Sustainable Quilting—Part Six

Bridget O’Flaherty


May 3, 2024


You can help to build a list of places in Canada to donate unused fabric and sewing supplies by providing information about resources near you. See below for Bridget’s contact information.


Quilting in Canada is not merely a pastime; it’s a vibrant community, a celebration of tradition, and an expression of creativity that spans generations. From coast to coast, quilting enthusiasts gather in guilds, attend workshops, and connect over their shared love for this timeless craft. Yet, amidst this thriving quilting scene, there’s a growing concern that cannot be overlooked: textile waste and stash management.

In recent years, the issue of textile waste has gained increasing attention worldwide, and Canada is no exception. Canadians discard approximately 12.5 million tonnes of textiles each year, with only a small fraction being recycled or repurposed. This staggering amount of waste not only contributes to environmental pollution, but also highlights the need for more sustainable practices within the textile industry. While quilting may be a source of textiles that are primarily kept in the home as we build our stashes, there are times when what we have is too much and our collections need to be re-homed. But, finding new homes for our supplies can be difficult and often daunting.

As quilters, many of us have experienced the joy of building a fabric stash—a curated collection of materials that inspire and excite us. But as our stashes grow, so too can feelings of overwhelm and guilt. The push and pull between our love for these materials and the pressure to use them all can sometimes stifle our creativity.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely found yourself surrounded by stacks of fabric, each piece holding the promise of a beautiful creation. But, with that promise comes responsibility—to use these materials mindfully and, if nothing else, use them because you bought them and you don’t want to waste that money. It’s a delicate balance, one that requires us to confront our consumption habits and consider the emotional and perhaps even the environmental impact of our craft. This creative block is common, but when we give ourselves space to assess our stash and let go of some of the excess, we can move to a place of creativity and feel more productive.

Beyond the personal challenges of managing our own stashes, there’s also the daunting task of dealing with the fabric collections of loved ones. Whether it’s inheriting a stash from a family member or sorting through the belongings of a friend who can no longer quilt due to illness, the emotional weight of this responsibility can be overwhelming.

I’ve personally faced this challenge when sorting through my late mother’s extensive collection of quilting supplies. Each piece of fabric held memories and aspirations, making the task of deciding what to do with them all a deeply emotional journey.

As quilters, we are accustomed to finding beauty in unexpected places, turning scraps of fabric into works of art, and transforming ordinary moments into cherished memories. In the midst of grief, quilting can serve as a source of comfort and healing, providing a creative outlet for processing emotions and honouring the legacy of our loved ones.

Rather than letting these materials languish unused, we can breathe new life into them by incorporating them into our own quilting projects. Whether it’s a quilt made from a combination of fabrics collected over a lifetime or a series of smaller projects crafted from cherished remnants, each creation becomes a tribute to the memory of our loved one and a testament to the enduring power of love and creativity.

So, what happens though, if we are not inspired or inclined to use the materials that were left to us? Managing materials and stashes for these folks can be overwhelming. I’ve had numerous emails like this one: “My mother-in-law is a fabric lover/hoarder, as such I have tons of quilt fabric. Help! I want to donate it, where can I send the fabric?”

One way to navigate the grief process is by repurposing and sharing materials from a loved one’s fabric stash. Sharing these materials with other quilters can foster a sense of community and connection, allowing us to connect with others who share our passion for quilting and our appreciation for the stories woven into each piece of fabric.

By participating in fabric swaps, donating materials to quilting charities, or simply sharing surplus fabrics with fellow quilters, we can honour the memory of our loved ones while also spreading joy and inspiration within the quilting community.

As quilters, many of us have experienced the joy of building a fabric stash—a curated collection of materials that inspire and excite us. But as our stashes grow, so too can feelings of overwhelm and guilt.


The challenge comes in finding the places to donate and share materials. There are general comments on social media suggesting local quilt guilds or senior centres, and there are also fabric destash groups on places like Facebook. However, there is no one place where we can go find a resource in our communities.

