Our Social Fabric: Helping Unwanted Fabric Find a Home (Plus Giveaway!)

Do you know how much fabric is unwanted from the local manufacturing industry? I used to work in the apparel industry, so I know how much fabric, notions and trims can be left over after a production season. (A lot!) It depends on the company of course, but from my experience there’s frequently plenty of fabric left over.

This happens because of several reasons: buying minimums (a company needs to order a minimum of1000 metres but only needs 850 metres to produce the line), shipping overages (fabric companies are allowed to send up to 10% extra, so if you only wanted 200 yards they might send you 220!) and changes in production (as sales come in, some colours are less popular than predicted so you’ll end up with more orange fabric leftover and not enough navy blue.) Do you find this interesting? It’s all part of the many factors that a clothing company has to consider when producing a line!

Anyways, enough about that. The point is, there is waste, a lot of it. And there’s a new, wonderful non-profit organization based in Vancouver, BC that is collecting all of this unwanted fabric and helping it find a new and happy home with someone who can make use of it.

Here’s the official ‘About’ from the website:

About Our Social Fabric

Our Social Fabric is a non-profit Vancouver group that helps recycle excess fabric from manufacturers, the movie industry, and more. Through monthly sales, we put the fabric into the hands of creators in our community.

Our storage unit at 1631 Powell Street is full of fabulous fabrics rescued from the landfill and ready to be repurposed! Most are high quality sample fabrics donated directly to us from the film industry, factories, and production facilities. The fabric is still on the bolt and unused. We have a wide variety of wools, cottons, linens, polyester blends, and technical fabrics from places such as Lululemon and Mountain Equipment Co-op.

We recycle fabric by holding monthly fill-a-bag fabric sales out of our storage unit in East Vancouver. Fabric sales are staffed by volunteers, and proceeds go to maintaining the storage unit and keeping it available for donations while we grow our organization and develop related programs.

And in the future, we hope to get involved in textile shredding and remanufacturing, while providing employment and social reintegration opportunities for Downtown Eastside residents.

What a great concept! I love the idea of connecting this unused fabric with the right people, who’d be so excited to score a good deal and help reduce textile waste. Fabric that’s no longer ‘current’ or useful to the fashion industry is perfectly useful to us, right? And who doesn’t love the thrill of the hunt, especially when it’s a good deal?

This is especially interesting for local readers, as you’ll be able to visit the sale and pick up great-quality unused fabric at fantastic prices. In fact, there’s a sale coming up this weekend! (Click the image to go to the website and find out more.)

One bag is $25 and you can get two for $40—all funds go to paying their storage unit rent and other administration fees.

Know what’s even better? A giveaway! Jhenifer from Our Social Fabric contacted me and wanted to offer a FREE bag of fabric to one lucky reader!

We are happy to give away a free bag of fabric good at any upcoming sale, which would both help us gain a bit more exposure and reward your readers with something fun. And we’d all be keeping more textiles out of the landfill!

So if you’re here in the Vancouver area and want to win a FREE bag of fabric at the sale on Saturday (or a future sale), leave a comment below to enter to win. To enter, how about you tell us the best deal you ever got on fabric? Jhenifer’s going to pick the winner at random before Friday at 6pm Pacific Time. Be sure to leave your comment before then to be eligible to win! (I wish there was a way to include everyone, not just local readers, but for this one it’s pretty hard as you kind of have to be here to pick up the prize. If you’re able to come to the Vancouver sale, you’re eligible to win!)

Want to know more about this organization? Visit Our Social Fabric’s website. They’ve also mentioned that the best way to stay updated on what we’re up to is through their Facebook and Twitter accounts, and the mailing list.

The more we support initiatives like this, the more good they can do in the community!

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74 Responses to Our Social Fabric: Helping Unwanted Fabric Find a Home (Plus Giveaway!)

  1. irene whelan September 20, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    super idea .o how i wish i lived near you .happy sewing all you lucky people

  2. Patricia Seto September 20, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    Best deal I ever got on fabric was $2.00 a metre for fabric at Our Social Fabric! I have gone to their sales and it is great. Finding somethng that you NEED (all you sewers know you are collectors!!!!) at a great price is terrific.

  3. CGCouture September 20, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    I really wish I lived closer to you right about now! This store sounds amazing! Maybe in the future they’ll be successful enough to open a full on fabric store that ships worldwide, because goodness knows I’d be all over that.

