Sunday, March 4, 2007

Fabric Free

Many years ago, one of my hobbies was sewing. I used to subscribe to several sewing magazines and through them discovered fabric clubs. I ended up joining three of them! Each month I would receive swatches in the mail. Of course, I drooled over those samples while visions of garments I would sew myself, danced in my head! I guess you can see where this is heading, right?

Although I had accumulated quite a bit of fabric, alas, I never quite got around to actually sewing anything with it (I even kept those little swatches! Yup! Discovered a whole shoebox of 'em while I was poking around a closet. Well, they were perfectly good! How could I possibly throw them away...?!!)


While I do hope to get back to sewing one day, for now that won't be happening, so I finally faced up to the fact that it was time to find the fabric a new home. I threw the phrase "donate fabric" into the search engine to see what would turn up. One possibility that presented itself was quilting groups or non-profit organizations looking for fabric to make blankets on behalf of various constituencies (e.g. children who are going through difficult times whether due to illness or family issues (e.g. Project Linus,, Inc.). Another possibility, which had not occurred to me, were animal rescue organizations. I discovered that many sponsor Cage Comforter Programs. Volunteers make little quilts or blankets for the animals they shelter while they await adoption. Apparently the blankets are comforting and are much more attractive to potential new owners, then shredded newspaper.

However, I decided to donate my fabric to Materials for the Arts (MFTA), a "materials exchange" organization, NOT to be confused with an exchange or swap site, which I discussed previously (see The Exchange Game). Materials exchanges are organizations (often non-profit) that collect donations of various types of excess materials from businesses and/or individuals. Others can then purchase these materials for a much lower price than they would ordinarily cost. In the case of MFTA, purchase is restricted to NYC Department of Education art teachers, government agencies and not-for-profit arts and cultural groups, social service, health, and environmental organizations that have an ongoing art program. However, other materials exchanges may have different stipulations. Some other materials exchanges that I came across during my internet wanderings were Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts Home in Eugene, Oregon, Scrapbox in Ann Arbor, MI and St. Louis Teachers' Recycle Center, Inc. in Missouri, but that is by no means an exhaustive list. Check out MFTA's resource page for more possibilities in the NY tri-state area. The Find Reuse directory at is another handy tool for locating such organizations in other parts of the country.


Once I had some idea of where the fabric was going (i.e. my Exit Strategy), I dragged a stepladder over to the closet where I had it stashed, waaaaay up on a top shelf, and pulled it all out so I could see exactly what I had. I guestimated the value as best I could and made a list describing the type of fabric, the color or pattern and its yardage.

I have to admit this did set off a bit of a Klutter Krisis, until I got all the details finalized. I had to register as a donor at the MFTA site, submit a list of the items I was donating via their online donation form and then wait for someone to contact me to confirm whether my donation would be accepted. In the meanwhile, I tried to minimize the disruption as much as possible by keeping everything neatly organized in shopping bags until the final removal.


Fortunately, somebody contacted me by phone within a day or so and thankfully MFTA was more than happy to accept the donation. A drawback is MFTA will only pick up items that weigh at least 250 lbs and/or have an estimated monetary value of $1,000. Otherwise, you will need to drop it off personally at their warehouse or mail it to them. This is what I ended up doing, since their drop-off hours were very limited (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 9AM and 3PM).

Once I got the final go ahead, I spent an afternoon getting everything packed up and ready to go. I should have been doing schoolwork, but that's another story. Plus this was far more enjoyable. I was reducing clutter and knew it would be going towards a great cause! Since then I have received several acknowledgements (including a reciept for tax purposes), both from MFTA as well as the ultimate recipient, a visual arts teacher working at a public school through Studio in a School, which places professional artists in public schools throughout NYC's five boroughs.


By providing a relatively inexpensive source of arts and other supplies, materials exchanges enable teachers and organizations to deliver services or provide programs that enrich their communities educationally, artistically and culturally (check out MFTA's recipient list). They also help to divert huge quantities of materials that would otherwise end up in the landfills.

Voila! A personally satisfying and eco-friendly solution for reducing clutter!

Alright, alright! So, what if I did keep a few pieces of the fabric. Releasing one's inner Packrat doesn't happen over night, you know!

No comments: