Christmas decorating season is upon us – are you ready? Making things for around the house is a great way to use up offcuts and leftover yarn, turning it into something you’ll use on a regular basis. While many of these makes can be used year round, winter (and Christmas in particular) is the time of year that we spend the most time inside and so it’s possible you’ll get more use from some items in this post during this time.
This is part two of the scrap busting projects series of posts.
Using your scraps to raise funds for charity
Put the decorating aside a minute, and instead decorate… a smoothie bottle? This time of year is a difficult one for a lot of people – and especially so this year. There’s typically lots of fundraising ideas for different charities as a result, though there’s two which you can easily do from the comfort of your own home while making.
Innocent Big Knit campaign
Having run for several years now, lots of people are aware of Innocent’s Big Knit, but perhaps not sure of how to get involved. If for some reason the sight of smoothie bottles wearing little woolly hats has escaped your attention, the idea is that the sale of each bottle with a hat carries a donation to Age UK. Lots of older people don’t have any family, and as we get older it can get very lonely as friends start to pass, or you simply aren’t mobile enough to get out of the house by yourself. Age UK use the money to visit older people and provide them with a human connection – whether that’s a game kit they can play with a visiting volunteer, or just someone’s time to sit and chat with. It’s potentially going to be a lot harder this year for many older people, as it’s quite likely some will have lost family and friends to the pandemic too.
There’s lots of patterns on their website to choose from and they cover absolute beginners all the way up to experts in both knitting and crochet. You could make a regular hat or tackle something a bit more challenging, like an owl, dinosaur or unicorn if you really want to – plus if you’re used to designing and making your own patterns, you could make your own special creations. Innocent are quite happy to accept any kind of little hat, as long as it fits the dimensions of their bottles.
These little hats are a really great way to use up leftover yarn – especially bits that are too short to make anything else with – and it’s free to post them off when you’re done making them. If you’ve already got hats from previously buying bottles, you can send them back to be used again too, so a single hat has the potential to raise a reasonable amount of money.
Mind Christmas Crafternoon
The mental health charity Mind have been running Crafternoons twice a year for some time, though they’ve become more popular and prominent this year. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that many people have turned to crafting as a way of getting through the pandemic, but it’s also wonderful to see that a mental health fundraising event is becoming so popular to hold. Mental health has been a big issue for lots of us this year as we deal with anxiety surrounding the virus, being cut off from family and friends, being furloughed or laid off from work and generally not being allowed or able to go about our normal daily lives, so it’s nice to see it being discussed and supported more openly than usual.
The Christmas Crafternoon technically takes place on 5th December, though there’s nothing really stopping you from holding one whenever suits you – Mind only suggest this date as it’s easier for them to promote the Crafternoon if everyone does it on the same day. They have a lots of ideas for things to make during the Crafternoon, though there aren’t any strict rules so making your scrap projects will still count. You could craft while live streaming on Zoom, Houseparty, Google Hangouts or even Facebook or Instagram, or you could simply have a group on Facebook or Whatsapp where you update what you’re making throughout the afternoon, whichever works for you. There’s lots of information on how to run your fundraiser on Mind’s website, plus things you can download to promote it – so don’t let the fact that you might not be able to hold a physical event get in the way.
Kitchen and dining decoration makes
From oven gloves to coasters, you might need to grab some heatproof wadding, but there’s so much you can make that I’m sure it’ll be worth it! Many of these ideas can be used year round too, so you’ll likely get a lot of use from them, or if you decide to give them as gifts you know that your loved ones will be receiving something they’ll enjoy using.
Coasters and placemats
There are lots of different ideas on how you could make coasters and placemats, using everything from macrame rope to felt strips.
We have coasters and placemats which my mother in law made for my husband many years ago, and they’re still used regularly. They’re a super simple construction – she used offcuts of the fabric the kitchen blind is made from to make them. Simply sandwich a piece of batting in between your two pieces of fabric, stitch together, then neaten the edges by binding with bias tape and viola! You now have some very useable coasters and placemats!
