How to make fabric from scrap threads

full jar of threads that will become fabric from scrap threads Did you know you can make fabric made from scrap threads? Early in the year I posted photos of my empty Orts jar and said I had thought of a way of using them.  If you are not sure what Orts are, they are a the little bits of thread hand embroiderers have left over after embroidering a line of stitches. They are little snips of thread that since they are only an inch or two long usually go in the bin.

Some stitchers save their orts and use them to stuff pincushions. Some stitchers put their orts outside so birds can use them in nest building. However although well meant, experts tell us not to do it as strands of yarn can wrap around the leg of a baby bird and cut circulation. This is a danger even if that thread is short. (if you are interested in this topic here is a link to article in Audubon about what nesting materials are safe for birds)  So I think we had better stick to using our Orts in creative ways.

After collecting these Orts for a year I thought I would share with you how my fabric made from scrap threads turned out.

Dissolvable fabric looks like plastic and is sometimes called wash away stabiliser or a water soluble stabiliser. This material is designed to dissolve when wet and  is used to make a non woven material. Some brand names are Dissolve, Solvy, Aqua Film, Rinseaway. If you google water soluble stabiliser you find it. They all work in a similar manner but check the directions before you start.

fabric from scrap threads step 1 - lay out threads

In this example I am using the wash away hospital bags as water soluble stabilizer. I was given a batch a few years ago and I am still using them up!

With all these products the principal is the same. You stitch on the product then wash it away and are left with only the thread you stitched. Some really lovely work is created using this technique. one technique is to make little samples and join them together. With this technique you can not only use up your orts but you can use  wool scraps, textured yarns, silk ribbon ends and tiny scraps of fabric.

Take a piece of dissolvable fabric and lay the threads out as evenly as possible. Look for interesting combinations of colour and texture as you go.

fabric from scrap threads step 2- pin the threads well

Place the other piece of dissolvable fabric on top so that you have a sandwich with the threads in the middle. Pin it well.

fabric from scrap threads step 3- make a pocket

I sew around the edge to create a pocket. This stopped bits falling out of the sandwich as you work!

fabric from scrap threads step 4 -sew with a sewing machine over the pocket

Drop the feed dogs on your sewing machine as you do for freehand machine embroidery.  Freehand machine stitch over the top of the dissolvable fabric in a freeform net like pattern. Make sure the stitching loops and cross es over itself many times so it produces a freeform net that is quite close as this stitching will be what holds your fabric together once the dissolvable fabric is washed away. This stitching will trap the threads. I used different coloured thread and added some metallic threads.

fabric from scrap threads step 5- wash the fabric out well

Wash well under cold water and the dissolvable fabric will disappear, leaving just your sewn threads.  Iron this dry under baking paper. If it is a little stiff you have not washed out all the dissolvable fabric. Wash it again.

fabric made from scrap threads

I could make a scarf from this. The photograph does not quite do it justice as there is metallic threads and silk ribbon scraps in it. It has far more life in it.

I think I will treat it like a fabric and feature small pieces of it in works that can be beaded and embroidered.

Anyway that is what I did with my Orts. I now have an empty jar ready and waiting for next year!

holding my book in front of quiltHave you seen my book?

My book The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design: Simple Stitches, Stunning Results  shares practical methods about how to design and make a crazy quilt. I teach you how to balance colour, texture and pattern, in order direct the viewers eye around a crazy quilted project. I show you how to build decorative seam treatments in interesting and creative ways using a handful of stitches. My book is profusely illustrated as my aim is to be both practical and inspiring.

28 Comments

  1. Hellow, I AM from Chile and I don’t understand The English. Igual regret your tutorials don’t hace translations.However, I Will try to getting materiales and make tour great projet. Thania and hugs from The end of The world
    .

    Marianela
    1. Lucia if you google some of the brand names listed in the article such as Dissolve, Solvy, Aqua Film, Rinseaway I am sure you will be able to find suppliers online that will post to you

      sharonb
  2. Just found this through Pinterest and WOW. I’m a knitter, and have always lamented throwing away even little pieces of yarn, especially beautiful hand dyed. Now I have a reason to save all the scraps! This is so beautiful, and such a wonderful way to allow me to use EVERY inch of my skeins. 🙂

    Stacey
  3. Pingback: Stash: Busted! | The Yarn Patch

  4. I use this technique for making small pieces to add to my designs.Washing the stuff out is gross!!!!!I have a not very complementary name for the wash out material….think of dirty hankies!!But its fabulous for adding something different.
    FYI if you dont wash all the fabric out it gives the finished piece more substance .. like starch!

    1. Not sure where you are but if there are any sewing machine dealers selling embroidery machines they should have it. It is sold under some of these names for reference: Aquasolvy, Solvy, Aquamesh. It comes in a few types as well. Some of it looks like plastic wrap and some looks like paper towel and there are different thicknesses too. The material is made out of starch so it washes away.

      Ann
  5. Thanks for visiting my blog Sharon and for your lovely comment. I've been having fun experimenting with these blocks. I frequently review my notes from your CQ class from a few years back which are very helpful with design challenges.

  6. This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing the how-to. I'm not sure what the 'hospital bags' are but I have a water soluable material I was going to experiment with. The colors and fibers in your piece are beautiful. I have so much to learn. I have been away from sewing for probably 30 years (until this past year) and I'm constantly amazed at all the new products available.

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