It seems to me that there is a pressing need for comprehensive resources and support networks tailored to Canadian quilters. General resources can be difficult to track down and often there is an additional burden placed on these associations to responsibly deal with the volume of materials that are donated. The good news is that there is a rising number of businesses both for-profit and not-for-profit popping up across the country that are working to tackle the massive amounts of reusable materials in our communities, but we don’t know all of them.

Send us your ideas!

That’s why I’m reaching out to you, fellow quilters, and members of our vibrant quilting community, to join me in creating a database of sustainable textile options across Canada. I’d love to hear from you. If you know of a resource in your community, please reach out. Together, we can bridge the gap and compile a wealth of information aimed at addressing textile waste and stash management in our local regions. Here are some specific resources we are looking for.

Quilt Guilds and Associations: These organizations often host events, workshops, and fabric swaps where members can share materials and ideas.

Senior or Daycare Centres with textile programs: Senior or daycare centres with textile programs play an essential role in fostering creativity and social engagement among participants. These programs may include quilting, sewing, and other textile-related activities where donated materials are used to create various projects

Community Sewing Groups: Community sewing groups play a vital role in promoting sustainability and fostering creativity. Whether it’s a group dedicated to upcycling old textiles, teaching sewing skills, or a quilting circle focused on charity projects, these groups provide a supportive environment for quilters and sewists to come together and make a difference in communities.

Sustainable Textile Businesses: From fabric mills to small-scale producers, there are businesses across Canada that are committed to sustainable practices. By compiling a list of these businesses, we can support their efforts and make it easier for quilters to access eco-friendly materials.

Textile Upcyclers and Recyclers: These businesses play a crucial role in diverting fabric waste from landfills and giving new life to old textiles. By supporting these businesses and organizations, quilters can ensure that their unused fabrics are repurposed in environmentally friendly ways.

Retail Options for Sustainable Materials: Retailers of pre-(deadstock) and post-consumer (de-stash) materials offer quilters access to eco-friendly fabrics with minimal environmental impact. By choosing to purchase from these retailers, quilters can reduce their carbon footprint and support sustainable practices in the textile industry.

Fabric Swaps and Exchanges: Fabric swaps are a fantastic way to breathe new life into unwanted fabrics and reduce textile waste. By participating, organizing, and promoting these events within our local communities, we can encourage quilters to exchange fabrics, patterns, and ideas while minimizing their environmental footprint.

Advocates for Change: As members of the quilting community, we have a voice, and we can use it to advocate for change. Whether it’s lobbying for better recycling infrastructure or supporting initiatives aimed at reducing textile waste, we can work together to create a more sustainable future for quilting in Canada.

Artivists and Activists: Quilters and textile artists often use their medium to express their concern or position on a given topic, issue, or event. Supporting these artists is an important part of sustainable futures.

The issue of textile waste and stash management is one that cannot be ignored. As quilters, we have the power to make a difference. By coming together, sharing our knowledge, and taking action, we can build a more sustainable quilting community in Canada.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves, thread our needles, and embark on this journey together. And, if you’re like my mother, with tons of quilt fabric, and you’re looking to donate it, know that there are resources and communities eager to put those materials to good use, preserving memories and nurturing creativity in the process.

We are calling on quilters across Canada to help build this valuable regional resource. If you know of a resource we can add to the database, email Bridget at and use the Subject line “Fabric Donation Locations” to let us know. We are really excited to create this for  Canadian quilters.

Bridget O’Flaherty. The Sustainable QuilterBridget O’Flaherty is a Canadian free-motion embroiderer, quilter and textile artist, teacher, speaker and podcaster with a decade of experience in the sustainable building industry. Known as The Sustainable Quilter, she shares her passion for the natural environment in her art and online community.

Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023

Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023

Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023 in Edmonton, Alberta