The Scrap Basket

How many scraps of material have you saved?  Do you have uneven pieces from cutting, partial yard leftovers, old clothes you can’t stand to give away because of the fabric or a pretty embroidery, bits and pieces of this and that?  Do you buy 4 yards of fabric when the pattern calls for 3?  “I’m going to make a quilt out of that one of these days.”  “I’m going to use up all these pieces before I go buy anything else.”  “This year, I’m going to make all my holiday gifts.”  Have you ever said any or all of these things?  There is a way to use those scraps, but there are a few things you need to know.   Large pieces all the way down to 1-inch square can be successfully used given the right project.

First, you need to take the same approach to the scrap project as you do any other project.  When you want a new dress, you envision the dress, then find the pattern and fabric that fits your vision.  Or you find a beautiful fabric and envision the finished project.  Do the same thing with your scrap projects.  Decide what you want to make, then look to your collection for the materials.   Focus on the finished project, and then look to the stash.  Make a list of what you need to complete it for the trip to the store, which brings us to the second rule.

Murphy’s Law of Scrapcrafts – for whatever you want to make, you will need to buy something to complete it.   This is OK.  For the true pack rat, you may be able to complete the project without buying anything.  But for many projects, there will be something you need, like a zipper, webbing for a handle, stuffing, the right button, a pair of small scissors, another pattern or something else.   Realizing this fact will help you focus on the possibilities, rather than limiting your scope to what you have on hand.

Third, organize!   This system will work for most scrap collections.  Find 5 cardboard boxes. The size is dependent on your collection.   Label each one with the fabrics as listed below so you won’t get confused later.  Then, sort the fabrics into the boxes.  You can do this 15 minutes at a time for however long it takes, or get very ambitious and take the next rainy day to complete it.  While you are sorting, do not get caught up in the colors or try to match anything.  We are sorting by texture only.  If you have fabrics that are not on this list, put them with others of similar style.

1)  Cotton and cotton-polyester blends, calico, muslin – wovens only

2)  Knits

3)  Wool and wool blends, heavy flannel, polar fleece

4)  Silk, satin, metallic, velvet, rayon, challis, tricot, sheers

5)  Denim, poplin, twill, corduroy, tapestry, home dec

Once you have your collection sorted, you can see now how much of any one type you have.  Most of us will have the largest box of cotton and cotton poly blends.  That’s good, because most small projects work well with these fabrics.   Now you can look at colors within the group for patchworks, and coordinating prints.  Most of these projects use 1/4” seams.

These projects were gleaned from a myriad of books on the subject of scrap crafting along with some of my original ideas.  Many came from the Leisure Arts book series called Memories in the Making, and Clever Crafter.  Others came from books published by Oxmoor House, Sterling Lark, Rodale Press and Singer.   Please look for these excellent books at your local retailer.  The pictures are of projects made by me.  Please feel free to share on Pinterest, giving credit back to this blog.

Group 1 – Woven Cottons and Blends

An easy and simple project for cottons is to make hearts.   Simply cut out heart shapes, sew two pieces right sides together leaving an opening for turning, clip the curves, turn, stuff and whipstitch the opening closed.  Embellish as you please with lace, buttons, ribbon roses or whatever you like.  Three or five of these stuffed hearts on ribbons make a cute wall hanging.  A heart on each end of one ribbon looks great on a peg hanger.  Placing a heart on a ribbon with a pair of small scissors tied to the other end is a wonderful chatelaine, and makes a great gift for a sewing friend.  Hearts without the stuffing are great appliques for vests, shirts, and quilts.  A quick applique technique is to sew interfacing to the right side of the heart.  Slit the interfacing in the middle, clip all curves, and turn right side out.  The interfacing provides body to the applique, and all the edges turn under neatly.  If you use a fusible, put the fusible side to the right side of the fabric before sewing.  Then when you turn it, the heart will be fusible!

Cut out triangles or squares of fabrics.  Keep one of each different print.  Trade the rest with your friends for other triangles or squares of the same size.  Trade both lights and darks.  When you have enough, sew triangles together with all the light colors pointing up, and all the dark colors pointing down, or squares with alternating light and dark.  You will have a one of a kind friendship charm quilt top that you can finish any way you like.

Tiny, one-inch squares are ideal for the watercolor patchwork technique.    Use the resulting piece to assemble into a purse, tote, or cut into a yoke for a jacket or vest. You can also use these tiny pieces to create tiny quilt blocks, to use as coasters.  Or you can fuse them to cardboard and add a magnet to the back.


