Our Wellington

News | 21 April 2021

Warming homes with pre-loved curtains

At the end of a Wellington lane able hands are busy making curtains for those in need.

A Volunteer at the Curtain Bank cutting a large piece of white fabric on a workbench in the middle of a room, with shelves of stacked curtains and bright yellow and orange tiles on the wall.

Enter Wellington’s Sustainability Trust.

Past the store that sells environmentally friendly household goods, past the free library, the community composting hub, and beyond the e-waste drop-off centre and the bottle cap recycling bins, is a room stacked top to toe with colourful pre-loved curtains.

This is the Wellington Curtain Bank.

Volunteers Paula and Kathy are hard at work on two of the four sewing machines, expertly manoeuvring the large pieces of fabric through their capable hands.

In the centre of the room is a large workbench which is surrounded by half a dozen tall shelves of upcycled and ready-to-distribute curtains organised by size, and another set of shelving, about eight metres long, has donations awaiting to be sorted.

Primarily run by volunteers, the Curtain Bank is nestled in the Trust’s Forresters Lane headquarters, off Tory Street.

Di Macdonald, who does the Trust’s Marketing and Communications, says 2700 sets of curtains were donated to 640 households last year.

Three staff from the sustainability Trust, as well as the CEO's dog, standing in front of the small planter box vege garden, with the EV car charger on right, in front of the entrance to the trust's eco store.
Sustainability Trust Chief Executive Georgie Ferrari with her doggo, Hero Hunter, Senior Marketing and Communications Di Macdonald, and Front of House Manager Isabelle Leduc.

"All of our curtains are donated by Wellington residents and businesses,” Di says.

The volunteers spend a lot of time assessing the curtains and making sure they are free of mould before they make any alterations that are needed. All the curtains are double lined to help reduce heat loss and keep energy bills down.

“We provide up to six sets per home. It really depends on the size of the house and the number of windows,” Di says.

“Because all the curtains are donated it’s difficult to give people the exact colours they want, but we try to cater to our clients by providing neutral curtains whenever we can, or dark curtains for a child with Autism.”

Di says one Welly flat reported loving their new luxurious long red velvet curtains, which originally hung in the Michael Fowler Centre.

Anyone with a Community Services Card or a SuperGold Combo Cardholder living in the Wellington region can order curtains for their home or rental property through the Curtain Bank, however there is currently a wait time of about eight weeks.

“Sometimes the Bank can’t process the orders fast enough, and last year’s lockdown didn’t slow things down.”

Supported by Wellington City Council, the Sustainability Trust is a social enterprise, meaning all profits are re-invested in programmes that help the community. The Curtain Bank is an example of this.

The initiative is funded by Genesis Energy, and through other grants.

A  woman at a workbench cutting a large piece of white fabric, surrounded by shelves stacked with curtains, and yellow tiles on the wall, at the Wellington Curtain Bank.
Volunteer Kathy hard at work.

Di says all up the Curtain Bank’s 25 volunteers average 3130 volunteer-hours per year, plus there are 2.5 fulltime workers.

As well as curtains, the team welcome donations of sheets (white only) which are used as lining, and “nice and straight” curtain tracks and hooks.

Some stores also donate, including Lewis’s Home Fabrics. Lewis’s curtain installer Peter turns up with his colleague, Tijo, and a van-load of donations.

“When we do people’s households, we’re keen to see their old curtains come here rather than them disposing of them,” Peter says.

“Some of our customers might have already decided to bring them to the Trust, but if they haven’t, we’ll offer to bring them here as a service. It saves items that are still usable from going to landfill.”

A man happily unloading donated curtains from a white van, and loading them into a wheel barrow to be given to the Sustainability Trust.
Tijo Abraham dropping off curtain donations from Lewis's.

Find out more about the Curtain Bank on the Sustainability Trust’s website.