Inner Sunset Free Fix-It Fair Rehabilitates Products, Builds Community

By Judy Goddess

By 10 a.m. on June 26, a line of eager customers had gathered on the sidewalk outside the big blue house on the corner of Irving Street and Sixth Avenue. Most were neighbors, others came from farther away. All were clutching broken items and bags of sewing, hopeful that the volunteer craftspeople could repair their broken treasures. 

The flier advertising the Inner Sunset Free Fix-It Fair said it all: “We’ll try to fix anything – except electronics and relationships – for FREE. Bring your wobbly, loose, broken, frayed, splintered, torn, ripped, cracked severed item. If we can’t fix it, we’ll give you twice your money back.”

Photos by Niana Liu.

The area was packed. Registration, sewing and replanting tables were stationed outside the yard, while the inside the gates, the yard and deck were jammed with worktables befitting Santa’s elves. 

“Can you fix this mix master?” “Glue my favorite dish?” “Repair this toaster?” “Unjam this shop vac?” “Shorten these pants?” 

Some requests could not be met. The welder had COVID; the owner of the knit sweater didn’t bring any yarn; that beach chair was too far gone. Most, though, walked away with a smile.

The bright red mix master was taken apart, the loose connections tightened, the bearings oiled and was made ready for the next cake. Glue and clamps repaired the broken dish. Replacing the plug handled the toaster problem; while yards and yards of thread hemmed pants, patched holes and replaced buttons. 

And so it went for six hours. Twenty-five volunteer craftspeople – most, though not all, from the Inner Sunset – repaired 200 items for 80 satisfied customers. 

Photos by Niana Liu.

“We did good, and I think we did well,” said Barbara (who asked to just use her first name), the owner of the big blue house and coordinator of the event. 

Barbara has hosted previous Free Fix-It Fairs, as well as Halloween celebrations, book give-aways, and music performances in her backyard. 

A successful Fair depends on finding and keeping the volunteers happy, and publicity to bring the community out, she explained. Every community can host a Fix-It Fair. 

“There’s a lot of talent in every neighborhood,” Barbara said. “I just happen to know my neighbors.” 

Barbara estimates she spends 85% of her time looking for good craftsmen and 65% publicizing the event. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but it is worth it. 

“I’m sick of living in a throw-away economy,” she said.  “We need to re-use and repurpose.” The event helped an estimated 80 satisfied customers.

For information about scheduling a Fair, call Barbara at 415-246-4748.

As to what to do with your ripped clothes and broken toasters, Barbara is trying to schedule another Free Fix-It Fair for the Fall. The date has yet to be announced.

Photos by Niana Liu.

For information about scheduling a Fair, call Barbara at 415-246-4748.

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