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:
- Email your regional Salvation Army and request that they start carrying sewing patterns in their stores instead of recycling them.
- In the meantime, tell all your friends and family NOT to donate sewing supplies to Salvation Army.
- 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!