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.
- 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.
- Colleges: The fashion design, art and theater departments are all good places to start.
- 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!)
- 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.
- Project Linus: Project Linus volunteers make quilts for critically ill children. There are chapters around the country.
- 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.
- The Humane Society + Other Animal Shelters: Some organizations have volunteers that make pet beds, pet blankets and bandanas for dogs.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!