Damaged Goods

Yesterday, I walked into the best thrift shop around, and in place of what are normally extremely extravagant and colorfully creative window displays depicting the seasons or holidays, there was a mountain of clothing!

There was also a note.

I read the notes, understood the predicament, and asked who’s idea it was to pile the clothing in the window, because it was AWEsome!  I was told that Ellen Graham, the Assistant Manager of the store, was due credit for the eye-catching statement.  So I walked to the back room and asked for her by name.  I found this Rennaisance woman actively sorting clothing, like a picture out of a book of hard-workers with seemingly thankless jobs.  And yes, she just happened to be wearing a shirt that read, “No Thanks.”  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything more perfect.

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Ellen kindly humored my questions (and camera), and explained that the recycling company that used to haul away all of the stained, ripped, and otherwise unusable materials, will no longer be able to do so, due to a drastic drop in financial incentive.  This suddenly leaves Experienced Goods buried under a pile they can barely see over.

Ellen said that the store receives 8,000 pounds (4 TONS!) per month of unusable clothing, and now begs all donors to keep this in mind when donating goods to the store.  In lieu of screening incoming donations, and potentially turning away valuable donors, Ellen prefers to continue accepting the (damaged) goods, but hopes that local people who have some need for material or textiles will step up and claim their prizes.

So Ellen got creative!

There is already a bin of wool garments that you can fill a bag with, and pay only $5 to take it away.  Ellen also said that if someone has a specific material in mind, like denim or corduroy, that they can set them aside for pick-up.

This is where I come in!  The possibilities of local ARTists and creative folks who might have some really resourceful ideas for how to use portions of the mountain raced through my head.  I thought On The Edge Of Art would be the best place to post a call for people who can help Experienced Goods out in their new-found dilemma, while simultaneously reusing and repurposing all of the energy that went into creating these garments.

Some ideas:

  • Quilts
  • Upcycled clothing
  • Curtains
  • Throw pillows
  • Scarves
  • Pet toys
  • Costumes for plays
  • Teddy Bears
  • and on
  • and on
  • and on!

Anyone else out there have some really creative ways to use any/all of these materials?  I’d love to see Brattleboro’s commUNITY help Experienced Goods stay on top of this mountain.

Experienced Goods’ mission is “to fundraise for Brattleboro Area Hospice by selling good quality items for affordable prices.”  They represent an undeniable GOOD in this area, and certainly deserve our help in their time of need!

And a HUGE Thank You to Ellen and all of the employees of Experienced Goods Thrift Shop!

Love, Angel

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35 thoughts on “Damaged Goods

    • I agree, Dori. And no matter how scrupulously I thought I inspected clothing I was donating before, I will be even more-so now. Seeing that mountain of clothes really opened my eyes!

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  1. Making quilts from all these old things, is very do-able and easy. The raggy quilts can be made with almost anything……..maybe a show and tell in the shop, or close by, would be the way to go?

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  2. That was a great article! Didn’t expect that twist in the story 🙂
    So, I am thinking of a way to use some of the material to make a scale model of a ski mountain. I will be applying onto a woven wire mesh like chicken wire. Maybe cut into strips and soak in glue before applying? It could give me the textures I want…. hmmm.
    I will definitely check it out 🙂

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  3. I am an eBay clothing seller and consequently there is a lot of clothing around me home. I am also grandmother to a delightful 4 year old who, along with her parents, lives with me. Sometime ago I began telling her stories I made up about “The Ragpicker’s Granddaughter” loosely based on us of course! They haunt the streets for rags and discarded clothing bringing it home to clean and sort. Then I go into great detail about all the wonderful things they make with their finds. Many quilts, rugs, bags and countless items of up cycled clothing have been created from their found treasures. I will incorporate this story you shared into an upcoming episode.

