Scrap Busting with Zippered Pillow Covers

Salutations and greeting fellow makers! This week I want to talk about scrap busting. This is different from stash busting. With stash busting, you are trying to use up a collection of material that you have accumulated over the course of some amount of time. Stash busting is great to do periodically, especially if your stash has started to infringe on your happiness in some way: you are spending too much, not using up enough, you are hiding purchases from a spouse or significant partner, it's starting to take up space, you feel guilty about the size of your collection, etc. If your collection is not a source of problems in your life, then I say continue on. But if you are having negative emotions about it, it may be time to tackle that problem. We can even talk about stash busting at some point. But today I want to tackle how I recently handled all my little scrappy bits of fabric I had leftover from various projects.

When we sew, even the most thrifty sewist is going to have some leftover fabric. There are "zero waste" sewing projects out there, but I have yet to try them, and practically speaking, the boxy/loose/drapey shapes that results from zero waste sewing do not appeal to my personal aesthetic.

I have been saving project leftovers for much longer than I have been sewing. I usually save my little bits of yarn trimmed off projects after weaving in ends to use as doll stuffing. Last year, I saved fabric scraps leftover from from making quilt blocks (the quilt is not finished, don't ask to see it, apparently quilting was my gateway craft to garment sewing.) This year I have been saving all the leftover pieces from my garment sewing adventures. I keep a little basket underneath my sewing machine. Lately it holds the kids' electronics, but before that, it was the repository for all my fabric scraps. Once the fabric scraps filled up the basket, I dumped them into a large clear plastic tote with a latching lid. And then it happened, I filled up a tote. And then my basket overflowed again, so I needed another large tote. I eventually realized that I would end up overrun with fabric scraps by the end of the year if I continued trajectory.

I had previously listened to a scrap busting episode on the Love to Sew podcast. There were lots of great ideas there, and some I will definitely try out in the future. But I wanted something more practical for myself, for right now, as I am not ready to sew a million little things with scraps of fabric when I am still excited about sewing clothes. So, I drafted (can you believe I'm actually, already drafting patterns of my own?!) a pattern for a box cushion cover with a zipper. I went through my stash and decided to use a cotton/linen blend that I purchased from Alewives Fabrics. I had 4, 1-yard cuts of fabric that coordinated with each other in sets of two. The tops and bottoms were made with one print, and the sides were cut from a contrasting/coordinating fabric. All together I was able to make 4 cushions that coordinate with each other without being identical.

The sewing process was fairly simple. Giving myself a half-inch seam allowance on all pieces, I cut two large-ish squares of fabric, and three rectangles that were 4 inches tall and the same length as one of the sides of the square. I then also cut two additional rectangles that were 2.5 inches tall and the same length as a side of the square. I basted the two small rectangles together along the long side, pressed my seam open and sewed my zipper in, centered along the basted seam. I sewed around all four sides of the zipper, backstitching along the short ends. I turned this over and used a seam ripper to open the basting along the zipper, and unzipped the zipper. The I attached each of the rectangles along one side of the square, right sides together, starting and stopping a half inch short of either end. Then I took the other the other square and attatched it to the rectangles in a similar manner. Finally, i sewed the short ends of the rectangles together, making sure to catch the corners of the top and bottom covers. Back stitch at both edges of the short ends so nothing comes unraveled. Then I flipped the pillows right side out, and marveled at how amazing I am while I checked each of the corners to check for any gaps or holes.

After I sewed my cushion covers it was time to sort through the scraps. Out came the totes and the fabric basket got dumped into the half empty tote. I opened up one cushion, rolled the opening outward a little so that it stayed open and set it inside the now empty basket. I ended up sorting my scraps into 4 piles using the tote lids to keep the scraps off the cat-fur covered rug: one tote ended up holding "scraps" that were large enough to sew something from (pockets, dolls, color blocked clothing pieces), another tote ended up holding two different piles: the random scrap pieces that were regular enough shaped to make scrap quilt blocks with, and the scraps small enough to stuff dolls with (the kids love dolls stuffed with fabric because it makes them feel heavy and solid, and I can wash the dolls without fear of my stuffing clumping up). The final "pile" of scraps were all the pieces too big to use as doll stuffing, too small to sew with, and too irregular to make scrappy quilt blocks with. These pieces went into the cushion cover. I managed to fill 1.5 cushion covers with these fabric scraps, I filled one large tote with pieces big enough to sew with, and the other tote is mostly empty (I may downsize this into two smaller totes to keep these scrap piles separate and use the large tote for something more practical, like seasonal clothes.

The kids loved the cushion when it was finished and were fighting over who got to sit on it first. As soon as they got bored and vacated the cushion, the cat checked it out. I like that the cushion is so solid and heavy. I have no problem throwing it on the floor, I'm not worried about it getting dirty or furry with cat hair. If it does get dirty, I can just unzip it, dump out the contents into another cushion cover and wash it.

All in all, it took me about a week to make these because I could only work on the project a little bit here and there. But it was such a satisfying project to make. The empty cushion covers now live folded up at the bottom of the basket, awaiting their turn to become useful holders of fabric scraps. I have a cover open in the basket under my sewing table to toss my scraps into, and there is enough room leftover in the basket for the girls' kindles to live when they are not being used+. In the future, when I start filling my fourth cushion cover, I will probably make four more. They are so easy and practical to make and use, and I am quickly becoming a huge fan of batch sewing. When I have more filled cushions than I need, I can gift them to local friends that I know will appreciate them (I'm not sure I would mail them full of stuffing as they are actually quite heavy when they are full of fabric.)

+ In case you are wondering why the kindles live in the basket under my sewing table, it is because the 5-year old is aggressive with the power cord and has broken several cords as well as 1 kindle, and the 8-year old needs heavy monitoring of her electronics usage. If the devices live in the sewing room it's easy to keep an eye on when the kindles get used/checked out and I can help little hands gently plug their devices back in.

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