Part of the Series: Greening Up Your Living Spaces

[Special shout out to my long time friend and quilter extraordinaire, Sue Kiser, for giving me most of these tips.]

In 1985, my soon-to-be husband gave me a “sure you are” grin when I told him I was going to make my own wedding dress. But then I had fabric strewn down the haul (it takes a lot of fabric to make a wedding dress), and he joined me to pick out antique lace in Ybor City, Florida. It was real and I think he was impressed.

While my days of sewing my own clothes are far behind me I still haul around a sewing machine here in the RV.  So when Sue sent me a list of quilting waste minimization ideas it felt right to add a post about it.

Much of minimization is fueled by saving money on fabric. I last went to a fabric store two months ago and was shocked at the prices!  The first thought I had was that I could buy something nice for the price of fabric and the labor to make it. Especially working in a tiny space.

But saving money is not the only reason to maximize the use of fabric. The textile industry has quite a large carbon footprint and is considered one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases on the planet .

According to the Textile Exchange Preferred Fiber and Materials Market Report 2021, over 26,000 tons of cotton textiles were produced in 2020. The Stockholm Environment Institute conducted a study and found that the energy used to create one ton of cotton emits 13 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. You can do the math.

Organic cotton emits less CO2 (8 pounds per ton) and also eliminates the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and GMOs.  Organic cotton growers can conserve water because soils are more friable and absorb more rainwater, which requires less irrigation.

Polyester is the second most widely used textile, and if you did not know, it is made from petroleum. According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, around 342 million barrels of oil are needed every year to meet the demand for polyester, nylon, and acrylic.  It is also responsible for between 20 and 35% of all microplastics in the marine environment.

Cotton and polyester account for over 70% of global textile consumption. I am focusing on these two because that is the makeup of most quilting textiles.

Now we know a little about why we should think about reducing waste, so let’s look at some techniques that will reduce your carbon footprint in the sewing room.

  • Save scraps to use for quilt backing. Never throw it away.
  • Donate scraps to a quilting guild that makes charity quilts.
  • Piece together white backing fabric for us as backing in another quilt.
  • Baste together batting scraps into larger pieces that can be used in a quilt that will be quilted versus tied.
  • Organize scrap fabric by color to make the search easier for future projects.
  • Shop second hand stores for donated fabric.  Donate yours instead of throwing it out.
  • Layout pattern pieces in a way that maximizes use of the fabric.
  • Don’t print pattern pieces from a computer unless you need to cut them out. Common shapes can be created out of sturdy paperboard (cereal boxes).
  • Read instructions from a screen.
  • Create a Pinterest board to save patterns instead of printing.
  • Use your local library to read quilting magazines online.
  • Save empty thread spools for crafting or donate to school programs.
  • Have a fabric swap with other quilters.

If you are a quilter, or spend time in the sewing room making other textile items, what ideas have you come up with for reducing waste in the sewing room?

Links to other articles in this series:


cookbook challenge