Turn fabric samples into small fun or functional gifts such as pincushions.

How to Reuse Fabric Samples

by Kathy Adams

Fabric samples were designed to be just that: tactile, touchable samples showing what a company's fabric looks and feels like. Samples may be all sorts of sizes, such as cuttings from a roll, a small swatch, or small pieces affixed to pages in a sample book. While these pieces may be too small to use for a large project such as clothing, bedding or upholstering a chair, they're often ideal for small, personal items for yourself or to give as gifts.

1. Pillow-Style Animals

Create two-sided, pillow-style stuffed animals with two fabric samples, either using bits of the same sample or two different fabrics. Stitch all but one end and fill the inside with your favorite batting or fiberfill, stitching the creature closed. Use the same method to turn a child's drawings, such as a cat, flower or airplane, into stuffed toys. Stitch a nose and mouth onto your handmade animals using colorful yarn or thread.

2. Liners

If you make or upcycle purses, handbags, messenger bags or even coin purses, adding a vivid or unusually printed fabric turns that project piece into a piece of art. A small sample scrap is ample for a coin purse or for a pocket on a handmade apron, shirt or pair of shorts, while larger durable fabrics are ideal for shoulder bags or messenger bags, which take a lot of abuse. A velvety fabric glued into the bottom of a wooden cigar box creates a soft space within for a makeshift jewelry or trinket box.

3. Patchwork

Small samples of varying styles come together for patchwork crafts and clothing. Stitch pieces together to create a quilt, a pillowcase or patchwork stuffed animal for a young loved one. Use a sample of an upholstery-grade fabric to make a new pocket or patch for jeans, a jacket or a bag, or create a ball-style pincushion from several panels of different sample fabrics.

4. Art

Turn a blank artist's canvas into a piece of tactile textile art by cutting shapes from the samples, then arranging them to create an image such as a garden scene, a farm, an animal or a guitar. Apply pieces to the canvas with school glue or decoupage medium. Create a mixed media art piece by arranging and adhering bits of fabric, feathers, found objects and pebbles onto a canvas, adding metallic or luminescent paints for a funky flair. Cut fabric samples that have been glued to paper or cardboard into tilelike shapes, then arrange the tiles to create a mosaic-style design that fits within a picture frame, mounted to the frame backing board.

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