New fabric from scraps

Or….the reason to never throw anything away!

The new year has started, in fact it is speeding by way too fast, I’d actually like for it to slow down a bit – that said there are a few days I would not wish to repeat. In Lindsay’s recent post she was indulging in an Experimentanuary with some great results. I however have decided that the new decade (we won’t go into the argument of does the decade start at 0 or 1!) needs a new approach and have embraced ‘Tidyanuary’. I am tackling something (whether a kitchen cupboard or simply a pot of pens) every day and employing the positive rather than the negative. So, I’m asking myself ‘what do I want to keep, what has particular memories or value to me?’ – I’m definitely seeing good results….by 2030 I’ll let you all know if I have finished the task!

For this post and in line with the above (so – using things rather than just storing!) I thought I’d revisit a technique I learned years ago – making new fabric from scraps (some of them being not much bigger than a thumb nail!). The technique is nothing new but is good fun, simple and relatively quick and allows you to have fun with the sewing machine. It was seeing Ruth’s playful colour samples and my stitch trials that prompted my ‘ah ha’ moment, more later.

Before I begin I must repeat a quote EPH (Ever Patient Husband) found recently….’buying craft supplies and undertaking a craft are two completely different hobbies’. Need I say anything here?

I created this piece in 1995 (yep something else stored!) and I certainly suffered for my art….I had to eat lots of chocolates with beautiful wrappers!

So the technique for making new fabric from scraps….

Very simply – place little bits of Bondaweb (Wondaweb in the States I think) on some base fabric. I usually use fabric from old bed sheeting/curtain lining, or similar, to back various projects where I won’t see the fabric but need it for stability. I only dot little bits of the Bondaweb here and there as I have found that covering the base fabric in its entirety makes the whole thing too stiff for me. It is also a way of using up any bits that have broken off. Depending on how precise you want to be with the next stage, it isn’t a must to iron the Bondaweb down yet.

Even simpler – you can forget the above and use iron-on interfacing. There are advantages and disadvantages….whilst it is quicker and obviously sticks more of the fabric down in one go, I have found that heavy/close machine stitching can ‘cut’ through the interfacing making the work fragile.

Then comes the fun – place scraps of fabric/ribbon/threads onto the base fabric in a random or more considered design. Place non stick parchment carefully over the scraps & iron. It will still be fragile at this point and not everything may be fixed in place.

It is fun auditioning the scraps – anything goes. I decided to cut the interfacing square so created another fabric snippet with the surplus bit.

Over the entire design place a piece of sheer fabric – voile, netting, crystal organza, etc. There are two options for doing this….1. Use more small bits of Bondaweb randomly placed to ‘tack’ the sheer in place, or 2. Pin the sheer in place. The choice of sheer texture & colour creates interesting effects to the design. Looking at my work from 1995 I think that a layer of sheer over it would have improved the piece by softening the stitching and hence the overall design.

Warning – I have in the past ironed Bondaweb to the entire piece of the sheer and then adhered it to the scrap design….not something I would recommend for the following reasons – it makes the whole fabric too stiff, it dulls the overall look/finish of the sheer, it dulls the vibrancy of the colourful scraps, and it remains tacky which in turn impedes the top stitching.

Now it is onto having fun with stitching which can either be by machine (it’s quick – so definitely my preference), by hand or a combination of both.

I quite like the reverse of the piece too. I used just 2 thread colours, a few decorative machine stitches then some colonial knots and seed stitches.

Just seeing what it will look like framed.

Like many machine stitchers I use scraps of fabric to trial my stitches – over the years some of the pieces have actually looked quite interesting, but I just threw them away. A few months ago, whilst tidying my table area, I came across some coloured paper that had been glued to a base fabric. Then Ruth started posting about her colour samples. Suddenly I had my AH HA moment that put these three separate things together.

I layer scraps of worked paper, sweet wrappers, fabric or threads etc onto a base (either method as above) sometimes adding a sheer (loose threads definitely need a sheer!), and then set them aside. When I finally sit down to do some creative machine stitching I use one of my pieces to trial the stiches….ta da!

There is a silver lining (in this case gold) to having completely covered the sheer with Bondaweb first….heat bondable foil can be easily attached!

Using this technique a few years ago I made several needle cases as presents. Of the two that I kept, the scraps on the top case were laid randomly whilst they were laid in a more rectilinear fashion on the lower one. I stitched a ribbon cord around the perimeter then edged it with satin stitch.

I actually like both sides of each case so don’t know which to make as the front.

And the finale for all my stitch trials….I can use them to make cards! The above is still a work in progress though.

This is a fun technique, which doesn’t take up any room, I hope you are inspired to try it. For me it allows the perfectionist to take a holiday and, as I also find it addictive, I set time aside to create batches of the samplers.

How do you use your scraps? We’d love to hear and learn new ways of using them.

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16 Responses to New fabric from scraps

  1. nanacathy2 says:

    Thank you for so much information and I shall never throw away my test scraps again.

  2. Antje says:

    You’re welcome. I look forward to hearing/seeing what you do with your scraps.

  3. annielynrosie says:

    What an inspiring post full of textile scrumminess. The piece you have captured in the ‘L’ shapes deserves framing and oh, the needle cases are so vibrant! Please show your final WIP when finished.
    We’ve used scraps to make ‘crazy patchwork’ and we incorporate scraps into our felt either by nuno or stitching.

    • Antje says:

      Glad you like the work. You’ll have to show us all your crazy patchwork. It is fun to sometimes break away from being too serious.

  4. ruthlane says:

    Your scraps are now ready to frame! I too, don’t like to use a whole sheet of fusible although Mistyfuse works fairly well since it is much lighter than a lot of the fusible webs. I like the idea of making your scraps pretty with your test stitches. I just have a bunch of white commercial felt in squares that are covered with stitching and hanging threads.

    I have been thinking about adding paper to some of my creations too and maybe adding machine stitching into my art journal pages.

    I look forward to seeing how your tidying up looks by 2030! 😉

    • Antje says:

      I must get some misty fuse for the reason you describe Ruth. Have you tried painting your felt squares & then using them? Adding paper & paint into stitched work certainly adds another dimension – totally up your street!

  5. Great idea Antje, i hope to find the energy in 2020 to make something like that too, you inspired me!

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    • Antje says:

      If I have inspired you then I’m happy. Keep saving your scraps & have fun when you can find time….the process is very therapeutic.

  6. Anna Ashton says:

    I love this blog! And now I have more incentive to use some of those bits and pieces that I hang on to because they’re too nice to discard! And all those frames that are similarly sitting there! Tidyanuary must be in the air … it has reached Australia!

    • Antje says:

      Great to hear that Tidyanuary has reached you. In between being righteous take a fun break and do something with your scraps. I totally understand the little bits being too nice to throw (mine are often retrieved from the bin!) so put them together & create a work of art.

  7. Looks like you had lots of fun. I really like the needle cases.

    • Antje says:

      Thanks Ann. The process is fun which is why I have to limit myself to doing it in ‘batches’, at a time when I need some freedom & to let my hair down. I’m glad you like the cases too, I originally made 6 & had difficulty deciding which 2 to keep.

  8. Lindsay Wilkinson Artwork says:

    Great blog, Antje, very interesting. You’ve made some lovely things and shown great creativity in making something out of very little.

  9. Antje says:

    Thanks Lindsay. I hope you will have an opportunity to do something with the scraps that you must have lying around.

  10. What a great project! You clearly have a knack of putting together colors and patterns. Thanks for sharing your process, Upcycling at its best.

  11. Antje says:

    Thanks Marilyn you are very generous. It is a fun technique that I would recommend to anyone.

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