    • Renee September 20, 2012 at 7:05 am #

      What a great idea. I am definitely going to check this out on Saturday. The more things kept out of the landfill the better. I think the best deal I got on fabric was probably some beautiful royal blue velvet I got for $1 at Dressew if you don’t count all the free fabric my mom has passed down to me.

  4. Mary September 20, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    That is such a great idea. When I worked for Jantzen Sportswear, they used to allow us to take home fabric scraps from the cutting department (some of those so-called “scraps” were yards long) later they decided we should pay something, so they charged us a quarter for a big trash bag of fabric. You’d be amazed how much fabric fit in a Volkswagen Beetle! Ah…the good old’ days!

  5. louise September 20, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    I’d love to enter the giveaway! LOVE these sales!

  6. auzzi September 20, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    This is a brilliant idea! I wish I had known about it sooner! As for my best deal on fabric, I once found a gorgeous grey wool for $7/m, discounted from something like $30/m. I love finding luxurious fabrics for less!

  7. Emma September 20, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    This is a fantastic idea! The best deal I ever got on fabric was at a thrift store. Got some major scores there, and that’s usually how I get all my “muslin”!

  8. trumbelina September 20, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    Does anyone know if there are other programs like this in other major centres like Toronto or New York?

    • Seraphinalina September 20, 2012 at 8:12 am #

      Good question, I hope you get an answer to this. It makes a whole lot of sense to me and Toronto is much more local to me than Vancouver.

      • Sarah September 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

        I would definitely go if there was one in the GTA!

  9. Alice September 20, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    I have a lovely piece of yellow sweater knit that I got from the studio of a local designer for $0 (she was moving studio) It’s 2 m, I think, and I have yet to come up with a good pattern for it.

  10. Holly September 20, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    I was there for their last sale and got some great steals, my favorite being this dusty rose Italian virgin wool crepe, wish I could go to this one but I’ll be out of town so I’ll have to hold out for the next one. The best deal I’ve ever gotten on fabric however would have to be a gorgeous blue herringbone super soft wool coating from the salvation army, 5 meters of 62″ wide fabric for only $7.99! Just got it a few months ago and am planning on making a coat out of it soon.

    • vera nichols September 20, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      My best buy on fabric was at a consignment shop and I loved it .!

  11. veranichols September 20, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    The best deal I ever found was at a consignment shop , I loved it !

  12. vera nichols September 20, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    i found the greatest deal at a consignment shop!

  13. Anni September 20, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    Fabric give away, love it. Interesting information and that explains why you see a lot of ‘designer’ fabric on sale online.

  14. Katherine September 20, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    darn! i live in Toronto! I wonder if there’s anything similar set up out here. . .

  15. Thea September 20, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Wow, I wish they would start one in London – very jealous! Not that I struggle picking up fabrics at good prices, with Goldhawk Road up the road.
    I was actually wondering about the industry waste the other day – when cutting my fabric. I always dislike having remnants (I never know what to do with them), and thought if you just buy a t-shirt, you never have remnants, but that’s just because you don’t see it. Definitely a lightbulb moment. Mind you, their remnants are probably very different to mine as they’re not due to my messy fabric cutting :-)

  16. Caroline September 20, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    It would be a genius startup to start a fabric swap online – on a credit (non-payment) system. I have some nice swaths I would definitely forfeit, and could probably benefit from other people’s unwanted “scraps!” Who is going to do this? ;) Or has it been done already?

    • Thea September 20, 2012 at 8:41 am #

      Let’s start one together :-)

      • soisewedthis September 20, 2012 at 9:16 am #

        I wish we had something like this too! There aren’t a lot of fabric stores in my area. I have an abundance of patterns and only a tiny stash of fabrics. If anyone wants to do some online swapping, let me know!

  17. Hanneke September 20, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    The best deal I’ve gotten was at the social fabric sale! I got a bag FULL of great fabric including wool and silk. I have a daughter so getting a wide variety of fabrics is great for small clothes, dress up clothes, doll clothes. I can’t wait for the next one :)

  18. teaweed September 20, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    It sounds like OSF is doing locally what fashionfabricsclub/denverfabrics.com does as a mail-order business. I’ve gotten some great quality fabrics from them (some stinkers too, but they have a refund policy) for prices that spoil me for other fabric stores. It’s hit or miss, I suppose, but less so than shopping at the local JoAnns or thrift store, in my opinion.

