Intro: Up-cycled Cotton-ball Fabric
Why waste money on store-bought craft fabricswhen you can easily make your own with the cotton balls you discard every day?
Step 1: What You'll Need
1) Many MANY cotton balls -used or new
(more on this at step 6)
2) Basic hand-sewing kit or glue
3) Lots of time
4) A strong stomach
Step 2: Accumulation
It may take a while, but collect as many cotton balls as you can . It's easy to save them in a bag next to the bathroom counter over several months,saving them each time they're used - or you can do it in a condensed manner and clean your whole house/life with cotton balls (which is what I did).
I've found CVS brand cotton balls to be easiest to work with because they are made in a 'cinnamon-bun' shape that unravels easily.
It's also important to consider the size of the cotton ball you choose. I'm partial to Jumbo or Triple Sized because, as you might expect, they have more cotton to work with.
Step 3: Laying It All Out
In order to assemble cotton balls into a 'fabric-like' shape, it's easiest to unravel the individual cottons balls from their 'cinnamon-bun' shape into long, thin strips of cotton.
The easiest way to do this is to stick your thumb in the middle of the cotton ball and to push upward - poking the center out and unraveling from there until you have a long, thin, flat piece of cotton to work with.
Step 4: Connecting the Cotton Pt I
Obviously individual cotton balls aren't going to make much of a fabric to work with, so there are two simple routes that can be taken to assemble larger pieces.
You can easily whip-stitch two cotton balls together by aligning two edges and sewing 'over-and-through' all along the joint where they meet.
This option preserves the fluffy texture of the cotton, but it can be very laborious as it must be done by hand - especially if your cotton balls have dried somewhat stiff due to the amount of dirt/dust/whatever they've accrued.
Step 5: Connecting Cotton Pt II
The other, much easier, way of connecting the unraveled cotton balls is simply to glue them to each other.
This method is much faster, but the glue will dry slightly rigid and might create additional weight to the fabric.
The only real technique to this is to make sure that you have a solid, but thin, line of glue all down the side of one cotton ball to prevent weak spots in your seams
It helps to press the two pieces of cotton together to ensure that the fibers have stuck - but it's not always necessary.
Step 6: Presto!
After repeating this process for the desired number of cotton balls, you will have made your very own fabric (which probably does have your blood, sweat, and tears in it)
Though you can attempt to determine the number of cotton balls you'll use ahead of time, it's easier just to make as much fabric as you can and add to it as needed. It's not like you're using those dirty cotton balls for anything else.
Step 7: Personalization
Some easy ways to personalize the fabric:
1) Use colored astringent/household cleaner to tint cotton balls.
Clean and Clear brand astringents have wonderful shades of pink and blue, while I've found Windex to create a lovely pastel yellow.
2) Create custom fabrics!
Cotton balls are often recommended for cleaning 'baby's ears, nose, face, and diaper area.' Wouldn't it be lovely to collect those used cotton balls and assemble them into a precious keepsake for baby? Timeless.
3) Embroider and Embellish it!
It's prettymuch the same as any other fabric, which means you can embellish it in any way you like - embroider, paint, bedazzle, whatever works!
Step 8: Examples and Resources
This up-cycled cotton ball fabric can be used for anything you'd do with store-bought fabric.
I made this teddy bear (using the How Joyful Bear pattern available here) and a baby blanket with a braided cotton-ball border.
I used approximately 300 jumbo cotton-balls to make the 5'x5' baby blanket and about 200 more to make and stuff the bear.
Resources for more patterns and ideas:
and of course