Thursday, August 12, 2010

Scrap Fabric Bracelets

When I was a small child, I played under the table while my mother used the sewing machine. At times, I would become enthralled with the pedal and chance to push it. She would wail at me to stop as the needle worked a line of stitches where they didn't belong. As soon as I was able to learn, Mom taught me to sew. Ever since, I've been tinkering with fabric and embroidery. Though I don't do a lot of garment projects, I do like to craft with fabric. As it is with fabric work in general, there are times when you wind up with strips that get thrown away or pieces of torn clothing you meant to fix or reuse that gather dust. I thought, "There has to be a way to use this stuff." These bracelets are an answer to that quandary.

I started with a strip of fabric roughly 2 1/2 inches wide and a little over 8 inches long. It's best to work with small-print calicoes or something that still looks good when you see only a small sliver. Cotton is always a safe bet as it is one of the simplest fabrics to work with. I chose to back this particular cotton with black duck canvas, but any moderately heavy fabric will work. For my first bracelet, I used a scrap from a pair of my husband's old corduroy pants. Note: if you plan to use denim, be aware, denim and some upholstery fabric will ravel. But using what you may have around is great. Reduce and reuse!

Measure your wrist with seamstress' tape or by wrapping a ribbon or string around your wrist, crimping, and laying along a ruler. You want a reasonably snug fit, so allow 1/4 inch for overlap and snaps. Mark your length with a pencil or fabric pencil. It's good to do this on the underside of the fabric just in case. Using your main fabric as a guide, trim your backing fabric. Turn both to face each other (back sides out), press with a steam iron if your fabric will take the steam, and pin the two together.

Using a plain straight stitch, sew the two long sides together leaving the ends open. Note: You can do this with a needle and thread, but a sewing machine will give you the strongest and most consistent results. I try to leave a small seam as to make the widest bracelet possible, but the width is up to you. Keep in mind, however, you will have to turn this back right side out and thin things are difficult to turn. When you've done the sewing, trim off the edges until you have roughly an 1/8 inch of fabric outside your seam.

Now, turn the piece by folding the outside edges of the open ends down and pulling the inside out. I use an unsharpened pencil or dowel to help shove sometimes. When you've turned the 'tube' of fabric, press it flat. Turn the open ends inward to leave nice, clean edges. Stitch them closed. Remember, as always, back-stitching is your friend!

Using extra strong thread and a needle, sew on the two components to the snaps by hand. I find I'm not quite skilled enough with the sewing machine for that job. I used small snaps. One side of the snap will go on the top side of one end, the other side on the underside of the other end. When you've added your snaps, you're good to go! Some options would be to add embellishments like beads or buttons, but I like the simplicity of the fabric. There are a number of great patterned calicoes that speak for themselves.

When you sew, keeping small scraps may seem silly. But you never know what useful and fun things you may come up with that could make use of scraps. If you don't know how to sew, I suggest you give it a try. Fabric, needle, and thread can be as creative as paint, brushes, and canvas. This tiny project is a perfect way to get the most of fabric and wear inspiration not on, but as a sleeve!

My vintage ceramic deer modeling three of the bracelets I've made.


  1. Hey, I see mine! And dude! When did you get the canisters?

  2. I got those months ago at a flea market. They're not pristine, which is why they're down with my sewing stuff, but they're cool.

  3. They are so cute! Makes me want to get a sewing machine.