UPDATE: Ritzy Rags is now Re:loom. http://reloom.org/
What images come to mind? Frayed clothing adorned with sequins? Jewel-encrusted cut-offs? Today’s Ritzy Rags are none of this. Think rugs, place mats, oversized purses and tote bags. Think table runners and wall hangings. Think … the perfect bulletin board covering (see photo). You will never go back to plain brown cork bulletin boards after you see this.
Ritzy Rags is a brilliantly-inspired program that is teaching homeless and low-income women to weave strips of donated fabric — including clothing — into rugs and all of the other items mentioned above. They look great! I love the colors — sometimes pastels, or denim set off with black thread, or bold colors with bright contrast. When you see their work, you will suddenly think of a spot in your home that needs a rug. You will realize that your purse is too small and plain. Your place mats are boring. You will want to buy Ritzy Rags’ products, but you can’t — not yet. Soon.
Why should this drive you crazy? Because it’s so GREEN. Ritzy Rags is the perfect representation of creative reuse. The weavers create attractive and useful items from discarded clothing — including the stuff that thrift stores can’t sell. Fabric is fabric. If a gorgeous shirt has a stain, or a tear, they cut around it. The rest of the shirt is still great, and they’re cutting it into strips anyway! They can use any kind of fabric, even sheets and T-shirts!! Anything. Nothing is wasted. In addition to clothing, they also use leftover upholstery fabric, or any other fabric they can get.
A program of Initiative for Affordable Housing, Ritzy Rags is still building inventory. Their work will be available for purchase, but not for several more months. According to Lisa Wise, executive director of Initiative for Affordable Housing, they plan to sell their products online, and they want to be fully stocked before they go live. Meanwhile, the program is teaching job skills to women who need help entering the work force. Along with weaving, they will learn computer skills and customer service skills. While they’re learning, they’re getting paid for their work.
There is so much more I could say about this commendable program. Professional weavers set up the looms and teach the women how to work them. Volunteers sort the donated fabric and cut it into strips. To learn more about Ritzy Rags, check out their Web site. For now, what you need to know is that they need more fabric and clothing donations, and they need more volunteers. UPDATE: Ritzy Rags is now Re:loom.