Needlework stores are full of things to display cross-stitch projects, and these can be adapted to fabric motifs and machine embroidery.  Mugs and can coolers have lots of room for embroidery.  Smaller items like coasters, frames, jar lids and framed magnets use up smaller pieces for seasonal use, or to match home décor.   An added bonus is that these fabric pieces can be changed whenever you like.


Have lots of odd shaped pieces in complementary colors?  Use a commercial pattern to make a small stuffed bear or rabbit.  You can even embroider the larger pieces before assembling.  Use Sulky Sticky to embroider on small pieces.

Take dark and light complementary colored pieces, and cut 64 two-inch squares (32 light and 32 dark).  Assemble these into a checkerboard 8 squares by 8 squares.  Add a solid color border, and add end border embellishments.  Add batting, backing and bind in your favorite way. Find 24 one-inch buttons, (12 light and 12 dark) to use as checkers.  If you have a little fabric left, make a little bag to keep the “checkers” in.  This is a neat gift for men, especially ones that have cabins or lake homes.  This idea originally came from Thimbleberries.  I made mine in a leftover plaid.


Lightweight fabrics in holiday prints make great little bags for gift giving.  Applique a holiday motif or embroider as you like.  Using a piece that is 24” x 10”, fold in half (to make a 12×10”) and sew the side seams. Add two buttonholes to the front to anchor the ribbon tie. Serge the top edge with a rolled edge using Madeira Decor decorative thread.  This heavier thread is shiny, fills in beautifully, and adds a great look to the finished project.  Put it in the upper looper only and decrease the tension by one number.  This size will fit a boutique tissue box, so when the gift is given, the wrapper can be used as a holiday decoration!


A bread cover would use up one square about 18-22”.  These are easy, just serge the edges with a rolled hem, or do a foldover hem on the sewing machine.  Or you can straight stay stitch about 1/2 to 3/4” from the edge and then fringe the edge.  Embroider the corner with words or other embroidery.  Nice wordings to use are simply “fresh bread” or “fresh baked”,  or applique fall leaves, a snowman or other seasonal motif.  Give with a bread basket.

Have about half a yard more?  You could make napkins to match the bread cover.  For dinner napkins, cut squares 16-18”.  For luncheon napkins, cut squares 12-14”.  If you are making the napkins alone, give them in a 6-pocket liter soda box, painted, with a theme.  An Italian dinner gift could include the napkins, two small bottles of wine, a bottle of pasta sauce, pasta, and a pasta server.  I have given this gift several times, and I always forget to take a pic!  Or do a banana split gift with bananas, whipped topping can, napkins, 2 sauces and an ice cream scoop.  Or come up with your own dinner or dessert idea box.  These are really great for bosses, teachers, and secretaries.  For these gift ideas, remember that the napkins can be made of several different fabrics.

This casserole carrier was made with a commercial pattern, using less than a yard of two different fabrics.  The  cute sewing print is perfect for potlucks at the quilt or sewing club.


Embroider a small circle of fabric, and use as a jelly jar insert.  Or just use a scrap of fabric.   Fill jar with fruit butter, hot tea, coffee or chocolate mix, potato soup mix, or bean soup mix.  Give the jar with instructions on how much mix to use for a nice cup of tea, or a pot of soup.   One of these with a pretty coffee cup or soup mug is a wonderful gift.  Or, put them together in a basket with a bread cover to match the jar lid for a more elaborate gift.  These jars also make nice decorative items for your sewing room.


For the dress you made and have fabric left over, how about a matching purse?  If you have some long pieces, you could do a self-fabric belt, using the fasturn tubes and fill with welting.  Braid the tubes, and attach to a buckle.  You could even take a small piece left over from that and add a matching hatband to a purchased straw hat.  Glue on a few silk flowers and you have a perfectly coordinated outfit.  This also works well for seasonal fabrics.


Use two fabrics that coordinate together when you don’t have enough of one to complete your project.  This tote bag used the black print for the top, bottom, and edging of the outside pocket.  Any tote bag pattern can be used, just use two different fabrics to get this look.


Patchwork vests are always popular, especially if you have seasonal fabrics in coordinating colors.  A neat pattern uses squares on the left and appliqued leaves on the right.  Add buttons from your stash, and you have a great fall look.


