Our Social Fabric is a Vancouver non-profit that keeps unwanted and surplus fibre arts materials out of landfills by taking donations of fabric and sewing supplies and selling them to home sewists, crafters and designers at low prices. We spoke with their chair of their board, Joanna Wyatt, to find out more about them.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
Our Social Fabric is a Vancouver-based non-profit fabric store. We keep unwanted and surplus fibre arts materials out of landfills by taking donations of fabric and sewing supplies and selling them to home sewists, crafters and designers at low prices. We have a store on Venables Street which opens twice a week, and we also ship across Canada through our online store.
What problem does it aim to solve?
We keep perfectly usable but unwanted sewing supplies out of landfills. Before we started operating in 2009, huge amounts of surplus fabrics from designers, manufacturers, the movie industry and wholesalers were ending up in landfills.
In the first three months of 2023, Our Social Fabric saved over 7,000 kilograms of fabric and sewing-related materials from that fate. That’s more than a fully grown male elephant! Since 2017, when we started recording data, we have diverted 197 tonnes of textiles and sewing-related materials from landfills.
We believe that fabric waste can not only be avoided but channelled to create positive change in our community.
When did you start/join it?
I volunteered to join the board in January 2020 just before COVID and just after I retired.
What made you want to get involved?
I wanted to share some of the skills I developed during my career to help a non-profit organization. I love to sew and Our Social Fabric’s mission to keep fabric out of landfills made it a perfect fit. I really enjoy the camaraderie of our volunteer team because we all share a common interest in the fabric arts. It’s fun seeing – and touching – the new fabrics we receive and thinking about what I might create with them.
What was the situation like when you started?
When I started, we were a retail store in the Lower Mainland that was open only a few times a month. We were on the cusp of Covid and had talked about adding an online component for a while but it seemed like too big a task. Covid made us realize that we had to expand online or we might not be in business for long. We started with mask-making supplies and quickly added more merchandise realizing that the online store opened the rest of Canada to us for sales.
How has it changed since?
Since then, we have increased our retail store hours to be open twice a week. We have also expanded our employee and volunteer roster and adopted more formal processes and procedures to help our organization operate more efficiently and effectively. And of course, we now offer all of Canada access to our merchandise through our online store.
We have also expanded our community involvement. As a non-profit, we price our fabrics cheaply aiming to make just enough to cover our costs. Any profits we do have are used to support fibre arts-related organizations, educational institutions and other non-profits working in our region. For example, we sponsor a scholarship at the Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. We also offer scholarships of brand-new sewing machines to high-school students in the Lower Mainland and have made donations to community fire and flood relief efforts.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is the dedication of our employees and volunteers who are absolutely critical to our success.
What more needs to be done?
We know there is more fabric waste that can be avoided. We want to work with even more garment manufacturers, wholesalers, production companies and other potential donors to keep even more usable fabric out of landfills. We also want to inspire and support even more home sewists by spreading the word about our fabric store.
How can our readers help?
If they sew, they can shop with us either in-store or online.
If they have fabric or sewing supplies to donate they can contact our donations coordinator to discuss their donation.
Do you have any events coming up?
We hold in-store sales events every Thursday 3 pm – 7 pm and Sunday 10 am – 1 pm. You can find us at 270-1275 Venables Street, Vancouver, BC V6A 2E4. Drop in to shop for apparel fabric, home decor fabric, quilting supplies, notions, patterns and used sewing machines. Sale events at our store are largely run by volunteers who are always happy to give advice and discuss fabric with new and seasoned home sewists alike.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
It is not a single charity but a cause: organizations that help women flee abusive relationships. No one should have to feel powerless and live in fear. I have been extremely fortunate and want other women to have help available when they need it to reclaim their power and their lives.