What do you do with your scrappy fabric scraps?


Last year I shared some ideas for using up your fabric scraps, but what about the scraps that are awkward shapes or not quite big enough to use up in any meaningful way? If you're like me, you'll still begrudge throwing them away, because it just seems so wrong to put fabric in the bin...right?

As a result of fairly regular trips to my local charity shop recently - in a desperate attempt to de-clutter before moving into our new house - I found out that they can get money for recycling unsellable clothes. Items that arrive in terrible condition are stored up until they have enough and then they are sold on for recycling or upcycling. And guess what?!? They don't care what size the pieces are or whether they're garments...as long as it's all fabric!

Ever since finding out, I keep a bag next to my sewing room bin and put every last scrap of fabric in it. You won't believe how good it feels to stuff that bag as full as I possible can - this can take some time to be fair - knowing it won't end up in a landfill and that it will help raise money for a good cause.

Is this something you already do? If not, are you tempted to find out if your local charity shop will take your scrappy fabric scraps off your hands?

59 comments:

  1. I never knew that the charity shops could earn money that way! Now I know what I'll be doing with my huge pile of scraps later this month (thanks for sharing!).

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    1. Double check with the ones near you, but mine certainly does, so I don't see why others wouldn't too!

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  2. I've read about this in the book that got me interested in sewing (Overdressed). I don't remember exactly, so I could be wrong, but I think that certain fabric types might not be recyclable? Did your charity shop mention anything like that? I wish I owned the book so I could look it up for you.

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    1. Oooh, you could well be right! My charity shop didn't mention anything about that, but I may ask next time I go in. I'd hate to create more work for them!

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  3. Neat! I hate throwing away all those lovely little scraps, and literally have a whole drawer of them squirreled away.

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    1. Yeah, it used to break my heart throwing them away, but it also annoyed me that they took up so much space and I never used them!

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  4. Here in France, the charity named Emmaus uses scraps of fabrics and old clothes to create ecological insulation panels! Pretty neat!

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    1. i didnt know that. thank you for mentioning elsa. will swing by there

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  5. I take So Zo's suggestion and include fabric scraps in those street side charity bins.

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    1. That's a brilliant idea! I've never seen any in Leicester, but will keep an eye out for sure!

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  6. Yep, I do this as well. I save up bags of "rags" and take them to the charity shop at regular intervals.

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  7. I have a friend that takes my scraps and she turns them on to placemats that she donates to charty and she also gives them as gifts, right now she has about 50 that she will be donating to just before Christmas

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    1. Your friend sounds very talented and super generous...what a lovely lady!

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  8. This is good to know! I will ask my local charity shop if they do the same thing, my sewing bin is rammed with fabric scraps that I don't have the heart to chuck away.

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  9. I save them! I recently made a quilt out of scraps, and I hope to also make a rag rug.

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    1. I save the usable scraps for projects like that too, but the annoying shaped and sized bits go to charity ;o)

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  10. I used to run a charity shop before children (18 years ago!) and it's true, the rag men take all the fabric items that are donated and no good for resale. Always a good idea to ask first before donating though, saves valuable time for the sorters.
    I used to save my tiny scraps into colour themed bags and donate to my local playgroup for art play...I also found it very satisfying sorting them into colours. I might start doing that again.
    Good to ask on freecycle too, I've got rid of loads of scraps that way. I try to only keep scraps for the hexagon quilt I'm going to make "one day", special scraps, and vintage scraps.
    You can put some natural fibre scraps in your compost, but not as many as I suspect readers here all have. :)

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    1. Fantastic information you've shared here Jeanette...thanks so much! I definitely agree that people should ask before dumping scraps at their local shop and I love that you donate some of yours to a playgroup!

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    2. Putting natural ones in the compost? What a great idea! I might try it and see if they eventually break down : ) Thanks for sharing the tip!

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  11. I can't believe I didn't know this - will definitely be saving a bag from now on.

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  12. I do this too, although I take mine to the textile recycling bank mostly! Also with bigger scraps of fabric I sometimes sort these out and create scrap bags which I've sold on eBay, it's surprising the people out there who like scraps for textile/ sketchbook projects or to furnish dolls houses with!

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    1. That's really cool that you use your scraps to create things that other people love and that make you money too!

