Thursday, October 15, 2009


In honor of Blog Action Day....I'm bale-ing! Bale is raw or finished material that is collected for re-use and tightly bound with twine or wire and/or wrapped up. We all know the term a bale of hay. But did you know that fabric can be baled and sold for a profit as recycled material?

This was brought to my attention last month when I was asked to save ALL of my sewing scraps for recycling. Now, I've always saved every bit of my sewing scraps of any usable size and even a lot of my batting...for stuffing or to seam together into larger pieces.

But I never realized that there is a viable market for all fabric scraps of any kind or content (no leather or plastic, however.) So, now I save every single thread, batting edge, cut off block edges, all fabric scraps that are too small to crumb piece with and every single piece of my snippet bag contents, quilting group floor contents...anything I can find. And I ask my quilting group members to save theirs for me, as well. (My final pile was actually huge, but I only took this photo of my starter bags of scraps.)

What in the world do we do with it you ask? It is collected into bags and donated to our local Union Gospel Mission here in Salem, Oregon. Run by our local Salvation Army, the mission is a fabulous local resource for women and children from all walks of life with many different needs. A place to seek meaningful help for urgent emergency needs such as a hot, safe overnight shelter, and life changing spiritual or educational programs.

But through their services, they also use contributory resources as a way of earning additional funding. And collecting 'bale' is one of them. Bale in a larger vision would also include all of those clothing items that you see at Goodwill and other agencies, that are no longer usable for serviceable wear...but perfect for a fabric bale. Our donations are collected, tied into 'bales' and shipped to a recycling center.

The fabric goods are literally recycled through a special process that re-creates new cloth in factories especially equipped for this process. And in that process of donating the fabric scraps, the agency gets the proceeds from the recycling for their own programs to help others!

As 'green builders' our family practices recycling in our daily lives, but on a larger scale in our construction standards and practices. Years and years ago, we were the first builders in Salem to use carpets made of recycled pop bottles, decks of recycled milk jugs, and a host of other 'green materials' made into building materials. What we were once incredulously laughed at for, is now becoming common practice! So, I'm hoping that the word spread throughout the textile industry, that our cast-offs and leftovers can also be recycled, re-purposed, and re-used.

Now the challenge is offered out to you. We change our world and make it a better place to live, to work, and even to survive beginning in the smallest of ways. Each and every environmental change we make benefits all aspects of Mother Earth. It is really and truly a 'climate change' in all ways.

Save those scraps and recycle them...make a few phone calls or do an Internet search for your area and bale along with me!

Textile Fiberspace: see a list of all of the fabrics and fibers that can be recycled here

The Textile Recycling Index:
tracks the changing market prices in the textile recycling industry . The Index consists of a weighted basket of specific benchmark grades of recovered natural textile fibers, scrap synthetic textiles and used apparel items. The Index includes snapshots of 5 viewpoints of market trends : the past 7 days, past 30 days, past 90 days, past 1 year and past 2 years.


  1. I'm in awe at the benefits of 'baling' your scraps. I'm not aware of a program such as yours in our community. Can you give me some pointers on how I can locate one? Thanks!

  2. I'd never previously heard of this myself!Apparently,our Mission has just been collecting the unusable clothing from Goodwill and others and then using them for a way to earn money from recycling. When I go to their own website, there is no mention of it, yet it is being done here in Salem. So, I can only suggest a search engine type search hoping someone else has written about it!

    The lady who told me about ours has been doing it for a while and joined our Quilt Guild just to gather our scraps, so I started my own collection among my groups to help her out. I think they ask big organizations who can donate large amounts of old clothing,manufacturing scraps etc.but really and truly recycling has to be grassroots driven to change the world!!!

  3. Wow! Not something I'd ever think to do or imagine being done. Great donation idea. I might just check out my city and see if anyone does this kind of thing. Thanks for another interesting post!

  4. Well, I feel as though I just used a bale of scraps, snippets, and loose threads in the 10'x 14' art piece featuring prairie flowers just finished ... finally. There are many more art collage quilts using "orts" (the term Brits use for scraps) ahead for me. I hadn't realized there was competition for their usefulness.

  5. A really interesting post Michele, I'll check and see if such a project exists in WI or maybe MN. I'd never have thought to put the tread snippets into such a collection, but why not, it's cotton. Thanks for another informative post *VBS* Hugs, Finn

  6. What a great way of recycling! I wish we had something like that around here as well; it'¨s amazing how much scraps of this and that that accumulates in the sewing room.

    Thanks for visitng and commenting on my blog, now I got to visit your.


Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.