What To Do With Fabric Scraps After Production: Sustainability 101

Are You a Designer Who’s Wondering What to Do With Fabric Scraps?

Did you know that over 20 billion pounds of textiles is thrown away in the US each year? In a landfill’s low-oxygen environment, textile waste can take 40 years or more to biodegrade – while polluting soil in the process. With the rise of conscious consumerism, more designers are wondering what to do with fabric scraps besides toss them in the garbage. Fortunately, more resources are available now than ever before.

What to Do With Fabric Scraps: Design with a Sense of Waste-Awareness

If you’ve ever visited a cutting room, you probably remember seeing masses of leftover fabric on the floor or in garbage bins. While the marking and grading process maximizes fabric use, it’s inevitable that pounds of fabric will still be left over after production. Here’s how you can prevent your fabric from contributing to that number.

Creative Upcycling

Revamp your last season’s styles with creative upcycling! Slow fashion designer, Jussara Lee creates trims, embroideries, embellishments, and patches from fabric scraps, old trims, and haberdasheries to revitalize old styles that would otherwise be marked down on the sales rack. Creative reuse can also translate to packaging. If you have an in-house seamstress, have her make new garment bags or jewelry bags that you can use in your store/e-commerce shop (depending on the fabric type of course)!

Make an Entirely New Textile

*FAW TIP* Using fabrics scraps to apply an elegant applique to one of your pre-existing coats or adding a patchwork pocket to a t-shirt can allow you to create a more novel, “limited edition” sector to your line. Imagine selling an upcycled version of last season’s coat at a “limited edition” price-point instead of selling it at a discounted price. Upcycling your old styles allows that flexibility!

You can also break down fabric leftovers to make an entirely new fabric. Cut or rip fabrics into long rectangular strips and hand weave them into new artisanal fabrics or spin the strips into yarn and hand-knit a garment.

If that sounds time-consuming, you can collaborate with local textiles artists and outsource the work. If you live in a metropolitan area or even a small town there is probably a plethora of weavers, knitters, and makers in your proximity. Weaving Hand in NYC has partnered with an array of NYC designers to make custom hand-woven garments for their collections. Zero Waste Daniel, also based in New York, collects fabric scraps from cutting rooms and designers and makes entirely new patchworked garments using his “ReRoll method.”

Donate Them

If you really think about it, there are tons of  communities and programs where fabrics scraps are useful. If recycling is your last result, consider donating to one of these first:

  • Art Teachers, Elementary School Teachers, Home-School Groups
  • Local Charites/ Church Missionary Groups
  • Local Girl Scout/Boy Scout Groups
  • High School Sewing/ Home Econ. Classes
  • Local Prison Inmate Sewing Programs


Even today most city-wide textile recycling programs do not except fabric scraps-just  clothing. Here are a few well-known options offered in NYC. Check your local sanitation department to find out their options for textile scrap waste.


refashionNYC is a non-profit partnership with NYC’s Dept. of Sanitation. They except both clothing and fabric scraps. Contact them and request a bin for your business or apartment building.


FABSCRAP (based in NYC) picks up fabric scraps from all over the city and stores them in their Queens warehouse, where volunteers sort them. Small, “un” usable scraps are shredded and larger pieces are re-used and re-sold to local artist, designers, etc at incredibly affordable prices!

Comment below if you found these resources helpful! If you like to learn more about zero-waste design or simply want to design more sustainably, contact us here and book a 20-minute strategy session with us!

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