Chicken Alley Thrift Shop creates treasure from castoffs

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The Chicken Alley Thrift Shop has launched a new line of upcycled shirts and pants called Hatched. Products include hand dyed flannel button-ups, flannel pants, and bags made from t-shirts. -Photo by Stacey Rupolo

The Vineyard’s newest designer line may come with a label, but not with designer prices. Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ Chicken Alley Thrift Shop has launched its own line of upcycled home goods and clothing, made with discards from the thrift store. The line Hatched, which was introduced two months ago, currently includes T shirt tote bags, dog beds made from old sweaters, flannel shirts turned designer duds, and a few other items — all repurposed and all very reasonably priced.

“Everything is produced from donations,” thrift shop employee Anna Marie D’Addarie, who came up with the idea, said. “It is done by staff and volunteers.”

The one-of-a-kind finds are all expertly made, functional, and fun. Don’t expect amateur crafter’s quality. The pets beds and pillows look like items one would find in a home design store or craft fair, and the dyed flannels are similar to expensive distressed designer clothing found in high-end catalogs and shops. Yet everything is made from stuff that would otherwise have gone to the landfill.

Ms. D’Addarie is quick to point out that the repurposed items come from damaged, overstocked, or otherwise unsaleable items. An avid crafter and recycler, Ms. D’Addarie saw treasure in the shop’s trash. “It all came about when I first started working here last year,” she said. “I was constantly picking through the trash, sifting through donations that we couldn’t use for anything. It just made me crazy throwing out all this stuff. I starting thinking, ‘We could use this for something.’”

Ms. D’Addarie started the recycling project with a simple item. “The first thing we did was make T shirt tote bags. We get an exceptional amount of T shirts donated.”

Last fall, the thrift shop initiated a series of craft classes utilizing the otherwise unusable “junk.” The once-a-month classes turned out to be very popular. Ms. D’Addarie taught people to turn damaged sweaters into pet beds, weave rag rugs on a makeshift loom from strips of old sheets, and make aprons from men’s discarded dress shirts.

“Every time I’d do a class, I would produce more things that I wanted to sell at the store,” she said. “I thought, ‘We should have our own private label.’”

And so Hatched was born. Graphic designer Tara Kenny created an attractive label, and full-scale production began. The line was launched at Chicken Alley’s Peep Show and Arts and Collectibles sale in August.

Ms. D’Addarie’s daughter made dozens of trend-conscious overdyed plaid shirts by tying, bleaching, and dying the shirts. Thrift shop manager and quilting enthusiast Sandy Pratt contributed beautiful pillows featuring the Black Dog and other logos salvaged from tee shirts.

Shoppers snapped up the items during the two popular sales. Ms. D’Addarie notes that Chicken Alley doesn’t plan to stock the Hatched items, since people primarily use the thrift as a resource for inexpensive items. Instead, they will sell the line at outside events, including the upcoming Living Local Harvest Festival and possibly the holiday weekend Artisans Festivals.

Ms. D’Addarie will continue with the craft classes this fall. She will add a few new projects to the lineup, and says she is always looking for ideas. “I have customers who come in all the time and say, ‘I saw something that I thought you could sell in your Hatched line.’ It’s all about thinking of ways we can make money for Community Services.”

What the project really needs is helping hands. “Everything is produced from donations and is made by staff and volunteers,” Ms. D’Addarie said. “This is a new avenue for volunteering … It’s another way for people to give back to the community.”

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services provides services, including counseling, childcare, and disability services, through seven core programs.

Community members have jumped on board with the project, donating their time and talents. It’s not surprising that ecoconscious and community-minded Martha’s Vineyard has embraced the idea.

“I think we’re probably one of the few thrift shops with our own private label,” says Ms. D’Addarie. “Possibly the only one.” Hopefully this unique recycling trend will catch on elsewhere.

The Hatched line will be available at the Living Local Festival on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1 and 2. The monthly crafting classes will resume for the season on Sept. 25 with “Upcycled T Shirts.” On Oct. 23, participants can try out “Kumihimo Braiding.” There is a $5 materials fee for the classes. For more information, visit mvcommunityservices.com, or call 508-693-2278.