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.