Part three of the scrap project series is here in time for all your last minute Christmas gift making! We’re just two weeks away from the big day now, but that’s still enough time to make some quick projects as stocking fillers and gifts. Some of these ideas take less than an hour, others might take a couple of evenings – so depending on the time you have available to you, there should be enough ideas here for you to make lovely Christmas gifts out of your scraps.
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Toys are a must for children, though that doesn’t mean it’s just kids who will enjoy them. There is, after all, this line in The Christmas Song:
“And so I’m offering this simple phrase
to kids from one to ninety-two
although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you”
Amigurumi Christmas gifts
Amigurumi is brilliant for scrap busting, as you typically need less than 25g of any one particular colour of yarn. This is perfect for using up leftover balls that you might have accumulated from various projects – I know I have a few thanks to patterns stating you need 100g of yarn, when you actually only need that colour for five or six stitches.
There’s lots of different amigurumi patterns out there which cover everything from the natural world to popular franchises like Star Wars and The Legend of Zelda – plus with designers such as Amour Fou Crochet designing real people as amigurumi, it’s easier than ever to create mini versions of people that you or the person you’re making for look up to. These cute cuddly models may well make someone’s Christmas!
Fat quarter toys
There’s lots of patterns for making toys from fat quarters, so you’re bound to find something perfect for the person you’re making for. I like this elephant design from The Make It Room; it actually looks like an elephant as well as being a decent size, making it easy for beginner sewists to make. If the person you’re making for likes rabbits, this bunny doll pattern by Red Ted Art is quite sweet – plus you can make the bunnies different clothes if you like too.
I also really like these dinosaur tails – a fun thing for kids to wear and tire themselves out with as they run around and play in them!
Toy mats make great Christmas gifts
If you are making for young children, a play mat might be a perfect gift to make with your scraps and some larger offcuts. This one by Rebecca Page looks like it would give kids hours of fun, simply because the little scenes on it are so varied that they could use all sorts of toys with it, not just cars. With scenes ranging from a volcano with dinosaurs, to a campsite with a bear, or even a castle with a dragon, there’s lots to stimulate their imagination just on the one mat. Several are interactive too, which will add to the fun!
Toys and accessories for pets
Cat and dog toys are a great way to use up scraps while also giving your pets some fun and love!
As cats tend to kick and scratch their toys, a tougher fabric like denim, twill or canvas is best as the outer, though you could stuff the toy with lots of teeny scrap pieces rather than toy stuffing to make it a bit sturdier (and use up said scraps). Speaking from experience, soft fabrics like felt don’t last long at all – one of my cats once tore through a brand new felt mouse in less than ten minutes. The Spruce Crafts have a tutorial for handsewing a mouse toy for cats which you could adapt for a sewing machine, or Women’s Weekly have a pattern for a larger mouse to be sewn on a sewing machine.
Dogs on the other hand tend to bite and chew their toys, giving you a few more options. You could bind strips of cotton fabric together and then braid these to make a toy for playing tug’o’war with your dog – a particularly popular pastime for one of my friends’ dogs who never likes to give up what she’s got in her mouth. You could also make a bone toy that you can use to play fetch with around the house, since it’s soft enough to not cause any breakages (though in its excitement, the dog might!)
You can also make pet beds with reasonable ease – dog beds are super straightforward, as they can essentially be large pillows. Be sure to stuff the bed with your old clothes and bedsheets, as dogs like to curl up on things which smell like their owners! Dog beds made by hand make for thoughtful Christmas gifts. Cats can be funny – it depends entirely on their character as to whether they’ll prefer a covered bed (like a cat cube or cat tent) or an open one. Mine seem to quite like pouffes and beanbags. The Closet Core Patterns Pouffe could be adapted to make a cat bed, or I also have the Adrafil Pouffe pattern which I’m considering making for each of my cats. If your cat likes a straightforward basket style cat bed, Tuesday Stitches has a great tutorial on how to make one and I’m sure this could be adapted to make a covered cat bed.
Dog coats are another useful item you can make for your pet – this time of year, many will need a little help keeping warm while out and about! Closet Core Patterns have recently released a dog coat pattern which could easily use up some larger offcuts you have, or you could patchwork and quilt one reasonably easily.
