Using up Scraps

You know how people say the best way to measure the generosity of a person is by seeing how kind they are to someone who has nothing to give them in return? I think the same test could be used to define the commitment level of a creative re-user. While anyone could make something out of an old pair of jeans, it’s how they treat the leftovers that separates the crafters from the re-users.

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After countless afternoons upcycling denim into reusable shopping bags, coasters, and more, I’ve been left with the gnarliest, most random strips of fabric. Still I saved them. Denim is my new favorite material (don’t tell the others), so sturdy and so versatile. I was certain I’d find a way to use these odds and ends.

Then the clutter started getting to me. I’m bringing in more obtainium these days, so much that we’ve started calling our tiny office/extra room “The Craft Store.” Stuff piled on the floor. Stuff piled on other stuff. Some stuff organized and stored in the back of our cars. So, I started taking a hard look at what I was keeping.

Then, in a moment of true serendipity, I saw a project made entirely of remnants and was grateful I saved all these odds and ends. How else could I have made a denim rag wreath? Or this denim-covered initial?

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These are both what I call “someday projects” – the kind that don’t warrant cutting up a full pair of jeans. Yeah, little known fact: denim doesn’t grow on trees, so creative re-users avoid cutting large sections into smaller ones (at least, I believe, the more committed ones do; see theory above). That’s the joy and the challenge of creative reuse. Sometimes you have to wait.

And sometimes you stumble onto an idea you might never have tried if you weren’t looking for ways to use up your scraps.

Remember all the t-shirt yarn I made last year? I learned that some t-shirts make better yarn than others, but not before I had several balls of practice strips – cut too narrowly, cut against the grain, or that weren’t conducive to crocheting, because the fabric didn’t have enough give.

2015-02-24 12.27.44As it turns out, that inferior t-shirt yarn works beautifully for covering wire hangers. It’s thicker/wider than typical yarn, so the pattern works up differently. The texture works well for keeping slippery fabrics from slipping off the hanger. And it’s a great way to use up my leftovers, which otherwise might have been compost-bound.

Some days I let the clutter overwhelm me and long to put everything in pretty boxes, throwing away whatever doesn’t fit. But those are the projects I should be most attentive to – the ones where it’s not obvious what they have to give back. Because they do and they will. Sometimes I just have to wait.


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