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When downsizing, consider a new home for your stash

Before donating our stash, we want to be sure the new owner will treasure it as we did.

Readers often write to Threads when they contemplate downsizing because of retirement, illness, or other reason. One of their greatest concerns is finding a new home for their excess sewing stash—fabric, notions, equipment, and even more importantly, their stash of Threads magazines! Knowing their cherished items will be equally treasured by a new owner is a huge comfort to them.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Check your local library to see if they are interested in your Threads magazines. Some smaller libraries don’t have extensive magazine budgets, and many welcome such a donation. If you want to continue to have access to all of the Threads issues, despite parting with your hard copies, consider investing in the Threads Archive DVD (currently on sale) which contains all issues from #1 through #158 in PDF format. Instead of a shelf of magazines, all you need is one DVD!
  2. Check local churches, synagogues, etc. Often these groups are involved in charity sewing and are thrilled, particularly for fabric donations.
  3. Check for a local branch of the American Sewing Guild (ASG). The ASG sponsors a national charity sewing project each year, and many of the local chapters participate in the project. Donations of any type are welcome, and you can be sure every ASG member is passionate when it comes to sewing.
  4. Although many public and private junior high, middle, and high schools no longer include sewing classes in their curriculum, some of them do. Since school budgets are usually tight, usable donations are welcome.
  5. Youth programs such as 4-H are another wonderful place to donate sewing supplies. What a wonderful way to encourage young people to learn to sew. Check the 4-H locator to see if there is an active group in your area. Sewing is only one of the many skills that are taught to 4-H members, so be sure you find a group that includes sewing. You could even volunteer to assist with the sewing instruction or perhaps start a sewing group if they don’t have one.
  6. Check the colleges, universities and other advanced education facilities in your area to see if they have a fashion design or similar department. Students attending secondary education classes are often strapped financially, and donations are particularly welcome.

I recently received an email from former Threads author Robbie Fanning. Robbie wrote many times for Threads over the years, including an article in our inaugural issue (#1). She recently downsized to a smaller home and donated her extensive collection of books, tools, fabrics, and patterns in this way:

  1. A total of 807 books, magazines, newsletters, CDs, and software on sewing machines and sergers were donated to the Smithsonian.
  2. The sum of 4.75 cu. ft. of trade literature for sewing machine accessories and products, as well as articles, correspondence, and newsletters were given to the Smithsonian/National Museum of American History archives.
  3. A personal library consisting of 875 books, magazines, patterns, and videos (including a complete set of Threads) on patternmaking, design, fit, sewing techniques, quilting, costume design, embroidery, and fashion history were donated to the University of California at Davis Design Program, in the name of Robbie’s daughter, Kali Fanning Murrell, who attended UC/D.
  4. Two Lois Ericson vests and ten sweater boxes of machine-embroidery thread were also given to the UC/Davis Design Program.
  5. Hundreds of pounds of fabric and patterns, and a complete set of the 121 books Robbie edited for Chilton/Krause Publishing to the Canada College Fashion Department headed by Ronda Chaney.

Robbie told me she’s happy that these materials, many of which are rare self-published books from all over the world, are now available to scholars and to those passionate about sewing.

Perhaps you have other suggestions for those who are downsizing. If so please share them by leaving a comment.


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  1. stillsuesew | | #1

    Theater departments and civic theaters may also be happy to get your bounty. I donated many craft books to the library. I teach Somali women to sew and I am doing a good job of using my stash to teach them. Check craigslist. There are often requests for everything sewing related.
    And blessings to Robbie Fanning. I still miss the "Creative Machine" magazine after all these years.

  2. AmyGail | | #2

    I emailed our college bulletin board to ask if anyone was interested in sewing books and was delighted to get several responses . I divvied them up according to the person's need (newbie, needing inspiration, re-enactment enthusiast, etc) and everyone was happy. I am still occasionally having giver's remorse but I comfort myself with the fact that everything in the books is in Threads somewhere. I am presently trying to talk myself into giving away some of my fabric stash or at least that is what I tell my husband.

  3. BlueWisteria | | #3

    I donated a lot of stash to the local County 4-H center at the County Extension Agent's Office. They accept donations for several weeks in early summer. Donors may trade the goods for fabric they prefer, if they chose to. 4-H participants and their parents may access the fabric for free or for a very minor charge. Even big metro areas have Extension Agents and 4-H.

