Here is an easy, zero-waste system for organizing unmanageable, HUGE fabric scrap bins and preventing the scraps from building up in the first place. Are you tired of all the large bins full of little fabric scraps? Have you ever spent hours sewing up adorable little scrap projects just to look at your pile and think to yourself, wow is that actually BIGGER than it was before? This is for you!
Those huge bins full of usable scraps used to cause me anxiety, but no longer! I already have a huge fabric stash full of more beautiful fabrics that I can sew up in the coming years, I’m not interested in devoting my life to sewing with scrap fabric, so these tips on using the fabric are quick and easy!
The key is to process your fabric scraps right away so that they don’t accumulate.
Ask yourself: Do you want to keep some scraps for projects or do you want to get rid of them all right away? If you just want them gone then it’s easy to clear your space by donating scraps.
Places to Donate:
Lookup Project Linus or Days for Girls affiliated groups in your area. They are typically happy to receive your quilting cotton scraps. Many churches and local quilting guilds will also have volunteers that sew for local charities that will accept your scraps.
Apparel and Home-Dec fabrics:
Many people love to sew accessories or doll clothes from scraps and would be happy to pay for shipping or even purchase bags of scraps from you. Post in FB Marketplace or FB fabric groups and see if you get any takers. You can also post in local FB groups and see if there are any new aspiring sewists that would want to practice with your bags of scraps.
Contact your local high schools and consider donating large scraps to home-economics classes or theater departments.
Contact elementary schools and preschools in your area and see if their Art teachers would welcome bags of colorful fabric scraps for art projects and crafts. Typically, they are very happy to receive them.
For Unusable Scraps and Serger Trimmings:
Drop them off at a textile recycling center. Many thrift stores sell the clothes that are not in good condition to textile recyclers and will also accept bags of scraps. Call and confirm beforehand since not all employees may know the policy.
H&M will also accept textile recycling (they are used to getting old clothes, but will accept fabric scraps as well) and you get a coupon for shopping there. If you don’t want it (because hey, Me Made is so much better) pay it forward to someone in line. 🙂
Organizing Your Keeper Scraps
What kind of projects do you enjoy making?
There are 1001 and more ways to use scraps in cute little projects, but that’s no use to you unless it’s something that you enjoy doing. Think to yourself which your favorite projects are, keep the fabrics that work well for those in your stash, and donate the rest.
Limit the Size of Your Scrap Stash
I recommend choosing a little box/ medium-sized plastic bin/ or drawer and limiting your scrap stash to just what fits. Maintenance is key. If it starts getting full then it’s time to purge some stuff and donate. Be ruthless with this. Scrap buster patterns are useful for maintaining the size of your scrap stash to where you want it– just enough to find cute little fabrics for projects, but not so much that it takes up valuable sewing room real estate.
Process Scrap Fabrics Immediately
I enjoy both quilting and apparel garment making. I process those in very different ways, but for both, the key is to get to the scraps right away. Cut away what you don’t need and organize and store the rest according to usage.
Quilting Scraps Processing
I cut down most of my larger scrap fabrics into usable quilt block pieces (I like 2.5″ strips and 10″ squares best) so that I can easily make a scrap quilt with them. I am going to start a new project for scraps where instead of stockpiling squares and strips for a quilt down the line I do an improv blocks on foundation squares. We’ll see how it goes!
Smaller sized quilting fabric pieces are used in my paper piecing and I’m also collecting fussy cut motifs for a collage quilt down the road. I organize these by color in a little box and don’t let the quantity go beyond what fits in that box. I clean up the smallest pieces and those little cuts of fabric go in the fabric “scrap trash” bag I have. If you’re a serious quilter you would probably be interested in the scrap organization systems of Bonnie Hunter’s scrap system and Pat Sloan’s Scrap system.
Apparel Fabric Scraps
Larger pieces that can be used for baby clothes or accessories are folded up and stored with fabric yardage. I simply mark them as “QTY: Scraps” and file them as I explain in this post here.
I have a little bag that is for doll clothes fabric that I’ve tucked into my fabric bins, but I limit the amount that can go in it because I know myself… Those dolls are probably gonna remain naked for a long time before I get around to them (but hey, the intention is there).
Most of my apparel fabric is cut into nicer shapes and put in the Art Class Donation bag. If I want to make a matching accessory I make it right away or it’s just not getting saved because this is what works for my sewing style.
I also raid the Art Teacher Donation bag for craft projects with my children. My preschooler is a big fan of gluing fabric to coloring pages. And his little safety scissors can kinda cut it too. I’m very proud of the fact that he asks for his own fabric at the fabric store. (I may not have mastered meal planning, but I’ve clearly raised him right nonetheless.)
Some other ideas for using a lot of fabric scraps quickly that I love are making tshirt/ knit fabric “yarn” or twisting scrap strips together to make colorful twine. Wrapping rope with fabric scrap strips to make colorful baskets looks like a great project.
Larger fabric scraps are great for making matching headbands and scrunchies. I like to make these at the same time as the garment and get rid of the rest. I don’t like actually keeping a lot of scraps around though. If you do, just make sure you limit the size of the container and if it starts to get full, take something out when you put something in.
How about just Stuffing it ALL in Dog Beds for Donation? Boom- done. Right?…
Well…No… I reached out to several local organizations that accept donations for their rescue animals and the consensus was that all donations need to be easily machine washable and dryable.
This means that a pillowcase densely stuffed with fabric scraps might be a bit unmanageable and overly heavy when wet and won’t be easily dried either. Most places are doing laundry everyday.
No one I contacted was very excited by the prospect of dense fabric stuffed beds and plenty said they’d rather have blankets or towels. womp womp… 🙁
HOWEVER– I also received feedback from members of the sewing community that have been doing this for years and several said they have had success by mixing scraps with polyfil or by using fleece and batting scraps as filler.
Going forward I will only be stuffing dog beds for donation with my fleece and batting scraps.
Also important to remember that you should cut your scraps into little pieces with your rotary cutter to prevent lumps and avoid overstuffing your pillow form.
Scrap Trash Stuffing
Dense fabric scrap stuffing works well for other applications where you want your project to be a little heavy. I’m currently stuffing a lounging pillow form with my fabric scraps so we’ll see how that goes! I know some people stuff draft pillows for in front of doors with fabric scraps as well. I’ve seen pin cushions stuffed with scrap trash and serger trimmings. And remember, these can all be donated to textile recyclers!
Here is a flowchart I made to remind myself how to process my scraps after I finish a project. Feel free to copy my system or substitute your favorite scrap projects instead of the ones I’ve chosen.
There’s no need to throw away any scraps, but we also don’t need to keep them all either! Let me know below what your favorite thing to do with scraps is!