One idea I quite like is making coasters and placemats from strips of scrap or offcut fabric, as in this tutorial from The Crafty Gentleman. Yes he’s using felt and glue, but there’s no reason you couldn’t do the same thing with some strips of fabric and batting. You could have a patterned fabric and a plain one, or two different colours, and make these reversible by pairing the contrasting strips of fabric together when you sew them. By making them from fabric and batting, you’re also able to put them in the wash if you need to – felt can be washed, but it’s not really meant to be.
If you’ve gotten into making things with macrame and have some pieces of spare rope in different colours left, you could use this tutorial by MacrameUK to turn them into funky coasters. If you’re not a fan of the style or the fringes but you still want to use your macrame rope to make coasters and placemats, check out this tutorial from TL Yarn Crafts for a classic circular coaster design, or even this one from Create With Jenn for some cool celtic knot style coasters. All of these ideas should be possible to scale up to placemats too.
Trivets are really useful and you can make them in any number of ways. If you’ve never heard of them, they’re also known as pot holders and they’re used to prevent hot pans from leaving marks on tables and work surfaces. You could use a pattern for a coaster and scale it up if you wished, or try something completely different.
This crochet trivet pattern from Ideal Delusions is beautiful as well as functional. I love that there’s an option to make it look like poinsettia flowers too, as this could be perfect for someone who loves these fascinating plants – my parents have had one every year for as long as I can remember, and it is always named Fred (no idea why, my dad never explains). Alternatively you could use the pattern for an Afghan square to make your trivet, just with a loop included for easy storage.
If you decide make a crochet or macrame trivet, it would be worth adding some cork or sewing some heatproof wadding to the back of it to give your surfaces some added protection against the heat though. Without this, you could still mark your surfaces.
For sewists looking to make something you can use all year round, I’d recommend doing as my mother in law did for the placemats and coasters we have – that way, you can make something that’s the most appropriate size, shape and design for your kitchen and worktop. You can even patchwork a couple of squares or rectangles and use those to make your trivet if you don’t have any offcuts big enough for what you want. Add in a hanging tab and secure it in place by the bias binding around the edge, then when it’s not in use you can hang it up out of the way. Don’t forget to use some heat proof wadding when making your trivet though!
While most table runners might use a single, long piece of fabric, you could make a lovely patchwork or quilted one for your table from your offcuts and scraps.
Oliven have some nice patterns for table runners, including a ‘french braid’ or ‘chevon’ style and a wave design. Shabby Fabrics also have some interesting designs – my favourite is this maple leaf design, though they also have some funky looking ones specifically for Christmas. We rarely use tablecloths or table runners other than at Christmas time in our house, so if you’re like us then you might want to consider a Christmas specific pattern, like this crazy tree design or this holly appliqué design.
Napkins and napkin holders
Napkins are a super simple way to turn offcuts into something useful – and they’re easily customised too. All you need is a square of fabric (ideally a heavy weight cotton, linen or blend of the two). Napkins come in a range of sizes from 25cm square all the way up to 60cm square – though if you’re using these at home, the smaller sizes will be more than sufficient. A quick and easy way to finish the raw edges of your napkins is to do a turned over hem, though if you have a rolled hem foot for your sewing machine, you can also use this to create a super crisp, straight finish.
Napkins can be really easily customised with some embroidery or the use of some decorative stitches too, so they’re a straightforward yet satisfying make which you’ll want to use again and again.
Napkin holders are a nice way to give a little extra something to your table. You could make simple rings from any number of materials and embellish them with an appliqué design – for example, if making a set especially for Christmas, these could be trees, robins or even something different for each napkin. You could fasten your napkin rings with left over notions too, such as buttons, snaps or scraps of velcro. Another idea I’ve seen for napkin holders is to make a little pouch which neatly holds your napkin and your cutlery together.
Oven gloves are an essential item for any kitchen with an oven. They get tons of use and so at some point will get so burned, torn and stained that they’ll need replacing – or if you’re living by yourself for the first time, you may not even have any. Rather than buying some, these essentials are a great way to use up scraps and there’s a style of oven gloves out there for everyone.
