Creative Inspiration, Fabric Scraps Obsession

Creative Inspiration: Recycled Textiles

I thought I’d share a little about my love for recycled textiles as part of my ongoing series of posts on my sources of Creative Inspiration.

Unlikely Materials for Quilt Making: Recycled Textiles

Nearly 2 years ago (March 2016) I did a post on “Unlikely Materials” as part of the Blog Tour for my friends Wendy Hill and Pat Pease’s new book,  Creative Quilt Challenges (C&T Publishing, 2016), and shared the story of how I transitioned from only using quilting cotton fabrics to experimenting with using recycled textiles in my quilt creations.

Since 2012 I have experimented with recycled textiles such as recycled clothing (not suitable for clothing donation) and recycled garment and home decor fabric samples – all items that were likely headed to the landfill. I feel a great sense of joy when I create art with those items that would have been discarded.

Recently I pulled out my entire collection of recycled textiles to work on my piece for our annual Central Oregon SAQA art quilting group exhibit which opens at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Shop in July. This year’s theme is “The Threads That Bind” and the piece like previous years, must meet the dimensions of 18″ x 40″.

For the past couple years I have made 18″ x 40″ pieces, based on the selected annual theme, from recycled materials such as “Recycled Door” (the theme was “Doors”) and “The Recycled Road” (the theme was “Pathways”):

If you would like to read about the development of these pieces, just search their names in the search box on my blog. You can also check out these pieces on my art quilting blog, Improvisational Textiles.

For this year’s piece I am again working with recycled textiles, but this time using different recycled textiles since I used up most of the recycled clothing in the above pieces.

My piece is in progress (it was one of the two art quilts with deadlines I mentioned in my post Art & Fear, etc., that I had yet to start) and it is called Recycled Love.

I am not ready to reveal my current piece while it is in progress, it feels private right now.

Interestingly in the book Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (1993) by David Bayles and Ted Orland, they discuss that the artist needs time to work on their work in private without feedback from the world.

(See the Postscript section for more on this book and the post Art & Fear, etc..)

Creative Inspiration From Playing with My Recycled Textiles

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I’ve pulled out my entire collection of recycled textiles while I work on my new piece, Recycled Love. Just having my entire collection laid out before me was a huge source of Creative Inspiration!

They were a little too huge a source of creative inspiration and I ended up designing in my mind 5 – 10 future art quilts until I finally calmed down and made my mind just focus on the art quilt with the deadline!

So I thought I would give you a peek into my recycled textiles collection, most of which were donated/given to me by others.

Recycled Wool

My collection of recycled wool includes manufacturing scraps from wool suit making and Pendleton blanket manufacturing scraps. It also include some felted wool scraps and  various crafting wool scraps from other crafters’ projects.


Recycled Denim

This collection includes our old jeans and old denim shirts; jeans given to me by friends; and an old denim duvet cover. I also keep my denim scraps from previous projects using recycled denim (as long as they are bigger than 3″ x 3″).


Home Decor Samples

These were given to me by a couple who did remodeling work on our home. A client of theirs gave them a large box of home decorating upholstery samples and they shared the box with me! Some of the fabrics seem hideous for a sofa or chair but they would be awesome in an art quilt!


Dyed Silk Scraps

A friend gave me these scraps as samples from a hand dyed silk class she took years ago.


I took them out of the sample book there were in and discovered if I gently ironed them and then sewed them onto muslin I could use them in an art quilt! Below is an example as I have used them in my piece in progress, Recycled Love:


Couture Fabric Scraps (Silk, Linen and Wool)

These are my post precious scraps and to read the story behind these couture fabric samples and scraps from New York City Fashion District Circa 1990s, see this page on my Improvisational Textiles website: Quilting Meets Couture.


The photo does not do the fabrics justice. You can see on the Quilting Meets Couture page the many art quilts made with these beautiful recycled fabrics (all of which were scheduled for destruction by the manufacturer had they not been rescued).

Below is an image of some of my art quilts that I made with these recycled couture fabrics which are in the book 1000 Quilting Inspirations: Colorful and Creative Designs for Traditional, Modern and Art Quilts by Sandra Sider (2015). They are all quilted by Guadalupe Designs.



I was going to do a follow up on the post Art & Fear, etc. that I mentioned in this post, and share/discuss some additional quotes/passages from the book that really resonated with me.

However, on further thought, I decided that this is a book you should experience on your own and read first hand the brilliant insights on the nature of creating art and dealing with the inherent fear and sense of vulnerability and risk that comes with putting your art “out there”.

So instead I will share one more quote from the book and then return to talking about recycled textiles:

“In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot — and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice.”

― David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

21 thoughts on “Creative Inspiration: Recycled Textiles”

  1. I feel quite breathless after seeing and reading about your scraps collections waiting to be upcycled into art. What joy! I have a collection of the bottoms of men’s trousers, some with turn-ups, given to me by a good friend who happens to be a short man. I know that one day I will do something spectacular with them.

    “Recycled Love” is a glorious title.

    And thank you for the quotation from Art and Fear. I borrowed and read the book years ago, but need to revisit it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why thank you! I am glad you found the post interesting! Oh yes you should make something from your collection of recycled clothing – I think you will be pleased with the piece. I am going to re-read Art & Fear every year 🙂


  2. Ooooh, I so enjoyed this guided tour of your collection of rescued fabrics… Now I’m excited to see which ones you use in your next piece! I’m also going to see if there might be a copy of “Art and Fear” lurking in the library system over here… It looks like EXACTLY the kind of thing I need to be reading just now!
    Happy quilting, Tierney! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! I hope you find a copy of the book lurking at your library 🙂
      Though I cannot imagine YOU needing any inspiration as your talent is mind-blowing (you make tiny backpacks and little dogs, not to mention the awesome beasties!) 🙂


  3. It’s so good to see you using and making the most of these scraps! So often in our Société discard of things, that with a bit of creativity can be useful! And in your case, pretty too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. To the tune of ‘food’ from ‘Oliver!’
    ~~SCRAPS! Glorious Scraps!~~Tierney’s got a whole loadful~~SCRAPS! Glorious Scraps!~~Oh how I am envious (sorry not a rhyme!)~~~
    Years ago, I casually asked a neighbor what he did with all of his fabric sample books when they went out of date (he upholstered, did drapes, etc) and then one day I came home to a huge pile of sample books of all sizes and types on our front porch! I still have a few left after having made pillows, wall hangings and quilted items way back in the day!
    (The hardest part was detaching them from their binders)

    Your art quilts are gorgeous – keep on fiber-recycling!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness that is awesome – thanks for the laugh – I love comments set to music 🙂
      I was lucky and they were already out of the books when I got them but there is a place in Portland Oregon that focuses on recycled crafting materials (I think they are called “Scrap”) and they sell the entire fabric sample books (very cheap) for crafters wanting access to them.
      Thanks so much for the compliments 🙂
      Oh here is that place Scrap PDX I mentioned –


  5. Tierney, I love watching you turn scraps into warm and cozy art. These specimens look like they have so much potential. I can’t wait to watch you create a new piece. I also enjoy seeing the photos of your Quilts. They all look amazing! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am off to the library tomorrow! I love to follow your creative process; the fabrics, your thoughts, the symbolism behind your creations…it’s fascinating. Uncertainty being the comforting choice is an interesting concept I will ponder…

    Liked by 1 person

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