Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How big is a scrap?

Many of you know that I am dressed by birds and mice every morning in the little sparkling Disney world in which I live. (Interestingly, when my daughter was little she called me Ariel for three weeks after she saw the movie, "The Little Mermaid.")

It's no secret that I accumulate cats easily and that I can relate pretty well to even the snarliest feline. Although I'm less of a fan of dogs, I managed to charm/wrangle two pit bulls who invaded my table at last year's neighborhood garage sale (I didn't realize they were pit bulls until one of the shoppers expressed utter amazement at my lack of fear around them.). I still insist that a trio of baby squirrels who were born in one of our trees made daily visits to me while I worked in the yard, and that they smiled at me. When my friend was a wildlife rehabilitator, we took two tiny chicks through the Chick Fil A drive through, chastening the workers for serving such animals (on a bun, not as customers). I made a purple net tutu for her wild boar, Charlotte, so she could appear in Swine Lake. There are actual, unretouched photos of me with raccoons in my hair.

So, when I was trying to figure out something to do with the teeny scraps that I'm accumulating at a pretty rapid rate right now, animals came to mind.

The problem with scraps is that it's difficult to throw them away because they represent so much potential. Of course, the concept of scraps means different things to different sewists. My friends who make garments will discard anything less than a half-yard, which represents an awful lot of fabric to a quilter. The last time I was at Quiltworks, they said that one of their groups makes quilts with two-inch squares. So I set that as my standard. I would keep any scrap that I could reduce to at least one 2 x 2-inch square. I credit the inventor of Progressive lenses with my ability to do so.

Still, when you straighten the grain or trim off a selvage, you wind up with a long, skinny piece of fabric. And regardless of how careful you are with your cutting, there are always stragglers left behind.

After talking with a few of my more eco-aware friends, I decided to use my current scraps two ways.

First, I made a nesting box for birds -- something they can either nest in or from which they can gather materials to create a nest elsewhere. I cleaned and cut a hole in a quart-size milk carton, filled it with thin fabric strips less than eight inches long and hung it in my backyard crepe myrtle tree.

Then, I contacted my favorite no-kill pet shelter -- Friends for Life in the Houston Heights -- and asked if they would accept my donation of pet beds stuffed with fabric scraps. They enthusiastically agreed.

Today, when I was taking the photos for this post, I noticed there's a nest in the crepe myrtle, just five or six inches above the nesting box. I thought I had seen a lot of bird activity there -- it's right outside my kitchen window so I can watch what's going on -- but I didn't realize there had been nest-building. It has to be new because we had pruned the crepe myrtle back in February, effectively defoliating it. But it's not so new as to contain any fabric, I'm sure.

Still, there was a mom in the nest when I started taking photos; she flew away when I moved the nesting box so I could get a better shot.

And I'm pretty sure she smiled at me.


  1. After having seen a tutorial on making crumb quilts I just shove any offcuts into a big plastic box and I'm going to give a crumb quilt a go this year! If you haven't heard of them try googling it!
    My husband keeps birds here in Australia and I haven't ever thought about fabric as nesting material. My only concern would be that their little claws might get caught in the fabric but I'm sure a Mummy bird would love the colour scheme of your next box!

  2. I have never heard of a crumb quilt! Do you have a link you can share? Thank you.