Scrap Happy Weaving

Scrap happy? 

What’s so happy about scraps?

Scraps are just unwanted leftovers, right?

Not so fast, my friends!

For a substantial group of people scraps are the source of great happiness. Blogger Kate, from Tall Tales from Chiconia, has provided a space for happy scrappy crafters to showcase the ways they make beautiful things from bits and pieces that others might consider trash.

Why do scraps make us so happy?

Some of us are frugal and scraps used represent money saved.

Some of us are committed to sustainability and limiting our use of raw materials to make new when we can make do.

For some of us, scrappy is a preferred aesthetic. We like the look of a casual, unpredictable mix of colors and patterns, nothing too matchy-matchy and fussy for us.

And sometimes, using scraps solves a practical problem.

My scrappy project, a set of kitchen towels I am weaving, could be said to fall into all of these categories but it is primarily motivated by the last.

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The section at the bottom is woven with sewing thread and will be folded up as hem. This towel has small chevrons in the stripes.

Weavers deal with warp and weft threads. The warp is composed of long threads that are attached to the loom and the weft is made up of the horizontal threads that are interwoven into the warp. This interweaving is done with bobbins of thread placed in a shuttle. Each color thread uses a bobbin.

The amount of thread on the bobbin does not always run out at the same time the warp thread does.

We have dozens of bobbins here but, with two weavers weaving and leaving leftover thread on bobbins for nearly four years now, all the bobbins were used up! 

I could either buy more bobbins or free up some of the ones I had by using up the scraps.

My towels are made up of those scraps. Each warp stripe is 6 threads wide and I used scraps of colors interspersed with scraps of neutrals. All the threads are cotton or linen or a blend of the two.

Each warp thread is over 7 yards long and there are about 450 warp threads so my project used a lot of scrap!

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This is the warp, ready to go on the loom. Each thread is about 7 yards long.

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There are 24 ends, or threads, per inch

And I freed up a lot of bobbins and even a few cones.

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Empty bobbins mean potential weaving!

I should be able to weave 4-5 towels from this warp but may make a table runner with part of it. I’m doing the second towel now.

I quite love the look! I’ve learned that I must lean toward fairly subdued colors that are sort of “grayed”—my scraps contained very few clear bright colors and very few pastels. I have a lot of scraps of neutrals but more were unbleached or natural than pure white.

I dressed them loom with a very simple twill structure and I can change the look of each towel a little by the way I press the treadles. The towels will be first cousins, not identical twins!

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The first towel had little chevrons in the stripes. This one has little florets.

I will admit, I love getting a big box of new weaving yarn in the mail. I like planning a project and then purchasing the colors especially for that project. 

But as happy scrappers the world over know, there is something even more satisfying, and just as lovely, that comes from using what we have.

Are you, too, a happy scrapper? You might want to contact Kate and get in on the fun of sharing your creations!


From Kate: ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn,  Lynda,

Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,

Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys and Claire

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78 thoughts on “Scrap Happy Weaving

  1. Oh definitely! I’m firmly from the make-do-and-mend generation. I love to see something both useful and attractive made from things that others, with less of a careful eye might discard. Of course you’re firmly in this camp too.

    • I am firmly firmly in that camp! I have an old flannel bathrobe that is pitifully worn-out and yet it feels like an old friend ad still keeps me warm so . . .

        • Three years?! What, she has a fear of commitment?? I wish I could remember when I got mine. The same company still makes them but they cost $100 (!) and are probably lower quality so I just keep wearing the old one . . .

  2. Not a scrap wasted by the look of it. I am having a little giggle about ‘scrappy’ and ‘scrapper’ and their other less positive meaning. However I think to be good at making good on scraps one does need to have an indomitable will and be a fighter. Scraps are hard to keep in line and under control. 🙂

  3. These weaving looms fascinate me, the patterns are beautiful, but I really can’t start another hobby!! Especially if the scraps are as hard to keep under control as in quilting!!

  4. My heart soars and my head hurts when you explain the weaving process. I don’t really understand the intricacies of it, but I certainly can ooh and aah over the finished results. These ‘scrappy’ towels are truly lovely. The colors are so nice and bright, and they would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s kitchen. Picture me bowing your superior skills. 🙂

    • I don’t think one can understand the weaving process, really, without actually doing it. Maybe that’s true of all the crafts we do? Weaving is both easier and more complicated than I ever would’ve guessed. Thanks for liking my towels–what started as simply a way to do something productive with scraps is turning out nicely–they please me!

  5. Your scraps make me very happy! I just finished Walden, and this is a grand illustration of that book. 😍 Back to the towels, I really like the stripes with those little flowers, just a bit of whimsy in a straight forward utilitarian object. ♥️

  6. Love the look of your scrappy towel. Because there are so many colors within it, it really goes with any decor. Waste not, want not!