You can crochet and knit oven gloves, though I really wouldn’t recommend this. Without wishing to be patronising, ovens are extremely hot and the whole point of oven gloves is to protect your hands. The few patterns I’ve seen for crocheted oven gloves do not allow any room or provide any instructions for fitting heat proof wadding and so you’re opening yourself up to a very real possibility of burning yourself.
We have a set of double oven gloves my mother in law made for my husband and they’re really useful. This tutorial for double oven gloves from She Can Quilt is quite easy to follow and is a good way of using up some fat quarters you might have clogging up your fabric stash.
Tiny oven mitts known as ‘fish heads’, ‘hearts’ or ‘finger mitts’ can be super useful for those using lightweight baking trays or perhaps taking hot plates from the kitchen to table. They’re very small as they’re designed to protect your fingers and palms and they get their various names from this mini design. Dresden Carrie has a great tutorial on how to make heart style mitts, while The Idea Room have a tutorial for finger mitts which more closely resemble mini double oven gloves.
Skip to my Lou have a straightforward tutorial on how to make a gauntlet style oven glove – you can make an individual one or a pair as you require of these. Gauntlet style gloves might be preferable if you have a big oven which gets extremely hot – for example, my parents had a log burning Rayburn when I was younger and my dad had an uncanny ability to get it going so hot that the hotplates on top blazed red hot! You really did not want to touch any part of the oven when it was that hot, so long gauntlet gloves which protected your arms were a necessity.
There’s also the more traditional ‘pot holder’ style of individual oven gloves – these are typically simple square gloves, though you can get some more interesting shapes too. Pineapples anyone? Or how about some owls? There’s sure to be a pattern that suits everyone for funky oven gloves in the pot holder style.
Teapot and mug cosies
Mug cosies are a brilliant way to use up your leftover yarn while keeping your cuppa at just the right temperature. There’s lots of different patterns and styles out there – from the minimal and straightforward, to cable designs, to some rather more outrageous options. There’s even Christmas ones, which feature Christmas jumpers, Santa or sometimes Rudolph.
Mug cosies can be used for “regular” mug sizes as well as travel mugs and you can tailor most of them to fit your own mugs, which is handy if you have some oddly shaped ones. You can of course sew mug cosies, though the designs aren’t as eye catching as they are for knitted and crocheted cosies – often they’re a simple quilted rectangle with a couple of buttons. There’s honestly so many out there that it’s difficult for me to pick some to point you in the direction of, so just type “mug cosy pattern” into google and find one you like!
It’s probably worth a reminder to take your mug cosy off your mug if you decide to reheat your cuppa in the microwave… that likely wouldn’t end well for your cosy.
Teapot cosies have been around for a very long time and they do much of the same thing, if you use a teapot. As with mug cosies, there’s lots of different styles out there – from minimal ones all the way to a fairy house or even Grommit (perfect for an Aardman Animations fan) – so there’s definitely one out there for every household.
Wax wraps and bowl covers
Wax wraps and bowl covers are super useful to have, plus they’re much more environmentally friendly than plastic clingfilm.
The easiest way to make wax wraps is to buy a rewax bar from the Beeswax Wrap Co – they make them in both beeswax and vegan wax and you simply grate them over your fabric and either pop them in the oven or iron them to make your wraps (there’s lots of great tutorials from the Beeswax Wrap Co that you can follow on caring for your wraps, including how to use the rewax bars). Specific rewax bars are much better than plain wax for making wraps, as they also include jojoba oil and pine resin which helps the wraps to last much longer as well as to be the right amount of sticky – wax by itself will crack easily and won’t stick to itself or around bowls very easily. You can make the wax recipe yourself, but it’s not especially easy to do and the pine resin will stick to everything, so it’s much better to use the rewax bars (I’m speaking from experience here).
You won’t be able to use wax wraps with raw meat, as you can’t wash them in a high enough temperature to deal with the bacteria from the meat, but you can use them for everything from wrapping spare bits of cheese and loaves of bread to lunches and snacks. At the end of their life, you can either rewax them or cut them up and use them as firelighters for log burners, firepits or barbecues.
