Fabric mills and upholstery manufacturers discontinue fine fabrics every year. Once they're discontinued, custom workrooms, furniture stores and fabric shops have no use for the fabric samples. The samples range from postcard-sized swatches bound in books to single hanging samples measuring up to half a yard. Instead of buying pricey yardage for your next project, think of things you can make using fabric samples.
Home Decor and Furnishings
Make throw pillows for any room in your home from furniture store upholstery samples. Use a patterned fabric for the pillow front and a coordinating solid or texture for the back. Add designer style by using a third sample for a welt, flange or ruffle.
Cut fabric samples into 1- to 2-inch wide strips and stitch them together. Weave the strips together to make throws or rugs, depending on the fabric weight. Make chandelier chain or electrical cord covers by cutting a large fabric sample into 2- to 3-inch wide strips. Seam them together, sew the seamed strips into a long tube, and then gather the tube.
For your kitchen, cut a fabric sample into two squares, and then sandwich quilt batting in between to make pot holders. Cut a contrasting fabric sample into strips to make the binding. Cut large rectangles instead of small squares, and then use the same process to make placemats for the breakfast table. Use different samples for each side to make the placemats reversible.
Apparel and Accessories
Use medium to heavyweight fabric samples to make purses, bags and totes in the pattern of your choice. Use smaller samples to make drawstring jewellery bags and MP3 covers with straps. Use medium to large samples to make purses and totes. Make the body from one fabric and the trim and handles from a second, or seam several prints together for a casual, bohemian look. Line tote bags with a contrasting fabric sample to make them sturdy and reversible.
Make delicate handkerchiefs from sheer linen and cotton drapery samples. Cut them to size, and then give all four sides a dainty, rolled hem. Turn velvet, brocade or tapestry fabric samples into vintage-style, detachable collars. Fuse interfacing between the two sides of the collar, and add a simple hook-and-eye closure to the back.
Use fabric samples to make trims to decorate your other textile projects. Cut lightweight silks and linens into thin strips; the strip width depends on your finished project. Sew them together end to end, and then braid the strips together. Attach the braided trim to clothing, costumes or home decorating textiles. If you make the braids fat, you can use them as curtain or drapery tiebacks.
Cut fabric samples of any weight into strips to make ribbonlike trim. Turn both long ends of the strips under. Iron crisp creases into the folds. Use the flat ribbon, or run a gathering thread along each side and ruche it. Embellish clothing by topstitching the trim to skirts or sleeves. For home decorating, edge towels, curtains, pillow cases or other home textiles with your trim.
Arts and Crafts
For fine arts applications, turn the tiny fabric samples bound in books into a fabric or mixed-media collage. If you prefer stitch crafts, cut the samples into applique pieces for quilts or other sewing projects.
Small samples also work well for patchwork projects. Patch the pieces together to make a larger piece of fabric yardage, or use them as traditional quilt blocks. For a more exotic look, experiment with Middle Eastern or Asian patchwork textiles, such as Indian Banjara embroidery. Start with a patchwork base and then add embroidery, beads, cowrie shells and tiny mirrors called shisha.