Friday, 6 July 2012

What do you do with your fabric scraps? I promise this is not a green post.

The title question seems to come up in blog land quite often, and usually fills me with terrible guilt. Wasting fabric, I know, is a henious crime, even aside from the modern environmental angst we must  dutifully adopt as consumers.
When I first started sewing, it was mainly doll clothes, and my mother's scraps. This induced no guilt in me what so ever. I chopped and slashed, hand embroidered and pintucked, and made just as many wadders as I did fashionable outfits for my dolls. It was great fun, then I turned 12.
My parents instituted a wardrobe budget for me. This was suitably small, and had to provide me with all of my clothing. I was given a lump sum every quarter. (We were a frugal family, and most of my wardrobe at this point was hand- me- downs (Thank you, thank you my stylish  and extravagant Sydney cousins) and things my mother had made - and she does not like clothes sewing).
I started to sew, seriously, for myself, sewing in Australia in the 80's being cheaper than buying RTW,  and believe me, I eeked out every scrap of fabric I could, always buying 10cm less than Vogue or Simplicity told me to, and managing in most cases to squeeze out the garment. Now that I think of it, this may have been part of the reason why my pastel check blouse in completely the wrong colour and shape never pleased me, pattern and print matching was not within my fabric budget. A wadder was a financial disaster. I did not enjoy this necessary frugality. I learnt early that sewing with cheap fabric is a waste of money.

Now, being gainfully employed and having a completely self imposed sewing budget, I am still frugal with my sewing (my husband would be surprized to read this, fortunately he doesn't look at my blog), but my application is quite different. My time is valuable, and I don't buy RTW for myself not just because I object to  buying Chinese made garments, and make it better anyway (I have a big-headed opinion of my sewing) but because in the time I spend on alterations to RTW, I could make a (generally) well fitting garment.
I buy good quality fabric, and buy with great pleasure, mostly well in advance, in vaguely garment lengths, with plenty for fabric matching, should I need it. This means that I often have a bit too much fabric.
Can you make a top requiring 1.2m from 2.0m of fabric? I often fold up the fabric again and put it away, so as not to waste 80cm. There is 5m of Liberty Tana Lawn in my stash that has been suffering in this way for far too long due to my wasteage fear problem.
I notice Roobeedoo does this as well. I felt better when I read this post.
How about from 1.5m?
What do you do with 30cm and scraps of very expensive and luscious terry wool jersey.

After making this top I put it away the scraps in the cupboard for 3 years where, HORROR, the fabric was nibbled by insects. (The top wore out from constant use over 3 seasons)
What is worse, is that after I had carried out insect inspection of all the fabric, rewashed, deep cleaned and  insect repelled (last winter) I put the insect damaged 30cm and scraps back in the cupboard, next to the despised- by- insects- among- others polar fleece, which you may notice I have just used up - except for the scraps.
See how I wasted my time revisited my childhood sewing practices?
It was still great fun.

Here you can see how I dealt with the insect holes. Much more appealing than darning don't you think? The way the edges of the merino jersey curl up at the edges of the petals is very pleasing to me.
I had considered felting fulling this piece, all the fabrics being wool, but it was only just big enough to fold over and sew into a cowlish sort of tube to keep my neck warm.
 It is very cosy, even if most of the flowers are invisible.
Unfortunately, one member of the teenage fashion panel told me that wearing the cowl made me appear to have 3 chins. What was even worse was that my husband agreed with her!
I shall wear it anyway - but maybe not in public.

The scrappy soft slippers are for my poor studying daughter. Queenslanders are not good houses for winter temperatures.
The mittens would probably have turned out better had I managed to find my Green Pepper pattern, but tracing around your hand works pretty well. These will be good for running gear, so I can throw them in the washing machine - not something I like to do with my hand knitted gloves.
Do you think I could pretend that I was being virtuous, thrifty and green?
 I don't think so either. I even feel mildly guilty - I could have made some work trousers from my  boring sensible sewing list.
Maybe there is enough of that green merino jersey left to make something.......
Waste time, waste fabric, waste space - take my pick I suppose!


Carolyn said...

I really enjoyed reading about your early sewing years, particularly since your teenage experience is identical to my own! And I think your cowl is lovely, and does not resemble chins at all. I would wear it, and OUT! You are very clever indeed and making excellent use of your scraps.

Summer Flies said...

I agree with Carolyn.. you make excellent use of scraps. I also like your cowl. I love what you do with applique.

tigergirl said...

I have the very same problem when it comes to not wanting to use a length of fabric that is more than I need for something because I don't want to have the rest be wasted. What I am trying to get myself to realise is that it is all being wasted by just sitting there and could be eaten by who knows what at any time.

Oh, by the way - that cowl does not add chins, I like it!

SewRuthie said...

ROFL! I did throw some scraps out in my two recent moves, and was a little sad about it, but I have quite a lot of fabric left still.

Jilly Be said...

