Written by: Sam Wright
Almost every quilter has a pretty impressive stash of fabric scraps hidden away in their craft room, hoping they’ll come up with a reason to use them someday. You don’t want to waste good fabric, but they’re too small or you don’t have enough for a full-sized project. So what do you do? Sure, you could leave them in their designated box to gather dust, or just say “forget it” and toss them. But if you’re itching to give those scraps a second chance at life so they can fulfill their destiny as part of something creative and useful, look no further.
Here are 9 ideas for smaller projects that will turn your scraps into something practical that you can use every day.
1. Potholders and Coasters
Use your quilting skills to personalize your table setting! Potholders are a classic “mini quilting project”, often used to show new quilters the ropes before moving on to full-sized projects. You can use basically the same techniques that you would for a larger quilt, only scaled down to a square around 8”x8”. If you’d like to make matching coasters for your drinks, do the same thing, but make it about 4”x4”. Of course, because they’re intended to lay flat, you can make them in any shape or size you like. This project is great if you’re someone who cooks at home often or as a gift for a friend who loves to cook. For someone who does a lot of cooking for their family, you can embroider their name on it!
Like potholders and coasters, this is another project that lays flat, so the technique is similar to a full-sized quilt. They can be made in any shape or size, but most often they’re a long rectangle shape. If you’re a big reader, or you know someone who loves to read, this is a fantastic and quick gift to whip up. Give them out as gifts for your book club and, if you’re good with embroidering, personalize them for each member’s name! This is also another good project for a quilter who’s just starting out. If you have a child or grandchild who wants to learn, teach them how to make a bookmark! As a bonus, once they have their own handmade bookmark, maybe it’ll encourage them to read more often.
3. Zipper Pouch
If you find that you can’t keep your bathroom or vanity counter in order, or you’re someone who travels a lot, try making yourself a zipper pouch! You can use this bag to keep all of your favorite makeup items ready to go whenever or wherever you need them.
For a zipper pouch, you’ll first quilt two separate panels in either a rectangle or trapezoid shape. They can be whatever size you like, as long as they’re both the same size. Then, attach a zipper to one side of each (if they’re trapezoids, put the zipper at the top where it’s shorter), and then sew the other three sides together. Even if you’re not a makeup person, you can use this type of small pouch for plenty of other things. It would also make a great place to keep your eyeglasses or sunglasses!
4. Tote Bag
Another good project for someone on the go, a tote bag is great if you need to carry larger items around but don’t want to use a purse. For this, you’ll essentially start out the same as the makeup bag, with two identically sized quilted panels. Instead of a zipper, however, you’re going to add two long straps, one on each panel. You can either quilt these straps too or, if you’d prefer, use some cotton rope or thick yarn. Then, sew the other three sides together. A tote bag would be a great gift if you know a high school or college student, so they have a cute way to carry around their books as an alternative to a backpack. You could also use it to store and transport the materials for any future quilting projects you work on.
Every quilter knows the importance of having a good pincushion or two around. Why not make your own? There are a couple different ways you could go about quilting your own pincushion, but the easiest way is just to make a small pillow. It can be a square shape like an actual miniature pillow, it can be a sphere, there’s no limit to the ways you can personalize your pincushion. You can also attach it to a wristband if you like to keep your pins handy that way. Whatever you stuff your pincushion with, make sure to pack it tight to keep the pins from moving around. You can use normal cotton filling or batting, although this makes the cushion extra lightweight and not as sturdy. For a hardier cushion, a lot of crafters choose to use ground up walnut shells as their filling. This would be a great welcome gift to new members of your quilting circle or for someone you’re teaching to quilt.
This is a good project if you have larger scraps of fabric lying around that you want to find a use for. If you still have some left over, maybe you could make a matching potholder too! For an apron, you’ll quilt one large piece to fit over the front of the body. Then, you’ll attach a strap at the top that’s long enough to fit around someone’s neck, and two straps on either side of the waist for tying the apron behind the person’s back. You can leave it like that, or you can add pouches on the front. Make a panel of whatever size you want and then attach it to the front of the apron by sewing it around all sides but the top.
This is a good gift for the cook in your life, or you can wear it while quilting and use the pouches to hold your supplies. You can personalize it even further by adding on a monogram, or choosing a different pattern for the other side of the quilt so it’s double sided!
7. Sewing Supply Case
Another good project if you’re someone who frequently crafts on the go and you need something you can grab easily that you know has all of your sewing essentials inside. There are tons of variations on sewing supply cases, so just take your pick. You could make a small zipper pouch like the makeup bag, or add pockets to the inside of your tote bag. If you want to get extra fancy with it, you could also make a roll-up mat. For a roll-up mat, you would quilt a long rectangle piece, and on one side, add a series of pockets. Make sure to measure the pockets against your supplies so you don’t make them too small. Then, add a strap on one side so when you’re ready to put your supplies away, you can put them in the pockets and roll up the mat, tying the strap around it to keep it in place.
Having a case for all of your most-used supplies makes it so much easier to keep track of them, especially the smaller pieces. The roll-up mat idea is also a great way to transport things like small toiletries when you go on a trip.
8. Throw Pillow
If your bed or living room could use some more color, or you want your decor to have an extra personal touch, then make yourself some throw pillows! Your throw pillow can be as complicated or straightforward as you like. For a simple pillow, just quilt two blocks, stitch them together, stuff it with some cotton filling, and call it a day. If you want something more complex, you can experiment with different shapes and sizes or add embellishments like ribbons and buttons. For a slight variation, you could also make a pillowcase for an existing pillow. Make sure to cut your pieces so when it’s put together it’ll be larger than the pillow so you have no problem fitting it in. Sew your two panels together, leaving one side open to put the pillow in. You can either keep that side open or add a zipper so the pillow inside doesn’t slip out. This is a fun way to show off your crafting skills in your main living area and add some color to your decor. The pillowcase is great if you know you’d like to switch back and forth between looks. Maybe make a holiday themed one that you can bring out during that season!
9. Patchwork Skirt
Like the apron, this project is best if you have larger scraps of fabric lying around. Not only are patchwork skirts super cute, but knowing how to make clothes for yourself is a great skill, and people will be so impressed when they find out your outfit is handmade.
Most skirts are going to be made with one large panel, cut according to the measurements of whoever the skirt is for. When you’ve finished your quilting, sew the two sides together, leaving the top and bottom open.
For the waist, you can keep it fitted, add buttons or a zipper, or put elastic in the waistband so it can fit multiple body types. For the body of the skirt, you can pleat it, keep it smooth, or add multiple layers to give it some extra volume.
The best part is, you can make your skirt any style you want! A brightly colored, flowing skirt that reaches the floor, a punk-rock miniskirt with dark and edgy patterns, whatever look just screams you. Being able to personalize your clothes is a great way to add life to your wardrobe.
Personalize your life!
If you’ve been hunting for the perfect use for your old scraps of fabric, or you want to quilt something but don’t feel like making a large project like a blanket, hopefully you’ve found some inspiration now.
You don’t need to let your scraps stay scraps. Give them another chance and use them to add a personal touch to things you use everyday. All you need to do is find yourself a pattern and get going!