Jewellery is a great way to use up scraps – whether it’s making a big statement necklace or some delicate earrings, you can make something for everyone reasonably quickly. You might need to get some jewellery findings (necklace catches, earring backs etc) and maybe some beads to help finish your jewellery off though.
One of the first patterns which comes to mind for necklaces is this Tunisian Crochet Necklace by Sek Handmade. It’s designed to be an introduction to Tunisian crochet and as such, the pattern doesn’t require you use Tunisian hooks – after all, there’s no point buying a new set of hooks just for Tunisian crochet if you decide you don’t like it. The pattern is easily customised with two colours or different beads, so you could make several necklaces as Christmas gifts for different people and easily customise each one for the individual.
This necklace tutorial by Manvi Gadotra on Style Inked is a great way to use up long strips of fabric and turn it into something really lovely. It even uses a button as the necklace catch, so you’ll be able to use up some spare notions while making this too. For those into macrame, you could turn your leftover rope into this necklace from A Beautiful Mess.
As earrings themselves are quite small, you’ll likely find you’ll need small diameter crochet hooks and fine needles to make them – but don’t let this put you off as there’s some beautiful designs and they don’t take much time to make.
Sek Handmade has a few patterns for crochet earrings – the Grand Arches, the SEK Loop and the Simple Tassel. Etsy seems to be the best place overall to find earring patterns, with everything from Santa hat earrings to funky hoop designs and even delicate flowers.
Teeny scraps of fabric can be used to cover stud earrings, making the most out of all your leftovers! Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to use a cover button kit with a smooth back and then glue the earring stud onto the back of your button – this way you have a range of different sizes and some different shapes you can make too. You could make earrings this way with regular buttons too, if you want to use up some spare notions.
The world is your oyster when making brooches from scraps; all you really need is the brooch back and you can turn almost anything into a brooch. I’ve made fabric moths as brooches, you could turn tiny pieces of textile art into brooches, or kanzashi flowers also work really well.
This felt Snowy Owl pattern is my favourite; I have always loved owls but I get tired of the cartoony versions that are everywhere in fashion and homewares. A lot of them don’t even look like actual owls anymore. This one, however, is beautiful and actually looks like a Snowy Owl. The designer, Whimsylandia, has several other patterns that look like real owls too – a Barn Owl, a Great Grey Owl and a Great Horned Owl – so you can choose which owl is your favourite. If you don’t have any felt but still want to make these, I imagine you could make these from fabric – you’d either need to zigzag the edges together or leave yourself enough space for seam allowances when cutting out.
There’s lots of different crochet brooches you can make too. Flowers are popular to make as brooches – both flat and 3D designs work quite well and most crochet flower patterns are the right size for a statement brooch. I really like this acorn and leaf design – it’s just something a little different. This cute little fox also makes an interesting piece and would be easy to make as an Arctic Fox if you wanted to – or you could even make the Crystal Fox creature from Star Wars by beading it.
If the person you’re making for travels a lot in normal times, or perhaps lives across a couple of different addresses (for example, splitting their time between their house and a partner’s house), a jewellery roll could prove to be a very useful and much loved gift.
Using just two contrasting fabrics and some bias binding, this is a reasonably straightforward make that requires less than a fat quarter’s worth of fabric. I would recommend having a stiff fabric like canvas or twill as your contrast fabric to give the roll a bit of strength though – I’ve made one using quilting cottons and even with interfacing it just didn’t feel quite strong enough, whereas I’ve made another with canvas and it felt like it would last a long time.
I used this pattern by Positively Splendid for both of the jewellery rolls I made – though I substituted the internal velcro pocket for a zippered one. I also made the earring holder from two pieces of fabric sewn together and 2mm eyelets punched into it, rather than using vinyl as recommended – however you could also make this using the same methods as described in the tutorial with cork fabric or a spare bit of leather if you have them to hand.
Useful protective items as Christmas gifts
Protective cases can be easily overlooked – especially when tech like new tablets costs quite a bit of money. Thankfully though, it’s reasonably straightforward to protect these items with lovely handmade cases – which are also more environmentally friendly than the cheap plastic and faux leather ones you can find on the high street.
There are plenty of crochet and knitting patterns for these items too, though as they need to protect delicate (and often expensive) items I’d sew them instead – it’s much easier to include protective wadding when sewing than it is to try and include it when knitting or crocheting. I’ve therefore not included any knitting or crochet patterns in this section.
