Learn how to re-use fabric with guest blogger Amanda McKittrick, author of 'Recycled Chic''

Tanya Blake

Tanya Blake

13 February 2013

As a bunch of creative crafters I'm sure we've all got boxes filled with scraps of beautiful fabric stored around the home that we just can't bring ourselves to throw away, but don't have a clue what to do with.

They sit around gathering dust and making us feel vaguely guilty; do we try and use them in a project or just give up and throw away loads of pretty prints to reclaim the cupboard space? We thought we'd ask Amanda McKittrick, author of Recycled Chic, to be our guest blogger this week. She's here to give us some expert advice on how to re-use all our spare bits of fabric and help us to relieve our crafters guilt! Over to the lovely Amanda...

Author Pic 

My granny used to always say "waste not want not", and although she was referring to food, it encouraged me to make use of the things we sometimes wouldn't think twice about discarding. As a crafter you're only too familiar with the piles of offcuts and scraps of fabric you have left after a project, and if you're anything like me you'll stockpile the best bits with the best intentions of reusing them in the future. Unfortunately sometimes those little piles turn into rather large piles, but with a bit of imagination you can whip up some cute craft projects. This of course will not only save you money, but will also help clear out some storage space for more craft supplies!

Fabric Scraps

Good things come in small packages, and small projects make perfect gifts for friends, cute accessories and embellishments. Think bows, fabric covered buttons, bookmarks, a pincushion for the craft loving friend, clutches, and pillows. Be inspired by the elegant Japanese Furuoshiki style of wrapping gifts with fabric, and add your own personal touch with some ribbon and a vintage button.

Pin Cushion

Above: Pincushion made from a small square of vintage upholstery fabric

Many online fabric stores offer bundles of scrap fabric, and they're so much fun to receive in the mail, because they're like lucky-dip lolly bags - full of colourful treats, and you never know what you're going to get! Since I bought this assorted fabric pile from one of my favourite online sellers, I've used it for projects in Recycled Chic as well as for several gift ideas.

Vintage Fabric Stack

If you love vintage fabric but don't have any leftover scraps, be on the lookout in charity stores for vintage clothes in great patterns and designs that you can cut up and reuse. Remember to keep the size of your project in mind when scouting for fabrics. For smaller project ideas, look for scarves, tops, bags, pillow-slips, napkins, embroidered linen and the like. For larger projects where more fabric is required, be on the hunt for skirts, dresses, sheets, blankets and curtains.

It's worth looking at the quality of the fabric if it's vintage or second-hand - keep an eye out for stains or holes, these may be hard to remedy if they're too obvious.

Once you've opened your mind to the creative possibilities for repurposing clothes, you'll find hidden and unexpected gems lurking just around the corner. 

Clothes On Rack

Tell your friends to be on the lookout for great fabrics too, a few of mine have found some beautiful offcuts for me over the years. One friend had a vintage dress shortened, and she kindly gave the excess fabric to me. There was enough fabric and lining to make both of us a clutch. 

Lucina Clutch Bag

Above: Clutch made from vintage dress offcut and lining

Once you're confident with sourcing and reusing fabrics for smaller projects, you might consider branching out into altering your own clothes, or finding second hand garments that you can tailor to suit your own individual fashion style and taste. Alterations need not be lengthy and complicated, often simple is best and it really doesn't take much at all to change the look of a garment. I personally like to hunt for vintage and retro dresses that can be transformed into a unique skirt. The 'Sweet Summer Skirt' project in Recycled Chic is a simple technique, takes very little time, will help inspire you and have you scouring the charity stores for more.

Dress Into Skirt Before -IMG_626505039-MB-dress Into Skirt Final -IMG_2155

Above: Before and after - the "Sweet Summer Skirt" project

Whether it is pretty or practical, or a perfect combination of the two, the possibilities for reusing fabrics are endless. What will you make?

Recycled Chic Book Cover  

Want to find out more about how to make the most of your fabric cut offs and charity shop finds? Click here to get your copy of Amanda's book, Recycled Chic



Tanya visits... MakeMe Workshops

Tanya Blake

Tanya Blake

8 February 2013


So i've got a confession to make... I'm a sewing novice. Yes I know, it's awful isn't it?! I work on a craft magazine and yet I can barely thread a sewing machine, let alone sew in a straight line. Every month I get to see loads of beautiful handmade projects come into the Making office and as I gaze longingly (and more than a little bit enviously) at each item I always say the same thing, 'I wish I could make something like that!'. 

Well, a while ago I decided enough was enough; this year I'd finally learn to sew. Janome very generously donated a basic computerised model for me to learn on (the CXL301), perfect for a beginner like me.

