Can Sewing Save the Planet?

And now in other news….
Today is Earth Hour Day.  What is that?!?!

It is a day we are encouraged to turn off our lights from 7:30 – 8:30 PM CT as a reminder that we can all make a difference………. even in small ways. 

I had never heard of Earth Hour Day before this year, but it made me think once again about what I can do within the framework of my much-loved hobby.   I began wondering… what options do I have to do my part to sew sustainably, leaving as minimal an impact on the planet as possible.  I did a bit of research and this is what I learned…… 

Choose Eco-Friendly Fabrics

Cotton is one of the most water-intensive crops to produce and it’s also dependent on pesticides in order to maintain and increase its yield. Did you know that 25% of the world’s pesticides are used in non-organic cotton cultivation?  You can reduce your personal contribution to this pesticide use by choosing organic fabrics.  Here are some suppliers offering various organic options.

Use Eco-Friendly Sewing Techniques

What does that even mean!?! 

I found it means sewing for quality and longevity.  Rather than cranking out our makes fast and furiously, why not consider these ideas:

  • Sew most of your makes in a classic style you can treasure over time
  • Choose fabrics made of strong, resilient natural fibers like cotton, silk, wool and bamboo
  • Use construction techniques that will increase the durability of your makes
    • Finish all seams
    • Line you garment
    • Backstitch, topstitch, bar tack for added strength on stress points
    • Use stay tape on horizontal and diagonal seams

Use Your Scraps

I recently told a friend that her idea of scraps as a quilter and my idea of scraps as a garment maker were very different.  Less than a yard, or at the very least ½ yard was not worth my keeping it.  Sure, I could make a quilt or small projects like pillows or bags.  But are there ideas that could extend into my true love – garment making?  Here are a few:

  • Piece fabrics just like in quilting to create an interesting effect or embellishment on the yoke of a garment
  • Embellish a coat or jacket using the Koos fabric collage technique
  • Make bias tape for piping or seam finishing
  • Cut scraps into small pieces and use them to fill stuffed animals or dog beds. Not garment making, but an interesting idea.

Upcycle or Refashion

Instead of buying new, why not try one of these ideas:

  • Redesign clothes in your closet you haven’t been wearing
  • Buy garments from a charity/thrift shop and upcycle them into something completely different
  • Turn a pair of old denim jeans into an iPad case

Check out refashioning blogs for even more inspiration

Another recycling idea surfaced in an article I recently read about a quilter who saved articles of clothing from her family until she had enough for a quilt.  She surprised her mother with a beautiful quilt filled with the memories of dresses worn to a dance, a dad’s dress shirt, a grandmother’s apron, etc.  Regardless of the perfection in color coordination of the various pieces of fabric, the joy in making and giving this quilt was obvious.  What a beautiful way to recycle both the fabrics and the memories!

Visible Mending

“Visible mending” has been taken up by those who want to protest fast fashion and disposable culture. It’s also thrifty.

New York Times article

It can be seen as a way to keep those garments, quilts, bags, etc. out of landfills and extend their useful life.

Instead of tossing that sweater with a few moth holes, those jeans with worn spots or that shirt with an ink or spaghetti stain, why not try out visible mending. I enjoyed the perspective shared in the article that patching visibly draws attention to the garment’s life. There are a surprising number of creative ideas you can peruse on the Visible Mending website.

Make “Green” Projects

Why not satisfy your sewing itch making something that helps reduce your waste in other areas in addition to how you sew?  Consider making things like:

  • Reusable grocery bags
  • Fabric napkins to replace paper ones
  • Food wraps (Be watching for our upcoming beeswax food wrap workshop!)
  • Lunch bags

WHEW!!  This is a lot of information and ideas for reducing our environmental impact as members of the sewing community.  In fact, there is so much available to read about this topic that it can feel so overwhelming that you just want to throw your hands up and say it’s just too much. 

None of us are likely to implement all of these ideas. 
So why write about any of this?

Maybe if we each pick even just 1-2 of the ideas in this article, we could each begin to make a little contribution toward the environment.  Your little part plus my little part just might add up to enough that collectively, as a sewing community, we just might make a difference.

We would love to hear from you.  We would love to hear if you are already doing any of these ideas or might want to try a few new ones.  Chime in with a comment and tell us what you think.

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2 thoughts on “Can Sewing Save the Planet?”

  1. This may be TMI, but I’ve spent the last few months taking my panties apart & & replacing the cotton liner with a new piece – black ones & white ones. I now feel like I have a drawer full of new underwear!!

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