Are you a quilter?  Then you already know how to use up your scraps on wall hangings and candle mats.  Just make one block and bind for candle mats and potholders.  Add borders to enlarge the design for wall hangings.   Seasonal ones can be changed often for a fresh look in your sewing or family room.

maplepotholder candlemat wallhanging64piece App Hearts App Shamrock MysteryBow

Group 2 – Knits

A cute top (featured in a Spiegel catalog a few years ago) is one with strips of different color knit sewn together, with an applique over the yoke area.  This could also be embroidered.  Buy a solid color for the back.

Charity work cancer caps are always appreciated, and knits are the best choice for softness.  Use a commercial hat or turban pattern and donate to your local cancer center.

Use leftover knits for adding pizzazz to T-shirt appliques for soft motifs that move with the wearer.  Adding contrasting collar and cuffs to a knit shirt, or simply squares or heart appliques can make a comfortable, coordinating top to go with the knit skirt or pants you made.

With the proper stabilizer, many of the ideas for the other categories could also be done with knits.  Sulky Fuse-N-Stitch will make any knit strong enough to hold up to a purse or tote.

Group 3 – Wool and Wool Blends, Flannels

Soft fabrics like these are ideal for little bags to hold things that might get damaged in suitcases.  Do you have a traveler on your gift list?  Make shoe bags!  If you have an embroidery machine, put their initials on the bags.  You could also make a small bag to hold a hair dryer, or other small packable essentials.   These are great gifts for men.

If you have a number of scraps in complementary colors, cut them into shapes and crazy quilt together into one very large piece of fabric.   Using a commercial pattern, cut out a vest or skirt.  Using one of the prints, add a ruffle or bottom border to the skirt.

If you have several larger pieces in complementary colors, look for a pattern that will use up these pieces.  A cute jumper pattern with color blocking, or a cute top with seams for a yoke would work well.  Mixing wools and corduroys together in this type of garment is very attractive and comfortable (and warm!).

Wools and flannels also make great linings for jewelry bags.   The softness will keep pieces from being damaged.

Thicker types of these fabrics make great golf club covers.  Cut out two pieces shaped like light bulbs, 5-6 inches wide and 11 inches long.  Cut another piece about 27 inches by 3 inches.  Embroider one of the light bulbs with the number of the club (1,3,5).  Sew the light bulbs to the strip leaving the short straight side open.  Finish the bottom opening.

Group 4 – Silks, Satins, Velvets, Rayon, and Other Specialty Fabrics

Satins, silks, and velvet scraps make beautiful lingerie bags.  The smoothness of these fabrics will keep hosiery from being damaged.  The bags will keep underthings from view when unpacking, or if a suitcase pops open.  Not traveling?  These bags are great to use in your own drawer to keep hosiery from being snagged on drawer sides.


Make a small heart or other shape from satin with an embroidered design or initials.  Or layer the luxury fabric under a lace fabric.  Fill with lavender.  Lavender has a soothing quality that will help sleep.  Place ribbons on the heart and hang near your pillow.

Metallic scraps make beautiful wine bottle bags for gift giving.  Make a simple bag from two rectangles.  If you have a serger, put a rolled edge on the open end.  If not, use your pinking shears.  Tie a bow around the outside tight enough to gather the fabric around the bottle.

Metallics also make beautiful evening bags, and they take less than 1/2 a yard of fabric.  Use satin for the lining, and either a commercial pattern, or make up your own.  Or use the jewelry bag instructions but increase the size of the outer circle, and eliminate the inner circle.

For gorgeous ornaments, embroider the year or a holiday motif on velvet, satin, or other luxury fabric.  Cut out a circle of about 3-4” around the embroidery.  Cut a second circle.  On the right side, pin a scrap of ribbon in a loop at the top, and lace all around the edge.  Place circles right sides together, sew leaving an opening, turn and stuff.  Whipstitch opening closed.  Or use the large covered button and embellish using a glue gun.


Use scraps of velvet to make a patchwork evening bag or vest fronts.  Embellish the seams with embroidery or lace.   Embroider on the velvet scraps using sulky solvy on the top, and a sew-in stabilizer on the wrong side.  The solvy will mostly tear away, then the remnants of solvy can be dissolved in warm water.

The prettiest accessories are made of the shiny and silky fabrics.  Leftover linings are great for these.  Make a glasses case by cutting out 2 pieces of smooth luxury fabric 6” x 7”.  Place a layer of fleece or batting between.  Sew and turn.  Fold in half (now 3”x7”) and topstitch down one side and across the bottom.   Luxury fabrics also make wonderful accessories for inside the purse, like cosmetic bags.

