Leftover wool, denim, and silk pieces can be easily repurposed in a variety of ways to create something fresh and new for your home.
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Cleaning out your overflowing scrap pile of small leftovers from sewing projects, ripped denim, and stained T-shirts doesn't have to mean filling a trash bag: Even delicate fabrics, awkwardly-shaped pieces, and your former favorite jeans can serve as a base for something new. Upcycling your scraps keeps them out of the waste stream—the EPA reported that in 2018, 11.3 million tons of textiles ended up in landfills—while allowing you create entirely custom projects, from oversized aprons to tiny infant toys. Ahead, learn how to do just that.

How to Organize Your Scraps

Envisioning a new project that uses existing scraps will be easier when you know what you're working with. To organize your scrap stash, sort fabrics by size—so you can easily see which pieces are big enough to become a basket liner or quilt back, and which need to be incorporated into a patchwork blanket or pieced pillowcase—and by material, keeping the denim and silk you used for a Halloween costume separate from the heavy fleece and flannel left over from the camping blankets. Then arrange by color, making it simpler to find the shades and tones you have in mind for your next project.

How to Repurpose Denim Fabric Scraps

While you may have some extra yardage left over from your latest DIY, you can also turn to worn-out clothes—including jeans, sweaters, and silk items—to create usable or decorative upcycled projects. Even an old raincoat can be repurposed as a backer for a soft cotton, creating a waterproof picnic blanket perfect for dew-damp grass or sea-sprayed beaches. As for how to turn your old denim items or scraps into something new? A solidly-constructed pair of jeans can last for decades, and even the occasional rip or fray can be chalked up to the distressed look. But if you're ready to say goodbye to the low rise, skinny cut, or stonewashed color of your former favorite pair, use them as the basis for a sturdy apron, vintage-inspired iPad case, or accessory tray liner.

How to Repurpose Silk Fabric Scraps

Smooth silk may not be as easy to work with as more durable fabrics, but even small pieces can find a second life: Paint long strips to make custom ribbon for a collection of flowers from your garden, use Dad's old neckties to create silk-dyed Easter eggs, sew silk poppies for a never-fading Mother's Day bouquet, twist squares into glossy pumpkin décor, frame richly colored pieces for an elegant, quilt-inspired art piece, or make custom sleep masks for more restful nights.

How to Repurpose Wool Fabric Scraps

If you can't repair, update, or un-shrink your favorite wool sweater—or you have leftover wool from a sweater project—upcycle the material by making cozy mittens using a custom-fit template, or repurposing it into a cable-stitched storage bin. You can also improve the endurance of old wool with needle-felting or wet-felting techniques, which tighten the loose fibers, allowing you to turn your favorite knit into a snuggle-ready pillow, a soft baby toy, or a mini mug wrap.

How to Repurpose Small Fabric Scraps

Most cotton fabrics—like quilt remainders, old T-shirts or button downs, worn-out onesies, and faded pillowcases—can be easily incorporated into a variety of sewing projects, from seersucker napkins to throw pillows. But save your smallest remnants for the tiniest projects: Mini sachets to scent clothing drawers, itty-bitty cat toys made from old men's shirts, a petite pillow that's just the right size for the Tooth Fairy, small hanging loops to keep beach and bath towels off the floor, quilted coasters, and intricate patchwork quilts made from squares or triangles.


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