    • I had made a towel awhile ago with horizontal stripes in many colors for a friend who uses Fiestaware. I really like all those colors, just mixed up together!

  7. Love those towels!!! I use my scraps eventually. Have an ongoing afghan in sock/ fingering weight yarn. Usually scraps are hats or mitts, depending on the yarn weight.

    • There is SO much waste in weaving and a lot of it can’t be avoided and the scraps are too short to do much with. It kills me to throw things away but I’ve started doing just that, to avoid being overrun with string!

      • How short are you talking? Is it string worth knitting or crocheting? I make crazy balls by knotting bits of yarn together until I have a big ball, then knitting up something fun.

        • Some of the waste is a few inches or as much as a yard, maybe? It varies but when you’re talking 300 pieces of a yard each, that adds up fast. Much of it is fairly fine cotton, with almost no stretch–is that anything you could imagine using?

          • Hmmm, I can see the issue. I would think that the longer piece could be used for striped washcloths or something, but I am not likely to do so. I will cheer you on if you take it up though!

  8. Pingback: ScrapHappy April | talltalesfromchiconia

  9. A perfect scraphappy project! I love the idea of making my own kitchen towels, but I’d have to do it from a later stage of the fabric process… Having a whole room devoted to the sewing arts, I can’t really steal more space for a loom, not even a heddle… (I did a bit of weaving at art college, but nothing since then). I’ve added your link permanently to the monthly list, so I hope you’ll join us next time and show us where you’ve got to with these beauties.

    • Thanks for adding my link so quickly, Kate! And, yes, weaving takes up a lot of space–we have four floor looms in four different rooms . . . kind of carry but we love our looms and I love the magic of making fabric.

  10. I’ve been working almost exclusively from my “stash” for 4+ years and finally it seems to be going down. Most of my favorite colours are going or gone! Using thrums (yarn left on the loom at the end of weaving) for all my hand stitching is very satisfying. Thanks for the link to Kate’s blog. Your towels are beautiful – in every way.

    • If I were spinning my own threads, I’d be using every thrum to its maximum potential, too! The amount of waste in weaving bums me out–I didn’t anticipate that. And thanks for liking my towels–you know how easy they are to weave but simple can be pretty, too!

  11. It appears you aren’t quite as subdued in your colour choices as you claim – this example is vibrant and fun! I love Kate’s scrap happy initiative and I get to see a number of items produced by my friends who join in. And I’m so intrigued by those tiny flowers – how do they get to mysteriously appear there? This is a brilliant way for you to free up your bobbins – which of course means many more wondrous colours can be purchased and played with. 🙂 The ‘stash-buster seaside CAL’ (Crochet A-Long) that I’m taking part in is being made purely from the leftovers and unused yarn in my cupboard and while my colours are fairly predictable randomly joining them together is fun and following the pattern every week keeps my interest level high. It’s a version of scraps use I guess.

    • Your project is absolutely using scarp and you should join Kate for the next Scrap Happy! I was surprised, too, by the range of color in my bobbins but it isn’t really bright color–I need to try more of that, too. And I was just saying to someone else, I have a pattern for towels that is very plain, except for a row along the bottom of a woven vegetable, like corn or eggplant or carrots. Need to make those and really blow your socks off!

  12. I gasp ,draw in a long breath..amazed at the wonderful color,design then heave a big sigh…. I think I just fell in love with scrappy towels.😍

  13. I love using scraps to make things and patch things. Your towels look brilliant. And freeing up bobbins and cones! I have all sorts of threaded needles and sometimes I need to thread one with a different color, so I understand your problem!

  14. What satisfaction there is in using scraps, especially when the result is something unique and beautiful. I’m with you and Kate and your fellow scrappers all the way!

    • Kate’s initiative is very cool and it’s fun to see the range of projects. Weaving can be very wasteful–there’s inevitable leftover thread that’s too short to do much with. So, being able to incorporate some of that waste in these towels is a big win for me!

  15. Even though your description is so good – I still can’t visualise the process. It would be lovely to sit next to you and watch while you work your magic.

      • As I wrote back to Tialys, I’ve read many explanations of weaving, MUCH better than I could ever do, and it’s just one of those processes that needs to be done, hands on, to understand. That’s actually frustrating for me, since I always turn to books first, to learn anything new . . .

    • You come right on over and we’ll have that demo! Far better writers/weavers than I have tried to explain weaving and I really think it’s one of those things that only makes sense in the doing.

  16. Lovely to see your creativity in using up those bits. I recently met an embroiderer who uses up floss left on her needle by adding to an ongoing project of embroidered squares. It’s gotten rather large.

    • I bet the embroidery is very interesting, though–it’s a great idea. One of the things that’s always drawn me to quilting is the use of bits and pieces–love that scrappy look. It’s more difficult to make use of loom waste in weaving, unfortunately, as I’m sure you know.

