Last week’s blog covered some of my favorite quilting tools, conventional and unconventional. So this week, I thought I would continue with this unconventional theme. I’m going to talk about recycling, upcycling and things that will help save you money. And who doesn’t want to save money? These tips are ones I use all the time when I’m quilting and maybe they will be some you like and will adopt as well. Let’s get started!
Tip #1 – Batting
So you trim pieces of batting and are collecting them. What do you do with all these extra pieces? If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know I do not like to throw things away when I can. find a use them. Well, here’s two ways to use and reduce all these scraps of batting.
The first way is to purchase batting seam tape and use it to make larger pieces of batting from the scraps!
It’s actually very simple to use. Heat your iron to the wool setting for all types of batting, except full polyester. For 100% polyester batting, use the silk or synthetic setting. The instructions say to use steam but I used my iron dry and it worked just as well, you can test it out both ways if you like. So here’s the steps:
Butt the two edges of the batting pieces up to each other as shown in the first photo on the left. If you need to trim edges to make them a little straighter, do that before lining them up. Then, lay the tape across the seam (photo2) and press with your iron (photo 3). Now you have a larger piece of batting (final photo)! This strip of batting can now be added to another one to make a bigger piece.
Option two can be done if you don’t have any batting seam tape. You just need your sewing machine! Here are the pieces I want to work with:
Like I said above, trim up sides to make them a little more even and you can even lightly press the pieces of batting so they lay a bit flatter, but that’s not required.
Now, set your machine to a zig zag stitch and attach your zig zag foot. Like with the seam tape, butt the edges together that you want to join and zig zag stitch them together. You may need to play with the width of your stitch to make sure it catches both sides.
As you can see from the photo on the left, my stitching is joining the pieces. On the right is my stitched together piece of batting that is now big enough for a table runner I am ready to quilt.
Tip #2 – Fabric
Another thing I do not like to waste is fabric. We all know how expensive it is, so I like to use up as much as I can and throw away very little, if any. Here’s a one of my fabric saver tips and few ways to use up fabric scraps and reduce waste.
First – A Fabric Saver: If you only have a few flying geese units to make and are not using the “no waste” method to make them… or if you do not like to use that method, here’s a way to not feel guilty about using the traditional method. Here are the pieces needed to make my geese unit:
To start, instead of drawing just one diagonal line from corner to corner on the wrong side of the small squares, draw an additional line 1/2 inch away from the first line:
Now place the square face down on the rectangle, just like you always do when making flying geese, and stitch along the drawn lines. Once that is done, cut 1/4″ in from the first diagonal line (between the stitched seams).
After you press open the this side and repeat the step on the other side, you not only end up with a flying geese unit but also two half-square triangle squares! You can also chain piece these geese units. It just takes an extra line of stitching so it doesn’t slow you down too much.
Now if I am not ready to use those HSTs in a project, I store them in a container in my sewing room. Eventually, I will have enough HSTs to make a pieced border for another quilt or a small table topper.
Using up scraps:
- Now what do you do with the scraps that you really can’t work into a scrap pattern? Like the little container above, I keep one for scraps. A lot of these scraps are ends of strip sets or little pieces from the end of a strip.
Fill it up and then you can use the scraps to stuff an old pillow case to make a pet bed. If you don’t have any pets, check in with your local pet shelter to see if they need a donation of pet beds.
- As I have covered before, keep scraps in tubs for appliqué pieces if you do fabric appliqué.
Since I have tubs of this scrap fabric in a variety. of colors, I don’t need to cut into a larger piece of fabric for some flower appliqué, for example. I can also use this fabric for sample blocks to test out color combinations without cutting into brand new fabric.
- Finally, save the selvages! You can make one of the fun projects from patterns, that are on the market, to use those up. You can also use them around the house to tie things together or add a bow to a gift for a quilting friend….. or for a cat toy!
Tip #3 – Recycling Items – Pick of the Week
Last week I had a few ideas on taming the bobbins you have in your sewing drawer. I like to wind several bobbins in the thread color I am using for a large project so I can quickly change one out when it’s empty. Here’s a storage idea for those bobbins that recycles an empty pill container.
Another use for a pill container is as a thread tamer! I like to take hand projects on the road or outside on a sunny day, especially binding projects that only take one spool of thread. I use the pill container this way:
Carefully poke a hole in the pill bottle top (left photo). Then place the spool of thread in the bottle, threading the thread through the hole you created in the top. Now you can pull out the amount of thread without the spool getting away from you.