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  13. Sounds like a genius idea to me... I just can't bear to throw a single thing out, because hey, I might be able to use some of it for trim or detailing or... or... I think you know why :)

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  14. Hello Marie! That recycling thing is a great idea indeed! Although yesterday as i was looking the results of the Fabric Mart Fabricista Competition, i found 2 projects made of fabric scrap. One lady used mesh fruit bags to create a kind of a knit fabric with the scraps and another lady used water soluble stabilizer to construct a lace with those scraps! Maybe you already know about these techniques, but as i'm new in sewing i had no idea, so i got really impressed! I give you the link if you want to check: http://blog.fabricmartfabrics.com/2013/09/first-challenge-recycled-challenge.html

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    1. Thanks for sending this through Marilo, very creative indeed! I have always had good intentions in terms of using my scraps, but I never get round to using the smaller bits!

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  15. I just can't throw fabric away and charity shops are almost inexistent here... I started making hair accessory: head scarves, scrunchies... although with all the scraps I have, I'll never make enough!

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    1. Oh dear! Well, at least you're trying ;o)

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  16. I actually watched something on this some time ago. I remember that the recycled material in question was quite thick and grey and it was going to be used for home insulation and to make mattresses. I found it really interesting to know what actually happens to all of these scraps in the end! : )

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    1. Yeah, it is so interesting! It's exactly what Zoe says below, that they can make polar fleeces and mattresses out of our unwanted scraps!

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  17. I used a bunch of tiny and/or useless scraps to stuff a pillow.

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  18. I knew they had a clothes bin at our recycler, but didn't realize that fabric scraps could go in it. That's a great idea!

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  19. So glad you are addressing this topic Marie! To throw my tupp'ny worth in... don't get hung up on the type/fibre content of the fabric scraps that you are taking to the charity shop. From my experience of witnessing the sorting warehouse at TRAID, all scraps get bagged up and sold off as rag to be mashed up to make polar fleece, sofa fillings etc. If your local charity shop is a bit put off by collecting bags of scraps (they often only have limited space after all), then you can chuck your scrap bags in the big charity clothing collection banks that you often get in car parks or outside super markets too. They will end up in the same place and still earn the charity the same amount of cash.

    It's actually surprising how little of the clothing that gets donated to charity shops actually gets put on sale in the shops themselves. The majority of donated textiles get ragged.

    Zoe xxx

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    1. Thanks so much for chipping in with all this Zoe, it's so interesting and informative to learn about the process from an 'insider's' point of view!

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  20. Such a brilliant tip. I'd never have thought of it. I have a massive plastic bag full of scraps (I very unimaginatively call it the "scrap bag") and every now and again I use bits for pocket linings/filling/scrappy quilts but mainly it just takes up room. I'm def going to check my local charity shops or do what Zoe says and stick it in the clothes banks. Thanks for that!

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    1. Excellent, really pleased to hear it!

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  21. Depends on how large the fabric scraps are? Anyway, I'm pretty new at sewing, so I haven't made many scraps. Mostly I keep them, thinking I'll use them one day

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    1. I keep and use my larger scraps, but I give the smaller bits away as I know I can't do much with them!

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  22. Also check with local animal shelters . My sewing group donates its scraps for those who make dog beds for animal shelters

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    1. Another great tip, thanks for sharing!

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  23. That's an interesting question! If the scarps are very small, I throw them. If I see that I could fit some bodice pieces inside, I keep them for muslin, lining or even baby clothes (my freinds are all getting pregnant now and I find that a handmade garment is a great gift, and take so few fabric, win-win).

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    1. I did exactly the same, but I feel much better collecting the small scraps for charity...makes me feel much less wasteful!

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  24. Thanks so much for sharing this--I had no idea this was possible! All this time I've been throwing out items of clothing that were no longer wearable, thinking that the charity shops couldn't use them anyway. I'll never do that again!

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    1. Fantastic, glad to hear you'll be donating more ;o)

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  25. I am using scrap fabrics to make patchwork. Just try it, and you will get attractive and creative finishing.

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    1. Thanks, I certainly will with some of my scraps!

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  26. I haven't heard of the charity shops here in Sydney doing that, but I wish they would! I used to pass on my small fabric scraps to a local childcare centre and school for the kids to use in making collages - but I think I gave them more than they needed lol...

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  27. I'm afraid these scraps will still end up in a landfill. Yes, the charity shops can sell their fabric by the kilo, regardless of the size or quality of the pieces, but the company that buys those kilos will likely throw any unusable scraps into the bin. I believe they are brought to developing countries and small vendors will buy a bale of it and go through the pieces and sell what is usable. This also has the negative effect of putting local seamstresses and weavers out of business. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/tshirttravels/film.html

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