Ragfinery, a textile recycling center, opened its doors to the public Thursday, April 3 as a place for the community to donate, buy and learn to reuse old fabric.
The 4,000-square-foot facility located at 1421 N. Forest St. includes table space, a washing machine, equipment for working and dozens of bins of prepared materials.
Ragfinery is different from a thrift store because all the donations are remade into something new by volunteers and local artists and sold as upcycled products, Executive Director Duane Jager said.
Upcycling uses recycled materials to make new products Ragfinery is a place for people to get rid of unwanted material, without adding to landfills, by donating what would otherwise be thrown away, Jager said.
Jager started Ragfinery as an offshoot of his company Appliance Depot and became more interested in reusing textiles as he learned about post-consumer waste, he said.
The mission of ReUse Works is to create jobs from waste, Jager said. Ragfinery has been coming together over the last six months through grant funding and donations.
Jager did research before starting Ragfinery to learn what the community wanted out of a space dedicated to reused textiles.
“When we did a focus group with artists, we found out they are very interested in using this co-work space to teach and do workshops about how to upcycle these products,” Jager said.
Ragfinery partnered with the Department of Social and Health Services, Work Source Northwest and Bellingham Public Schools. These partners will combine to teach sewing, weaving and design skills to create products for sale.
Western’s Office of Sustainability helped to supply Ragfinery by donating 500 pounds of drapes.
Carol Berry, campus conservation manager and a member of Allied Arts, provided a pedal-powered sewing machine used to weave cloth for public use at Ragfinery.
Anyone who wishes to use the sewing machines can come in, select fabrics and pay for it by the pound. The prices are still being discussed, Berry said.
“Why buy something, wear it twice and then throw it in the garbage?” Berry said. “This culture of fast fashion is the reason we have so much waste and I want it to be put to a better use.”
Berry, who volunteers at Ragfinery, gets satisfaction from creating her own clothing and wishes to provide opportunities for others in her community to do the same, she said.
Jenny Godwin, Western senior and environmental studies major, has been working with Berry in the office of sustainability since the fall.
Godwin first heard of Ragfinery when it was still a business idea and not open to the public. She brought the leftovers from campus clothing swaps to the center to be reused by volunteers working to get the business started.
Yearly events, such as Sweater Days, provide opportunities for these clothing swaps to happen on campus. Stations are setup, usually near dorms, where students can drop off items of unwanted clothes and look through what other students dropped off.
Shirts, pants, sweaters and all items of clothing were brought in by students to be “swapped” for other clothing. Left over items were taken to the Ragfinery, cut and reused in rugs, bags, more clothing or stored for later projects, Godwin said.
Godwin prefers knowing that the textiles are used locally instead of shipped overseas, she said.
Ragfinery is currently running on a volunteer-only basis. However, Jager said the plan is to have paid employees within the next five years.