says:

      Hi I am with donatestuff.com. I saw we were mentioned in an earlier post and I just wanted to clarify the details of our mail in program. Unfortunately, due to the costs associated with shipping the materials we are seeking clothing and accessories that are in reusable / wearable condition for our mail in clothing donation program. Fabric scraps do have a value and can be recycled but the shipping costs (which are free to the donor) are higher than the value of the material sent in. This additional cost has a negative impact for donatestuff.com and our charity partners. I would encourage people seeking to donate scrap fabrics to check out earth911.com. They can help to locate nearby textile recyclers who can accept these materials and recycle them more efficiently.

      • Saadia anjum says:

        I have a great idea…..
        Sew a pillow case with a small opening ( about 6″) and keep putting your srap in it as it is generated. Finally one day you will have a scrap filled pillow….
        You can make different shaped cute cushions for the living room or interesting shaped ones for the kids room
        Hope this helped….

  28. sheri henderson says:

    Preschools love fabric scraps! :-)

  29. Sharon says:

    Several ladies in our guild have asked us to save our scraps. They collect old sheets, pillowcases and “ugly” fabric to make into pet beds filled with the all-cotton scraps. They donate them to the local animal shelter. I have a large fabric “bag” at the end of my cutting table and all my scraps go into it. When it’s full I sew the opening shut and I’ve made a comfy bed for a lonely, hoping-to-be-adopted pet. Batting scraps can be used if it’s all cotton batting. I don’t waste ANYTHING anymore!

  30. Neko says:

    Hi
    Thanks for asking the question,”What to do with fabric scraps?”
    Well I am looking for colorful fabric scraps to use with my first grade art students.
    Checkout what we do. with 100% cotton fabric scraps. We even turn them into paper that can be cut and written on.

    http://25thanksgivingwishesformyclassroom.blogspot.com/2014/10/using-art-to-inspire-kids.html

    Cheers

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