Janome Machine

The lovely machine arrived all shiny and new and I was full of excitement at the prospect of all the projects I was soon going to make with it. I read the instruction leaflet from cover to cover, painstakingly threaded the machine, and then sat down ready to sew. Everything was going smoothly and the machine was really very easy to use, but after a few practice lines on scraps of fabric I realised something; I didn't have a clue what to make or how to begin my first project. All of a sudden sewing seemed like a very complex and intimidating beast and like many before me I began to feel a tad overwhelmed and in need of some expert tuition.

After a couple of months of avoiding the very mention of the words 'sewing machine' for fear of experiencing palpitations, I suddenly received an invitation from Melissa Merchant of MakeMe Workshops.

Make Me Banner

Melissa got in touch and asked if I'd like to come along to one of her fab craft classes at her studio in Cobham, Surrey, and I jumped at the chance. My crafty prayers had been answered! I've known about MakeMe Workshops for a long time and always heard great things about both the variety and the quality of the classes Melissa and her tutors offer, so I was very excited to be able to try one out for myself, and finally get to grips with sewing. 

Last Friday I set off to attend one of their beginners sewing workshops, called 'The basics II - MakeMe a Cushion' to learn vital sewing skills and make, well ... a cushion. The closer I got to Cobham the more I started to think poor Melissa's task of teaching me to sew would be an impossible one; flashbacks to school textile classes of yore began dancing before my eyes and the nerves started kicking in.

However, any stress I'd felt instantly fell away as I entered the MakeMe studio. It is a charming little room filled to the brim with beautiful fabrics, haberdashery, and student's past projects that instantly fills you with the buzz of creativity. 

Studio Main Image (no People)

With a warm welcome from tutor and owner Melissa, and a cup of coffee in hand, I divulged my complete and utter lack of sewing skills to the room. I knew it was a basic skills class but I really wanted to get across just how basic my skills were so as not to give Melissa any false pretensions! Without a seconds pause Melissa replied, "Great! No problem! I love it when I get to teach absolute beginners, it means I can teach you good habits right from the get go". Her enthusiasm and no nonsense approach is both infectious and disarming; I instantly felt all my pre-sewing jitters disappear and was raring to go...

The class kicked off at 9.30am with all of us students sat around the table that had been neatly laid out with our supplies for making our cushion covers, plus a handy step-by-step print out of instructions that we could refer to throughout the class (and take home with us to use again later). Melissa confidently stated that we would all leave at 12.30pm with our very own handmade envelope cushion, complete with applique decoration - something that most of us had never dreamed we'd actually be able to do yet suddenly seemed achievable.

We had the morning to get our cushion covers made so there was no time for dilly dallying! We began with the basics; threading the machine. Thankfully Melissa uses Janome sewing machines (and swears by them) so I felt instantly at home having already practised on my own. 

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Next came picking our fabrics that we'd be working with, not an easy choice as there were so many gorgeous fabrics to choose from (I picked a bright and cheerful '60's style design). Then came picking the string to match our fabric, and pattern cutting. Each new step was clearly explained by Melissa, no matter how basic, which made it very easy to ask questions at any point without fear of sounding like a sewing school dunce.

The great thing about a class at MakeMe workshops is that you pick up a myriad of skills without even noticing because the whole process is so informal and fun. Before I knew it I'd learnt how to properly measure out and cut a pattern, measure, fold and iron a seam and I hadn't even finished my first cup of coffee! 

Plus, the fact that there was just five of us in the class in total was great as it made for a really friendly and relaxed atmosphere and also meant that Melissa could give us all individual attention as and when needed. 

Each stage of the class was clear and easy to follow, and never once felt daunting; ideal for nervy beginner sewers like me. Although the class was just a few hours long it didn't feel rushed and we were all eased into each new technique; many of us hadn't used a sewing machine in years so Melissa gave us a chance to practice sewing in a straight, wobbly and curvy lines on scrap linen until we felt happy to start on our actual projects. At last, I had finally perfected the art of sewing in a straight line and I don't mind telling you it made me feel like a total sewing pro! 

Me Cutting Fabric

The final stage was to decorate our cushion covers with a simple applique design; a great way for Melissa to slip in a few extra basic techniques for us to learn. We certainly all discovered the eternal delights of Bondaweb and zig zag stitching! 

After 3 months of rather crippling sewing fear it only took a 3 hour MakeMe workshop to instill in me the confidence and skills to design and make a project from scratch, complete with straight lines! My cushion now sits pride of place on my sofa at home and puts a big smile on my face every time I see it because now I can finally say 'I made that!'.

Main Image Of Owl Cushion

A big thanks to Melissa for having me on the course, it was great fun and I thoroughly recommend you all pop along and give one of their amazing craft classes a go. 

For more information about MakeMe Workshops click here.

Group Shot Outside











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