  19. k8 September 20, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    i love OSF! so glad to live in this city with them around. the best deal i got on fabric was a full hide of awesome silver leather for $5.

  20. TriMama September 20, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    What a fabulous idea! I foresee a day trip to Vancouver in my future. . .

    The best deal I’ve ever gotten on fabric is when my mom left 4 yards of jersey at my house this summer. Can’t beat free!

  21. Ari September 20, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    Ooh… okay, must actually try and make it out there this time…

  22. Katrina September 20, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    Got three large garbage bags of denim for $12 off of craiglist :) great for making clothes for my boys :)

  23. Jax September 20, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    The best deal I’ve ever gotten on fabric was when I worked for a costume rental shop & someone came by the shop because they had closed down their own upholstery/clothing store and had about 15+bolts of misc fabric that needed a new home…or the fabric was going to the landfill.

    Well…I couldn’t let that happen at all, now could I? Nope! So it all (minus some that the other person working there wanted for the costume shop) came home with me… Velours, Patterned Vinyls, Cotton Broadcloths, Light Upholsteries, Red Fun Fur, Fleece, Satins…

    My mother wasn’t too impressed at the newest addition to my fabric stash mind you…

  24. Melissa @ Hilltop Hausfrau September 20, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    Oooh love this idea! Fabric-lovers: UNITE!

    Well the best deal I ever got on fabric was the white eyelet cotton i tracked down at fabricana for my wedding dress. It was a long strapless number…it felt very ME…and only cost $30 in fabric!!

  25. BeckyMc September 20, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    OOH! Vacouver is only about 4 hours north. Fabric is SO worth the drive! The best deal I ever got was at the National City Swap meet in San Diego. $1 a yard for yards and yards of fabrics left over from the Los Angeles garment distirct designer’s cutting floors. So, how big a bag are we talking about? Grocery bag? or Garbage bag? :)

    • Tasia September 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

      Hey BeckyMc – it’s a paper bag that they provide, 16″ x 6″ x 15½”. It’s a pretty good size!

  26. Tasia September 20, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    I’m so glad you guys are excited about this concept! I hate waste and I also love the idea of fabric being offered to people who love to sew at an excellent price, so that what was ‘waste’ to someone else is a treasure to someone new!

    Two things:
    I will find out about how big of a bag you can fill – well, I’ll ask my contact and if I get a response in time I will let you know! I’ve wondered that myself, and also should I be bringing my own?

    I will also ask her if she knows of any other programs across the country, like in Toronto or Montreal.

  27. Anna September 20, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Brilliant idea! I love the concept of OSF. As for me, the best deal I’ve ever gotten on fabric was at a garage sale where I got several meters of beautiful pink silk for $10.

  28. Loretta Houben September 20, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    What a fantastic idea!!!! My best deal was inheriting boxfuls of fabric; lovely, vintage fabric, from my mother in law when she died in 2001. I’m still sewing it up! I also received lots of vintage lace and buttons and embroidery thread. I’m thinking I’ll need 9 lives to use it all up, but it sure is fun, and a wonderful deal! Every time I sew I think of my mother in law.

  29. PerlenDiva September 20, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    Wow, what a great idea! One more reason I would love to live in Vancouver!!
    With the market just around the corner here in Berlin, I cannot really complain about not getting cool deals, however. Fabrics are usually about 2-4€ a meter, wool a bit more, but you never really now what the fabric actually consists of. Some industry left-overs seem to be sold there too: I once bought a really cute viscose fabric which I later saw as shorts in a store ;-)

  30. Shannon salter September 20, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    This is such a great organization and the volunteers are very helpful and friendly. My best fabric find was actually at one of their sales, $2/meter for beautiful blue tencel jersey! Thanks for promoting their good work.

  31. Dale September 20, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    The best deal I’ve gotten on fabric was at the social fabric sale! I got a bag FULL of great fabric including wool and silk. I teach at a large secondary school where many students cannot afford to buy fabric, but they want to learn to sew. So it is a great way for students to have access to a wide variety of fabrics for a great price As well, it enables me to use the fabric to show some possibilities of what they could make with the fabric. I want to pass on my love of sewing and designing, creating new graments in fashion………I can’t wait for the next one :) It is a great idea to have OSF. Thanks.


