12 Places to Donate Your Unwanted Fabric

on March 16 | in Sew Good (Charity Sewing) | by | with 22 Comments

A few times every month I get an email or call from someone asking what they can do with their unwanted fabric. Often, a family member has died and the fabric was part of the estate, but sometimes someone simply realizes they’ll never use all the fabric they’ve accumulated over the years. If the fabric is in good shape, don’t throw it away! There are groups who will be happy receive it as a donation and put it to good use, but it might take a few calls to find them. Here are some things to consider and ideas for donating.

Before You Call, Assess What You Have

What kind of fabric is it?

Most of the emails I get say, “We have a lot of fabric,” but they don’t specify what kind. Is it garment fabric? Upholstery? Quilting cotton? Swimsuit fabric? And what about the fiber content? Is it 100% cotton? Polyester? Wool? Try to get a sense of what is there before you start calling or emailing groups to see if they want it. A lot of sewists will have a mix, but you might try to separate it. Some groups, for example, might only want the quilting cotton, while others will take the garment fabric. You don’t have to identify every piece, but you should be able to give the group a sense of what’s there.

How much fabric is there and how big are the cuts?

Most groups are going to want to know about how much fabric they’ll be getting before they commit to taking it. Will it fit in a shoebox or the back of a truck or somewhere in between?

Also, how big are the cuts of fabric? Are there yards of each, or just bits and pieces? Garment sewists will prefer yards, while quilters are used to working with smaller cuts such as fat quarters (18″ x 22″). Schools and other groups that use the fabric to make art probably won’t care.

Is the fabric in good shape and clean?

If the fabric is musty because it’s been a garage for 30 years, let the group know before you pass it along. Laundering the fabric might not be an option for them.

Are there notions too?

Be sure to let the group know whether or not you also have notions like thread, needles, bias tape, tools, buttons, etc. They may or may not want them as part of the fabric donation.

Can you deliver it or pay for shipping?

Most of the groups who will take donations of fabric are not-for-profit and don’t have funds available to have the fabric shipped to them.

Organizations + Groups that Might Take Your Fabric

Before you show up with a big box of fabric, it’s important that you confirm with someone from the organization that they will be able to take it. If might be that they don’t need it at all, or are not able to receive it at this time.

  1. Preschools + K-12 Schools: I once donated a giant box of upholstery fabric swatches to a preschool, which they used to practice their cutting skills and make art. I’ve also donated to my daughters’ schools for use in art class. If the school has a theater department and/or sewing classes they might be able to take your larger cuts of fabric.
  2. Colleges: The fashion design, art and theater departments are all good places to start.
  3. 4-H, Girl Scouts + Boy Scouts: These youth groups can be found all around country and are often learning home living skills, as well as doing service projects. (I held a toy drive last year and received a big shipment of stuffed manatees from a Girl Scout troop!)
  4. Churches: Some churches have sewing clubs and work on service projects, and also hold group yard sales to raise money for church projects and ministry groups.
  5. Project Linus: Project Linus volunteers make quilts for critically ill children. There are chapters around the country.
  6. Quilts of Valor: The Quilts of Valor Foundation gives quilts to service men and women touched by war. By contacting the organization you might be able to connect with some of the volunteer quilters.
  7. The Humane Society + Other Animal Shelters: Some organizations have volunteers that make pet beds, pet blankets and bandanas for dogs.
  8. Reuse/Recycling Centers: Many communities have reuse/recycling centers that accept donations of just about anything. They offer classes and community education in addition to a store for finding unique home and craft supplies. (Check out SCRAP in Portland as an example.)
  9. Children’s Museums: I’ve been to several children’s museums that have rooms with scrap wood, fabric, recycled cardboard and other supplies. Kids are encouraged to use their creativity to make whatever they want, while staff work with them to use new tools.
  10. Quilt Guilds: Many guilds have a charity sewing groups as well as members who can use the fabric. The Modern Quilt Guild has a guild locator.
  11. Prisons: Several sewists and quilters have told me that they’ve taught sewing classes at prisons, or worked with prison groups to create products for sale.
  12. Senior Centers + Assisted Living Facilities: Some homes and groups for seniors have very active sewing and quilting clubs. With limited income and limited ability to get to the fabric stores, these senior groups might appreciate a nice donation.

Know of other places to donate fabric? Please leave your ideas in the comments!

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22 Responses to 12 Places to Donate Your Unwanted Fabric

  1. Donna H says:

    In the Tri-Cities area of North East TN , donate to Sew Crazy! We have been a sewing organization for 5 yrs. working solely from donations . We sew everything thing from mastectomy aprons, dog coats for the area’s animal shelters , backpacks for veterans , infant demise clothing for pre-mature babies , shawls for the elderly , stuffed animals for children /teens in mental health facilities , bathrobes for ladies at domestic abuse centers , etc. Our donations fuel our projects and we use just about any type of fabric . What we don’t use gets passed along to the animal shelter for bedding needs.

  2. Melissa says:

    If your local library offers craft programs check and see if they can use your extra fabric.

  3. Jean says:

    Don’t throw any scrap of any fabric away! Even bits as small as the trimmings from squaring up your blocks have a use. Ask first, but many thrift shops sell unusable textile by the pound, which then becomes mattress stuffing and upholstery padding (you know those labels that say 100% recycled fibres?) I have several guild members that bring me their scraps. Donate your worn out clothing, towels etc too! It doesn’t belong in landfill.