Bowl covers are helpful for keeping things like salads or marinading foods free of insects, plus they’re great for covering leftovers with or helping doughs to prove and rise. Lilyella Stitchery has a great pattern which explains how to size these correctly for your own bowls and dishes – as well as how to make the bias binding for around the edges. As these bowl covers are washable in a washing machine, you can use them for years to come and with all sorts of foods – just remember to pre wash your fabric before you make them, just in case the fabric shrinks in the wash.
Lunch and snack bags
A simple lunch bag is a super useful item to have – whether that’s one for your kids to take to school, for you to take to work (assuming you’re not able to work from home) or even to pack a lunch when heading out for a good long walk.
I really like this tutorial from Soatak Handmade. She takes you through, step by step, and the end result is something you’ll get lots of use from that looks great too. You could even scale this down to hold snacks or sweets if you wanted to.
Nobody particularly enjoys the washing up, but dishcloths are very useful. They’re great for wiping up spills and cleaning surfaces, as well as actually using them on your dishes and can be a good substitute to paper towels in that regard. They’re also excellent for using up leftover yarn, as they generally don’t require much. They’re best made from cotton in order to be washable, long lasting and non-scratchy against your dishes and glasses. I have the Raffish dishcloth pattern from A Yarn Of Serendipity, but there’s lots of patterns out there you can use – even ones for Leprauchauns…
Reusable paper towels
These are another handy option to help you cut down on actual paper towels, while also using up your scraps. You might be wondering why you’d make reusable alternatives to regular paper towels – after all, paper towels are handy for so many things (including cleaning up after pets). Well, like most things, there’s a few reasons you’d consider making the swap. Firstly, there’s the environmental side – there aren’t many paper towels which are made from recycled paper or bamboo (two alternatives which are popular for helping to protect forests) and most options come in non-recyclable plastic film. Perhaps more importantly for many families is that by making your own from fabric scraps, you can save all the money that you would otherwise spend on paper towels. Depending on how often you use paper towels, this could be a small amount or it could be quite a lot that you perhaps didn’t realise you were spending.
You can of course turn old clothes into rags for cleaning, but turning your scraps into reusable paper towels (or unpaper towels as they’re also known) could be a great option if you have kids or are a naturally messy person (like me!) You can then have them easily to hand around the table when you’re eating and they’re much better at cleaning up mucky faces and hands on little ones. They’re also handy to take with you if you go out for a walk or a picnic anywhere and you can rinse them a few times before they’ll need a proper wash.
Some tutorials use snaps to clip them together like the sheets of a paper towel roll – this might be handy if you already have a roll holder, but it might be more useful to keep them as individual items. It really depends on you and how you think your family will make the best use of them. The best tutorial I’ve found on making these is by Paper & Stitch as she discusses making both sewn and no-sew options and how they hold up in day-to-day use.
Anytime decorations and Christmas decorations
‘Tis the season to decorate your house – and I suspect many people will be decorating much more than usual this year. There’s lots of things you can make to help give your house some Christmas cheer, many of which are brilliant scrap busters too.
Bunting is a really great way to use up scraps simply because there’s so many different things you can do with it and so many times throughout the year that you can use it. You can make the traditional triangular bunting and either keep it plain or add appliqué designs – or you can make something completely different. I’ve seen chicken bunting in the past and Star Wars bunting in the shape of the droids, for example. There’s also lots of Christmas bunting ideas – for both flat and 3D bunting.
Bunting can be sewn, knitted or crocheted and there’s a whole host of different patterns and ideas out there, so you can really make something personal that you’ll enjoy hanging up. One of my favourite ideas that I’ve seen is to create bunting from lots of different sized crocheted baubles strung together, but there’s also Christmas trees, robins, holly and ivy leaves – if you can think of it, there’s a pattern for it somewhere. If you can’t find a specific pattern for bunting, but you can find one for an individual decoration, then there’s nothing stopping you from making lots of that one item and stringing them together to make bunting.
