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Sew Reusable: Tips and Tricks for Upcycling and Recycling by Beth Darrah

Posted on April 29 2018

How many of us sew and have waste, either in scraps, UFOs (unfinished projects), or garments that just didn’t turn out the way we had hoped? Everyone. We all do! Wouldn’t it be great if we could do more recycling and less land-filling with all that fabric?

You’re in luck! Here are two ways you can do something more productive with all of that left over fabric:

  1. Upcycle garments into new ones
  2. Donate scraps to be recycled

Let’s talk about those makes that you had such high hopes for, but didn’t pan out. Maybe you serged a band on inside out, or perhaps your toddler found the permanent marker you thought you hid and took a long swipe down your sleeve. Whatever the case may be, you now have this fabric that is going to be trashed.

But wait! Perhaps you can use some of that fabric for sleeves or bands. Or maybe you can squeeze just enough fabric from those garments to make your child an outfit like I did. I took this top and sleeveless cardigan and upcycled them into a Nina top and Bonny Legs for my daughter. Fortunately, she still adores everything I make for her, so I get a happy kid and I feel so much better now that I’ve breathed new life into this fabric!


There is still some waste after upcycling that we can take care of though. Did you know that your neighborhood Goodwill accepts fabric scraps? They’ll also take your makes that didn’t turn out quite right, your muslins and your UFOs that just aren’t going to make it to see daylight. Many stores even have a back door you can pull up to and an assistant will help you unload your vehicle.


You might be wondering what places like Goodwill do with all those scraps, clothing they can’t resell, etc. They actually turn it around and sell it to textile recyclers. So your old clothes and fabric scraps end up in new clothes and other textiles instead of in a landfill. And that’s a great deal if you ask me!

What do YOU do with all your fabric waste? SHARE your ideas and help us keep more usable fabric out of landfills!


  • Mara: August 29, 2018

    H&M take bags of fabric scraps and in exchange you get a coupon !

  • Liz: June 08, 2018

    I make flowers from all kinds of fabrics. I create tutorials to teach others how to. Here is one of my more current tutorial.

  • Cheryl: May 01, 2018

    I read the article about Goodwill that was suggested by Sam. Although they do trash some clothing, at least some is kept & sold. If you trash yours, it will definitely go to the landfill.

  • Michelle: April 30, 2018

    I heard about someone who used the tiny, tiny little scraps as stuffing for cat and dog beds and toys, so I have a little box going to do that with them.

  • Markie : April 30, 2018

    I fill a pillow case with all the un-useable scraps (selvages, etc) and when it is full I sew it closed and donate it to the humane society or my local vet for a dog bed

  • Sam: April 30, 2018

    I was skeptical regarding the Goodwill process, so i looked it up. here’s an article that I found.

    Very interesting. Article is from 2017

  • Kristina: April 30, 2018

    Anything with stretch becomes underware.. seriously… if I mess up with a knit top, it becomes underware.. either for myself or my 14 year old daughter. Add a bit of stretch lace and bam, you have lovely custom panties or boy shorts. I’ve been doing this for years.. honestly haven’t purchased commercial panties in years because mine is so pretty, comfortable, and practically free (would have tossed the scraps in the past)…..

  • Holly: April 29, 2018

    This is amazing!! I didnt know that Goodwill does that. What a great way to get rid of the scraps that I can’t squeeze anything else out of and its so much better for the environment than just throwing them away!!! Thank you so much for the wonderful info!

  • Sarah: April 29, 2018

    This is FANTASTIC! I love your upcycle, and especially love that the fabrics take on a whole new life and vision going from Mom to child! Very nice blog! Thanks for the tip about the fabric scraps…I now have somewhere to unload the 1000 lbs of scraps I’ve been “trying to get rid of” for a while now!

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