How #sewingleftovers Has Changed My Sewing Habits For The Better

Hello everyone, I’m Shauni – also known as The Magnificent Thread – a clothes maker and sewing blogger from Leeds in the North of England. More recently, I’ve also become coordinator of #sewingleftovers, a community initiative, which aims to encourage makers to reduce waste by putting better use to the bits of fabric left over at the end of a sewing project. It’s just one of many ‘challenges’ out there that’s trying to encourage positive change and sustainable behaviours in the sewing community, so being asked to write about it’s impact for the Sewcialist Sustainability theme month is a real privilege!

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‘Sewing Leftovers’ was born out of an increasing awareness of my own bad habits – overbuying fabrics, stockpiling fabrics I didn’t need, making garments that didn’t go with anything – many of them a hangover from my former days as a keen fast fashion fan. I had 5 loose aims at the beginning:

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1. Be more cost effective

2. Waste Less

3. Build a cohesive wardrobe

4. Become more aware

5. Re-energise my sewing

As primarily a garment sewer, I’ve always been keen to transform my leftovers into something wearable, whether that be an entire item, or a garment ‘feature’, but the actual wider impact that conciously #sewingleftovers has had on my sewing habits and behaviours has really suprised me. It’s encouraged me to think more creatively in making the best of what I’ve already got – my pattern collection has received much more attention as a result, and my once embarrisingly large stash is slowly but surely decreasing. I’m becoming better at project planning and far more confident in challenging given lay plans for more effective fabric use.

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Early #sewingleftovers: A faux suede Retro Rucksack and the New Look 6418 Skirt made with it’s leftovers, and a striped True Bias Nikko Top, made from what was left of a Closet Case Patterns Nettie Dress

My fabric buying has been much more considered and restrained, and I’m gradually getting better at buying the correct yardage – my last few big projects didn’t even generate any leftovers! One the most unexpected changes for me has been in my approach to fabric swaps at sewing meet ups. Rather than entering elbows out and grabbing all I can, I’ve become much more focused on donating, with no expectation of anything in return, only taking something that I absolutely know I will make use of.

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Mixing, matching and faux jumpsuit-ing my leftovers: A pair of McCalls M7661 Trousers and a Named Clothing Reeta Shirt Dress hack top made with the leftovers

Outside of sustainability wins, perhaps the most noticeable impact of #sewingleftovers for me personally has been on how I get dressed in a morning. Having multiple garments in similar colours/textures/fabrics has made it so much easier to plan outfits. I used to get changed multiple times before leaving the house, but now I can quickly mix and match garments without giving it much thought, or even wear them together if I’m feeling particularly bold that day – the faux jumpsuit look being one of my favourites!

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Double pleather: Ready to Sew Juliette Skirt and an Ida Clutch Bag made with the smallest amount of leftover faux leather

It’s been inspiring to see the sewing community join in with #sewingleftovers to make the most of every last inch of their precious fabric. There are currently over 1000 posts shared using #sewingleftovers, with everything from patchwork and pocket linings, to full on garments, fashion forward accessories and even fashion for cats(!). I can only hope that other makers are noticing the similar positive impact it can have on their sewing, shopping and wardrobe too.

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Amazing #sewingleftovers inspiration from Simona, Pauline and Maria

Above are just a few of the incredible community contributions to #sewingleftovers:

  • Simona (@draculashbv) has made many Ogden Camis with her leftovers – you can see all of them in her blog post here
  • Pauline (@sewuthinkucan) made this killer contrast Kyoto Tee hack with leftovers
  • Maria (@mariasyrgrejer) made these dreamy patchwork Gaston Pants – I can’t wait to have enough leftover denim for something similar!

Do you think making a conscious effort to sew your leftovers would work for you too? If you find yourself with some leftover fabric, then I can only encourage you to try it – see if you can make something new! It’s only a small step, but it could be one small step on the way to changing our habits for good – and who knows, maybe one day we’ll no longer have leftovers and there’ll no longer be a need for #sewingleftovers at all!

If you want to find out more about ‘Sewing Leftovers’ and see more of my sewing (leftovers and otherwise) you can visit my blog, The Magnifient Thread, or find me on Instagram @shaunimagnifique. Be sure to check out #sewingleftovers on Instagram for loads more inspiration from the sewing community too!