  17. I get great satisfaction from finishing up scraps whatever I’m doing so I can see the great appeal here. The happy prospect of new yarn and new projects! Your towels are absolutely lovely!

  18. What a wonderful idea! And I always love your towels, Kerry. Lovely.
    As you know, I’m not crafty at all, so I don’t tend to have leftovers from projects. Does saving thick old wool socks to darn other thick old wool socks count? I even use patches of them to mend my antique rugs!

      • Hi there! Our old wool rugs have had a lot of wear and my most favourite one even had a few small holes. Luckily, both rug and the thick old wool socks I used shared very similar colours where the holes were located. I cut the patches from the socks and used store-bought yarn and a large sewing needle. If you look really carefully, you might see the patches, but it works!

  19. Kerry, I love your descriptions of the ScrapHappy bloggers. I know for me some or all of those are true much of the time.

    Oh my gosh, these towels! What a fantastic use of scrap yarn, and, bonus, your got many of your bobbins back. I can’t wait to see these finished.

  20. I love the idea of using everything. When I was a kid my grandma used to make a lot of my clothes, both knitting and sewing. I wish I would have had her talents for those! From the scraps she would make a similar outfit for my Barbie dolls 🙂

    • Knowing me, if I had selected them, they wouldn’t work as well! There’s something to be said about randomness! PS–I just visited your blog and left a comment–I hope it shows up!

  21. Very pretty! The towels look well planned out and not random at all.
    I am not frugal! I have moved too many times. When you get ready to pack boxes of quilting, weaving and rug hooking supplies, most of the scraps GO. I sometimes try to give bits and bobs away, but often there’s little time.
    I am going to get the rag runner/mats done and start on some ideas for Summer shawls! There’s a member show in August at an art center in town and I asked if I brought my antique mannequin, if I could enter a shawl. Fun, huh? I am debating painting the warp or maybe even doing ikat. I have some old, old Henry’s Attic textured cottons that I have moved and moved and moved…

    • A friend on mine has been doing shells on painted warps and they’ve turned out amazingly well–so unique! I’ll be honest–I throw a lot away, too, especially weaving thrums. But if I can find a way to use up some pretty things, I’ll give it a try!

  22. Thank you for your comment on my blog, i couldn’t reply as WordPress doesn’t share your email address. I’ve been silversmithing a few years now, but don’t post about it that often as it takes me months to make anything! I do a lot of different crafts, but posting has been very slow this past year after a series of events and then a broken shoulder. I’m currently renovating my whole house (alone!) so that’s taking up more of my time. i do have some posts to come though!

    • I can see why a broken shoulder and a home reno would slow down your crafting! I’ve always done a lot of crafts, too–learned silversmithing a long time ago, in college, and got back to it later. Most of what I do is fiber-related, though, and I am trying to decide whether to sell off the jewelrymaking tools, etc.

  23. Kerry, I love your towel of left-over colors with the chevron, perhaps more than any other. It is the first weaving project that makes me re-consider if I want to learn to weave. With regard to the blog to showcase using scraps, does it include scraps of leftover anything? Or is it mainly left over fabric? Are scalvaged materials included? Even if the blog not for every left-over, you have made me realize there is entertainment value in documenting my “saving” and reusing habits, even if just for a week. On the other hand, why do so many people devalue such a fine skill? It makes my spirit very satisfied to be resourceful, not wasteful, using every last bit for something useful and pretty. In my life, I am more artistic when faced with limited resources ( not too excessively limited; ha!).

    • I didn’t think I wanted to learn to weave until I learned to weave . . . and you can see how totally hooked I am now! And these towels are quite straightforward– a project a newbie could do quite easily!

      Most of the people sharing on Kate’s Scrap Happy blog seem to be doing fiber-related (and mostly quilting and sewing) stuff but not everyone. One woman did a post about greeting card making and Kate seemed very happy to have a weaver checking in. I think she’d be happy to include your link, if you did posts about any re-use projects!

      And I agree about limited resources. I get overwhelmed just walking into a shop filled with fabrics or yarns. I’d rather start with what I have on hand and then fill in, if necessary. It’s always good to see you here!

  24. What a great post, encouraging us all to make good use of what we have before buying new. I often think that this is the real challenge of designing, working with what you have. I crochet rather than sew or weave but I keep all ends of yarn, any thing from 8 inches to a few feet and have been tying them together creating a new mixed colour ball of wool. i have a ball going for each yarn weight and type of yarn. Not enough to make anything yet but one day therewill be I hope.

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  27. lovely to see a different craft! Like some of the other ladies said, weaving sounds quite complicated but it must be so soothing to sit down to work, seeing yarns/string do their thing as you go in and out ^^

    • Thank you! Weaving seemed really complicated when I first learned but now I don’t think it is, really, once you get the basic principles down. And it really is magical, when string turns into lovely fabric, right under your hands!

  28. Pingback: One Day, Weaving | Love Those "Hands at Home"

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