I bet you don’t know what “gack” is. Well, if you’re curious you have one of two options: 1) Volunteer to sort fabrics at FabMo, or 2) Read this blog post all the way to the end (no cheating, please!) 🙂
FabMo is the amazing non-profit organization from where I source most of the luxurious designer home-decor fabrics I work with. Many people in my area know what a fabulous resource FabMo is, and purchase fabrics there. Only a few, however, realize how much behind-the-scenes work goes into making these fabrics available to the public.
After I wrote a blog post about Hannah Cranch’s weekly trips to the Design Center in San Francisco, quite a few people–including long-time FabMo customers–told me they were amazed to learn how hard the collection work was. Many others wanted to know what happens to the fabrics after they make their way to FabMo’s warehouse. Well, today I want to fill you in about the next step in these fabrics’ journey: the sorting.
I already mentioned that, while at the Design Center, Hannah collects all the fabric samples into big plastic trash bags (which she reuses over and over again):
She hulls these full, heavy bags into her truck, and packs them tightly:
Hannah and her volunteer helper then drive back to FabMo’s warehouse in Mountain View, where they unload the truck’s content into a back room.
The bags wait there for the next sorting event.
Every week FabMo hosts a few hours of “Regular Sort.” This “Sort” is a gathering of several volunteers (usually around eight), who open the bags Hannah brings.
The volunteers spill the content of these bags onto big tables at the center of the room.
Then they start unfolding the pieces and sorting them by size.
A “Regular Sort” typically lasts three to four hours. The volunteers stand on their feet for most of that time. I can attest that this sometimes takes a toll on the body, especially if you have back issues!
Once the volunteers arrange everything by size, they carefully place each pile into a plastic box, which they clearly label. They store the boxes on shelves with similar-sized fabrics.
By the time the volunteers complete a “Regular Sort,” they have emptied all the bags Hannah collected on Monday, neatly sorted and packed all of the fabric pieces she brought, and placed all the boxes on their rightful shelf. The fabrics wait there for the next step in their journey: The Regular Selection Setup.
A Few Words on Gack
So what is “gack,” you wonder… Well, not all fabrics are created equal. Many textile designers design beautiful pieces. Some, however, come up with textiles that are … uhmm … less exciting… For every beautiful and luxurious piece that comes from the Design Center, there is one that is just … not. Some pieces are so drab, in fact, that they are unlikely to find forever homes even among sustainable-fabric enthusiasts. Those usually come in shades of beige and brown, are synthetic or have boring textures. Some are torn, cut or stained. FabMo jargon (yes, there is such a thing!) refers to these as “gack”.
Hannah, by the way, assured me that “gack” was a real word. There is even a story behind it. If you know it, there will be brownie points for the first person to write it in the comments 🙂
FabMo volunteers put gack pieces aside during the sorting process. This, for example, is a gack bag:
FabMo customers never see these pieces. The larger ones go to resale stores to be sold there. Some are left on “free” racks outside FabMo. Volunteers take some pieces home, to use for things like pet bedding, stuffing or as rags. Everything else goes to a fabric recycling facility.
How You Can Help
If you live in the California Bay Area and are interested in supporting FabMo’s efforts to save fabrics from the landfill, consider volunteering a few hours of your time! Sorting is fun, and an entire community will thank you for it!
If you don’t live around here but would still like to help, there are other ways to support this amazing organization: http://www.fabmo.org/fabmo/Support.html
And, if you want to take a look at the kinds of things that can be made from small, rescued upholstery fabric pieces, stop by my booth at the upcoming A la Carte and Art Festival in Mountain View. I’ll be between Evelyn and Villa, and will love to see you 🙂