If you know someone who wears glasses, a glasses case might make a nice gift for them – especially if they’re forever breaking or damaging their glasses when not wearing them! You can use most patterns for sunglasses as well as prescription glasses, so you may find yourself making several different glasses cases throughout the year.
If perhaps the person has green fingers or enjoys being in nature, this button catterpillar glasses case is quite a sweet design. Alternatively, this patchwork design is great for using up those last little bits of fabric from several pieces which compliment each other. Ultimately, most glasses cases are simple rectangular shapes, so you don’t necessarily need a pattern to make one. You could easily add a flap with buttons to prevent the glasses from falling out of the case (or anything getting into it) and a nice extra touch which wouldn’t take too much time would be to embroider or appliqué the person’s name or initial onto the case too.
Many people have tablets, kindles and large smartphones these days and it’s always a good idea to have a case to protect these. Since most tablets are rectangular, making a case is pretty straightforward, though there’s a couple of options for how you make it.
For a very straightforward cover to sew, you can’t go wrong with this tutorial from Pat Bravo Design. It’s easy to change sizes based on the size of tablet or phone the person you’re making it for has, which is useful too. If you’d prefer to make a case which can stay on the tablet, then this tutorial by Charmed Leibling might be more appropriate.
While not a case, a tablet stand might be more useful for the person you’re making for – this could also be scaled up to make a book stand for recipe books, if the person likes cooking. It looks like it could be a good item to patchwork too, making it perfect for using up all those little scraps.
Bathroom and personal care
Lots of people buy cosmetics as gifts, so why not make some items they can use with those cosmetics? Personal care is actually one of the biggest areas that we can make a meaningful reduction in plastic usage, plus most things that you can make for the bathroom are small and quick to put together (which is a big bonus now there’s only a couple of weeks to go!)
Reusable face wipes - underrated Christmas gifts!
Small, straightforward and fantastic for scrap busting, resuable face wipes are super popular. They’re easy to make, whether you’re crocheting or sewing some, and they typically take just a couple of hours to make five or six. They’re also perfect for beginners to make, as they use very simple stitches.
To sew, cut circles or squares around 8x8cm in an outer fabric (ideally something soft like cotton flannel) and the same shape and size of wadding or towelling – you could even use old towels for this, if say there’s a hole in the middle but the towelling is fine in other areas. Pin the fabrics together in a sandwich, so you have an outer fabric, then your wadding or towelling, then another piece of outer fabric, and simply stitch together using a zigzag stitch. Alternatively you could finish the edges with herringbone tape or bias binding for a neater edge, or you could simply have one side as outer fabric and the other as towelling, so you have two different finish options. Having a side with towelling on is particularly popular for people with problem skin, as it can help exfoliate and therefore prevent blackheads and spots from forming. For folk with sensitive skin or even issues like eczema, I’d definitely stick to both sides in the soft flannel outer fabric, as this is much less likely to irritate their skin. If you’re using wadding rather than towelling, I’d be inclined to sew outer fabric on both sides as wadding can be quite wispy in its construction and may get easily damaged if used regularly (it’ll also be easier to sew if the wadding is sandwiched between two outer fabrics).
There’s lots of different crochet patterns out there for “face scrubbies” and these are the same thing as reusable face wipes – I think face scrubbies is just an American name for them. Personally, I have Moara Crochet’s pattern for textured face scrubbies, though you can also find ones with sakura (cherry blossom) patterns, square ones, ones which come as part of a spa set and even ones which come with a pattern for little baskets to keep them in. They’re perfect for using up your leftover yarn scraps, as they only take a few metres worth of yarn to make and there’s no need to make them all the same colour. It is worth saying that cotton yarn is the best for making these though, as it’s easy to wash and look after while also being kind to skin.
As many people are turning to bar soap and solid shampoos, having a soap saver around could prove very useful indeed. The idea is you put the soap straight in there from it being a new bar and the soap saver will act as an exfoliator when you use it. It’ll also capture all the little ends and shards of soap that break off as the soap gets used, so you’ll be able to use all of the soap bar easily without half of it disappearing down the drain before you can catch it! Most soap savers are based on a simple drawstring bag design, so you could sew one if you wished from cotton flannel, though it’s more popular (and possibly more practical) to crochet one.
