Edmonton "Fabric Frenzy" rolls out recycled textiles for charity

A roll of fabric that can stitch the world together — several thousand rolls, actually.

Grandmothers of Alberta for a New Generation event raised more than $40k last year for AIDS foundation

Volunteers sort through piles of discounted recycled fabrics at Hardisty School in Edmonton, with proceeds going towards organizations tackling HIV and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Jordan Omstead/CBC)

A roll of recycled fabric — several thousands, actually — sold in Edmonton on Saturday were aimed at stitching the world together. 

The Grandmothers of Alberta for a New Generation, "The GANG" for short, hosted their annual fabric sale at Hardisty School in Edmonton.

The group of Edmonton seniors raises thousands of dollars every year for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, in solidarity with grandmothers across sub-saharan Africa who are raising a generation of children who lost their parents to the global HIV epidemic.

Founded by former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Stephen Lewis, the foundation supports hundreds of community-based partners in 15 countries working to end HIV and AIDS.

The Edmonton GANG raised more than $40,000 at last year's fabric sale.

Organizers Candice Jackson (left) and Louise Barr said the fabric sale raised more than $40,000 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation last year. (Jordan Omstead/CBC)

They collected roughly 600 boxes worth of unused fabric in recent months for this year's sale, the seventh installment.

"We thought after the first couple years we'd run out of fabric, but that hasn't happened," said organizer Candice Jackson. "We're really proud that we're keeping fabric out of the landfill and we're raising money for a great cause."

The HIV epidemic is still dire in eastern and southern Africa, accounting for more than half of the people living with the virus globally. The United Nations estimates 380,000 people died in the area of AIDS-related illness in 2017, down from more than a million deaths per year the height of the epidemic in the early 2000s.

'These tables were piled up above my head'

There was a lineup down the block outside Hardisty School by the time the doors opened at 9 a.m., organizers said, as eager seamsters from as far as Saskatchewan looked to get first dibs on bargain fabrics.

Principal Jim Scott said he was in awe of the sheer scale of the fabric sale when the group first approached him to use the space.

"These tables were piled up above my head," he said.

Most of the rolls go for a dollar per metre, while the high-quality silks and quilting fabrics sell for five dollars.

A significant dent was made in the towers of fabric by early afternoon.

But that didn't stop novice seamster Diana Young from loading a tote bag with rolls.

"I think getting practice material where you're not committing to $20 a metre is a really good start," she said.

Young was accompanied by her sewing mentor and friend Jasmine Lamarre, who helped her navigate the rows of reused fabrics.

Diana Young (left) and Jasmine Lamarre pick out fabric at the sale on Saturday. (Jordan Omstead/CBC)

North Americans send more than 9 million tonnes of clothing to landfills every year, according to the Recycling Council every year. The trend towards fast fashion is also depleting water resources, with the production of a single t-shirt often using more than 2,000 litres.

"When you're taking things out of the wastestream, you know this is leftover stuff from someone's project, it feels good," Lamarre said.

Organizers said the leftover fabrics are donated to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, which teaches people living in northern communities to sew.


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