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  4. As the director at Green Mt Camp, I would love to find someone who knows how to make rag rugs or reusable bags or to felt or ???. I would gladly buy clothes from you and then hire them to teach some of the 250 girls who come to camp each summer. We strive to reuse and recycle whenever we can,the girls love learning new skills like that, and they would end up with a work of art they can be proud of! If you know someone who does that, please put them in touch with us!

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    • Thanks so much for reaching out, but especially for teaching the girls great skills! Have gotten a bunch of interested learners and instructors and will definitely hook you up with a rag rug creator!!

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  5. I can’t find it, but recently there was a Facebook post about a retired gent who buys sweaters from thrift stores and goodwills, unravels them and recycles the wool. He buys cashmere. angora and other pricey garments even if they are too damaged for wearing and then knits beautiful hats, scarves and gloves with materials that he would not be able to afford new.

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  6. I heard about the issue of the textile resale market and thrift stores in Vermont on NPR, and then stumbled upon your piece here…. so glad you focused on Experienced Goods, and generated great dialogue! Happy to have discovered your blog and look forward to following you and your wonderful photography!

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  7. There are so many wonderful things to do with these textiles. I’m trying not to be stressed that I’m all the way in NYC right now. Like someone mentioned above, I unravel sweaters to get the yarn. And with that I weave, either on my 4 shaft loom or tapestry. Then if the sweaters felt you can make endless baby toys. You can also cut the sleeves off sweaters and make either legwarmers or easily make them into wool drawstring or elastic band wool longies. (cloth diaper covers). Or just small children’s warm wool pants.

    T-shirts I often cut into a continuous strand, stretch it a little and make it into “tarn”. I’ve woven a simple rug out of this. It can also be used to crochet grocery bags or rugs. Just be aware whatever item will finish up a bit stretchy.

    Any fabric that is even a little absorbent, and especially towels, I cut into rectangles. I do a quick and easy sewing around the perimeter of the shape and then I stack them in a drawer. Voila! Reusable “paper” towels. And if I have to clean something up that’s particularly gross, no harm no foul, just throw out that piece. I’m even leading a brief (free) class on this in Brooklyn (NYC) at the end of March.

    Has anyone as the Vermont Weaving school if they would be interested in teaching a class with rugs? Sheets and table cloths can be great for those too.

    I have a lot of family up there and visit more when the weather is nice. If I get up there and the amazing window display is gone, can I still ask for any damaged textiles? Especially 100% chunky wool. Oh I’m drooling. And the idea of getting enough denim to weave a proper rag rug….

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    • Kate, please don’t stress! Experienced Goods is here to stay, and although people will hopefully start to donate a bit more responsibly, there will almost definitely be excess for you whenever you make it up here again. So even when the pile is gone, there will be lots of damaged good for repurposing! And you seem so experienced with these techniques! I’d love to meet you on your next trip up and get some cool workshop ideas together! PS- I’m from Staten Island and will appreciate the air of NYC you bring up with you. I miss home a bit!

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  8. A church my husband and I attended in FL. Had a group of woman who got together using pillowcases to make bags for foster children to carry their belongings in. Much more personalized than a green garbage bag. Some even converted denim pants into shoulder bags. I’ve read a pretty good amount of excellent suggestions. I would be willing to help tear fabric or sort fabric also. Willing to learn how to do anything I can’t already do.

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  9. Angel, love that you found this – and jumped right in to help! Rag rugs can also be made on a loom, and they look absolutely beautiful when they are done. Plus, t-shirt “yarn” sells at a very hefty price, although it’s very easy to make. Also, recycled bags can be made by cutting off arms, half circle at the neckline and sewing up the bottom of the garment! Easy-Peasy.

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    • Is this the illustrious Pamela Walters?! I had a feeling you and Haddie would appreciate this! The response has been pretty amazing, and I have so many wheels spinning as far as how to organize and coordinate efforts and people and yadda yadda yadda! Wish you guys weren’t so far away!! ❤

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