Apart from finding people who understand the value of hand-made work, achieving a zero-waste workshop has been one of the biggest challenges for my business.
Those of you that are familiar with my work will have an idea of my starting point, but for those that are new to Gemma Textiles I make clothes and accessories from post-consumer waste. That's just a snazzy way of saying second-hand clothes! There are an increasing number of designers globally who are using similar materials but with the scale of my business I use charity shops, jumble sales, hand-me-downs and my own family's discards.
The largest sections of this material are used for my garment designs. The remnants are kept for feature details or one of my scarf designs. The smallest and nicest left-overs are used for my 'Scrapscape' and 'Portable Art' projects.
At the moment I sell my brooches and Efi Scarves through my Etsy shop. You can take a look here.
Even with this process of utilising smaller and smaller pieces, over time I accumulate scraps that it's too time-consuming to incorporate. My latest scrap buster project has come out of a need for a new loose cover for our main sofa at home. I decided to make new seat cushions at the same time to make it into a much comfier sofa.
I did look at the price for nice new upholstery fabrics, but with a two metre sofa and an economy mind-set I opted to use what I already had in my home stash. In this case, that ended up being two very colourful and clashy fabrics, so to make a statement and help bring the project together visually, I decided I'd make some multi-colour piping, also from my saved scraps stash.
I've never used or made piping before, but with a new 'piping' foot for my machine, I was really excited by the process. Any excuse to buy new equipment is always appreciated!
I'd read that the best piping is made from fabric cut on the cross so that it goes around corners and curves nicely. To achieve this I cut my squares in half corner-to-corner then sewed them together short side to short side into a strip.
It would have made the final job easier if the original squares had been slightly larger because my seam allowance on the finished piping was a bit narrow in places. I used 8cm squares (cut in half) around 5mm cord. The bulk from the seams of the triangles obviously took away some of my width when putting the piping together.
Even though this process was very labour intensive, I was really happy with the results, and it's a super way to use quite small scraps.
The last scrapbuster element in this project was the new seat cushions. Again, wanting to find the most economic option whilst not compromising in comfort, I opted to buy 5cm deep feather filled box pads, and to make my own 5cm deep box pads filled with waste from my 'unuseable' scrap bin. This scrap contains all the seams, waistbands and tiny, fiddly shapes left over from all my garment making. It's quite a lumpy material on it's own, but underneath the feather topper, it makes a nice, solid base for the new sofa seat. A set of these two inners went into each new cushion cover reclaimed from the previous loose cover.
I haven't yet researched the commercial applications for this type of scrap as cushion filler. I would be uncertain that it would pass commercial fire safety regs in its raw form, but I'm certainly happy to have used it for my own project.