I have Moara Crochet’s leaf soap saver pattern, but there’s lots of different styles out there. You could make a pineapple one, a mermaid one, one with fancy looking stitches like this puff and thistle one, or even this snug little square one – it really depends on what you and the person you’re making it for like. The benefit of drawstring bag ones is that you can use the drawstring to hang it up when it’s not being used, thereby allowing both the soap and soap saver to dry out properly and extending the life of both.
Let’s face it, face masks aren’t going away any time soon – in fact, there’s a possibility we’ll be using them at least until this time next year. We may even adopt them in public during “normal” times similar to how South East Asian countries like Japan do. Having some good facemasks is therefore a good way to use up your scraps – and there’s so many styles out there, you’re bound to find one that fits just right.
However, there’s another kind of mask which is just as useful and perhaps less groan-inducing in a post-pandemic world: eye masks. Eye masks are popular for a variety of reasons – they can be used for sleeping and you can also get ones which are designed to apply heat or cold to your eyes. Craft Passion have a great tutorial for sewing eye masks – they suggest using dried mung beans as the filling for ones to be used as hot/cold packs, though you could use dried rice or pearl barley is popular for heated versions.
Having a soothing eye mask could be a nice present to someone who perhaps gets very little time to themselves to relax, or even for someone who suffers from headaches and migraines regularly. For someone who perhaps struggles with insomnia or simply just getting to sleep, you could also put some lavender in there – besides smelling nice, lavender is used to help improve the quality of sleep as it has naturally occurring chemicals which induce muscle relaxation and sleepiness.
Heat packs and hot water bottle covers
Heat packs use similar fillings to the soothing eye mask mentioned above, but are generally big enough to be used on backs, necks, shoulders, legs and anywhere else that you might get a sore muscle. As with the eye masks, you can use them as cold packs too simply by popping them in the freezer overnight (to heat them, they go in the microwave for no more than 2 minutes, but don’t do this straight from the freezer – they should be at room temperature before they go into the microwave). As with many other items, you can make very personalised ones in all sorts of shapes as well as very straightforward ones.
For a simple, straightforward heat pack, you can’t beat this tutorial on Instructables. Simply using one fat quarter of fabric folded in half lengthways, it’s a good size to use across shoulders and down spines, or even wrapped well around legs. If the person you’re making for likes animals, there’s a lot of options – how do foxes sound, or cats or even monsters?! If you can think of a cute creature (or monster), chances are there’s a sewing pattern to make it into a heat pack somewhere.
Similarly, hot water bottles are useful for soothing sore muscles as well as keeping your bed toasty warm, and many people already have at least one. Rather than buying a new hot water bottle when you need a new cover (as most new ones come with a cover and it can be difficult to find just a cover), you can easily knit or crochet covers to fit the hot water bottle you or your gift recipient already has.
My personal favourite is this cover designed to look like a Lewis Chessman – if you don’t know what the Lewis Chessmen are, they’re small, ancient chess pieces carved from walrus tusks that were found on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in the 1830s. There’s lots of other patterns out there though for both knitters and crocheters; from monkeys to monograms to cable designs, you’re bound to find one you like.
The humble handkerchief is perfect for scrap busting, especially if you have solid colour fabrics or a double sided pattern. Cotton is ideal for making hankies from, as it’s easy to wash and kind to skin; all you need is a square of fabric, finished with a simple turned over hem. You could use a decorative stitch or even some embroidery to finish the hankie if you wish, though depending on the pattern of the fabric and the person you’re giving it to, this might not be necessary.
Wrapping your Christmas gifts
There’s nothing stopping you from using scraps and offcuts to wrap your gifts in – in fact, this is becoming a popular alternative to using wrapping made from paper. It’ll last much longer and you can even make your wrapping part of the gift, if you like.
Christmas Gift wrap and Christmas gift bags
The Japanese have long used fabric to wrap gifts and other items. Known as furoshiki, the practice comes originally from two practices: bundling clothes together at public bath houses and wrapping valuables at shrines and temples. It’s since been used for everything from food to gifts and is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to single use gift wrap.
