My fabric stash is divided into two sections, stored separately—the large pieces of fabric (approximately 0.5 metres and up), and the remnants left over from previous projects. Until recently, the two stashes were almost equal in size.
My natural inclination is to keep all remnants, but I’m also conscious that I live in a small house, and that I can’t hold on to everything. Finding moths in my yarn stash this year also reminded me that sometimes it’s good to be more selective about what you’re squirreling away (and how it’s stored).
I carried out a thorough tidy of our house at the start of social distancing here in the UK, and—in an unusually ruthless mood—reduced my remnants stash down to one plastic tub. The process of deciding which remnants got to stay behind made me wonder about which remnants are (most) worth holding on to:
Wovens or Knits?
My inclination was that woven remnants are more useful, but I’ve since needed knit remnants for inside masks, and they can be useful for underwear sewing, or perhaps a contrast cuff.
Lighter or Heaver Weight?
I find it hard to let go of remnants of coating or jacket fabrics, but I use these remnants much less than lighter weight remnants.
I tend to keep any natural fibres, but my cotton remnants always get used over my linen or silk remnants.
Is there a size at which a remnant becomes much more likely to be useful, and below which you could probably let it go? My partner (Phil) entirely fails to appreciate the value of a good remnant and would be rid of all of them if possible. He likes to classify my remnants by the size of the animal they could clothe and is very fond of grading my remnants as ‘ant jacket’ sized.
Do you have a system for deciding which remnants make it into your stash? Do share your advice in the comments below.
Charlotte is a Sewcialists Guest Editor. She is based in the UK, and blogs at English Girl at Home.
I have a hard time getting rid of remnants, too! I limit myself to one large storage bin. When it gets too full, periodically I will clean it out. Being more selective about what I keep when I am cutting is helpful, too. If it’s a weird shape or really small, I can let it go. I find that putting stuff into my textile recycling bag, taking it to my local craft reuse store, or even composting natural fibers makes it easier to not keep it. I also like having remnants from my projects in case I need to mend / patch / repair one of my makes.
There are so many little girls out there with barbie dolls who have nothing to wear for the next Party 😱. I own one book with approximately 25 patterns for Barbie and slash all remnants into barbie wear until only ant belts are left 😁.
I keep all remnants unless they are fraying. When I reach a point that I have too many i look for a craft or project where i can use them. Sometimes I have to be creative….years ago right before Christmas I bought brown felt and cutout gingerbread men for my sons elementary class. When they were done I had very odd shaped large pieces of felt left over. So I took craft paint and painted on 2 dots for eyes and a half moon shape for the mouth. They became little scrap people. My son liked these better than the gingerbread men.
Natural fiber knits make good rags in washcloth size or larger, good for personal grooming or cleaning. Coating is useful to cover dowels or pool noodles for pressing tools. (Wrap a 36″ long piece of pool noodle with several layers of coating, whip it tight, and you have an excellent pants-seam-pressing tool.) Cans with a thick wool coating cover create custom-size pressing forms. Coating makes good stuffing for pin cushions, make several so they are available in various rooms of the house; also good for little gifts. Little trays and bags can be made from decorator-weight fabrics and heavier silks. Quilting-weight or lighter cottons make nice pillowcases — both sides don’t have to be the same fabric, and they can have contrasting borders, they can even be lined for a luxurious feel. I save all scraps thinking someday I’ll use them for quilt-making but realistically that’s not going to happen. In the meantime, they are my resource center.
Your partner’s method of measurement is hilarious. Love it!
I have a >0.5 yd section, a <0.5 yd section, and an "ant jacket" bin. Sometimes I piece all the "ant jacket" scraps together to make produce bags or quilty projects.
Love your partner’s measurement system! Hilarious!
My stash is divided into the >0.5 yd pile, <0.5 yd pile, and the "ant jacket" bin, which I sometimes piece together to make produce bags or quilty scrap projects.
i have a super scientific method that keeps everything over 1m and for less goes like this
– is it awesome ? yes then keep every last scrap
– ok so its not awesome, then only keep if
– swim knit, big enough to make a cap or trunks for the kids
– printed cotton, enough for inside cuffs, collar stands etc or bucket hats
– plain knit, plain cotton, denim, chambray etc – keep pieces if big enough for pockets, neckbands, cuffs etc
Heavier weight fabrics or things i just don’t like that much tend to get moved on to the op shop / thrift store, i just don’t use them enough. leftover rayon etc that isnt enough to use for a garment gets stuffed inside my closet case pouffe which is slowly filling up
My remnants get out of hand from time to time. But if it is cotton woven or rayon bemberg and it would make a good pocket, then I will keep a piece that small.
