Start treating your offcuts with respect with these creative upcycling ideas for fabric scraps

Olivia Gecseg Monday, 19 August 2019

All fabric on the roll was made the same. So why do offcuts receive such different treatment from the material that goes into the finished designs? A shocking 15% of textiles intended for fashion garment production ends up on the cutting room floor. With most of this ending up on a landfill heap, it’s time we start paying a bit more respect to our scraps.

It’s difficult to avoid the term ‘zero waste’ these days, it’s become such an industry buzzword. But what practical steps can your business take to attain this revered status? In our Zero Waste Masterclass, we covered the opportunities open to designers - and we’ll soon be hearing from one the pioneers of zero waste fashion himself, Dr Timo Rissanen

One achievable step that you can implement is to find creative ways to upcycle your scraps and if you’re seeking inspiration, there are plenty of businesses who are already taking the lead in this field. In this post, we’ve collected six creative ideas from real-life case studies to give you the inspiration to work smartly with (and not against) your offcuts, reducing waste for a happier planet.


Upcycle your offcuts into accessories 

Smart sustainable brands are cottoning on to the potential of fabric scraps. Take eco-friendly clothing brand Milo + Nicki who create earrings, hair accessories and other trinkets out of their offcuts. Sold on their website as "Zero-Waste Accessories", the items retail for between $15-35 (US). You can see which garment from the main collection the fabric was originally used for in the item’s description which makes for such a savvy and transparent upselling model that we’d love to see more widely.

Make matching fabric packaging 

Fabric packaging that can be reused by the customer is a brilliant eco-friendly alternative to polythene bags and bubble wrap. Melissa Tatko, founder of fabric packaging business Re-wrap who sells to clients like Lush, says: 

"We all want to be able to deliver our goods in a way so that they arrive with our customer in a good, clean condition as well as beautifully presented."

Keep hold of your offcuts and transform them into drawstring bags or totes to house your products. Your customers will be seriously impressed with this luxurious touch. 

Run workshops using your scraps as the materials

Teach your customers a new skill and instil a newfound appreciation of your fabrics in a branded workshop and you’re really on to a winner. Creative fashion brand Raeburn partnered with outdoorswear label Finisterre to run a children’s workshop, making albatross toys out of their pattern room offcuts. 

Choose the end creation carefully - an item that will be treasured for years to come will draw the crowds and leave participants feeling accomplished and highly engaged with your brands. 

Create your own craft kits 

If you don’t have the means to run workshops, then how about constructing mini craft kits for customers using your surplus supplies? Craft is a really popular activity but buying supplies can be really overwhelming if you’re new to it all. As we heard from Sarah Marks, co-founder of the tremendously successful Buttonbag, kits are highly sought after items:

"We had packed into some small cardboard boxes lots of the scraps, literally the pieces of fabrics we weren't using for the costume kits.”- Sarah Marks, Buttonbag

Patch up your waste!

"There's always some leftover fabric and I just don't want to throw it away!! So I just start to create a new fabric out of the leftovers." - Sofia Ilmonen, Fashion Designer

Did you know that patchwork became a fashionable style for dressmaking during wartime?  Rationing forced women to get more creative with the little fabric they had, an attitude we can all take heed from in our current wasteful world. Last year, we saw a revival of patchwork designs on the catwalks of London, Paris, New York, (check out Doodlage for some high fashion patchwork of action). 

Incorporating your scraps into the designs clears up the waste your garments are creating and might be a simpler solution for you than zero waste pattern cutting. 

Watch our interview with fashion designer Sofia Ilmonen, to learn about her “Waste to Wonderful” technique. 

And finally...

If you can’t find a use for your offcuts within your business, how about donating scraps to a local school or college?

Thanks to massive cuts to funding, it’s a sad fact that textile arts are dying out in UK schools and colleges. If you have excess fabric, consider donating it to a local school and help develop the next generation of fashion designers and textile artists.