How to destash your fabric sustainably | 7 easy ideas

How to destash your fabric sustainably | 7 easy ideas

I just have too much fabric! Said no sewer ever!

And yet, if you are working towards a minimalist lifestyle, or on a journey to a meaningful wardrobe through sewing, like me, there comes a time in your [sewing] life where you just know you need to get rid of some fabric. It might be because you just do.not.have.the.space anymore. It might be because there are just too many options to choose from and you can’t see the forest from the trees in the insanely big stash. Or because you are just not in love with certain pieces anymore and you want to make room for something you might enjoy (and use) more.

Whatever the reasons, and I’m really not in a position to judge here, with my 150 metres+ stash, there comes a time when you just need to let some pieces go. But of course, you would like them to get a loving new home or at least do some good when you part ways.

So I’ve come up with some ideas that would make your next fabric destash a bit easier, more sustainanable and also help towards a higher purpose (even if it’s just to make you feel a bit better about yourself).

Use it 

I know this sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but I don’t necessarily mean use it for yourself. I often find that I have pieces of fabric in my stash that I was gifted or that I even bought myself that just don’t feel ‘me’ anymore (or they never did). So when I find myself itching  with the desire to make a gift for someone (if you missed it, I wrote a post recently about why it may or may not be a good idea to do that), I can just shop the stash and instead of buying a new fabric, I use what I have. One less piece in my wardrobe and I also made a sustainable decision not to buy something new.

Transform it

I have acquired a very large dyeing pot for a project last year and now I want to dye pretty much all my unloved stash. I used to dye loads in the washing machine before, but that only works for cotton usually and I have done it mostly for clothes rather than fabric. However, I recently learned more about dyeing other fibres, like poly, poly blends and wool, so I have loads of ideas about transforming fabric (especially printed) into something I would be much more inclined to sew with, i.e. solids. So instead of buying a new piece, I just shop my stash, resulting in less consumption.

Gift it

If you have sewing friends, you can always choose to gift pieces in your stash to someone who might like it better. If you are close friends, you might know their tastes very well and be able to make an educated guess as to what they might enjoy. Personally, I really hate surprises, so I prefer being asked before someone offers me fabric, as I might end up adding something I don’t necessarily like to an already bulging stash. Conversely, I do try to ask people if they would like a certain piece, as it saves everyone awkward moments. 

Through being very very organised, I managed to squeeze about 75% of my stash in those three drawers. I have another two cubes hidden somewhere else, but shhhh!

 Swap it

I love a good fabric swap! It feels like getting new fabric without actually adding anything new to my stash. I just need to be careful to maintain a good balance between meters out vs meters in. Plus I do love a good rummage!

You can join the Foldline FB group to see if there are any swaps coming up your area.

Fabric and pattern swaps are also great opportunities to meet like-minded people in real life and make new friends in your area! Many of the local sewing meet-ups like the Sewing Weekender, Sew Brum, Sew Brizzle, Sew Up North, etc, sometimes organise swaps as part of the activities on the day.

There are also many Facebook groups that are geared towards helping people swap fabric and patterns. The receiver needs to cover the postage and of course, as a dispatcher you need to actually go to the post office and post stuff, so it’s a bit of a hassle, but at least you know the fabric will go to a loving home. I know a few UK based groups, but you can have a search on FB for groups in your area (obviously, the closer, the lower the postage fees).

Donate it

Charity shops in the UK (or op shops or thrift stores elsewhere) may be very glad to receive a donation of good quality, good condition fabric, as there are many people who enjoy a bargain and like to buy their fabric from there. This can be a great way to do some good with some pieces you no longer want that other people might find desirable, and support a good cause. If you decide to donate to charity shops, please make the effort and go inside and pass the fabric on to the volunteers, instead of leaving it in front of the shop, where it might get damaged or wet and then it really won’t be any use. If you know the length and fabric composition, don’t forget to put a note in, as it would help the charity shop staff price and better advertise it, raising more money for the cause. If you are in the UK, also ask if you can Gift Aid your donation, as this really helps to increase the value for the charity. Oxfam also has a great app where you can see how much the item has sold for (if gift-aided) so get that extra feel-good boost.

Photo by Caleb Lucas on Unsplash

You can also consider donating to schools, amateur theatre groups, even local sewing schools for toiles or test garments. 

Sell it

I must admit, I can never be bothered to list my fabric even if I could potentially be making a bit of money out of that, but it can be a great option to raise funds for charity or even for new additions to the stash. This is particularly true if you have recognisable ‘brand’ fabric, like Liberty, Atelier Brunette, Art House Gallery etc.