Textile art as Christmas decorations
Textile art is becoming more popular – particularly this year, where it’s been used a lot to make rainbows to hang on walls and in windows in support of NHS and other key workers. It’s a great way to use up scrap, as you can pretty much make whatever designs you like in whatever size suits you, and it can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it.
I really like the designs of Karen Pleass, particularly her sleeping animals designs. I’d love to have a go at making my own ones inspired by her art, but I’d also love to own a piece of her art too. I also really like the crochet patterns of Love and Stitch, especially her Autumn Moon pattern and her latest one, the Rolling Hills.
Textile art is a lovely gift for friends and family, or as a nice alternative to store bought decorations for your own home. If you have kids, it could be a fun activity to do with them too.
Baubles and other Christmas decorations
I’ve been getting a bit tired of the plastic rubbish pushed by shops at Christmas time as decorations, so I’ve increasingly turned to textile, wooden and ceramic decorations in recent years – though ceramic tree decorations can be quite heavy and I always worry they’ll fall off and break! While I likely won’t have much time to make any decorations this year (I may have taken on more than I counted on for Christmas presents), there’s a few designs out there which I’ll likely save and make another time.
Some of the easiest and quickest decorations you can make are made from leftover felt. Depending on the thickness of the felt, these can also be free standing and 3D – though even if your felt is thin, you can glue layers together to get the necessary stability from it if you need to. You can also adapt these patterns to sew with “regular” fabrics rather than using felt if you prefer. Kippi at Home has a great pattern set including gnomes, stars and gingerbread people, if you like the Scandinavian style of decorations – or you could make your own Darla horse.
Some of my favourite felt decoration designs include this gorgeous Ice Fox which I might attempt to sew with some leftover blue and white cotton fabric I have – plus this felt poinsettia looks like an interesting make for those who like poinsettias. If you like penguins, this pattern by Handmade in the Heartland is adorable too.
For knitters and crocheters, there’s lots of ideas and patterns to choose from – most of which you can make using whichever colours you have and need to use up. I particularly like the design of these baubles by Creaciones Ananda, which will be perfect to use up some of the mini balls of yarn I have, plus this moon crochet pattern by Octopus Crochet Design is really sweet.
Stockings are a lovely item to make and personalise, particularly for children. Sewscrumptious have a great basic stocking pattern for sewing which you can easily customise – stockings can be made from whatever fabric or colour you like, not just Christmas themed, and you can personalise them further by adding names or initials. They tend to only require a couple of fat quarters of fabric too, so they’re great for using up odd bits you might have in your stash.
Yarnspirations have this great cable knitting design and for crocheters who like this, there’s a similar design to be found on All Free Crochet. I particularly like this traditional style knitted stocking by The House of Hogbuffer, though I also really like the simplicity of the Malia crocheted stocking by Yarn and Chai.
Christmas tree skirt
Christmas tree skirts are great for collecting falling needles from cut trees, but they’re also useful for hiding the ugly stands of artificial trees. They’re a brilliant stash busting project simply because they’ll use up lots of offcut pieces and many are designed with fat quarters in mind.
Personally, I like this one from Simple Simon and Company. It’s a simple design and while it does require quite a bit of fabric, it’s brilliant for using up offcuts and fat quarters in your stash. This one from Diary of a Quilter is another great stash buster, as you only actually require strips of fabric rather than large blocks like the pattern from Simple Simon and Company.
There are patterns for knitting and crocheting tree skirts too, though I wouldn’t exactly call them stash busters. They’re perhaps best if you’ve overbought yarn – or bought yarn and never used it. This pattern by Left in Knots is a lovely colourful one, or you could choose something more minimal if you prefer, like the Solstice pattern by TL Yarn Crafts. There are a lot of patterns for both knitting and crocheting tree skirts of all shapes, patterns and styles, so you’re bound to find one you like.
More scrap busting ideas to come
There you have another monster post on stash busting projects. I hope you find these ideas useful and it helps you to use up your scraps and leftovers! Part three will be posted soon – just in time to make some last minute gifts for friends and family too, if all goes to plan.