CLEVELAND — Nonprofit Cleveland Sews is measuring, cutting and stitching up its latest product.
The material is unique. They are the NFL Draft banners used when Cleveland played host to the event in 2021.
After the draft ended, the banners could have ended up in the trash. But a phone call to Cleveland Sews prevented that.
“This man on the other end of the phone just says, ‘Hi, this is Jack from the NFL.’ And quite honestly, I thought it was a prank,” recalled Sharie Renee, the founder and director of Cleveland Sews.
The NFL Green program makes sure banners stay in the community and out of landfills. In this case, 900 pounds of fabric.
It was a heavy lift, but Cleveland Sews couldn't say no to the offer.
“We realized was that we were going to have to pile up our Subaru with as many banners as we could fit into the back,” said Renee.
Once delivered, volunteers from John Carroll University sorted and cut the fabric into pieces for tote bags. The edges are straps. The center is the body of the bag.
“I think it's actually kind of crazy to think about what we're taking and what it's going to be turned into. It's pretty, pretty daunting to think about,” said Brandon Mitchell, a John Carroll sophomore.
Budding fashion designer Ta'shiyah Porter leads the group.
The John Hay High Schooler, and future Kent State University student believes in Cleveland Sews' mission to learn work skills while serving others.
“I love it so much. I love Miss Renee. I love the how much it connects us, connects with the community, how much it's very interactive. I met a lot of people,” said Ta’Shiyah Porter.
She’s learned how to repair and reuse items rather than buying something new.
“Seeing how I can change it, how I can shift it, and how such big like banners could turn into bags or how something like a dress that doesn't fit. You can turn into a dress that fits you perfectly,” said Porter.
“Overall, I've felt like I've gained a lot from this, like learning about the whole upcycling thing. I've never really thought of that until I got here,” said Mitchell.
Cleveland Sews refers to the process as "re-manufacturing." How many items can be made from each banner? And would it hold its shape?
“We had to do a lot of product testing and testing within the market to make sure that the things we were putting out were going to be durable,” said Renee.
Other products made from the banners are coming soon. All of this is a fundraiser to help the community.
“We want to use our products to be able to fund our mission here at Cleveland Sews. And so we appreciate everyone's support and coming through and helping us to build a more circular Cleveland here,” said Renee.
You can purchase the tote bags on-line from Cleveland Sews by clicking here. You’ll be able to customize your bag by pick the general color, length and additional features like pockets.