SewGreen was founded in Ithaca NY in 2007 as a way to save unwanted
fabric, yarn and sewing equipment from going to the landfill, and to teach
sewing as a self-reliant skill. The original mission has grown to also
include youth development, job training, and consumer education.
To raise start-up funds, a handful of volunteers held a giant one-day
rummage sale of sewing and needlecraft materials donated from the local
community. We were amazed to see people lined up to get in, and when the
sale earned $1,000, we knew we were onto something.
We next researched how people could to learn to sew. We found few opportunities
in our area, despite an increase in interest, especially among young people.
We cobbled together our first beginning sewing class, which we taught
in borrowed space in a sustainable clothing store. The store also gave
us a corner to sell rescued fabric and yarn.
SewGreen now occupies four adjacent storefronts in Clinton Hall, an historic
mercantile building in downtown Ithaca’s shopping district. We have
a sewing classroom for all ages, a reuse store, a sewing machine tune-up
shop, and a studio for our youth fashion apprenticeship program.
We have maintained our “green” roots all along the way, promoting
reuse and refashioning, and marketing the desirability of fabrics from
past decades. We have restored and sold over 150 older sewing machines,
and annually divert about 18 tons of materials from landfills.
Our free teen apprenticeship program attracts talented kids from all backgrounds.
We work with local youth agencies to provide after-school and summer jobs
for qualified teens.
Without a model to emulate, starting SewGreen was challenging, but the
formula of reuse, education, volunteerism – and a resilient sense
of fun – has yielded great success.