Sometimes, we get eco-burnout. It’s a real thing. Chloe touched on it in her post, and Kate talked about all the confusing buzzwords and green-washing. We want to do good, but we can only find so many uses for our scraps, and honestly, we all get analysis-paralysis from time-to-time with the pressure to do it all and do it “right.”
Highlighted below is a nonprofit start-up in Portland, Oregon, USA, by a veteran nonprofit leader, Denise Archer. Take a read. See some photos of Denise’s all-scrap-art-therapy-work sprinkled throughout. Maybe send in your scraps, find something similar in your area, or I truly hope you’ll be inspired to reach out to Denise and start one in your area. If it’s too much to think about right now, bookmark it or maybe share it on social media, and come back to it when you can.
The People’s Sewing Army is a collective of sewists who feel compelled to repurpose their scrap fabric and donate it to individuals and organizations in need. It’s by the people, for the people. Any sewist can join and have a good time with it. I cannot say what motivates every member to participate, but I can share my own motivation: I feel great responsibility for the garbage I produce. If I can spend a little of my time to lighten the landfill and make someone smile, it’s a win-win.
Today’s political climate is extremely negative and it’s affecting the public’s psyche. Whenever I tune into the news, much of my day is filled with anger. While anger is a normal feeling that can facilitate great outcomes, too much becomes toxic. It’s exhausting. I would rather focus my energy on something I can control — and make people smile in the process. I want the public to feel charmed and perhaps even giggle once again. We can work together to create a beautiful moment, a sentiment of love and helping those in need. There’s none of that right now.
The People’s Sewing Army’s mission is simple: We reuse our sewing scraps for good causes. Our main value: We love our planet and the people on it. The first step is to join. That one is simple. The second step is to act. However, there is no obligation to do so. You simply act when you are moved to do so. What you put into the sewing army is up to you.
Aside from my one and a half year stint as a sewist for a downtown clothing boutique, I’ve always worked in the nonprofit sector serving children and teens. The nonprofit sector is very dynamic. You wear a lot of hats. Also, funding is scarce, so when an opportunity comes along, you immediately turn ideas into effective realities (for example, an idea discussed between me and my boss in late spring turned into a full-blown mentoring program with 31 staff and 30 schools in four school districts by the time school began in September). For that reason, it’s important to have a finger on the pulse of the community. What are people talking about? What is their pain? How will this unfold in the future? And once the money is available, you jump. You take action.
I began reading on Instagram that people are keenly aware of their scrap output from their sewing hobby. They feel guilty about it. Especially when that scrap is from a synthetic fabric. They also celebrate when they’re able to repurpose their scraps into something useful and beautiful. And they share it for the whole world to see.
I completely relate to all of these feelings because I have experienced every single one. In fact, my sewing room has bags and bags of scrap fabric waiting for future projects. I’m unable to throw any of it away. And recycling scraps or handing them off to another person doesn’t allow people to see their waste reborn into a secondary useful product. It lacks a concrete ending. Also, there’s mistrust about recycled waste disappearing into the void. And that mistrust is validated by the plastics that are diligently recycled and yet still end up in our oceans.
The People’s Sewing Army is simple. First you join by following @thepeoplessewingarmy on Instagram. I will post missions that you can decide to participate in. It’s all voluntary. The level of commitment is up to you. Once a mission is posted on Instagram, the details will be listed on the blog: www.thepeoplessewingarmy.blogspot.com. If you decide to accept the mission, you will use your scraps to make what the mission dictates. Once your project is completed, you will then mail it to the organization in need. When the organization has received enough of their items, I will communicate to the army that the mission has been accomplished, and it will be closed. I will also post the mission’s outcome so everyone can see how their repurposed item(s) helped the people who received it. I also promise to not clog your Instagram feed 🙂
For now, this idea is being beta-tested with organizations in one community: Portland, Oregon. I need to be able to observe and measure first-hand how the entire process works. I’m currently in discussions with several organizations about their needs. There’s a nonprofit that would like softies for kids in the hospitals, another that would like LGBTQ pride patches for their teens. There’s a potential partnership with the Oregon Zoo — monkeys like fabric, too.
This doesn’t mean that only the Portland citizenry can participate. In fact, it’s strongly encouraged that people from around the world join in when a mission speaks to them. Shipping might be an issue for some missions that ask the army to build heavy items — we will see how this unfolds. And if you question the sustainability of shipping items across the globe: waste is always moved — whether by truck, train, boat, or plane — to a final destination. If your waste is already going to consume energy and resources, with The People’s Sewing Army, your waste can turn into a repurposed item that will be loved.