I also use this idea for perle cotton for when I do wool appliqué. Have you seen these little plastic containers in the food saver aisle in the store? I use these to tame my spools of perle cotton while pulling out the amount of thread I want. As with the pill container top, poke a small hole in the top of this container for the thread to feed through.
Fun, right? This is also a good way to keep the cat away from the threads while you are stitching.
If I have a lot of perle cotton colors I need to work with and want to tame the thread I am currently using, consider picking up a school pencil box. You can fit up to eight spools in this box and feed the thread you are using out from under the cover:
The box measures 8 1/2″ x 4″ x 1.6″ with a removable cover. The cover fits just loosely enough so the thread pulls through without snagging.
- Here’s a few random tips just for fun. Use a small makeup brush to clean out your sewing machine when needed. This is a good tool if your machine didn’t come with a brush or a good replacement if you have lost the brush that came with your machine.
- Use an orange peeler as a stiletto. The advantage to this is the end of the peeler is not super sharp (at least mine isn’t) so there’s less of a chance of it poking a hole in your fabric.
- Use a colored Post-it Note to make your machine needle easier to thread. See the difference when you hold the piece of paper behind your needle?
- Finally this is a safety thing. Use an empty rotary blade container to collect old rotary blades and an empty mechanical pencil lead container to collect old needles. This makes it safer to discard these things when the containers are full because they won’t be floating around in a garbage bag where they can poke through and injure someone.
Well, that’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed my recycling and up-cycling tips. Share some of yours below. Maybe we’ll all learn something new!
Karla Larkin says
Love the tips! To corral my bobbins I put them in the toe separator for polishing nails. It helps keep the loose ends in check.
Donna S says
All great tips. The orange peel as a stiletto is new for me. I need to do a better job keeping my hst together in one container. Where do you get your fusible batting tape? I’ve been having trouble locating the tape lately. Thanks
Hi! I have found it at my local quilt shop. You can also find it on Amazon:
Wonderful tips. I already do the fusing of batting and the used blades tips. Batting is also great to cover foam board to make portable design boards. You can make so many different sizes.
Eileen Keane says
I’ve avoided using the tape for fusing batting pieces together because a few people told me that the sections under the tape become harder than the batting. Have you had this happen at all? How hard is it to quilt through the tape?
I have not had that trouble. At least the tape I use (above) is very soft and stays that way once it’s pressed on.
I definitely need to get some of that fusible batting tape!
Julie DeBower says
Several excellent tips! I especially like the ones that you can pull the thread through the lid as I have cats and it never fails–if they can get ahold of your spool of thread to bat it around the room they definitely will!
Cat-proofing is a full time job sometimes. 🤣
Thank you for the great tip for cat-proofing the thread. I used one of the coleslaw containers from KFC.
Another great container that works!
Eugenia Read says
Thank you for all the terrific tips! I have used them all at one time or another. Also thank you for the reminder that I need to buy more fusible batting tape. I have finally finished decluttering and am feeling well enough to return to quilting. So many projects to catch up on and I have a new project at the start line. I have some mini awls that double as a fabric feeder. I really have to admit I had an “aha” moment when I discovered more uses for the makeup brushes. I have one in my homemade recycled tool can for dusting off my plants after they are in the soil and one in my sewing machine cleaning kit. I do keep my used rotary blades in their containers and sharpen them when I have time. Pill bottles house bent and/or broken pins and needles but will now house bobbins too. A wooden flat edge spatula doubles as a seam presser when fingers/hands are sore and achy. That’s about it for now….I’m baaack!
Yay! All good tips for recycling/up-cycling. Enjoy your projects!
I use a gum container that has a small flip opening for my perle cotton thread. It works well. I leave a small piece poking out of the flip top so it is easy to grab.
Good use for that container!
Jenedel Wilcox says
I save and wash the plastic containers that sandwiches and other foods come in from the grocery store. They are great for organizing scraps as I cut them for blocks; square ones work for containing small blocks waiting to be joined or for handstitching EPP projects; extra HST’s waiting for a scrappy quilt or mugrug. The empty rectangular ones nest for storage. Thanks for your great tips.
Great way to re-use a container. Sounds like they are small enough to make your project portable.
Ann Roberson says
I use a clear spinach container for my current EPP project and supplies. I have multiple pencil boxes. One has binding supplies. Another is for hand appliqué and a third is for hand quilting. Each has appropriate threads, needles, pins or clips, a thimble and scissors.