  32. Shannon salter September 20, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    Also, the bags are quite large brown paper shopping bags – it’s a steal!

  33. Dayl September 20, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    That sounds amazing!! I will have to ensure I time my trips to Vancouver to coincide with the sales!! I would LOVE to win a bag!!
    The best deal I got on fabric would have to come from my Grandma – she was downsizing and gave me this amazing Scottish skirt wool and some lightweight printed cotton blend (with flamingo’s on it!!!).

  34. Robin September 20, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Love this idea, so glad I found you! The best deal I ever got on fabric was getting two huges boxes full of free fabrics from my daughter’s old skating coach. She knew I sewed and a friend of hers was going to throw it out so she nabbed it for me. :-) Nothing beats free!

  35. Sheila September 20, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    I got a length of fabric at OSF for FREE last time. It was VERY thick & VERY unusual, grey ribbed knit on one side, and fuzzy fleece, like fun fur, on the other. It was large enough to cut into 3 blanket sized pieces which I donated to a Downtown Eastside women’s shelter. It will keep some folks VERY warm this winter!

  36. Lucy September 20, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    Love it. I’ve often dreamed of something like this being set up in the UK for all the reasons you mention.

  37. Zena September 20, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    So cool! I would be there in a flash if I was in Van. (They could do with another tier of volunteers who could take payments and ship to people from away.)

    Seriously cool. [racks brain to come up with friends or acquaintances who could be my fabric shipping proxy…]

  38. maggie September 20, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Thanks for letting us know about this sale, I’d never heard of it before but I definitely want to go! The best deal on fabric I’ve ever gotten was free from my mom’s closet… but also the basement at dressew can have some pretty good deals.

  39. VictoriaR September 20, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    What a great idea. It might just be the thing to get me to come up to Vancouver from Seattle for a visit!

  40. Benny Etienne September 20, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Great post! I think best fabric deal I ever got was from my grandma :) She kindly gave me all her fabulous English lace from the 60s!

  41. Jessica September 20, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    One time my brother bought me a box of fabric for $5 from a garage sale. It had beautiful silks dupioni and coordinating rayon lining. It was the best $5 I’ve ever spent!

  42. Susan Walter September 20, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    The very first time I attended a sale at Our Social Fabric, I picked up some sort of stretchy bonded athletic fabric that came from Mountain Equipment Co-op. I paid just $2 a meter for it, and I’m quite sure that the regular retail price would have been well over $20 a meter. Wow! What a deal! These people at Our Social Fabric are a dedicated bunch, with such a wonderful mission. I heartily support and congratulate them on this so worthwhile endeavor!

  43. Jessica September 20, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    Wow, that’s pretty awesome! I would totally be there if I was local.

    I went to school at UW-Madison and Lands’ End would donate leftover fabric and the student design association would sell it (and other donated textiles) as a fundraiser. It’s really interesting to read about *why* they had those leftovers! :)

  44. indigorchid September 20, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    I’m nowhere near Vancouver, but I was so glad to learn about this! It makes me downright happy!

  45. Amy September 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    The best deal was a $5.00 remnant that I made into a skirt. I get complements every time I wear it! It is my favourite skirt!

  46. Graca September 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    What an amazing post. I love reading about initiatives like this, thanks for sharing the information. Wish I were able to take advantage of the sale but it wasn’t meant to be, but a great read none the less.

  47. Tasia September 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Hey, everyone! Jhenifer from Our Social Fabric responded to my questions about bags and other sales like this one, here’s what she said:

    1. We have a standard sized paper bag that we provide — it’s 16″ x 6″ x 15½”. You’re free to bring your own bags too, but we’ll apply pricing based on the size of the paper bags.

    2. Unfortunately I don’t know of any similar organizations across the country or in the US! One of our founders helped redistribute fabric in the same way in Montreal, but I don’t know the name of the group in that area!

  48. Morgan September 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    I love our social fabric! I used to work in a costuming studio so the best deal I ever got on fabric was free! A beautiful piece of blue glittery tulle I used for a rainbow brite halloween costume. It was just a scrap so it was free for the loving!

  49. K2 September 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    I don’t live in the Vancouver area, but I want to tell my best deal on fabric. Years ago I helped a friend at her rental house when her renters moved out in the middle of the night. I was helping her wash the walls so she could have painters in to re-paint. The renters had left a bunch of stuff behind when they left. I glanced through it and found 6 bark cloth curtain panels in a box. I showed my friend and told her what they were worth and where she could sell them. She didn’t want to be bothered so she gave them to me. I ended up trading the panels for a 1940’s womens suit that I later wore when I got married. Total cost to me – $0.