If The People’s Sewing Army beta-test is a success, my goal is to have army members from all parts of the world find at least one organization with a need in their area. Members will make the contact, collect the information and deliver it to me. I will post their missions on Instagram and the details of each one on the blog. A collective is a sustainable way to continue this project. Together, we can spread a lot of caring and love, and make a lot of people smile.
In order for us to thrive as a global community, we will need to mend what has been ripped apart. We will need to listen to each other. We will need to work together. The People’s Sewing Army allows us to work together to create a beautiful moment, a sentiment of love and helping those in need. Together we can restore the charm that’s currently absent in the public. All of this from a bunch of scrap fabric.
But remember: the first step is to join. And the second is to act.
Are you inspired to think outside the box with your scraps? Are there other ways your sewing can help your community? What options do you have in your area?
Author Bio: Becky is a Sewcialist Editor, a Portland Frocktails organizer, and a person of international interest… or ridiculous delusions of grandeur, you decide.
Becky I love this post and all the things that the People’s Sewing Army has set out to achieve. Lots of great ideas there (bunting! Of course!) I wanted to pick up on something you said about News making you angry and being exhausted by eco burnout. It is a real thing. In sustainable fashion circles we talk about making things cool first with sustainability built into it – that’s the grail. Applies to sewing as well, if we want people to buy into it, it has to have some benefit to them, not just some greater good that we can’t always see. If you sew for a hobby or mental health then you don’t want to feel guilty about that – nor should you. There isn’t a silver bullet and no single person can solve all the problems. As cliché as it sounds, if we all did something then it’s a good place to start. Thanks for a great post. X
I love this!
Another place that needs things are hospitals. Babies in the nicu need bibs to drool on. Some families aren’t quite ready when their baby is born and need some basics. Since baby stuff tends to use very little, like the mittens so they don’t claw their faces, it’s a good scrap bust.
(Hugs) I hope the Portland project goes Global!!
That would be an excellent avenue to look at, and when I chatted with Denise, she did list that as a possible relationship. I will note I’m in the local Modern Quilt Guild, and from that I know there are specific fiber guidelines, in particular for NICU. No wool or perfumed detergents allowed, for example. Specific size requirements, etc. Just a note for anyone else out there wanting to look into donating to children’s programs, some have specific needs, and some are broader in scope. <3
Love this post. Would be a great model to replicate when it’s been tested. I’d be keen to see something like this in NZ
Love this post too!!! I feel guilty whenever I throw away scraps. I use to save all my scraps because I felt so guilty but in the end, I never had the time to make anything with them and then I just felt overwhelmed by the clutter but I will follow the suggestion, and I will reach out to give my scraps away.
Like I have stated before, there is so much to sustainable sewing that we can’t do it all at once, is a long process, I would say even a lifestyle and designing a lifestyle or changing it takes time, so I’m happy in the middle of this process.
Exactly. Just by sewing, we’re all in the right direction. Denise saw a way to take the burden of clutter from some, and put it to good use. It’s all baby steps – and we all do what we can.
I used to crochet prayer shawls for friends and women who were sick or hurting. 10 years there just wasn’t this “need” anymore (in my circle) as others were/are now doing it too.
I donate my fabric, so it can get quick use. We have local quilting groups who make quilts to give away. People shout out now and if I have it I’m happy to share!
But I still love to crochet and I can’t afford to buy more yarn. So I kept my yarn stash and I make scarves for the Salv. Army to give with the coats they hand out each Fall/Winter.
I love how the People’s Sewing Army is looking for answers in their communities. I can’t save the world so I shut my TV off. But I can help someone in my Community. All we need to do is search! :o)
I grew up in the late 60s, early 70s, I raised my oldest kids in the 80s and we threw everything away. I love this concept of re-purposing! My mom was too proud to re-use because she grew up poor. I see it as an honor!
Great post Beckyjo!
I love this comment! My mom grew up not being able to afford vaccinations, clothes, and lived on government surplus food…she instilled in me her clothing thrift and sewing, but she swore to never eat terrible food again, and we both have stocked pantries! 😀 It’s funny what we carry on, what we defy due to pride, and what we change.
[…] shout out to Portland also makes me want to point out this post on The People’s Sewing Army that Denise put together. She’s incredible. I want to be Denise when I grow […]
[…] scrapbusting and leftover efforts The people’s sewing army – sewing for charity* Shauni’s leftovers sewing challenge Andie made pillows and blankets for her hygge space […]
[…] for their closets, and it. was. amazing. Our own contributor, Keira Wood, was a winner, and Denise of The People’s Sewing Army was a runner […]
[…] To read more about The People’s Sewing Army check out our previous post — Sustainable Sewing: What to do with too much. […]