March 24, 2015

Use fabric scraps for mixed media art

Looking for ways to use up small fabric scraps that are too small for anything? I discovered a fun way to do this by making what I call scrap sandwiches. It's not a new concept, but I couldn't find any good tutorials for it, so I decided to make my own instructions. I’ll sometimes spend an afternoon making these. It’s a fun and mindless project that produces interesting and beautiful textures and colour combinations that can be incorporated into your art quilts or mixed media projects. I’ve used them for quilt art postcards, makeup bags and book covers. Fabric sandwiches were incorporated into my art quilt Mother Ship that's on the Fall 2012 Quilting Arts Magazine cover in Fall 2012.

mixed media art, fabric art, fabric scraps,fabric scrap art
  • Small fabric scraps. 
  • Light weight muslin or any light weight non-stretchy fabric cut to 9 x 12 inches. 
  • One piece of tulle cut to 11 x 14 inches. 
  • Thread 
  • Pins 
  • Sewing machine

While working on a project, I throw my fabric scraps in a box I have under my work table. After I have a big enough stash of fabric scraps, I sort everything according to colour and store them in plastic bags.

1. BOTTOM LAYER: Start your sandwich with a light weight, non-stretchy, foundation piece approximately 9 inchs by 12 inches. This is the easiest size to work with. I use a light, inexpensive muslin for the foundation, but anything light weight and non-stretchy will work. You can also use a coloured foundation that works with the scrap colours.

2. MIDDLE LAYER: Pick the colours you want to work with. You can use monochromatic colours, contrasting colours, or grab a bunch of random colours. Start placing your fabric scraps down on the foundation until you've covered it as much as you can.

3. TOP LAYER: After all the scraps are put down on your foundation layer, cover these two layers with a piece of tulle about two inches wider than your foundation piece (11" x 14") giving you an overhang of 1 inch all the way around. Pin these three layers down around the edges and in the middle.

4. Once the three layers are pinned securely, stitch around the edge of the sandwich with a basting stitch creating a seam width of about 1/2 inch.

5. After you’ve sewn around the edge, sew a line across the length and the width of the sandwich. Then stitch a grid at least 3" in width. Your grid can be as small as you like, but don’t go wider than 3" because your scraps could start to shift around too much during the next step.

6. When you’ve completed stitching your grid, you now get a chance to use some of those decorative stitches you have on your sewing machine. If you’re like me, you may not use them very often. Pick a decorative stitch and, starting at one edge of the sandwich, sew to the other edge. There is no hard and fast rule about this. Just pick out a bunch of nice stitches to use and sew along the sandwich randomly. I experimented with my alphabet stitch for this project and really liked the outcome. You can also use free motion stitching which can produce some beautiful results.

7. When all your stitching is complete, trim the excess tulle along the outer seam line to clean up the edges. I do this because I find the excess tulle snags on things when you work with the sandwich later.

8. Turn the sandwich over face down and press on the wrong side so you don’t gum up your iron with melted tulle. You can see in this photo where I’ve sewn the decorative stitches randomly across the sandwich.


  • Sprinkle thread, ribbon, yarn, or lace scraps on top of the fabric layer before adding the tulle layer. 
  • Try using a foundation piece made from used dryer sheets that have been stitched together. 
  • Print images or lettering on fabric that can be incorporated into the scrap layer. 
  • If the piece isn’t going to be washed, add bits of pretty paper or newsprint to the scrap layer. 
  • Use a foundation piece colour to coordinate with the scraps. 
  • Experiment and have fun! 
Samples of mixed media fabric art using this method.

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