Everyday enviro with Elise: the social enterprise tackling waste and disability employment

Everyday enviro with Elise: the social enterprise tackling waste and disability employment

By Elise Catterall  April 20th, 2021

Last week I visited an amazing little shop in Sydney’s Inner West that sells fabric, but it is so much more than a shop that sells fabric. The Sewing Basket in Balmain proudly states on its awning that it is ‘the fabric shop supporting people with disability’, but it is still so much more than that. 


The small shop on the corner of busy Darling Street with a window full of gorgeous vintage sewing machines is one of four ‘Sewing Baskets’ in New South Wales operated by the charity Achieve Australia. Each shop provides employment and training for people with disabilities and volunteer opportunities to work alongside and support those people, and they also run on donated stock.

By not stocking or selling new materials, not only is The Sewing Basket a fully sustainable shopping option but also an incredible resource of unique and vintage fabrics and patterns. The store also sells books, all sorts of haberdashery items like thread, needles, pincushions, ribbons and zips as well as embroidery materials, yarns, knitting needles and crochet hooks. It’s like a lolly shop for sewers and crafters.

The shop is a treasure trove — you can lose track of time looking at everything from beautiful buttons to bolts of vintage corduroy to original Butterick 1950s cocktail dress patterns to a 1972 Vogue Guide to Knitting (which I just had to buy). It’s amazing.

Donated stock is the cornerstone of the business and all donations are gratefully received, so it is the perfect option when you are clearing out your linen closet or finally letting go of all those projects that never got started. (Though curtain and upholstery fabric and clothing are not accepted.) You can drop donations into any of their shops at any time.

The Sewing Basket started 23 years ago as an annual fabric and needlecraft sale and has now grown into four shops in New South Wales — in Balmain, West Ryde, Newington, and Kincumber — that each provide opportunities for people with disabilities to learn vocational skills, interpersonal skills and to engage with the community as well as opportunities for volunteering.

So, whether you want to find some amazing affordable fabric or haberdashery items, support an important social enterprise, find a way to close the loop on some neglected fabric, or all of the above, The Sewing Basket is just perfect. Check them out at their website, on Instagram or, if you are a keen sewer, join their Facebook group Friends of The Sewing Basket where you can share and interact with The Sewing Basket community, or even learn how to volunteer at this amazing, much-more-than-a-fabric-shop, fabric shop.


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Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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