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Selvedges, Scraps, and Sergers

August 5, 2012

Every once in while my sorter-organizer gene (s.o.g.) kicks into high gear with the resulting activity consuming the better part of day, but leaving me feeling very accomplished. A regular occurrence is after I’ve finished a project and have another in mind. I walk into the studio and notice anew the disaster left in the wake of completing my most recent project. The biggest irritant to my s.o.g. is the fabric that piles up on the floor at the end of the table. There is so much of it! Scraps you say? What about making quilts, or the little pieces that work so well for some future but undefined project? These are fabrics I love! I just cannot fill up a trash bag and dump them. 

My previous solution was to pull out the “big” pieces and put the remaining ones into space saver bags, sucking the air out and creating a stack of plastic wrapped fabric bricks. These bricks began to occupy valuable space needed to keep my stash organized and accessible, and it was starting to appear as though I’m teetering on the edge of hoarding. I value all the great ideas I’ve heard for using scraps, but I realize it’s not using the scraps that is at issue here. I came to realize it was processing the scraps that required attention.

My Mom, an admirable and frugal artist, recently shared with me that if I were to capture all the selvedges from my fabric and then loosely stuff them into a quickly assembled square case, the animal shelters would appreciate them. She also taught me paper piecing long ago for using up those little fabric pieces, as well as some of that printer paper in the recycle bin, until there is enough for a quilt. Then there are the small pieces that make up great projects such as fabric flowers, small stuffed animals and toys, totes of every type, and preemie clothes. Lastly, the pieces coming pretty close to a whole yard are perfect for sleeveless tops and kids’ clothes. All great ideas for that newly growing mountain on the floor out of which I do not want to make one more fabric brick.

The ah ha moment came this morning as I was doing the sorting-organizing thing across the room. I literally dumped my trash bin next to the fabric mountain and began sorting the whole mess into four stacks: Approximately one good yard; small pieces for craft projects; little pieces for paper piecing; and then scraps, selvedges, and those strips and strings left from serging so many seams. I folded the yardage and put back into my stash, which consists of shelves of bins sorted by top or bottom weights, then knits or wovens. The pieces good for projects went into the space bags, which are now useful because everything in them can be used for stuffed toys, preemie clothes, or craft projects. The little pieces went into a basket near my sewing machine, along with some of that paper from the recycling bin, all for quick access when I only have time or attention to paper piece a number of quilt squares rather than work on a project. Now comes the most satisfying part.

I put the remaining scraps from serging, sewing, clipping, and trimming on the cutting table and repeatedly ran my rotary cutter through the whole layer until it seemed pretty uniform. Next I grabbed a pillow casing from an old pillow I had split open to use the stuffing. I scooped all those scraps into the bag, and then stitched the end to close up forming a loosely stuffed cushion for the local safe shelter. My mountain of fabric is GONE, and not a single thread landed in the trash. I have another old casing to catch those scraps and when it’s full enough I will cut them to size and stitch up the case to finish another cushion.

Another benefit to me of making these cushions is I can use those pieces of fabric I can’t seem to get rid of but for which I will probably never identify a project. Now I can fold a good sized piece, sew two more sides and use them to catch that future stuffing material.

I’ve conquered my fabric mountain turning scraps into useful starters for projects; and serger strings and selvedges into cushion stuffing for the safe animal shelter. My Sorter-Organizer Gene is sated, and I’m ready to plan my next project in a studio blissfully free of any fabric mountains.     

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