Zero Waste Sewing: Our Social Fabric Interview

OSF volunteer with zero waste top and dress

Tell us more about how your textile recycling initiative, Our Social Fabrics (OSF), got started.
Our Social Fabric is a non-profit founded by a passionate group of individuals who were determined to reduce the textile waste from garment production and the film industry.  Initial donations of fabric and sewing-related materials were stored in a local storage locker, and early sales took place in parking lots and borrowed mezzanine spaces.

Who are the faces behind OSF?
OSF is currently governed by a six-person volunteer Board and employs two part-time operation workers, two e-commerce fulfillment clerks, and a part-time bookkeeper. Ours is a working Board where all members contribute to the organization to fulfill key tasks. For example, one Board member gathers and reports on volunteer hours, monthly sales analysis, and donation weights. We are supported by a team of dedicated volunteers who are the lifeblood of the organization.

Becoming Reel Green certified sounds exciting! Can you tell us a little more about that and what sustainability practices/goals helped you achieve this?
Our mission is to divert textiles from the landfill, which in itself is a sustainable practice. We continually look for ways to reduce textile waste and recycle and upcycle even the smallest pieces. We feature projects like the Closet Core Patterns Pouf to show sewists that scraps and old linens can become stuffing and make beautiful home decor.  Samples made by our volunteers highlight zero waste projects (dress, top, and lined brown bag with internal pocket) and projects made with scraps (like the toddler outfit made from denim scraps and donated quilt blocks). We often receive fabric pieces that are too small to sell or are off-cuts from manufacturing; a new program will sort through remnants and off-cuts to create free curated bundles. The bundles are identified by fabric type and assembled by colour. These free bundles are perfect for bag makers, crafters, and those looking to create one-of-a-kind home décor items like cushions, placemats, lap blankets, etc. The bundles will be available starting next week. Our Social Fabric is the proud sponsor of the Zero Waste Design Tuition Award at the Wilson School of Design.

Toddler outfit made with scraps.

Toddler outfit made with scraps

How do you structure your prices to keep them fairly low?
Our pricing structure is 25-50% of current retail pricing. If we receive multiple bolts of one type of fabric, we will discount meter pricing to $2 or $3. For bolt fabric that is not popular or would not appeal to the average sewer, we offer it at a discount ($30 – $100 per bolt, depending on meterage).

Where do you see the most fabric donations being generated from? 
Donations come to us from various sources, including garment manufacturers, designers, the film industry, and home sewers. Year to year, there is variability in the dominant source of donations.

About how much fabric do you see being diverted from the hands of sewists? 
Since 2016, Our Social Fabric has diverted 121,000 pounds from the landfill and made this available for the creative community.

Closet Core Pattern Pouf filled with scraps. The circular pouf is mostly red and is split into 12 sewn pieces with 4 alternating patterned fabrics.

Closet Core Pattern Pouf filled with scraps

What kind of donations do you take from other sewists in the community?
We ask that fabric cuts are selvage to selvage and are a minimum of one meter in length.
We accept all sizes of quilting cotton and leather as well as sewing notions, tools, patterns, books, and yarn. Home sewists who donate their excess get such pleasure knowing that their treasures will find a new home and a fresh purpose.

What do you do with fabric that remains in inventory for a long time?
This will always be a challenge for us. We continue to explore ways to move our deadstock. Overstock fabric is donated to community groups and other non-profits. We recently donated bolts of brown poplin to a local Brownie troop for crafting. We support the local Children’s Festival, school theatre groups, and educators with free and discounted fabrics.

Do you  have international shipping?
Not yet. We provide Canada-wide shipping and local pickup.

Can anyone volunteer to be a part of OSF? 
We have a dedicated team of incredible volunteers, many of whom have been with us for years. At the moment, with the COVID restrictions, we are unable to accept any new volunteers.

Zero waste lined brown bag with inside pocket

How do you hope OSF grows in the future in terms of both the business and sustainability
We are hoping that funding will come our way, which will allow us to expand our facilities and program offerings.

Our wish list for the future would be:

• To afford a 10,000 sq. ft. space with room for retail, overflow storage, e-commerce space, and sewing workshop space.

• Funding that will allow us to hire educators for in-house sewing workshops and video production.

• Funding for operations and e-commerce staffing and to hire a full-time Executive Director.

• Exploring ways to break down unwanted scrap fabric to create new fabric (that would be very exciting!).

• Working with local agencies and non-profits to use our deadstock fabrics to benefit the homeless and those with barriers to employment (beds, mats, bags, coats, home furnishings, etc.).

How can other Sewcialists get a hold of you?


Instagram: @oursocialfabric



Is there anything else we should know about OSF? 

Our Social Fabric is the intense labour of love of a small, passionate group of people working many, many hours to reclaim unwanted textiles and put them back into the hands of creatives.  We never know exactly what donations we will receive. Every day is a surprise. It’s winter—we have wool bouclé!

Hello! My name is Chris, and I currently live in San Diego, CA. You can find me @Imthatbrujastitch on Instagram where I post all of my makes.