I have an incredibly large bag of scraps left over from sewing projects. I try to cull this regularly but it’s pretty much a sack at the minute. Also truth be told, I just absolutely hate throwing fabric away…I’m a hoarder of fabric, what can I say?! Having said that, I do actually eventually give some away or use my scraps for projects, and this project is absolutely fantastic for using up a load of scraps. I’ve also used one of my second favourite things to collect/hoard – jeans.
Basically this technique involves making a sandwich of fabric with a backing, a filling of scraps of fabric and then a top covering fabric which is stitched together then cut to reveal the scraps beneath. The and bottom layers need to be whole pieces to give stability to the finished piece. There’s nothing more therapeutic than a project that allows for a bit of directed destruction and this definitely qualifies!
Here’s what you need:
- Pieces of fabric to make the top and bottom layers – the ones I’ve used are from jean legs so are approx 16 cms x 20 cms and are a good sample size to give you an idea of the technique. Large pieces are tricky to put through the sewing machine when you’re learning.
- Scraps. Lots of lovely small pieces and any kind of fabrics will work, a mix of type is actually ideal and adds texture to the finished piece
- Sewing machine – though you could do this by hand if you are incredibly patient
- Scissors – you will need some pretty fine scissors for cutting in the final stages though all of the prep work can be done with normal scissors. You can use a craft knife to do the slashing part but this is a bit more advanced as it’s really easy to cut too far with a knife so stick with the scissors if you’re a beginner.
Gather your fabric, the top and bottom pieces and the scraps.
Layer your sandwich, I kept the colours and fabrics roughly grouped, but really you can play with this, putting them in different ways causes different effects.
Secure the sandwich ready for sewing. I did this with pins, but you could also tack it into place if you would prefer.
Stitch the sandwich together. If you have a walking foot, use this as it will really help sew it together without any unwanted puckering/gathering.
You need to sew from the centre outwards. Sew a line down the middle and then across to start so that you’ve sewn a cross.
Then sew the remaining vertical lines, working to the edge of the fabric from the centre.
Repeat this to complete the horizontal lines. To give you an idea of scale, each square is approx 2 cms square.
Now the cutting begins! Using a small pair of sharp scissors cut from corner to corner on each square. Aim to cut through the top layer and some or all of the scrap layer.
Using your hands rub across the fabric to remove any bits that have become loose in the cutting.
So that’s one style of cutting/stitching. There are loads of others you can use. For each of these variants I have shown the scrap layer, stitching and then finally the cut piece so you can see how using a more organised system for the scraps or just letting them go in haphazardly changes the look of the final pieces.
Straight lines. I’ve varied the width so that you can see how this affects the finished piece – lots more colour is visible on the sections where the stitched lines are further apart.
Spirals. As with all the stitching you need to start in the middle and work your way out.
Circles. I drew around a cotton reel with a fabric pen that vanishes as it dries and then stitched a curved zig zag around the circles to create the shapes. The got very wobbly as I had some quite thick pieces of fleece in this one.
The double rainbow. I wanted to show that you can use multiple shapes and cutting styles in one piece so this one has two rainbow-like arches that repeat and cross over causing some small squares (which were very tricky to cut) and some long curved lines.
You can work further into the slashed pieces to create more texture by stitching on top to create ripple effects.
The panel below has been made to be a cushion front (cushion is as yet incomplete!) It’s got a variety of shapes and has been washed which fray the cut edges and removes any loose pieces, finishing it with a much more ‘worn in’ look.
This is such a playful and adaptable technique that produces highly textured pieces. If you have a go I’d love to see what you come up with.