What to do before donating needlework books, yarn and related items

Many times in the course of the 10 years I have written the By Hand column readers have emailed asking for suggestions on how to dispose of a loved one’s collection of vintage books, magazines and booklets pertaining to needlework, and stashes of yarn and the tools of needlework such as knitting needles and crochet hooks, fabric, embroidery supplies, and the like.
Here are a few ideas for what to do when you have such materials you wish to donate to a good cause:
• Ask around to see if there is a knitting group that will accept yarn donations for charitable projects, such as hats for the homeless, mittens for local schoolchildren or blankets for shelters for the homeless.
• Call the library in your town and find out what its policy is regarding the donation of vintage needlework books. Many libraries will accept such books only for the library’s annual book sale, which raise funds for its programs.
• Call a local church to see if organizers accept books, magazines, yarn and needlework tools for church fairs.
• Stop by a used book store to see what its policy is regarding buying or trading vintage books and magazines.
• Look around for thrift shops that benefit specific causes and ask if they accept needlework books, magazines, etc. In the Bangor area, call the Home Thrift Store, which benefits the programs at Manna in Bangor, at 990-0900; the Shoestring Thrift Shop in Brewer, which benefits a scholarship fund for area students, at 745-7208; the Grace United Methodist Church thrift shop in Bangor at 942-8320; the Orono Thrift Shop in Orono at 866-8688; and The Salvation Army Family Store in Bangor at 941-2993 for information about donating such items.
• Another possibility, when you have such items to donate, is to identify friends, family or co-workers who knit or crochet and ask if they will give a home to any of the items you have available.
• Some school art departments occasionally accept fabric and books on quilting and needlework, yarn, and other items for its programs. Call the school to inquire.
• Some towns have transfer stations with “exchange sheds” where items can be left for those who wish take them, free of charge. However, if the items are not taken within a day or two, they might end up in the landfill.
When donating items, it’s always wise to be mind your donation manners. Be sure that anything you have to donate is in good condition — toss mangled books or tangled yarns. Check wool yarn to be sure it hasn’t become home to moths. Do a sniff test — no one likes to use yarn that smells like cigarette smoke — indeed, some people are allergic to smoke residues — and make certain that books and magazines don’t smell like mildew. Same goes for fabric.
When donating sewing patterns, make certain, if it has been used, that no pieces are missing.
It’s good idea to give knitting needles and crochet hooks a bath before donating them.
A helpful thing to do with the materials you wish to donate is organize it. Use elastic bands or baggie ties to keep pairs of needles of one size together. Put crochet hooks in a self-seal plastic bag. Do the same with yarn of the same weight or type and label it according to fiber — wool, acrylic, cotton, etc. Doing so will be helpful to thrift store personnel when they put the items out for for sale and a boon to those seeking to buy them. If you don’t know what type of fiber the yarn is, label it as “unknown.”

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