Gathering up the Fragments, Part 1…of thread, scraps, whatever you can find


Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. (John 6:12)

How do you save your fragments? Or do you? I always love the idea of using up every single bit of something, leaving nothing to be thrown away. Lately I’ve been doing just that with the help of some water-soluble stabilizer, lots of odds and ends of scraps, and my sewing machine. I made new fabric!

New fabric, or fabric lace, if you will–out of fragments!

I used what I made for some red X blocks for The 70273 Project, but you could use it for any number of things. This is by no means a new technique (and I wish I knew to whom credit should go), but it’s really fun since you never know exactly what you’re going to get. Ready to learn how? It’s super-easy!

What you’ll need:

  • Water-soluble stabilizer (there are several different brands, I like Sulky Solvy, but it’s entirely up to you what you choose to use) — cut into two equal-sized pieces (I cut mine into 8″ squares)
  • thread fragments and scraps (you can use all one color of mix it up, your choice)
  • fabric fragments and scraps, small (if larger, cut into small pieces, irregularly-shaped is fine)
  • trim fragments and scraps (ribbon, yarn, floss, lace, rick-rack, etc. I cut these into small pieces too)
  • Sewing machine threaded with thread and bobbin to match (or not, if you choose to go multicolored)

And here’s how you’ll do it:

Place one sheet of stabilizer on top of something semi-rigid (I use my 12-1/2″ square ruler, this makes it easy to carry to my machine). In the photos that follow, my stabilizer is on a piece of white fabric. It would have been impossible to photograph on a ruler.

Start laying your “fragments” down randomly on the stabilizer. It will start to look like a pile of confetti. Keep going until the area is almost completely covered. Leave a margin of about 1/2″ on all sides around the pile so it doesn’t squish out later and get caught in your machine.

Red confetti! (The stabilizer is there, you just can’t see it)

When your fragments-confetti nearly covers the stabilizer, pat it lightly with your hand to make an even layer. You do not have to completely cover the space, and you won’t want it too thick.

Place the other sheet of stabilizer on top and pin through all the layers.

Pin just enough to help hold the stack together

Carefully lay the whole stack in the bed of your machine and slowly stitch around all four sides, about 1/4″ in from the edge.

Stitching about 1/4″ from all four edges
Go slowly. The stabilizer may try to buckle or pleat. Don’t worry, just keep stitching.

Decide on a pattern to stitch all over the stack. I usually just stitch a grid, but you can do whatever you like. This stitching is what makes the “lace,” so make sure that it’s close enough to hold everything together. I usually stitch about a 1/4″ grid. Then stitch around all four sides once or twice more.

This part can get tedious, but keep at it!
Almost done!
All stitched

The hardest part is over! Admire your work, then plunge it into a bucket or sink full of cold water for five to ten minutes. You can swish it around in the water if you like, but be gentle. When the time’s up, remove it from the water and rinse it a little more under running water. Lay it flat on a towel to dry. I let mine dry overnight just because that’s what works for me. It is usually dry within a couple of hours. If, after it’s dry, it still feels plasticky or hard, you’ll have to rinse again and let dry. If not, take it to your ironing board and give it a quick press.

A second version, drying
We made fabric! Or lace…

In my example above, there are some raggedy thread edges. This does not bother me, but if you really hate them you can make sure all of your grid covers the outer edges. Or…chop them off! It’s okay, nothing is going anywhere. That being said, I do usually treat the edges of whatever I cut from this with Fray Block. I’ve had really good luck with it  not staining or getting brittle, even after years of use. Not so much with Fray Check! (As I went to grab the link to Fray Block, I just saw that it now comes in bottles with a little brush. That seems much neater to me than the tubes I’ve used until now. My tube gets seriously mangled before I finish it!)

See? I have no idea how this happens but after a while it gets dicey to use without having it all over my hands.

I first cut this small piece I made into strips and top-stitched them onto a piece of velvet to make a medium XX block. I adore the mix of textures!

A finished block

I added a second set of strips to cotton to make a small block.

Two finished blocks!

You can make your bits of lace-fragments-fabric as big or as small as you like. To go bigger, just overlap your sheets of stabilizer and make sure you stitch over the edges (don’t get too hung up on this, all you need to do is make sure none of the fragments get hung up in your machine). Most of all, just relax and enjoy making it. Precision is not a big deal with this, and you’re using up your fragments!

This method makes a surprisingly strong fabric, but I would not use it anywhere it got a lot of friction, and I would almost certainly not machine-wash it. But still, can’t you think of some great uses for it? How about using it in place of wool for an applique pattern? In an art quilt?

How will you use your fragments-fabric?

Stop back by tomorrow for Gathering up the Fragments, Part 2. I’ll show you another way to gather up the fragments and create fabric for fun!


Part 2

Part 3


p.s. Did you know I offer a class by this same name? The techniques I teach are different in it, but it is a blast! Let me know if it’s something your guild or group would enjoy!