The first ever Destash Baltimore took place on Sunday and it was epic! I’ve always thought about hosting a regional event that would pull in sewists who have fabric they no longer loved or didn’t fit their lifestyle. I also increasingly heard from our community that we had more fabric and patterns than we knew what to deal with. But, the returns on eBay and Etsy are low but the effort high. What if we had an event where you brought in what wasn’t you anymore but got to look through someone elses stash? You’d bring people together for community and also make sure your fabric went to someone who would love it back.
I was a complete wreck the week before. I was worried no one would like it, there wouldn’t be enough stuff to swap, they wouldn’t like the fabric they got and everyone would blame me for wasting their time. I slept about three hours the night before wondering why I thought this was a good idea.
Guess what? It was a TOTAL blast, completely exceeded my expectations and was better than I imagined. I’m a mess and you should ignore me, lol! We had attendees from all over: Virginia, DC, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It was truly a regional event.
I’ve been asked on Instagram and Pattern Review how to put one of these together and I thought I’d share my planning process along with suggestions from attendees that I received post event. I’m so grateful for the feedback as I’d never done this before.
Above is a great video from Crystal who talked about how the swap worked and shows what she got. This is not for the faint of heart! Literally every piece of fabric she shows I would have taken had I seen it.
I was so busy chatting that I really didn’t really shop until it was all over. And, as we have discussed, I get a little overwhelmed by too much choice and kind of zoned out on shopping. But, thankfully a few volunteers saw fabric that was ‘me’ (i.e. Tina C. with wool jersey) and put is aside for me. Also, after watching this video I think I may need to pitch this tunic (Burdastyle 5-2010 #104) as I easily look four months pregnant (around minute 24:00). I am not.
From the start I figured we could get 50 people if enough word got out. A week before the event we hit that number with a waiting list. The day of the event I was still getting tags on Instagram about having missed it. That tells me there definitely is a market for a community Destash (or restash as a IG friend called it).
I personally brought in three blue IKEA bags of patterns, fabric, yarn and a few books. I left with less than I donated and I’m calling that a big win. I knew this event was going to be a be amazing when hand carts of boxes started coming in.
What to Destash and Swap
Fabric, yarn, books and patterns were the largest categories. We accepted home dec and required a minimum of 1/2″ of garment fabric and a fat quarter of quilting fabric. One suggestion I had was to up the minimum of fabric for garment making because we ended up with a few small pieces that weren’t super useful. Or, to set them in a different category so they weren’t with the bulk of garment fabrics.
Identify someplace to take leftovers
Prior to the swap I figured out several places in town that would want the leftover material. In Baltimore, we have The Book Thing which is a free bookstore. We are also home to many design schools including Baltimore City Community College, Stevenson University, Maryland Institute College of Art, and the Baltimore Design School.
I also reached out the Maryland chapter of ASG who ended up taking the fabric and patterns leftover for their own stash sale to raise funds for the organization.
I suggest you have them pick up leftovers after the event. While most everything was taken, we had A LOT leftover. Thankfully, four volunteers helped haul it to ASG’s holding space.
You HAVE to design a visually arresting and easily shareable invitation graphic. Period. I used a free app on my phone called Canva. It made it super easy to create the Save the Date, Invitation, header for the Eventbrite and labels.
I just did a public Eventbrite, posted on Pattern Review, my Instagram, and my personal Facebook. I wanted to do a Facebook event but I needed a business account / page to do so. Same with a sponsored post on Insta. I did ask people to repost and share their #DestashBaltimore plans to help get the word out. It was also fun to see what people were bringing. I suggest picking a registration day and starting to post a few weeks before. I also emailed every person I knew of in Baltimore and Maryland to let them know it was coming. Reach out to your local ASG and ask if they will post the message too. I didn’t reach out to my local fabric shops. But, it certainly doesn’t hurt to contact them too.
Get a hashtag. I did #DestashBaltimore and was consistent from the save the date, to the invite to my own individual posts. It makes it easier for people to find information and it’s been fun seeing photos now on Instagram!
I used Eventbrite because I honestly didn’t and can’t deal with a lot of emails. I’d have lost track of who was coming to what. An Eventbrite site also allowed me to have maps, an FAQ and an easy link to share with people. Next year I’ll pay a little more for the platform and allow people to enter their Instagram or blog names so I can include it on their nametags.
This whole thing would have been a massive FAIL without volunteers. We ended up with about 11 and probably could have used 15. Several of my non-sewing friends asked on their own if they could help too. I’m endlessly grateful for the emails, texts and DMs offering help. Honestly, when I started I didn’t even consider volunteers!
Volunteers helped set up and break down the room, staffed the registration table and also accepted all the stuff that came in and placed it on the correctly labeled table. I originally thought about having people come in and put fabric out themselves. But, reversed myself and used volunteers when I realized how chaotic it could be.
Fabric sorting, keeping counts, labeling
I designed labels for the donors to use that would say how much fabric they had, the width and the content. It’s a massive PITA when you have 30 or 50 pieces of fabric. But, it made ‘shopping’ donations much easier. It also helped volunteers get fabric to the correct table.
I asked all donors to keep track of the number of items they were donation. Each ‘thing’ donated was a unit.
I think this is it for my contribution to #DestashBaltimore. Time to label what I can & bag it up. And yes, those are sewing magazines, mostly 10 year old KnipModes with Patrones, plus others. I love purging & live in a small house with minimal storage. I haven't used them, so maybe someone else can.
Based on the number of units you donated, we split them into three groups (the most number of units were in group one, etc) for the shopping.
Swap It Like It’s Hot
After splitting into three groups we allowed each group seven minutes to browse the labeled tables. We labeled the tables by type of fabric (knits, coatings, suiting, bottom weight, home dec, silky, etc). They could take one item in that seven minutes and get a lay of the land. After each group went though, we invited everyone to start shopping.
I heard great feedback on this. You were able to get your hands on something that really intrigued you. But, also didn’t run the risk of someone ahead of you hogging all the good fabric.
It was also kind of fun to hear who donated the most items!
Write one. Here’s the one I wrote:
Whew. I’m still processing the excellent feedback I received. Of the say 60 people attending about ten people reached back out with their thoughts. And, I agree with their suggestions!
- After donation drop off while there’s about an hour of milling around before the actual swap, there should be some ice breakers. Not everyone knows everyone else, not everyone is online and some people are shy. Suggestions were ice breakers, maybe a handmade Q&A fashion show or food while folks milled about. I think this is a great idea and what I’ll do next time.
- Prelabel large boxes for pattern donations. There were an insane number of patterns that came in. I don’t know why I was surprised since I donated 30 myself. Martha and Dei were smart enough to start labeling those boxes as they came in and sorted the patterns into appropriate categories including bottoms, tops, dresses, outerwear, wardrobe, kids, men’s and sleepwear.
That’s the Destash! What this event tells me is we crave community and that our community is awesome. I do plan to do this again. But, every other year. It takes a lot of planning from my end and of the Destashers! So, Spring 2020 it is!
Last thoughts an advice… get a space bigger than you think you need, make sure you have tables, and be prepared for ah-mazing.
I have two ideas of programs in 2019 that I look forward to sharing. In the meantime, I’m legit still recovering.