Donating Old Sewing Supplies

I was at my local Salvation Army the other day — they have the best prices in town for dresses, you know — and I wondered suddenly why I hadn’t seen any sewing patterns there.  So I asked.  The answer?  My local Salvation Army sends all sewing patterns to RECYCLING.  As in, turned into paper pulp and destroyed.  They do the same thing with fabric.

“We don’t get in a ton of them,” the cashier said helpfully, “just, like, when someone dies and all their stuff gets donated.”  I was standing there open-mouthed in horror — because, as any vintage sewing junkie knows, the very nicest — and most valuable — sewing patterns are the ones that have been stashed in someone’s house for fifty years: in other words, the very patterns that the cashier was talking about.

I offered to buy all the patterns they got in — ALL OF THEM — and they wouldn’t do it.  They didn’t have time to call me when they got any, they said.  So I offered to come by, say, once a week to retrieve any patterns (and to pay for them, mind you).  No go.  The manager wouldn’t even come out to talk to me about it.  So I emailed the regional headquarters — twice.  After three weeks, they still have not replied to my emails.

Besides being wasteful and detrimental to the preservation of historic items, this is not environmentally friendly behavior — as we all know, REUSE always comes before RECYCLE.  Recycling things that can be reused is a waste of resources.

If this wanton destruction of fashion history horrifies you (and it should), here’s what you should do:

  1. Email your regional Salvation Army and request that they start carrying sewing patterns in their stores instead of recycling them.
  2. In the meantime, tell all your friends and family NOT to donate sewing supplies to Salvation Army.
  3. If you have old sewing supplies that you want to get rid of, either contact me 😉 or take them to a small local thrift store.

UPDATE 4/24: I just found out that a few Salvation Army stores — the Pittsburgh, PA, store and one in Wisconsin — do annual sales of sewing supplies, so not all the stores destroy patterns. But if you’re donating sewing supplies, DO ask before you leave them!!

I’ve also heard from one of my vintage pattern friends on Facebook that some Goodwill stores also do not accept patterns — if you take anything there, check before you drop it off.

If you have things to donate and aren’t sure where to send them, here are some examples of places that accept patterns and sewing supplies:

  • For the Nashville, TN, area — Thriftsmart takes sewing patterns and offers sewing classes.
  • For the Athens, GA, area — Project Safe sells fabric — even fabric scraps! — and patterns. All the proceeds help abused women and children.
  • For the Tullahoma, TN, area — Attic Outlet sells patterns and fabric.

Again, most small local thrift stores sell sewing patterns — if you know any others that do, feel free to leave a comment!

About Charity

I have an inexcusable number of cookbooks (and like to experiment with them), have worked in architectural antiques, and have been sewing most of my life. I recently graduated with a Ph.D. in Apparel, Merchandising, & Design from Iowa State University. Doing household things (except for cleaning!) and hunting for antiques are my favorite pastimes.
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14 Responses to Donating Old Sewing Supplies

  1. We have have a little local thrift shop run by some church group. I asked when we moved here is they had patterns. They said no they used the tissue to wrap fragile items in. I had a long talk with them about the how much some of these patterns go for online and suggested they check it out on ebay. I went in a few months later and they had started selling some. Its sad that the art of sewing is given so little value. The school I work at has gotten rid of all the family consumer science classes and replaced them with agriculture classes. We are an inner city school. While I am all for teaching everyone to grow their own food in their yard this does not seem to be their goal Our students will not have any clue how to even sew on a button (unless of course they are learning at home).

    • Charity says:

      That’s great, Susan! I think patterns have only recently become really collectible, and not everyone has caught up to that knowledge yet. I was buying them in high school, but it was just because I wanted to sew them, and not because I ever thought they’d be worth anything. 🙂

      The lack of family and consumer science classes in inner city schools has been really bothering me for some time. The private schools in Nashville still have it, but the places where it’s really needed (i.e., inner city) no longer have it, and that’s very sad. They stop teaching people how to cook healthy food, and then wonder why we have an obesity epidemic.

  2. Anne W says:

    NOOOOO!! I cannot believe they’re so short sighted! Hopefully they’ll change their minds, those patterns are valuable!

  3. Look for centers for “creative recycling;” there is one in the San Francisco Bay Area called S.C.R.A.P. which is a low-cost source for art teachers and artists and quilters and anyone else who wants to creatively re-use patterns, crayons, paper offcuts, old photos, bins full of buttons, fabric scraps and interior designers’ fabric swatch books, office supplies from defunct businesses, samples of formica and tiles, last year’s unsold calendars — among many other things. Every community should have one! I once saw an entire 30 gallon can full of corks from wine bottles. A month later they were all gone.

  4. Just saw this shoutout from last year, Charity. Thanks for the rec! And yes, ThriftSmart is happy to take patterns and resell them or pass them on to the sewing training program for refugees that’s in our store (

    There’s also a new art-centric nonprofit resale store in Nashville called SmART – short for Scrap Made Art Supplies. Sounds a lot like the San Francisco SCRAP store previously mentioned. They sell donated art and craft materials to benefit adults with intellectual disabilities. Learn more about them at

    • Charity says:

      That’s awesome!! And I’ve bought some great patterns from you guys, too. I really miss living in Nashville, and I always visit Thriftsmart anytime I’m in town.

  5. Kim says:

    Can you email me please. I have patterns to get rid of.

  6. Lisa says:

    My grandmother just passed away, and I had no idea what to do with all her sewing supplies. Thank you so much for your suggestions above. She lived in Athens, GA – so it’s perfect!

    I used to live in Nashville, and I know one of the gentlemen who started Thriftsmart. It’s a wonderful organization, and I highly recommend them.

  7. coranicablog says:

    Hi Charity, I have a big stack of old patterns from my grandmother. DO you know of a place that would take them to use them? Thanks!

    • Charity says:

      I just recommend asking your local thrift store what they do with patterns — don’t assume that they actually sell them! If they do, then great!

      Or you can send me a picture of them and I might be interested in buying them from you. 😉 charity suzanne calvin at g mail dot com. (Just remove the spaces — added to keep spammers from finding me!)

  8. Tracy G says:

    Do you still take old sewing patterns? I might have some for you … going through my mom’s and my old sewing supplies while cleaning out the basement ….

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