No matter what type of craft project you’re pursuing, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with leftover materials. You’ll buy slightly more than you need, or you’ll employ a method of cutting or trimming that leaves you with a small amount of practically useless excess.
You’ll be tempted to throw these materials away, but in most cases, you can use these scraps for additional creative projects. We’ll explore some ideas in this guide.
The Benefits of Using Leftovers
Why would you go out of your way to make use of these leftovers?
There are several benefits:
- Cost efficiency. If you’re selling your work for a profit, you’ll need to think critically about cost efficiency. If you’re buying all your own materials (and not, say, finding or receiving them), every piece of material you throw away represents lost money. Reusing these materials for projects that you can sell in the future is a way to capitalize on your existing investment.
- Environmental impact. It’s also reasonable to consider the environmental impact of your work. If you’re constantly disposing of extra wood, plastic, and other materials, you’re indirectly contributing to the waste problem in this country. Upcycling those materials can make your operation more environmentally friendly—and you can market your products as “green” as well.
- Creative stimulation. Working with scrap materials forces you to think outside the box. If you tend to make the same types of projects over and over, you’ll appreciate the break. You may also use this as an opportunity to get more familiar with your core materials, and brainstorm other projects you can tackle in the future.
- Originality. Not all artists make good use of their scrap materials. This is a good chance to differentiate yourself, and offer products that are distinct from the ones being sold by your competitors.
Now let’s take a look at some of the types of materials that are well-suited for scrap projects.
If you work with leather regularly, you’ll often be left with scrap leather after you cut the main piece from your base. You can use them for a variety of smaller projects, like:
- Leather totes. While you’ll need a sufficient quantity of leather for a high-quality leather tote worth selling, you can make a small tote from your leftovers you can use for personal transportation.
- Planter labels. If you have planters around the house, a scrap of leather can function as a classy way to label them. It doesn’t take much work, but it can instantly step up your décor.
- Pulls and handles. Throughout the house, you’ll have opportunities for pulls and handles. For example, you might add leather straps to your cabinets or to existing trays, making them easier to transport.
- Coasters. Coasters are a good project for scraps since they don’t have to be very large. Consider etching or stamping them to improve their appearance.
- Switch covers. Switch and outlet covers are practically necessary, but they tend to be dull. A bit of leather can instantly make them more charming.
- Napkin rings. If you have just a small scrap of leather, you can turn it into a napkin ring.
Wood is another material that frequently needs to be cut down. When you have smaller pieces of wood that aren’t big enough for a core project, you can try using them in projects like these:
- Cutting boards. It’s possible to make a cutting board from almost any type of wood, and you won’t need much to do it.
- Keyring holders. Are you or your spouse constantly losing your keys? Make a keyring holder from your leftover wood.
- Coasters. Like leather, wood is highly conducive to coaster making.
- Whittling projects. If you have small amounts of a soft wood, you could consider taking up whittling. It’s an art that’s easy to pick up but hard to master.
- Small boxes. You could also create small wooden boxes, for decorative or functional purposes.
Fabric is softer and easier to cut than wood or leather, so it’s a bit more versatile. These are just a few of the projects you can make with your scraps:
- Coin purses. A small bit of fabric is all you’ll need to make a coin purse.
- Patchwork pillowcases. You can also take scraps of multiple fabrics to make a patchwork pillow case or even a full quilt.
- Phone cases. Fabric won’t protect your phone from being dropped, but it can look stylish.
- Cat toys. Fill a flap of fabric with cat nip and add a tail or string, and you’ll have a fully functional cat toy.
- Lanyards. Though basic, lanyards can be useful—and they still sell at craft shows.
These ideas are just the beginning. There’s practically no limit to what you can do with your leftover scrap materials, especially if you combine those materials together. Experiment and look for inspiration from other artists; you might be surprised what you can come up with on the fly.