  50. Vanessa September 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    The best deal of ever gotten was when there was a 50% off sale at a local fabric shop. There was a section that was $3/yd which was reduced to $1.50 /yd. I bought an array of mixed cotten blends and 10 yard of chiffon for a dress. I thought it was a great steal.

  51. Nadia Lewis September 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Oo! What a deal! I’ll be there Saturday!

    The best deal I ever got was five meters of red coat wool from the Salvation Army for $5.29.

  52. Inna September 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    I am not the only one who would like to live closer :) My best deal: I scored 3.5m of crepe-de-chine for only $18!

  53. Ginger September 20, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    Ooh, what a great idea! I wish I lived close enough to participate!

  54. Jessica September 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    Once I found some black velvety fabric at the Salvation Army in New West. I think it was only $1 :) :)

  55. Lou September 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    LOVE this! I’m always on the lookout for fabric at great prices! (so says, my ever growing stash…) Count me in! My best deal was sand washed silk for $7.50 a metre. I STILL don’t know what to do with it yet!

  56. Lindsay September 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    Ohhh, I know where I will be Saturday morning!

    The best deal I’ve gotten on fabric was a buy 1 meter, get 4 free deal at fabricland on some lovely printed rayon that turned into my first cambie dress!

  57. Angela W. September 20, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    So glad I’m local!!! My favourite fabric deal? I most recent one was received metres and metres of fabric for free! My friends had their birthday party with an Arabian Nights theme. They decorated with an insane amount of fabric. One of the twins is moving and asked if I wanted the piles of fabric left – OH YES PLEASE!
    Thanks Tasia for sharing.

  58. Carol M. September 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    The best deal I ever got was when my sister and her guild friends went ‘dumpster diving’ downtown Vancouver, at a few alleyways of clothing manufacturers. Bolts and bolts of cotton knits and t-shirt fabrics, and she shared her found wealth with me! It still brings a smile when I think of that group of 50-70 year-olds going the extra mile to save the fabric from what would have been a sad end!

  59. Vanessa September 21, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    My best fabric deal was $10 for full sides of leather, at a set sale here in Vancouver a couple years ago. There is some amazing fabric to be found in this city. And I’m so happy to hear about this, even more good fabric finds!

  60. ms. modiste September 21, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    This is such an amazing idea, I’m so happy this kind of thing is happening in our city!

    I’ll throw my hat in the ring! The best deal I ever got on fabric, in terms of price and quality, had to be this fuscia wool crepe that I used to make my Beignet skirt. I don’t remember the exact price, but it was cheap enough that I allowed myself to think of it as a “muslin” even though the end product was far from it! There were bolts and bolts of it left at the store for ages, which made me question my taste somewhat, but I still love it.


  61. melanie September 21, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    i heard about this through the Vancouver sewing meet-up and I,m totally planning on going !
    I’m not sure what my best fabric score ever was, I used to go to Marche St Pierre back in Paris and they would always have 3m cuts of beautiful cottons and silk for cheap…Maybe my best deal ever will be this week-end?

  62. Kate September 21, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    I’m planning on going to this event. I just found out about Our Social Fabric last month, and there wasn’t a sale, so I’ve been looking forward to this.
    I think the best fabric deals I’ve ever had are the weird and yet often lovely fabrics that you can find at Dress Sew here in Vancouver.

  63. TILDA September 21, 2012 at 9:29 am #


  64. Victoria September 21, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Wow, it sound like some people have gotten some really great deals! My best fabric deal was some lovely floral cotton voile that I scored for $4/m, which I turned into a maxi dress – and I still have enough left over to make a Cambie!

  65. Theresa September 21, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    The best deal I ever got was like 4m of a cotton print at a thrift store for only $1 as it was on sale!!!

    Would love to win this – can’t go this weekend, but will defintely be watching out for the next date.

  66. Tiffany October 3, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Oh man… I wish they had something like this in California. Is there something like this in California?

    • Tasia October 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      Hi Tiffany, I don’t know if there is anything like that in California! (Or even how to find out, other than perhaps a google search and asking around.) This is a pretty innovative idea and I hope it does spread to other areas.