Upcycling Fabric Scraps: 10 Easy Project Ideas

Reduce waste by giving your used materials new life.

fabric scraps, scissors, and needle and thread for upcycling old fabrics into new projects

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 17 million tons of textile products were generated in 2018 and only 2.5 million tons were recycled. That’s a recycling rate of 14.7% (for comparison, paper has a recycling rate of 68.2%).

As fast fashion expands and the demand for fabrics grows, experts have expressed their concern about the industry’s environmental impact, noting that 20% of earth pollution has been linked to the textile industry. That pollution comes from the usage of harmful and toxic chemicals during the manufacturing process and the pollutants released when a textile goes to waste.

You can do your part to reduce pollutants by reusing old textiles instead of buying new ones. By reusing textiles and fabric and giving them a second life, you can reduce waste, help shrink your carbon footprint, and support eco-friendly practices.

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Clothes Patches

woman shows off fabric patch repair on denim button-up shirt

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

If you trip on the pavement and rip a hole in your jeans, there’s no need to throw them out. Clothes patches can save the day by covering up the hole, which means you can save your jeans from the landfill and avoid opening your wallet to purchase a new pair.

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Fabric Twine

woman in denim shirt ties bow with leftover fabric scraps on boxed present

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

To make fabric twine, twist long pieces of scrap fabric together. Place the scraps side by side, then fold one over the other and pull it so it’s taught. Repeat this twisting process and tie a small knot once you’ve reached the end to ensure it doesn’t unravel during use.

Use the twine to add a decorative touch to gift wrapping or keep it around the house to use anytime you need rope in the future. Sometimes called fabric yarn, fabric twine can also be used in knitting projects.

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DIY Pouch

leftover fabric patches are turned into a coin bag with scissors and thread

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Pencil case, accessory bag, snack pouch—whatever you choose to do with this DIY zippered pouch, you’ll be reducing waste by using scrap fabric that would otherwise be thrown away.

You can choose whether to use a sewing machine or go the no-sew route. Fold either side of a rectangular fabric scrap over about an inch to create a clean seam. Either glue this shut with strong glue or sew it (sewing will result in a stronger seam). Then, sew or glue a zipper or clasp onto one edge and fold everything together, attaching all of the sides to create a pouch.

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person threads leftover fabric scraps through white converse sneakers as upcycled shoelaces

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Give your shoes a pop of color while upcycling some of your old fabric scraps with DIY shoelaces. Take two long pieces of fabric and glue the ends shut. Then, lace them through your favorite sneakers for a stylish makeover. You can also sew embellishments onto the shoelaces to give them a more polished look, but that’s up to you.

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Fabric Headband

woman ties bow with leftover rust-colored fabric scraps turned into diy headband

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Headbands are great accessories that look stylish and keep pesky flyaways out of your face during a workout. Instead of purchasing a headband, consider using your leftover scrap fabric to make one. Stretchy or silky fabrics work best.

You can either attach the ends together with a sewn or glued seam or tie the ends together to create a decorative knot.

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Wrapped Clothes Hangers

wire clothes hanger is wrapped with blue leftover fabric scraps to make non-slip

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Use leftover fabric scraps to give your drab clothes hangers a stylish makeover. This easy hack also makes your hangers non-slip so your clothes stay put instead of sliding off the hanger.

Wrap scraps of fabric tightly around each hanger and seal the ends with a dab of hot glue.

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Upcycled Fabric Garland

woman in sweater hangs up fabric scraps turned into garland on doorway

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Whether it’s the holidays, a big birthday, or just a regular day, decorate your home with a fun DIY fabric scrap garland. 

Dig out several fabric scraps and cut them to the same length. Tie each piece onto a long string or circular frame (made of wood or metal) until the garland looks full. Then hang it wherever you’d like.

Alternatively, cut the scraps into triangles and hang them side by side along a long string like bunting. You can use scraps with similar colors or an array of patterns—it all depends on the look you’re going for.

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Fabric Bookmark

open book with red fabric scraps and fringe turned into bookmark with scissors

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

You can often find green-minded bookworms using zero-waste bookmarks like old receipts or paper scraps. They may not look pretty, but they do the job. But if you’re looking to make reading an even more enjoyable pastime, consider upgrading your bookmark. You can still make it from zero-waste materials.

Cut a piece of scrap fabric into two long rectangles. Use a hot glue gun to adhere each end back-to-back to create a two-layer bookmark that looks great on both sides.

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Cloth Napkins

upcycled blue fabric scraps turned into napkins or placemats on table in front of chair

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Cloth napkins are always a useful thing to have in your arsenal. They look much fancier than paper napkins and they’re sustainable, too. By opting for reusable cloth napkins, you can significantly reduce your personal waste and shrink your carbon footprint. And if you have linen scraps, use those—they get softer the more you wash them.

Cut your scraps into squares however large you’d like your napkins to be. You can leave the edges be, fringe them by pulling the threads, or, if you have sewing chops, sew a nice seam on each one so the fabric doesn’t unravel.

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Pet Rope Toy

dog's paws in front of upcycled fabric scrap turned into chew dog toy

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Skip the trip to the pet store and upcycle fabric scraps to make your own DIY rope toy for fido. Dogs love rope toys to play keep away and tug of war. They usually end up shredded anyways, so why spend top dollar for a new one when you can DIY your own?

Simply gather several fabric scraps and twist or braid them together. Tie a strong knot on either end and it’s ready for play time.

View Article Sources
  1. "Paper and Paperboard: Material-Specific Data." Environmental Protection Agency.

  2. Patti, Antonella, et al. "Eco-Sustainability of the Textile Industry: Waste Recovery and Current Recycling in the Composites World." Polymers, vol. 13, no. 1, 2021, pp. 134., doi:10.3390/polym13010134