Scrapbag confessions

This was going to be a post about my home sewing scrap bag, and the result of doing zero waste sewing, but it turned out I couldn’t really measure the effect because I didn’t start with a clean slate.

To explain: at the beginning of 2020, after dallying with zero waste for several years, I decided I was only going to make zero waste patterns. I did a fair bit of sewing last year – 54 items of which only a few were non-zero waste (Barbie doll clothes, the pork chop pressing tool, a hat for book week and a couple of shaped masks).

Yesterday I had the biggest edit/clearout of fabric in almost a decade, and went through every box, pile and bag. To properly gauge the post-zero-waste scrap bag situation I should have done this 15 months ago, but I didn’t think of it then.

So what IS the state of the Liz H scrap bag? Does going zero waste really make a difference? I’d say yes it does, but not in the way I thought it would.

The scrap bin
This is the actual amount of scrap. It’s nearly a 50L bin. (There was more than this; a friend took some.) There’s an big variety of fabric types – lycra, wool, satin, cotton, etc in lots of different sizes.
It’s going to the kindy tomorrow for craft.
Floral scrap bag
There’s a bag of floral scraps I keep as well, for a maybe-one-day hexagonal quilt. Any small cotton floral scraps go here.
Btw, this was full by the end of yesterday.
Denim scraps
There’s also a small bundle of denim scraps I keep for visible mending.
Two usable scrap bins
There are two other 50L bins that have, well, they’re not really scraps – more like offcuts waiting to be used. The top one contains usable pieces which aren’t big enough for garments, and the other has all plain fabric scraps. I dip into both of these very regularly for pocket bags, binding fabric etc. The plain one was put together for Minecraft sewing projects during lockdown last year – it contains my offcuts, the plain pieces from the 1960s time capsule and some bought from the op shop. Post-Minecraft, it’s now deficient in greens and browns.

Zero waste feeds these two offcut bins more than the scrap bin. In other words, the type of scrap I’m generating is a usable one; these pieces are all rectangular and of a good size. Often they’re just the remainder of the piece of fabric I had, which happens when buying fabric online where one has to order in 25cm increments, or fabric which came in lengths from the op shop.


As a bonus, while I was happily sorting fabric (in the shed, where it’s stored), I came across some treasures….

Wedding dress offcuts
The silk offcuts from my wedding dress and bridesmaid’s dress.
Sewing scissors
The fabric scissors I had a fashion student, in their box. My dad engraved my name on them.
Unfinished body suit
An unfinished cotton lycra bodysuit.
This would be about 30 years old, from when I was a junior at Jem Leotards. Testament to the quality fabric they used (and maybe the dry climate?) it’s ready to be finished off and worn. Past Me had thoughtfully pinned the crotch snaps to the fabric.
Batik fabric
Some pieces of real batik fabric my uncle sent us from Indonesia circa early 1980s.
Shoulder pads
All the shoulder pad samples from The Dressmaker’s Companion (yes, the book shows you how to make your own shoulder pads).
Pin cushion
My grandmother’s pin cushion – some of the lace has come off but I’ll sew it back on.
Shoe box of haby
A shoe box of haby belonging to the same grandma. Actually, it might have belonged to her mother. Inside was an old Berlei bra tag.
Sheepskin vest
Pieces from a sheepskin vest my mother had in the 1970s. She used to wear it on camping trips. She unpicked it for something then gave me the bits when she moved house. The sheepskin is still very supple although the woolly bit has turned yellow. I think it would make a good removable “extra-warmth” lining for a coat.

Cheers!

10 Comments

  1. Fadanista on March 14, 2021 at 11:06 pm

    I’m loving this inside view of your scraps. Some real treasures here!

    • lizhaywood on March 14, 2021 at 11:09 pm

      Thanks Sue – I didn’t expect to have such a nostalgic time!

  2. Terri Gardner on March 15, 2021 at 12:40 am

    It was fun to peek inside your scrap bags. I know we all deal with this. I have little bag after little bag. I do keep going back and trying to use them. That’s probably why my dogs have clothes! I can use scraps up that way. Before I retired from teaching art, I would take quite a bit to school and use it with the kids in projects but now it’s just my own stuff. Lately, I’ve tried to take time and cut some up for stuffing.
    Well, that’s about it. I really enjoyed this. Oh, and it was nice to see someone else’s denim mending scrap pile. I bet we all have them. Take care, Terri

    • lizhaywood on March 15, 2021 at 4:02 pm

      Cheers Terri 🙂
      I blush when I think about how much scrap I’ve created in my life…

  3. Jimmy on March 15, 2021 at 8:23 pm

    Our scrap bags are like a guilty confession sometimes! But really, “scrap” does not mean “waste”. It’s just something that’s waiting for a special purpose. I recently found purpose for a whole lot of fancy fabric scraps (taffeta, velvet, brocade etc) and made a bunch of dice bags for the gaming nerds in my life.

    • lizhaywood on March 15, 2021 at 10:33 pm

      That is a good point – it’s not wasted until you waste it 🙂

  4. Wendy Hendy on March 16, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    I think having identified a purpose for scraps is important – like the printed cottons for pockets. It means that there is thought behind the storage or disposal of the resources.
    Craft for kindy is a great idea- touching different fabrics and choosing pleasing prints and combinations is valuable and not always available at home.
    I enjoyed your treasures too – you can still have your Cher moment it seems!

    • lizhaywood on March 16, 2021 at 10:42 pm

      Yes, you are right about the purpose and I look forward to having only usable-shaped scraps in the future 🙂

  5. Ruth on April 12, 2021 at 6:57 pm

    Great post Liz. I love seeing how people store and use their leftovers. My trouble is what to do with those really teeny tiny bits – the slivers from the overlocker, thread tangles, tiny corners and bits of selvedge. Anything remotely useable I hang onto, or I could donate to a community centre, but what about the tiny bits? Have you found groups also want those bits (I know they could be used for stuffing, but it feels a bit weird phoning up and saying ‘hey! I have some absolutely unuseable bits that you should use to stuff something!’ 😉

    • lizhaywood on April 12, 2021 at 8:24 pm

      Hi Ruth, it’s a good question!
      I don’t really have any solid answers. I’ve heard that some people use thread scraps and slivers in papermaking – some fashion labels use handmade paper swing tags or handmade promotional postcards as part of their waste strategy. Sometimes they make tiny accessories such as earrings.
      The teeny tiny scraps actually make very good stuffing because they’re small and therefore non-lumpy. It does take a long time to collect enough to stuff something with though!

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