Welcome to April, the month when we devote a little extra time to celebrating our beloved planet Earth. All month long on the blog, we’ll be featuring projects, tutorials, and inspiration for how to lead a more eco-conscious life, as well as highlighting all of the unique ways Spoonflower puts sustainability first. This is an issue close to the heart of designer Vicky Webb as well, and today we are excited to have her stop by to share a simple project for using up all of your white trimmed selvage and other fabric scraps! Textile waste makes a huge contribution to landfills all over the world, and we are always looking for ways to help divert even the smallest of fabric scraps from hitting our trash bins.  

Vicky: Hi there! Vicky here, AKA crumpetsandcrabsticks. I am a surface designer dabbling in anything crafty, I especially love experimenting with scrap waste. As most of you will know by now, when buying digitally printed fabric, there is an unavoidable amount of selvage and white trim left over from the printing process. Especially if you’re buying a swatch sampler collection of 8” swatches. If you’ve yet to buy from Spoonflower, here is an example of the waste fabric from one single yard. Altogether it measures approximately 4.5m in 3cm wide strips (15ft by 1 1⁄4 inch) You’d get a lot more from a yard of 30 swatches depending on how you trim them.

An image of a crocheted rag rug. The process of making it is explained in the following tutorial. It is laying on a brown carpet. The middle of the rug is white fabric. Then black fabric was used to stitch around the white fabric to make the rug bigger, then white fabric was used again, and then black fabric. The maker has just started to use white fabric again. There is a large wooden crochet hook next to the rug.
Vicky's fabric of small white flowers with large petals in the innermost part with a green wispy center and smaller petals around the outer edges on a black background.

Design featured here is ‘Nigella – Love in the Mist’ by crumpetsandcrabsticks

Now I hate throwing anything away–yes, I could compost them, but you never know when a 3cm (1 1⁄4”) strip of fabric might come in handy. So over the years I’ve kept mine, but I have only done one thing with them (unbiased bias tape), and now they’re getting out of control. There are so many things you could do with these versatile pieces of fabric. I looked into weaving, quilting, plaiting, rug hooking, and basically all of the projects seen here.

White bits of fabric, taken from the selvedge edge of fabric, lay crumpled  on brown carpet.

I specifically wanted:

• something simple, that I could pick up and put down

• something I could easily add to as and when I ordered new proofs or yards

• something I didn’t have to buy anything new for

Then I was browsing YouTube videos (I like to have something on in the background whilst I draw) and I came across Erin Halvorsen who makes rugs out of rags using crochet methods on a larger scale. It seemed the perfect solution.

The only problem was that I had only ever used a 4mm hook (G-6) – it seemed silly, definitely contradictory to buy something for a recycled project. So I set to work rummaging around my art supplies, and for some reason found a lonesome drum stick. Then this happened.

An image of a wooden drumstick that has been turned into a crochet hook. A knife is at the top part of the photo and the new crochet hook is at the bottom, with some white fabric in stitches hanging off of it. There are wood chips around both the knife and the hook. A small gray plastic crochet hook is above the wooden crochet hook for reference.

And it worked. Then it dawned on me–I can make almost anything out of fabric strips that I could make out of regular yarn–but bigger. So I opened up Ravelry and had a gander, and scared myself into starting something simple instead. (On a side note–if you choose to make your own crochet hook be careful I only nearly cut myself a few times, but I did knock my coffee over all over my scraps and myself.)

I played about with different stitches, granny squares, and a C2C pattern, but they weren’t fitting the specifications I set early on. So I settled with a simple rug from Erin’s tutorials. I found the oval the easiest shape with regards to tension and keeping the shape flat. When I’ve tried doing rounds with the formula I kept ended up with a bowl/basket and it was just too much hassle. In short, with the oval, you start off with a chain, and crochet into each stitch until the end where you do three stitches in the one chain, you put a marker in each one and you carry on crocheting all the way round. When you get to a marker you crochet two in one hole (an increase) and carry on again. If that makes sense to you, you’re a better person than I am–I learn visually, I have to see someone do something to be able to figure it out myself.

A hand drawn image of a rag rug prototype. The shape of the rug is light blue on a white background. Chain stitches are marked by a circle, and run down the center of the rug. Single crochet (US single crochet) stitches are marked by crosses and extended above and below the chain stitches going 3 rows in each direction. At either end of the run, single crochet stitches are built off the last chain stitch, forming a semi circle, making for an oval shaped rug.

If that made no sense, or you are new to crochet, I definitely recommend Erin’s videos. She explains everything in simple steps and has videos on every stage. YouTube in general is so good for learning new skills like this. Here is what that 4.5m (15ft) of strips got me.

The beginnings of the rag rug with chain stitches in white fabric running through the center, and single crochet (US single crochet) extending at the top and bottom. Safety pins are holding the edge stitches together on the right and small wooden clothespins are doing the same on the left. A large wooden crochet hook, larger than this crocheted piece  itself, is above the rug.

I soon realised that my bundle of strips wasn’t going to get me very far. I had a bunch of fabric in my stash that I’d kept. as it was not good enough for donating, so I got to work making strips from an old black bed sheet. There’s a really simple method of cutting strips from a sheet, where in essence you cut it like so

This image shows how to cut strips from a single sheet so that you can crochet them together into a rug. The image is of black box drawn on a white background. The box has seven dotted lines running across it indicating where to cut so that one sheet turns into one long strip of fabric.
An image of how to cut selvedge from a piece of Spoonflower fabric. Selvedge runs along a long edge of the fabric. This shows how to cut along the edge of your fabric to get the longest continual strip.

But the strips we get from our Spoonflower fabric aren’t quite as simple. There are a few different ways you can do it.

An image with illustrations of how to join fabric in several ways, from cutting several long pieces at once and then manually making them even or by cutting smaller pieces and then sewing them together.

1) You can be fancy and cut it all into one strip with some pre-planning and sensibility. I’m sure it’s possible.

2) You could cut all the sides off, But sometimes there’s one side that’s thicker than the others, in which you can then use the above method to make it a long even strip.

3) OR you can simply cut everything into straight and simple 3cm strips and then attach them together, either by sewing, or using a simple slip knot method like so:

So here is where I’m up to now. This is with 6 sets of scraps in (+ the same again in black). It’s perfectly functional as a bath mat–it’s only a rounds smaller than my current bath mat so it could do with a few more rounds. I will just keep on adding to it when I get more proofs printed or when I find where I put all those other bits…

A black and white crocheted rag rug with white fabric in the center, and then black and white circles outside of it in rotating strips of color. A wooden crochet hook lays next to the rug. The hook was fashioned out of a drum stick and the rug is almost as tall as the drumstick/crochet hook.
A close up of a white and black crochet rag rug.

Then I plan on saving up more trying out a market style mesh bag for reusing at the supermarket.

I’d love to see what you’ve done with your Spoonflower scraps! Don’t forget to check out this Pinterest board for many more great scrap fabric ideas–this is just one simple example of the wealth of ideas out there.

A hand drawn portrait of Vicky Webb.

Vicky Webb (AKA crumpetsandcrabsticks) an illustrator living in the sunny Isle of Man, she mostly draws–specializing in patterns, but also likes to work in the 3D realm working with re-purposing waste of any form.

She can be found lurking on most social networks. For more information on that head over to her website www.crumpetsandcrabsticks.co.uk