Furoshiki gift wrap needs a square cloth which can be knotted in order to wrap your items. This can be whatever size you need it to be, though there’s typically two sizes: 45x45cm and 70x70cm. The cloth can be knotted in any number of ways, depending upon the size and shape of the item(s) you’re wrapping – two books with great examples and explainations of how to wrap and knot the fabric are Furoshiki And The Art Of Japanese Gift Wrapping by Tomoko Kakita and Zero Waste Gift Wrap by Christine Leech.
Being simple squares, it’s fairly straightforward to make furoshiki wraps yourself from your offcuts and scraps – you just need a fabric which can take the weight of the item you’re wrapping and a simple turned over hem is all you need to finish it. You could even patchwork together lots of scraps into the right size square if you like. Ideally, the fabric would be reversible or have a double sided print, but I don’t think it’ll be an issue to use a single sided print or even a solid colour if you wanted to.
Another idea which is particularly useful if you’re gifting handmade clothing or accessories is to make a storage bag for them which can also be used as wrapping. This would be extremely useful for items made of wool in particular, as when they aren’t being used the storage bag will help to protect them from clothes moths. I’m making some packing cube style storage bags with little lavender bags in them to protect the gifts I’ve made for my family – lavender is brilliant at protecting clothes from moths and other insects, plus it doesn’t leave a strong smell like cedar does. I’m planning on “wrapping” these with some ribbon so they look a bit more like traditional gifts.
Gift bags are another way you can use up your scrap fabric and turn it into something useful. There’s a whole range of different gift bag styles you could make, so you can choose the most appropriate one for your skills, time and the person you’re gifting to. If you’re making gift bags for children’s gifts, you could also personalise them so they can be used every year.
Heather Handmade has a great tutorial for making drawstring bags or Soatak Handmade have some great options that could be used as gift bags, such as the Petunia Pouch, the Malmo Pouch or even the Juniper Basket. You could even make a small tote bag with a zipper top or a simple zipper pouch and use these as gift bags. I like the idea of making a gift bag that can be used by the recipient for more than just the gift you’re sending, as not only is this is more sustainable than a regular gift bag, I think it’s nice that it can have a life and purpose all of its own too.
Instead of buying Christmas cards, why not use your scraps to make some card toppers? Of course you’ll need some card to mount them to, but it gives you the freedom to design and make whatever you like for the front of your Christmas cards – with the added bonus that no two cards will be the same. A small wreath could be made by binding lots of scrap fabric or yarn together and topped with a little bow, or alternatively you could arrange small squares or strips of fabric in a circle before sewing them together. Stars, baubles and presents can be patchworked together, while trees could be made from strips of fabric like this one by H is for Handmade or even using selvedge edges like this one by Chris Dodsley. You could also use appliqué techniques to make things like puddings or robins. You can sew these individually and glue them onto the card or even sew directly to the card, whichever you prefer.
For knitters and crocheters, this is an opportunity to use up a lot of spare yarn quickly. This could be in the form of knitting or crocheting small flat pieces, or it could be as simple as using the ‘yarn lacing’ technique. Yarn lacing involves punching holes into the card in the shape of the design you want to make and sewing the yarn through these holes into your design. You can even cut lengths of yarn and glue them together to form the design, or place a piece of card with the design cut out of it on top, so it forms a window onto your yarn.
Cards give you the opportunity to also use up some spare notions, especially buttons and beads. Red buttons work well as holly berries, white ones could be mistletoe berries, while black beads are perfect for robin eyes. Buttons and beads could also be added to wreath or tree designs to make baubles or even tinsel (if stringing beads together), while ribbons and other trims can be used to make bows or little stars to top the tree with.
Christmas Gift sacks
Gift sacks are a popular way to put all an individual’s gifts together, regardless of who they’re from. This is great if you have a small child, as you could tell them Santa’s left a sack just for them. On a practical note, it also helps keep pets from accidentally damaging gifts – my cats love to mess around under the tree and occasionally they’ve ripped the wrapping on a gift.
Okay so Christmas gift sacks are technically bigger than most scraps and fat quarters, however there’s nothing stopping you making a patchwork one. They’re reasonably straightforward to make, as they’re effectively a couple of large rectangles sewn together and you can use some larger offcuts for the lining. There’s no set size to these either, so you can make them to fit the space you have and they’re easily personalised with names or initials.
So there you have it – lots of ideas for using up scraps and making nice Christmas gifts for your friends and loved ones. Happy Christmas crafting!