  4. Here’s a resource I pulled together which will allow you find Creative Reuse centers like SCRAP across the country and around the world- http://trashn2tees.blogspot.com/2014/11/FindACreativeReuseCenterLocationNearYou.html

  5. This is the most comprehensive list of ideas for donating fabric that I’ve ever seen. Thank you Kristin – it’s great!

  6. Debbie says:

    Many Lutheran Churches will take all types of fabrics to make quilts and backpacks which are shipped overseas to disaster areas and places of need. The organization is Lutheran World Relief.

  7. Rachel says:

    If you live within driving distance to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, there is the World’s Largest Textile Garage Sale: http://www.textilecentermn.org/garagesale/

  8. Linda says:

    Another great place to donate fabric, unfinished quilt tops, or finished quilts is Margaret’s Hope Chest. They give quilts to the children of prison inmates, others who have suffered loss and grief, and they also have a program to give quilts to mothers who are undergoing treatment for postpartum depression.

  9. Krystal says:

    Kidz Club in Albania!! We teach basic sewing and crafts as one part of our ministry. We have a friend who visits 2x a year and brings us supplies. Fun scrap materials are always a blessing for using in projects.

  10. Rachel says:

    Another place to consider is Inklude (http://inklude.org) which is a non-profit studio for adult artists with autism and other developmental disabilities. They have a wishlist at http://inklude.org/donate and it includes many types of fabric, fiber arts supplies and sewing notions.

  11. Cathy says:

    Our local resale shop also takes scraps left over from quilting – for example from trimming the edges after quilting, or bits too small for me to save. All they ask is that you label the bags as “Fibers” so they don’t mistakenly dig through it. Call your local store first!

  12. Jill says:

    There is a shop in Indianapolis called Indy Upcycle. They sell fabric, yarn, craft and art tools and supplies on commission. There are even partially used art supplies.

  13. beth p says:

    Our refugee sewing school, Make Welcome, exists on donated fabric. We are so grateful to the many quilters in the Charlotte Modern Quilt Guild, a couple of fabric/pattern designers, and other family and friends who have donated fabric to us. We’ve also happily received donations of notions and thread, as long as it isn’t ancient brittle thread from great grandmother’s stash : )

    If anyone is in the Charlotte, NC area and is interested in donating fabric for our refugee sewing classes, you can contact us through the website.


  14. Kelli N says:

    If you live in the Phoenix, AZ metro area, we’d love to put your quilting cotton to excellent use! AZ Blankets 4 Kids is an all-volunteer non-profit organization serving children in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Our goal is to provide comforting blankets and quilts to seriously ill and traumatized children in our community. The organization was founded in 2001 and we hope to reach a goal of 100,000 blankets distributed within this calendar year. Please visit our website azblankets4kids.org for more information; access to free, simple quilt patterns; and other ways to get in touch with us if you’d like to contribute. Thanks and Happy Stitching!

  15. kim says:

    don’t forget about Green Bag Lady who makes shopping bags to give away to use instead of plastic.

    • I was just going to comment the same – Green Bag Lady would be grateful for your spare fabric and they have chapters in several countries. We have a chapter here in the UK but some of us are short of fabric.

  16. Jocelyn says:

    May I offer another suggestion. When I broke my wrist, I was in PT for three months. The PT gal that worked with me was a hand specialist and as we talked over the weeks of my therapy, she asked me for scraps of fabric of different types. When she is working with someone who needs to learn how to regain the sense of touch, fabric is a great way to teach the senses. I gave her cotton of different weights, polyester, wool, flannel, and different materials that were of garment quality (such as a silky type). She cut them up into small pieces and put them in zippy bags for her patients to handle. I was glad to share with her, and hopefully it will help someone whose need was greater than mine.

  17. STH says:

    There may also be a creative reuse center near you that would love to have it! These stores sell donated craft items to raise funds for art education. In the U.S., we have the SCRAP chain of creative reuse centers, plus independent stores such as Seattle ReCreative. Here’s a directory of creative reuse centers worldwide: http://www.artofrecycle.org/our_neighbors.html.

  18. Ana says:

    These are great suggestions. I recently donated some fabrics from my stash to a community college sewing department. The students were grateful to have free fabric for their projects.

  19. kathyh says:

    Fabric content is very important for donations.
    I donate to three groups:
    1. 100% cotton to my local Project Linus group. Most quilting groups will only accept 100% cotton.
    2. My friend, the 4-H sewing leader. I ask her what she needs and then find a way to give her what she needs. Generally, her 4-H’ers might be working in knit fabrics or wool fabrics (Make It With Wool) or something very specific. Notions donations are valued by this group of up and coming seamstresses.
    3. Kiwanis Thrift Store – or any thrift store, – will take anything else.

    Try to launder first – none of these groups is a fan of Musty.

  20. Sew Happy says:

    Check your local quilt shop or sewing machine stores. I have one of each which will take fabric for charity sewing. The sewing machine shop even has their grandmother helping with the sewing.

    Happy Creating

  21. Miranda E says:

    The link for quilt guilds goes to a cute dog named Manny… I like looking at cute dogs, but some people might be confused! 🙂

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