Sewing is an ancient and universal craft; a skill once necessary for our very human survival, sewing is now a pragmatic and artistic skill that can connect us with our creative desires and infuse our minds with invention and innovation. The art and business of sewing in a sustainable way combines the time-honored traditions of one of the oldest of crafts with the heart, mind, and hands of the sewing enthusiast, the wonders of modern technologies, and the knowledge that living and working with care for the environment, economy, and community ensures an enduring legacy for future generations. We can sew green with just a few considerations for what ‘being green’ means.
Some ways to sew green:
Besides fabrics made from recycled materials, like fleece, use eco-friendly fabrics made from natural materials such as wool (strong and warm, made mostly from domestic sheep and the fleece of the alpaca and vicuna, from the hair of angora rabbits, mohair from Angora goats, cashmere wool from the sides and back of the Cashmere goat, sustainably managed ), certified organic cotton (versatile and soft; cotton is the most widely used textile in the world), silk (most expensive and beautiful of all textiles from the cocoons of silk worms), fine linen (the oldest of textiles made from the fibers of the flax plant), as well as the coarse but durable fibers of hemp and ramie (blended with other fibers for upholstery and canvas), and jute (least expensive of all natural fibers used in carpets and area rugs). Look for undyed or botanically dyed fabrics if possible.
Note 1: Eco-friendly fabric may be difficult to find however even partially green fabrics (natural fibers blended with petroleum-based synthetic fibers) lessens the environmental impact, reduces contact with chemicals and helps spur the market by signifying demand for such products.
Note 2: Materials that are flame-retardant are found in children's sleepwear. This safety feature is important to consider, however chemical intensive, when choosing fabrics for sewing sleepwear for children.
Sew a cotton or linen tote to take to the market instead of using the stores’ plastic and paper bags thereby reducing waste and keeping the fly-away plastic bags out of landfills. The DIY Networks has instructions for Making Tote-Bags.
Sew your own garment bags rather than use the drycleaner’s plastic bags for dust-free garment storage. Pfaff has instructions for a Monogrammed Garment Bag.
Consider the fabric care information on the end of the fabric bolt for insight into the eco-friendly nature of the fabric. If the fabric must be dry-cleaned or must be washed in hot water it is chemical and energy intensive.
Use daylight-replicating, energy efficient, full-spectrum, cool-temperature, true-color lighting for your sewing illumination for improved visual clarity. See Solux, Ultralux, Ott-Lite, Bell & Howell, and Verilux for sources.
Reuse, repurpose, and recycle your fabric stash. The possibilities are endless.
For information on fair-trade and sustainable cotton production for growers, manufacturers and consumers visit the Sustainable Cotton Project.
For information on commercial, sustainable textiles visit Carnegie Fabrics.
For some sustainable fabric suppliers and a slide show of FutureFashion visit Verdopolis.
For those early-adopters of new products who may be eco-conscious or merely eco-curious, visit BambooClothes.com to see clothes made out of bamboo, the latest green sustainable fabric.
Sustainability is a responsibility that can be fostered through communication. It is a mechanism by which people and communities can attain greater control over their destinies through energy efficiencies, conservation and accountability. A healthy environment should be considered a basic human right.
Sew happy, sew green.
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