Ideas for where to sell your fabric:

  • eBay – there is plenty of second-hand fabric listed on eBay (I like a bargain just like the next person, ok?). You need to take into account listing fees that you have to pay as the seller and their commission. Also, you will have to post it out.
  • Gumtree – it’s completely free so that’s a great option, but there could be a lot of time-wasters. You will also have to post it.
  • Instagram destash – a very popular option in the sewing community, I have seen quite a few destash accounts. You will have to create a separate account and post the link on your regular account. Of course, it helps if you have loads of followers, but you can also ask people to regram or post in their stories as a public service announcement.  You can also use #fabricdestash, #thegreatfabricdestash, #greatfabricdestash, #thegreatpersonalfabricdestash, #fabricforsale, #fabricsale. A pretty comprehensive post about destashing on IG here.
  • Facebook – There are also For sale groups on FB as well. Check out this post from CSews talking about her experiences with US groups.
  • Garage/Yard/Car boot sale – I live in a 3rd-floor purpose built flat, so suffice to say that is not an option, but some people do that regularly. I think in the UK, car boot sales are more popular, but I haven’t even tried it as a buyer, so can’t comment on the effectiveness.
  • The Frade – this is a new platform for makers (mostly sewers and knitters) to help destash in a very friendly, community-based way. Their mission is to reduce waste because if you are giving your unwanted fabric to someone who will love it, it saves the amount of new fabric that gets purchased and everybody, including the planet, if way better off for it.
How to destash your fabric sustainably
Credit: @timetosew on IG

Recycle it

It breaks my heart to put this on the list, but I have to, for completeness… I really do hope you will never be in a position (with so many options above) to have to recycled fabric, but let’s imagine that you have a piece that is moth-eaten, mouldy or otherwise compromised. I do hope it did not even occur to you to put it in the bin (where it will get incinerated in the best case scenario or landfilled in the worst). You can look for your nearest local council recycling centre (check your council website if you are in the UK), or for commercial recyclers that might be near you. If you are in the UK, you can check out the Textile Recyclers’ Association where you can find a list of reputable and legal recyclers in your area. Please do not give compromised fabric to charity, even Goodwill or Salvation Army, as they are not well equipped to deal with unsalable items and it’s not guaranteed they might not ultimately end up in a landfill.

SAVE  ON PINTEREST FOR LATER



Right, no excuses now for not taking a good look at my own stash and taking my own advice towards doing something about it. I feel this weekend I might have a date with a large pot of dye and some autumn colours…

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU WANT TO DESTASH? HAVE YOU TRIED ANY OF MY IDEAS? WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE WAY? WOULD LOVE FOR YOU TO TELL ME IN COMMENTS.

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9 Comments

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      30 August 2018 / 1:45 PM

      Oh wow! That event is amazing! I wish we had something like that in London! Hmm, maybe someone needs to organise something…

  1. 30 August 2018 / 2:24 PM

    If I come across a fabric in my collection that now I’m not so keen on (serving as a great lesson re why stashing in the first place isn’t such a great idea 🙂 ), I use it for practice runs (muslins, toiles etc) – sometimes they turn out fabulous and I end up wearing them. If I’m sure I won’t ever wear it, I donate the finished garment to a Thrift Shop.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      30 August 2018 / 7:54 PM

      I tend to do a lot or tissue fitting, as I hate doing muslins. But I do end up giving a lot of finished items to the charity shops too.

  2. 30 August 2018 / 6:29 PM

    This post is really useful, with great ideas compiled into one list. I’ll be sure to consult this again when I look at my stash and be honest with myself that “STORE IT” isn’t one of the real solutions 😂😂.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      30 August 2018 / 7:43 PM

      Useful is the word I like to hear the most! So glad it helps!!

  3. 2 September 2018 / 9:12 AM

    In my area, Southampton, we have a Scrapstore, ( https://southamptonscrapstore.org.uk/ ) which takes a variety of items, including fabric. It is used by playgroups, schools etc. Useful for donating decent sized pieces which may be left over from projects. Anyone can use it, but there is a small cost for individuals.

  4. 5 September 2018 / 12:39 AM

    I love this post! My stash is growing, I can’t help but buy new fabric haha! But the fabric swaps sound really interesting to me! I’m new to the sewing community and never heard of them before, I’ll definitely check it out!

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      5 September 2018 / 9:45 PM

      Fabric swaps are awesome! It feels like you get free new fabric without increasing your stash. See if you can find one in your local area, it’s such a great way to meet new sewing friends as well.

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