If it’s fleece or a not-too-stretchy knit, then I might save small pieces for a couple of softie/stuffed animal patterns I have.
Beyond that, the best strategy I have come up with is to try to use up all of a given length of fabric at once. Make as many things out of it that I can, so that I am not storing oddly shaped remnants.
I struggle with this too – it’s such a tricky equation. Since the pandemic began, I’ve been trying to look at my scraps more positively, work out what they could be used for and going through with more of those ideas, rather than shiny new projects. But it’s so hard! With the heavier weight cotton and linen remnants of 50cm or so, I’ve been making shorts for my son and my nephews. My cotton knit scraps always end up migrating to our garage, where my husband uses them to clean his bike. I haven’t found homes for my wool and viscose remnants yet though.
I keep interesting/vintage cotton if it’s at least 3″x3″ for theoretical quilt patching; linen at around 6″x6″; cotton/linen/rayon under 1/2 yard if I think I would make bias out of it; over a yard if I think I could make a top or do colour block with it. I have a very hard time throwing out silk! Larger scraps that don’t fit these categories get collected and go to a thrift store, smaller ones I have started throwing out as my city unfortunately doesn’t compost/recycle. Having mending and patchwork projects in mind (KZ Stevens Rice Bag) help me focus on what to keep too.
I have a bag of silk remnants. There’s nothing nicer than slipping your hand into a hidden silk inseam pocket. Take that, ready to wear! 🙂
“If it’s awesome, keep it no matter what.” My sentiments exactly. I had unusable big cuts of a Samurai print Japanese cotton dobby left over from a skirt. I used most of it up in lining the body to two jean jackets. I still have some left but not enough but because the fabric is so special, I will hang onto it a while longer. Some project will come up. That said, I try to use up most of my leftovers. I inherited my DMIL’s quilting stash and used up quite a bit of it making patchwork skirts for the local high school Clothing Bank. The high school has a sizeable refugee population who dress very conservatively. I’m also cutting out fabric blocks at least 4″ square. Anything smaller gets binned. Life is too short to try and use absolutely everything. Having a place to donate garments is allowing me to work through my stash and pare it down.
I don’t know where I’ve been. Since I’ve only recently learned about leaders and enders, I now save all my scraps!
I do English paper piecing. Any scrap if cotton fabric over 2″ square can be used. Since they’ll fray if left alone I just whip up a quick hexies with it and store the hexies by color. When I want an easy project I pull out my premade hexies and make something with them.
‘Ant jackets’ – I love it!! 🙂
Here are a few ideas:
* Start with a list of projects that you will use or potentially use remnants for, not what the world at large thinks you can do with them. This will keep you grounded in reality. The list can include aspirational items, such as underwear or some other use you have always wanted to try, or gifts you can make and have on hand. Keep adding to and culling the list. It shouldn’t stay static, everything on it should be entirely doable.
* Find and collect together patterns and other resources to support your list. For example, you’d love to try making whimsical pin cushions from felted wool scraps. You would also like to try your hand at socklets and underwear from knit remnants. Or maybe fabric greeting cards. Go find a few patterns for whimsical pin cushions and underwear and socklets and greeting cards now (online, library, etc.) and put them together in an organizer you label Remnant Projects, along with scrap trims, findings, cardboard backing, etc. you might also use for these projects. Try to have several ready to go, so when you make the time or are otherwise in between garment projects, the bits and pieces are ready for you to dive right into them.
* Decide what you could do with a remnant as you are creating it. If you can’t come up with a few very specific things, it’s probably going to be useless to you. Toss it now. On the other hand, if you determine one specific project, then you are no longer dealing with a remnant: this is yardage for project X.
* Ask yourself why you end up with a lot of remnants in the first place. Overbuying because you don’t have a project in mind because you don’t know how much you’ll need? Maybe that is the problem you have to deal with. Perhaps you are not maximizing your cuts, and should try to rearrange pattern pieces better.
* Identify a period of time – once a month, for example – that you will go through your remnants and identify, say, 3 projects you want to make that month. Or come up with a time/ project number/type of your own that works for you. If you don’t have a plan, you may never make the the time to make the fantasy a reality. If the plan doesn’t pan out, change it and try again.
* Recognize when you are saving remnants solely for emotional reasons, such as, I want to save the planet, or hubby bought me this fabric and I want to use every scrap, etc. I do this a lot, so I know. If these aren’t otherwise useful scraps, burn them in a ceremony (only partly kidding…), If your goal is to save the planet, have a specific future use where content and size doesn’t matter, such as stuffing for a pet bed. I have heard of sewists prepping a pet bed, and then as remnants are created, throwing the remnant straight into the shell until they fill it, whereupon they finish that one up and start a new one.