Remnants are often overlooked little pieces of decorating gold. But with a few shopping tips and tricks, it’s super-easy to get a fabulous designer look at a fraction of the cost.
How to Save a Bundle Using Remnants
But before we begin, I just have to tell you the funniest story. One day, I am tooling around the city and make a wonderful new friend. The next day, I’m backing my car up to a warehouse dock that was, coincidentally, stacked with the most exquisite fabric samples and remnants imaginable.
I know! Right?
It’s totally like this post was going to write itself.
Affiliate links are included for your convenience. See full disclosure here.
Anyway, I had no earthly idea what kinds of fabric or even how much yardage were in the stacks. But as they were loaded, I spied some amazing silks, linens, and upholsteries. And the fact that these precious pieces were literally on their way to scrap-fabric heaven made saving them from such an unseemly fate all the more joyous.
So I brought them home and started sorting….and sorting….AND sorting. To onlookers, it may have seemed like the mother lode of hot fabric messes, but to me, it was like Christmas! I promise, if anybody with even a hint of decluttering OCD had come around, they would have likely needed to be restrained…..or maybe even resuscitated.
By the time I had finished sorting, that glorious fabric covered the floor from the front door to the back.
But once I finally got my arms around what was there and figured out which pieces could be used for the living room refresh, it was 100% worth all the
work fun. 🙂 And honestly, it’s such an honor to have the chance to work with such fabulous textiles. Many thanks to the good folks at #JimThompson. I’ll gladly stand between your warehouse dock and the fabric-eating trash bin any time. #callme
And with this, let’s talk about how to actually buy and use these little fabric gems.
The Three Basics
When it comes to using remnants, size matters. Usually, the smaller the remnant, the lower the price. But looking at these tiny pieces in a new way can turn even the smallest of remnants into the decor of your dreams. I got my first taste of maximizing small pieces (2 yards or less) during the dining room refresh. Now, I’m a complete and hopeless remnant junkie.
Then there’s cohesion, always and always. In the dining room refresh, cohesion is maintained on the chairs by keeping the fabric type (all linen) and the colors (white and greige) consistent.
I have six dining room chairs and each of the linen fabrics covers two chairs. If you find smaller pieces of six coordinating fabrics, this would work, too. Or a smaller remnant could cover the host chairs and a larger coordinating remnant would cover the side chairs. See where we’re going here? When working with remnants, it’s all about moving the decorating ball down the field using whatever play that makes this happen.
As for fabric repeats, a word of caution. Make sure you know the exact size of the seat or pillow cover needed because repeats in the fabric can make or break a good DIY. Notice in the photo below that the upholstery is placed on these two chairs as exact copies based on the 4-inch check repeat. The same was also true for the geometric fabric used on the host chairs. Of the three fabrics used on the dining room chairs, only the whirly Kate Spade gave me some elbow room with the repeat (photo above).
Shopping Tips and Tricks
Create a pattern (template) of your chair or pillow out of old fabric and carry it with you to the fabric store. When standing at the remnant table struggling to determine how the repeat will impact your project, lay the template over the remnant. Trust me. You’ll thank me later.
Does the face side of the fabric work only kinda sorta? Flip it over and consider the back side. In the photo below, the fabric on the left is the smooth face side and on the right is the more textured back side.
Here are the finished pillows using the more textural back side of this fabric.
Have great remnant pieces, but they’re just too small? Sew a few pieces together to create the right-sized textile. Admittedly, this is sometimes easier said than done. But, among my stacks of teeny, tiny pieces, I found a good size piece of silk and two pieces of linen with these amazing inlays.
To create a new textile using these pieces, one option is to lay the linen pieces side-by-side since the white sides match. Sadly, the grays are two slightly different shades of greige so gray side-by-sides is not a good option. And since the pieces are isomers (Remember isomers AKA mirror images in chemistry?), they won’t stack well either. Well, at least they won’t stack so that the inlay pattern retains a consistent direction.
But look what happens when one of the pieces is flipped. Notice the totally awesome matching patterns? #smokinthesewingmachine #justsayin #LOL
Then, silk pieces were added to the left and right of the linen to complete the pillow cover. And although the seam in the center is quite noticeable in this photo, trust me, it is far less noticeable in person.
And last, but not least, is the fabric nap. You know, those raised threads that give a texture or light reflection on different kinds of cloth? When manipulating fabric remnants, always be aware of the nap. This is because fabric is milled to use in ONE direction. So if the fabric is used in the opposite direction…..texture, light reflection and color will change. This change can be used as a friend when piecing together remnants to create a new textile. But do be aware, the nap will be a foe if upholstering chairs or making pillow covers that you want to look identical. See how this velvet shines the light (sample left), but is darker on the right sample? This is because the right sample is upside down. A perfect example of how the fabric nap can change the look when the fabric direction is manipulated.
Now, soak in all these tips (sorry if it’s TMI) and peek back up to the photo of my dining room chairs covered in the buffalo check. To make the chairs exact copies, I had to be careful that the remnant repeat exactly fit both chairs with the nap going in the same direction. Yes, even with that very tightly woven linen. Nap in the same direction = friend. Nap in the opposite direction = foe.
And that’s all there is to it. How to use designer fabrics without breaking the bank. Easy peasy.
To revisit this post, please….
Favorite Sewing Products (affiliate links):
- Sissors – Fiskars 10 Inch Titanium Easy Action Scissors
- Rotary Cutters – 45mm Contour Rotary Cutter for Sewing Fabric Leather Quilting and Scrapbooking
- Sewing Machine – Several good starter machines are available at good prices. My machine is a simple and very old Singer. When it bites the dust, I will strongly consider this machine. Brother CS6000i Feature-Rich Sewing Machine With 60 Built-In Stitches, 7 styles of 1-Step Auto-Size Buttonholes, Quilting Table, and Hard Cover
Posts related to the Living Room Makeover:
- Week 1 – The Plan (click here)
- Week 2 – Design and Install Picture Frame Moulding for Walls (click here)
- Week 3 – How to Make Faux Flowers Look Real (click here)
- Week 4 – You are here
- Week 5 – DIY Slipcover Basics (click here)
- Week 6 – Final Week Reveal (click here)
- Serpentine Chest Makeover (click here)
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