All about FabScrap – a Non-Profit for Reducing Fabric Waste
A couple weeks ago I had the great pleasure of visiting New York City.
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting FabScrap, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing fabric waste. Everything that I’m going to share with you is my own experience. These are photos I took when I visited the FabScrap warehouse personally.
This is what I saw when I walked into FabScrap. Black bags piled to the ceiling. I was floored. I am going to be honest: It was not a pretty sight. I didn’t know what to say. Part of me wanted to run away – back through the maze of warehouse that had got me to this place – but I was sooo curious.
There are things going on in every industry that we don’t see because we don’t want to see. Mountains of garbage are things we want to pretend don’t exist. But fabric garbage? Textile waste?
I stayed in the warehouse so I could learn more…
FabScrap was founded by Jessica Schreiber, who previously worked for the NYC Department of Sanitation as a Senior Manager in the Bureau of Recycling and Sustainability. She helped launch and then managed NYC’s e-waste and clothing recycling contracts.
Jessica teamed up with Camille Tagle, an evening wear designer who was appalled by the amount of fabric waste in the fashion design industry. She now directs the recycling and reuse of fabrics collected by FabScrap.
FabScrap trucks collect scraps from design studios and fashion companies using reusable bags like these. All of the fabric scraps collected by FabScrap here are a by-product of the fashion design industry in New York.
The fabric is transferred to bags like this to await sorting by volunteers. Can you believe this huge mountain of fabric in bags would have ended up in landfills?
FabScrap has approximately 130 clients in the New York City area from whom they collect scraps and unfinished samples, but there are thousands of fashion designers and companies working in NYC alone. This is just the tip of the iceburg because there is so much fabric waste.
The more I learned about commercial textile waste in the design industry, and the dedicated people who work at fabscrap, the more beautiful this story became.
All of the volunteers I met were sewists! They are passionate about re-using fabric instead of letting it go to waste. This is Rachael – a design student. She told me she loves being able to predict fabric trends by seeing the fabrics discarded by famous design studios! When I met her she was folding large pieces of fabric to be sold in the resale area.
Here’s Althea – another volunteer who is also a bag maker (see her website) and she teaches quilting at her local public library. She was sorting the fabrics straight from the bags.
The volunteers who work here earn fabric for their time spent sorting. Althea uses the fabric that she earns to teach her students how to make quilts.
The fabrics that FabScrap and its volunteers rescue from the landfill are either recycled into usable products like industrial felt, moving blankets, mattress stuffing, carpet padding, and building insulation – or they are sold for $5 a pound!
Makers of all kinds (crafters, fashion students, home sewers, quilters) can visit FabScrap and shop cotton fabric, polyester fabric, leather, faux fur, buttons, zippers, and other notions. When you are ready to check out, you get to put your finds on a huge scale.
When I left FabScrap, I reflected on how this place turned beautiful as I learned what was happening.
People are transforming ugly bags of waste into colorful piles of material just waiting to be sewn into creative projects and useful items. It really is fabric recycling and the environmental impact is huge.
At this moment, FabScrap has operations in Brooklyn, New York and a second location in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If you are interested in volunteering to earn free fabric or shopping for a great deal, keep your eye on their website. You can also shop online through their online portal or contact them.
In the meantime, make sure to enter the current SewCanShe giveaway – I’m giving away a goodie bag of fabrics that I got at FabScrap!
Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂
I am so happy someone is doing something. Think of all the dog beds or children’s outfits or quilts that could be made. We need a revolution. Maybe you can start one.
what an amazing story! And that bout being paid in fabric for fabric folding (I’d be running to the FabScrap building now if it weren’t on another continent!) xoxo,
Thank you for telling us about FabScrap. What a wonderful undertaking!
Very interesting. Glad these ladies recognized the waste and are offering alternatives. Will definitely check out their website. Thanks for this article.
This is a great story. If I didn’t live on the other side of the country I would volunteer. The scraps would make beautiful quits, shirts, skirts, for homeless shelters, veterans, shelters for abused women….etc.
Wow! So glad they are making a difference! And thank you for a stewardship lesson at my breakfast table.
Seattle has a program called Threadcycle where any type of used textiles (old clothes, fabric scraps, etc) can be donated. They are sorted and repurposed in a variety of way. I found out about it after making a t-shirt quilt and wondered what to do with all the leftover t-shirt scraps. Now I routinely keep a bag in my sewing room and collect all my scraps, as well as worn out clothing, and I drop it off at our nearby Goodwill store. You can see more information about it here: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/dnrp/solid-waste/programs/ecoconsumer/threadcycle.aspx It feels SO much better to be recycling all my scraps instead of throwing them in the trash!
What a great story! I am so glad to see that the fabric is being rescued from the landfill! Thank you!
What a wonderful place. I wish I lived closer to volunteer to help sort the fabric. Someone needs to let Project Runway know to do a "fabric scrap" challenge of x number of pounds the contestants could use or use what is in a scrap bag to make an outfit. It would be great publicity for the project.
That’s a brilliant idea! xoxo
I love this. Thanks for sharing this story!
That was so interesting, I didn’t know anything like this existed. Hugs,
What a fantastic idea. Thanks for sharing the info. I will check their website and also see if there is a similar program in Southern California (where I live).
Michael Levines in downtown Los Angeles has been doing this for years. https://lowpricefabric.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/the-loft-our-accross-the-street-annex-where-fabric-remnants-are-just-2-50-per-pound/
WOW! We need this in the MIDWEST!
Great story! I recycle my own fabric scraps at our local Value Village.
Thank you for telling that beautiful story and opening all of us up to new ways of finding fabric. Hard to get to on the west coast so I will look at there on-line shop.
I recently read of a group that sews ‘ugly bags’ for the homeless. They make sleep sacks/bags out of scrap fabrics. They make them sturdy and warm. They don’t want them to be pretty, because then they would have value– something to steal and/or sell. This scrap fabric would be perfect!
Very interesting story. We need more places like this. Last year all the fabric scraps from my quilt shop and the classes went into making animal beds and stuffing them.
I love plaids and I love the idea of recycling these fabrics! Thanks for the story. MaryMeg
What a wonderful new life for discarded fabric! I really had never thought of the waste of such goodies! Kudos to these ladies for bringing new life to discards!
I think of quilting as the best use of fabric as most of it is straight line sewing and as a result has much less odd shaped scraps. I often take the scraps from a garment sewing friend and can almost make a quilt from the scraps of 3 dresses! The fashion industry would definitely make more scraps.Glad to see they are being given new life! Wish I lived closer to be involved.
Such an important topic that consumers need to learn more about. Thank you for sharing your experience.
I would love to be in on this! But not close to New York, Chicago nor any other really large city… (does Kansas City count?) and don’t see any trips in the near future.
The ideal solution – for me anyway – would to be able to buy online and shipped. I’d take whatever fabric, as in addition to quilts, I make doll clothing and bags. I would love the concept of X number of pounds for a set price and add the cost of shipping. Much like a ‘goody bag’ and what doesn’t get used recirculates in the local economy.
What a wonderful project! I think every city should have something like this or, at least, a program to make use of scraps and yardage.
My quilt guild collects fabric and leftover blocks from members and outside donations to make quilts for the needy, homeless, shelters and Project Linus. We also use blocks to make placements for Mobile Meals recipients.
Some of the heavier weight fabrics go to organizations that teach women sewing skills to make bags, totes aprons and such. They are then sold to the public to raise money for the program.
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