Luxury fabrics can be used in unusual ways.  Take a piece of moiré and add a lace overlay to make an unusual backpack using a commercial pattern.  Embroider the inner lid with a name or pretty design.

Group 5 –  Denim, Poplin, Twill, Corduroy, Tapestry, Home Dec

Home dec weight fabrics are ideal for jewelry bags.  The large prints look great, and paired with soft lining fabrics can make wonderful gifts.  Embroider the inside with a name, initials, or a sentiment.  See instructions in the projects section of this handout.

The heavier fabrics are ideal for tote bags.  Their weight and sturdiness make durable bags, duffels, and purses.  Measure your favorite notebook (in the closed position), folder, or other paper carrier and make a foldover cover.  Add handles of webbing to make it easy to carry.  Patchworks look great on these projects.  And, lighter weight fabrics can be used to applique flowers, houses, letters or whatever your heart desires.

Theme bags are great for holidays.  Applique a Santa on a corduroy and tapestry patched bag to be the envy of shoppers. Embroider a Halloween theme on a denim or twill bag for Trick or Treat.   Or buy enough tapestry to make the bag, and use the scraps for a vest or applique.

Chrbag Chrbag2

Combine denim and tapestry for a wonderful warm look for winter.  Using a commercial pattern, cut the front pattern piece into two pieces vertically.  Add seam allowances.  Cut out the middle and sleeves from tapestry.  Cut out the outer front and back from denim, or old jeans. Embroider the back yoke, or use another piece of tapestry.

Take coordinating pieces of home dec fabrics and cut into 2-inch strips.  Sew the strips end to end.  Using a commercial purse pattern, measure the strip width needed and cut the strips at that width.  Then sew the strips to build a piece of fabric with the individual pieces offset.  Cut out the pattern, then sew.  Find swatches on the clearance rack when the styles are discontinued.

The polished cotton upholstery weight fabrics are ideal for stuffed animals.  The pretty prints are a good coordinate for room décor, and offer something different than a pillow.

Speaking of pillows, combine prints and solids together for more interesting designs.  Use quilting patterns with home dec coordinates for a unique look that uses up smaller pieces.  Pillows will look professionally done if you always use piping or ruffling to complete the edges.

Combining Groups

Now it is time to think creatively.  Do you have a piece of velvet in the same color as your home dec print?  Put them together in a pillow or a vest.   Take that beautiful scrap of tone-on-tone satin and pair it with the printed rayon dress fabric.  There are no rules for combining types of fabrics, except to keep the weights relatively even.   In other words, you really can’t make a successful patchwork from denim and silk.  But, the silk could be used as an applique or an overlay on the denim to keep the weights even.

Techniques and Tips

To embroider on scraps, use Sulky Sticky.  Place the Sticky in the hoop, sticky side up, with the paper still on.  Score the paper on the inside of the hoop and lift off.  Place the fabric scrap on the sticky surface and smooth out.  Embroider.  Cut out the finished embroidery carefully around the stitching line.  Cut a “patch” for the sticky out of another piece, and patch the hole.  You can then embroider again without rehooping.

For watercolor patchwork, use gridded fusible interfacing.  Cut the fabric into identical size squares.  Make a pleasing arrangement placing wrong sides of the pieces to the fusible side of the interfacing.  Press into place.  A Teflon pressing sheet really helps here, to keep the iron clean.  Sew all the horizontal rows together, clip the intersections, then sew all the vertical rows.


To crazy patch, start with a five-sided piece.  Attach another one to one side.  Attach the next one to both previous pieces in a straight line.  Continue around the first piece in a circular (log cabin) style.  As you work around, use pieced pieces to attach to the work already done.  Finish the work by using decorative stitching or attached trim to cover the seams.  Work from the center out as you did the piecing to be sure all the raw edges are covered.

To sew tiny pieces together, mark the sewing line on a larger piece of fabric than you need.  Sew the shape, then cut away the excess.

When sewing patchwork scraps, use up all your partial bobbins.  The very short seams will ensure that you will see quickly when the bobbin runs out and the variety of colors will enable you to use up many different thread colors you might otherwise let sit.  You can also use the partial bobbins as the top thread to use them up faster.


Jewelry bag – One 14” circle of fashion fabric, one 14” and two 9” circles of soft lining fabric, 2 yards cording, one three inch circle of plastic canvas.  Embroider one of the 9” circles.  Place both 9” circles right sides together and sew.  Slit a small opening in the very middle of the lining side (this will be enclosed), turn, and press.  Make a buttonhole in fashion fabric piece about one and a half inches from the edge.  Make a second buttonhole on the opposite edge.  Place both 14” circles right sides together, sew.   Slit a small opening in the very middle of the lining side (this will be enclosed), turn, and press.  Sew channels around edge with buttonholes between the rows.   Place small circle on top of lining side of large circle, slits together, placing plastic canvas in-between.  Sew around plastic canvas, then sew eight lines of stitching in a spoke pattern to make pockets for jewelry.  Run two lines of cording through channel and pull up from opposite sides.


Gift Card Holder – pictured above, just take a scrap and fold into thirds, sew up two sides and fold the top over.

Finger pin cushions – also pictured above, great from any kind of fabric.  Take a soda bottle cap, and glue a piece of elastic into the center, leaving enough for a comfortable fit around your finger.  Then glue a small circle of fabric stuffed with batting to the inside.  Embellish with lace, ribbon, buttons, etc using a glue gun.

Paperback book cover – One large piece of heavy fabric 8 x 11, two small pieces 3 1/2 x 8, two handles about 6-8” or longer if you want.  Place the large piece with the 11” side running side to side.  Embroider the right hand side of the large piece.  Serge one long side of each of the small pieces.   Pin handles 2 1/2 “ from the end on the 8” side of the large piece on the right side.  Place small pieces on each end of the large piece, covering the handles, right sides together, finished edge toward the center.  Serge all the way around.  Turn and press.


Adjust the size, and you can make a cover for your e-reader.

Halloween Trick or Treat bag – If you have a tote bag given to you at a show or a store,  use it to fuse your own applique over the top of the unwanted logo.  Cut ghost shapes from white, cat shapes from black, pumpkins or jack-o-lanterns from printed fabrics.  Fuse over the logo.

Hanger cover – Make a pattern using the hanger.  Cut out four pieces, and batting.  Embroider one or both outer pieces with a name, initials, or a motif.  Sew two together along top edge leaving an opening in the very middle of the top (for the hanger) and the bottom edge open.  Repeat for lining.  Place wrong sides together and stitch bottom and hanger opening incorporating piping, lace trim or ruffle.  If you want, you can add a zippered pocket to the inside or a Velcro closure to hide jewelry in for trips.

Pot Holders – Using the design of your choice, cut one from fashion fabric, and one from heat resistant fabric.  Add embellishments to the fashion piece, cut and add any tiny pieces.  Or make a patchwork block.    Then, place the right side of the fabric to the right side of the heat resistant fabric and add a layer of batting.  Sew the edges leaving an opening, clip corners and curves, then turn.  Finish by topstitching around the edge, close to the edge, catching the opening.

Maple Leaf Coasters – Cut two pieces of felt or fleece and two pieces of fashion fabric 9” x 16”.  Fuse the felt pieces together using paper backed fusible web (like Heat and Bond Lite).  Fuse the fashion fabric’s wrong sides to felt on top and bottom.  Lay maple leaf pattern on “sandwich”.  Mark 4 leaves.  Sew a straight stitch just inside the marked borders.  Cut out leaves.


Micro Mitts – Sew as for potholders using the smaller size, and making pockets on the outside for the fingers and thumb.  These are great for taking hot things from the microwave.


Angel Wall Hanging– Cut two angels and four wings from shiny or luxury fabrics.  Place angels on background and applique.  Place two wing pieces right sides together, sew, and turn.  Tack onto the angels leaving the edges free and dimensional.  Embellish the hanging with ribbon and other trims.  Finish in the same manner as a quilt.

If you are visiting from Fave Crafts, I invite you to look around while you are here.  I have a lot of projects and a variety of subjects including crafting, quilting, sewing, recipes, tablescapes and more.  In 2017, the next mystery quilt will begin.  To see more of my crafting projects, click on the Crafting category on my sidebar.  Thanks for visiting!  You can follow my blog by using one of the choices on the sidebar.  And, see Fave Crafts for even more ideas.  Click on my home page button at the top to see the latest posts.  And check out the pages at the top for collections of posts on all kinds of subjects.

Take care of those scraps, they can provide hours of new projects.  I hope this has inspired you to do some projects!  Check out the Category Scrap Projects for more projects on the blog.

2 thoughts on “The Scrap Basket

  1. It’s great that you covered using scraps of different kinds of fabric. I’m also glad you discussed finding patterns even before collecting the scraps — I think that helps to actually get them used and not just collected.

Comments are closed.