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Zero Waste Sewing: scrap busting ideas

zero waste sewing scrap fabrics with Barley Massey

‘We have got enough fabric in the world, so much in our sewing spaces. You are forced to slow down and embrace the creativity. A whole new skill set.’ Zoe Edwards said in her popular podcast, Check your Thread. In conversation with Barley Massey from Fabrications, they talk about creating larger pieces of fabric from smaller pieces of fabric.

‘Embracing slowing down and willing to invest more time. It is a lot of fun, it is very playful. It is learning to work with what exists already. You are drawing on your own creativity. I love the unexpected, it is quite magical, embrace looking at how we can work with what is there’ Barley agrees with Zoe on episode 51 of the podcast.

This week I have been focusing on how to use up scrap fabrics left over from dressmaking and other sewing projects. A problem that all sewists have. Finding ingenious ways to use up the weird shaped scraps does stretch the creative cells in the brain. Luckily, there are plenty of people out there who can give us tips and advice.

Barley set up Fabrications in Hackney over 20 years ago. She is an inspiration to my business and I’ve enjoyed the workshops I’ve attended there. Chatting to Barley during her clothes alterations workshop inspired me to set up a regular clothes mending workshop with my friend Eleanor called Fast Fashion Therapy. I’ve also attended Milou’s embroidery workshop, teaching how to upcycle a garment with embroidery.

During the podcast, Barley talks about a workshop where she teaches students to create a patchwork sweatshirt from pieces of old sweatshirt, either old garments or scraps of sweatshirt fabric. This is based on an idea by Wendy Ward. Wendy joined Zoe on an early episode of Check Your Thread podcast. She says:

I really enjoy piecing together leftover fabrics. using that to make…I’ve been making lots of clothes like that. I love the happy accidents that come up, when you put fabric together that you think they are not going to look great together. In the grand jumble of everything you think ‘oh, actually, I quite like that’. Then it is the story that they tell as well.

Wendy Ward, Check Your Thread podcast, episode 2

Megan used this zero waste technique and created one large piece of fabric from lots of small scrap fabrics to create a lining for her coat. Painstakingly fitting each piece together like a colourful jigsaw puzzle. She explains, ‘The lining is made entirely from scraps from my Mum’s many projects. There are fabrics in here I remember both of us being clothed in when I was a kid (her frog trousers were the stuff of legend) and others that featured on more family quilts than I can count. There are so many fabrics in this coat that featured in things she made when I was growing up, it’s really quite a trip down memory lane!’

zero waste week fabric scrap busting coat lining

I’ve been working on smaller zero waste projects with my fabric scraps this week. Including cushions and a hot water bottle cover, pockets and applique.

Zero Waste how to make a hot water bottle cover from scrap fabrics

It is a resourceful mindset. You are shifting the thinking, which is at the root of what is needed for more sustainable living.

Barley Massey, Check Your Thread Podcast, episode 51