I am both giggling and nodding the nod that only one who has been there, done that, can do ;D

I'm another with a nearly identical early sewing life -doll clothes from scraps, squeezing the pattern to use every mm of fabric [which I still do], and only sewing something that will use every bit of fabric [which I no longer do, because I know I can find SOMETHING to use that fabric for].

Another note about those early sewing years - muslins were UNHEARD of! And a wadder simply did not happen - you made it work. period.

And I think your cowl is beautiful! Wear in comfort and joy :)

Dibs said...

this made me laugh. i waste a lot. i probably should start using my scraps.that cowl is a good starting place for me. I want to make a wrap dress, and I am sure i will have some remnants.

Big in Japan said...

Screw the fashion panel, your cowl is great and I suspect, very useful! Even better because it was born of scraps! Nice job.

Ruth said...

Good scarf, good use of remnants and good use of time. Sometimes it's nice just to sit and down and do little projects. Wear the scarf!

Sharon said...

I think your cowl is very pretty and definitely wear it with pride. I have a huge back of small scraps that I do plan on donating to one of the charities, but then after seeing Dilliander's fantastic use of scraps on PR and she is also a sewing buddy I will be seeking her assistance in making some of my scraps work better for me.

Carol said...

I try and cut a singlet or t-shirt at the same time as I'm cutting my first garment. I just downloaded the Sorbetto top and will try and make that out of woven scraps. With the smaller bits I make hats. I have a collection of hat patterns I've bought at op shops over the years. The really small bits end up as shoe polish and snow seal applicators for my leather stuff. I'm getting better at chucking out tiny bits/

Gail said...

Marcy and Katherine Tilton patterns have lots of scope for bringing small pieces of left over fabric into the design. See vogue 8817 for example.

velosewer said...

How creative. Each piece is worth it.

fabric epiphanies said...

OMG...dolls clothes, at about 8 my friend around the corner used to bring around a council rubbish bag load of scraps and we put our treasures together to make fabulous creations for our Barbie dolls on my Mum's lounge room floor. I still have a lot of those creations.

My grandmother took me on holiday from NZ to Sydney to stay with my 7Australian cousins for the first time in 1980 and I was like a kid in a lolly shop with the cool rtw clothing you could buy that wasn't available in NZ yet. Most things here were still handmade at that point or made in NZ and ridiculously expensive for a 12 year old!

Scraps...I have two large plastic lidded bins that I should really throw out but can't bear to.

liza jane said...

I am so impressed. I have a great big bucket of small scraps that I take to work hoping to use in art projects. But truthfully, I now have a giant bucket of scraps at work, too. Hmmm.....

Paola said...

Being a lover of merino wool jersey, I too have merino wool scraps. I'm just about to use some of them to make the Sewaholic Renfrew top which features bands at the cuffs, neckline and at the hem. The plan is to make each of these bands from a different scrap jersey - instant colour blocking!
I like the cowl too.

The Slapdash Sewist said...

Very impressive scrap stash busting! I have a hard time know how large of a piece is worth keeping and when to toss. I hate tossing but sometimes it just has to be done.

Lyndle said...

I too save all my scraps. I am trying to unlearn this but custom dies hard. The really little wool scraps i put into what will be my pressing ham, when it is full. The others i stash hoping i'll use them as trim some day. I know i should choose the pattern first and then shop for the right amount of fabric, but it's so much more fun to buy the fabric first. Especially when it is on sale.
I love your cowl scarf and totally disagree with your style panel. Punish them by withdrawing sewing privileges!
Ps i bought a jacket the other day. My partner made me take it back because "from behind you look like the back end of a bus. And the front is just Not Good". Isn't honesty marvellous.

Gabrielle said...

I think you've done very well with these scraps and your cowl actually looks great on you - no chin problems at all!

I tend to hoard all the larger scraps just in case, but the smaller ones get passed on to the local childcare or the youngest classes at school to use in collages or whatever they like.

Gabrielle said...

I think you've done very well with these scraps and your cowl actually looks great on you - no chin problems at all!

I tend to hoard all the larger scraps just in case, but the smaller ones get passed on to the local childcare or the youngest classes at school to use in collages or whatever they like.

Cherie said...

Karen, gotta say, time was not wasted, some scraps might be tossed; however, odd bits of fabric released your creativity from the box and look at what you did! I agree with the others, the cowl is terrific and I would wear it (if I needed it, I live in Phoenix, AZ!). I enjoyed looking at the early sewing years also. Love your many creations!

Anonymous said...

Nice! I wanna make mittens too! I usually cut two or more things out of the same fabric (use it for trim etc) but I just hang on the the scraps for stuffing stuff (haven't actually made anything that needs stuffing). My mum sent me a little stool (?) like a small cylindrical footrest that needs to be stuffed before it can be used. I really should stuff it but but I live in a little apartment with next to no floorspace . . XS

Roobeedoo said...

How did I miss this post? Those purple slippers are AMAZING! :D
By the way - I solved my roses fabric dilemma by sending the leftover fabric to another sewing blogger, who sent me some of her leftover linen in return: a win-win solution for both of us!