  4. User avater
    bigeff | | #4

    In the San Francisco Bay Area, there is only one place one would want to donate their stash. FabMo, http://www.fabmo.org, is a non-profit organization that collects designer fabrics that would have been sent to the dump, and distributes them monthly for FREE to sewers, crafters, artists or anyone who loves and uses fabrics. It is an amazing group for anyone who loves fabrics.

  5. Sewing2enjoying | | #5

    My husband and I are considering downsizing within the next two years so this has been something I have already considered and begun. Instead of candy for the local teens that come to my door on Halloween, I made masks. They loved them! I am making some aprons for a couple young ladies at church that I know love to help their moms cook. I have given covers for wheelchairs as well as walker bags to persons at the nursing home close by. My homemaker's club president heads a workshop that makes toys as well as blankets and even shopping bags for various charities and the material is always donated, so it is easy to find a home there. I so enjoy sewing, though, that I am trying to find ways to use it at church as well as anywhere else I think something can be useful. When I have to absolutely get rid of it, just prior to the big move, I will definitely know the County Homemaker's Workshop will make excellent use of what I have. Great question, though. Makes us put on our thinking caps.

  6. Piecemaker | | #6

    As I have downsized, my fabric stash has gone to two groups:
    1.) The local Quilts of Valor group of which I am a member.
    2.) Quilt Dreamers, a local quilt guild that makes quilts and caps for preemies and quilts for children in crisis.
    I have less to store and my fabric stash has found 2 good homes.

  7. Neosha | | #7
  8. Neosha | | #8

    I have given to the Textiles and Clothing Department of the university where I have been working at a given time. Three are always students who could use help with obtaining fabrics for clothing or textile testing and manipulating. Costume shops at universities can usually use it also.

  9. User avater
    ustabahippie | | #9

    I'm looking forward to having time to go through my stash and cutting SEVERELY! I have a great place locally to donate. But first, I want to throw a fabric swap party, so my sewing friends can choose what they want before I donate.

  10. susan68 | | #10

    To a local school!!! I'm a fashion studies teacher and my budget is tiny. The donations that come to me tend to keep me in bias tape, interfacing, buttons, quilting cotton and fashion fabric. The out of style patterns have been collaged to different surfaces in my classroom. And the truly repulsive double-knit polyester fabrics have found homes as new equipment bags and locker room curtains in phys'-ed and tablecloths in the cafeteria and plant covers in horticulture. Call first - call often.

  11. CherieCz | | #11

    I had a lot of old stash, hadn't sewn in 10 years. I live in an age-restricted community with loads of clubs, and donated it all to the sewing club. Between the quilters, community sewing, and others, it was all used for good purposes. They got 5 large boxes from me, all sorted and neatly folded with length and width of each piece!

  12. SewsinOKC | | #12

    Our local chapter of the American Sewing Guild (ASG) has a garage sale each year. Members collect fabric from friends, neighbors, people who know they sew and are downsizing, and a variety of locations. We sell the fabric 2 large bags for $5.00 and use this as a fund raiser and people get to pick what they want to fill the bags. We have quilters, some who sew garments, some who just sew for charity and everyone goes home with probably as much as they brought, but the money goes to fund projects for our chapter. We also donate to some of the charity organizaton who sew for the HUGS project, and other who can use either scraps, notions, or related items. We never throw anything away! There is always a home for it.

  13. gkriegel | | #13

    As you sort your stash, please consider keeping some quilt-weight fabrics and sewing Comfort Kerchiefs to donate to chemotherapy patients in your local area. To get a pattern, go to http://www.comfortkerchief.org. Thank you.

  14. nobodysgrandma | | #14

    I don't buy expensive gift bags and gift wrap. I make them out of stash. With a drawstring closure, the recipient can use it over.

  15. nobodysgrandma | | #15

    I don't buy expensive gift bags and gift wrap. I make them out of stash. With a drawstring closure, the recipient can use it over.

  16. lastminutelady | | #16

    Probably the most challenging thing for me as I contemplate downsizing, is being realistic about what I can and will do in the future. I am interested in trying so many things! As I went through my late mother's things, I realized she was the same way. I tend to collect a wide variety of fabrics and notions and supplies because I am entranced by the possibilities. Problems come when I have an overwhelming array of supplies and no practical way to store them in a manner which makes it easy to find what I'm looking for. I waste a fair amount of time hunting for that one thing I know I have somewhere which will be just the thing for this idea I have! Sound familiar? If I could just buckle down and figure out what intrigues me the most and stick with that, perhaps I'd spend more time doing and less time searching.

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