What can you make from scraps?

Playtime is over! Having just completed the Exploratory phase of my MA By Creative Practice, I’m now entering the Developmental stage. 

More and more I’m inspired by images of water - rolling seas… 

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droplets in pools, light reflections

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… and so on - and my visit to Brunei and Hong Kong has strengthened that.

Coupling this with my interest in sustainability has led me on to chenilling this week. For those of you who don’t know, chenille is a type of yarn that is very fluffy and is a fabric made from this yarn. There is also a third definition made from layers of fabric that has been slashed, and this is what I’ve been making.

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Here’s what I did. First things first - I ordered a slash cutter. You can make chenille fabric (also called faux chenille) using scissors but using a slash cutter is easier on the hands and reduces the chance of blisters.

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Next, I found some fabrics to work with. The purple and green fabrics are cotton remnants from a clothing manufacturer, the blue is left over curtain lining from the previous house we lived in (20 years ago), the print is a top my DD discarded and the gold paper lurex is actually new. It hurt to buy new for this project because I wanted to make something beautiful and interesting essentially from waste but another inspiration currently is icons and the way gold lifts everything. Who doesn’t like a bit of bling?!

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I layered up the fabrics, pinned around the edges and made 1 cm lines across the bias.

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Then I sewed along the lines in deep blue thread.

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It looked a bit wobbly at this stage but I pressed on...

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… cutter at the ready!

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I found it easier to insert the cutter if I snipped the fabric to get started using sharp scissors.

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Then I cut between the sewn lines, TAKING CARE NOT TO CUT THROUGH THE BOTTOM LAYER!!!

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I could have just washed it at this stage and the job would have been done but I decided to add some of those waves that have been pestering my mind.

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I marked lines across the bias in the other direction, lazilly just using the width of a ruler as a guide. It turned out to be just the right width! ;)

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Then I sewed across, folding over one half of each strip in turn. 

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This tool was very helpful. I don’t know what it’s called but it’s the other end of the brush that came with my sewing machine. 

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Wow, that gold!



Then I sewed back and forth alond the lines, alternating the direction, like feather icing on a cake.

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And here’s the end result! And I love it! I love the colour combination and how the gold really sings out. In fact I love it so much I couldn't bear to take it to the next stage, which would have been to wash it.

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So, strictly speaking, this piece isn’t chenille at all, it’s simply manipulated fabric. Hmm.

Ok, THIS is chenille!

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I followed the same principles but this time I used scraps of fabric as a layer. Not the sort of gal to throw stuff away, I have plenty of scraps.

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I should mention all the fabric I used is woven, not knitted.

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Again, I used green cotton for the base layer, then just placed scraps in layers on top.

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A layer of gold, then purple cotton kept the scraps in place.

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1 cm lines sewn.

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Fabric slashed, manipulation begun!

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This time a lot more colour showed through.

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And I was brave enough to complete the final stage - washing! It’s best to wash the fabric with an old towel or a pair of jeans (I used both) to roughen up the fibres. Then I tumble dried it to fluff it up even more.

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A few loose bits came away but that’s to be expected when using scraps as it’s hard to predict where the cuts are when you are slashing the top fabric. The end result is fluffy, thick and snuggly!

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I love both versions of this journey into chenilling and can see uses for both. I’m most impressed that they have come from remnants and scraps. The whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. A scrap is just that, but when you put it with others! I feel a garment coming on!