In these days of environmental consciousness, it is only natural that those of us who sew try to find a use for all of our excess fabric and craft supplies. On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I was able to visit one of the most interesting re-use centers I have ever seen.
SCRAP DC is one of the growing number of outlets that are springing up all across the country that make reusable fabric and craft items available for sale.
SCRAP DC is a 501(c)3 not for profit agency that is affiliated with the Portland, Oregon based parent organization, SCRAP USA, which began operation in 1998. The all volunteer staff at SCRAP DC is headed by co-directors, Heather Bouley and Karen Klein.
When you consider that the tiny space SCRAP DC operates in the basement of an apartment building is just a little more than 200 square feet, you marvel at the creative way all of the fabric, arts and craft supplies and notions are arranged.
Everything is organized, easy to find and extremely well maintained. All sorts of fabrics are neatly folded and sorted by color group. I found patterns, an assortment of buttons, trims, and even gift bags.
There is a ‘ready to wear’ section where bags, jewelry, scarves and other accessories all made from recycled materials – including bottle caps and puzzle pieces – are available for sale to those who do not want to make their own.
I couldn’t help but marvel at a collection of handbags made from newsprint – yes … recycled newspaper. In my opinion, those bags are a stroke of genius. While they are made of simple newspaper and not expected to have long term use, they are priced so that anyone who wants to invest in one will definitely get their money’s worth.
Everything in the ready to wear section is made by local artists who are featured for their work and their dedication to the preserving the environment by using their talents for creative re-use of materials of all kinds..
There is also an assortment of gift items, including drinking glasses made from wine bottles, earrings and stationary.
For those of us who like to simply let the creative juices flow, SCRAP DC can be addictive.
The more I looked around, the more I was fascinated by the treasures that were hidden on the many shelves and tucked away in the many boxes and bins, all clearly labeled identifying their contents.
When I inquired about a whimsically designed corrugated cardboard dispenser that resembled a robot head, Bouley informed me that it was a dispenser for paper towel and toilet tissue rolls.
Anyone who is even remotely familiar with crafting knows that there are an almost infinite number of things to be made with these cardboard tubes.
One thing that hadn’t occurred to Heather was a sleeve roll. I told her how I make mine fabric scraps, quilt batting or felt and muslin.
For that tip, I was rewarded with a paper towel roll to be used when I make my next sleeve roll.
On the day I visited SCRAP DC, Heather and Ashley, one of the ten volunteers who donate their time to the success of SCRAP DC, were preparing for a group of about 45 elementary school children grades K-5 who were coming to learn the value of recycled materials by working on craft projects.
Heather pointed out that because of the limited space, she and the SCRAP DC volunteers often take their show on the road, conducting workshops and training sessions at schools, craft fairs and special events throughout the metropolitan DC area.
She added that there are about 40 or 50 creative re-use centers like SCRAP DC throughout the United States, though not all of them are affiliated with SCRAP USA.
One can even find creative re-use centers as far away as New Zealand. In addition to SCRAP DC, other SCRAP USA affiliates are found in Texas, California, Michigan, and North Carolina.
SCRAP DC began operation in October 2011. The enterprise has been so successful in this short time, Heather said they are already looking for a larger space.
She informed me that a mere 20 minutes after opening the doors on that very first day, SCRAP DC was nearly overwhelmed with 900 pounds in fabric donations.
The entire inventory is donated and sold for an estimated one fourth of the established retail value.
All of the fabric sold at SCRAP DC is priced at a very low $2 per yard. No self-respecting fabri-holic could resist such a great bargain.
With prices that reasonable and such a broad assortment of quality fabric to choose from, I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to make a purchase of my own.
I ended up buying about three yards of black and white knit fabric when the interview was over.
In the short time that it’s been in existence, SCRAP DC has successfully accomplished the following:
- Diverted nearly five tons of materials from local waste streams;
- Attended events and provided materials for children and adults at eco and craft shows, community parks, and corporate collection drives;
- Conducted creative re-use workshops and led creative re-use projects for elementary and middle school students;
- Planned, juried and installed art exhibits at the Center for Green Urbanism
SCRAP USA, SCRAP DC, and the other SCRAP USA affiliate agencies are funded by grants, donations and memberships which come with a 20% discount on all merchandise purchased. There are six basic membership levels:
- Trash Compactor – $35/year
- SCRAP-o-Vision – $45/year
- Dumpster Diver – $60/year
- Master SCRAPper – $100/year
- Group Membership – $100/year (with organization name if you are signing up for the Group Membership, as well as the name of the group contact person)
- Teacher/Student/Senior (65+) – $25/year (with proof of school affiliation, full-time student status or age)
The creative re-use phenomenon is not limited to the sewing room. A review of the SCRAP USA and SCRAP DC websites reveals that donations are not limited to traditional sewing and craft room cast-offs. They accept donations of practically anything that can be repurposed.
Hopefully, more and more facilities like SCRAP DC will be establishing themselves in other parts of the country. I, for one, would love to see one of these centers open up in south Florida.
The many unusual materials, sewing and craft projects, ready to wear and fabric choices available at a creative re-use center are truly limitless.
Not only are centers such as this contributing to the global efforts to save and preserve the valuable resources on this planet, they are genuine tributes to the creative energy that abounds within each and every one of us.
SCRAP DC is located in Basement Unit L2 at 52 O Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 and can be found on the web at scrapdc. The hours of operation are:
- Every Thursday: 12:00 noon to 8:00PM
- First Fridays of each month: 6:00 – 9:00PM
- Third Saturday of each month: 10:00AM – 1:00PM
Visit the parent organization, SCRAP USA, on the web at scrapdx for the history of the SCRAP movement as well as details about membership opportunities and funding sources.