10 Clever Way to Cut Up Your Excess Upholstery Fabric


On Project Runway, overestimating fabric amounts can cost designers big time on those challenges requiring they apply every scrap. Who can forget those zany, over-padded handbags or useless belts eked out of the surplus? But in the world of interior design, we’re often left with bulk that is quite usable.

Why the extra? The usual motivation is that the pattern repeat is large and we need to match our cushions or chairs. Also, imperfections may exist in the weave that we have to cut around. I recently had that nightmare with costly mohair velvet. Apologies to the Dinkelspiel family. Or, the designer may have measured differently from the upholsterer. You do the math!

The solution? Make that extra yardage sustainable. Here are a few ways to turn extra rolls of new or vintage fabric into something useful and decorative for your nest:


1. Stretch pretty fabric, old or new, on a canvas and frame as a work of art. This can set a stunning backdrop for a bed, sofa or entryway, and costs much less than an original work of art. Artist Anne Becker, featured in the March issue of Elle Decor, did this with an expansive piece of Ikat fabric (above), and the result is chic and exotic.

2. Refresh a room by sewing new cushions for the sofa. Have fun doing a different print on the reverse so you can change the pillows with your mood swings. Today you might need soothing paisley, tomorrow frenetic dots. It’s all quite holistic, really.

3. Whip up unique book covers or journals for you or your children. “Dear Diary, I’m so happy my mother doesn’t waste her cool fabric. Also, I have a horrible breakout on my chin!” Just cut the fabric to fit an existing notebook and paste. I made a prayer book cover for my youngest daughter that she adores because the fabric is sooo beautiful. A great resource is the book Fabric Art Journals by Pam Sussman, billed as the first comprehensive book with step-by-step instruction and patterns for creating unique book structures from cloth.


4. Let your daughters be junior designers and have at the fabric to make doll clothes or a cool skirt for themselves. So what if Barbie looks frumpy? It will teach that plastic beauty to get real. Your son can make doll clothes too, if he is sew inclined. I’ll tell you about my cousin, Joel, another time.

5. Upholstery fabric makes delicious aprons and high-end tablecloths. I love adding bullion fringe as trim, a style you can observe in the Ballard catalog. I throw my cloth over a round table when I entertain for that sophisticated custom panache. If you cannot sew, ask a crafty friend to help. Offer to make her lunch. Perhaps, like me, she works for food.


6. Sell your fabric (especially collectible textiles) online to make money. Many corners of Ebay are designed for trading fabrics. If you don’t have use for yours, someone else just might.

7. If you have a good amount of fabric, why not cover the walls of a small bathroom or powder room? Many designers use fabric as wall coverage because it adds a layer of depth and insulation. A good wallpaper hanger should be able to paste up fabric, as well.

8. Donate the fabric to the art teacher at your child’s school or another school. They really need it for projects and the teacher will be very thankful.

9. A great mother’s day gift is making your own sachet pouches with gorgeous fabric. You don’t even need to sew. Just cut squares and fill with wonderful organic potpourri or oils, then tie with a pretty ribbon. My mother loves these scented goodies in her lingerie drawers. You can go to ehow to learn more about how to make a pillow sachet. And if you are handy with a needle like those gifted craftspeople at Etsy, you can forge fabulous felines filled with lavender.


10. Sometimes you have the ideal amount for window coverage: Roman shades, a pair of panels, or even a valance for the kitchen window or laundry space. You can even sew panels instead of doors to add flair to a walk-in closet or to hide a storage area. Rod pockets are easy to make with a simple hem at the top, or purchase rings that you can clip to the hem. Get ideas by checking out the panel and shade designs at Serena and Lily.


Design Tips:

– Tell your designer or upholsterer that you want to keep your extra fabric. As a rule, they don’t automatically return it to clients.

– Until you unfurl it to make something cool, keep your extra fabric rolled and sealed to protect it from mold and dirt.

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.