Sustainable Sewing: Introduction

As a person who cares a lot about this beautiful planet that we live on, I think it's important to consider sustainability in all aspects of my life, including my little sewing shop here. So I've decided to write about some aspects of sustainability and the environment when it comes to sewing.

I'm also working behind the scenes to try and improve the environmental impact of Catkin+Scraps, both in terms of the fabrics and haberdashery we offer for sale and in terms of the way the business itself is run, from our own packaging to employing ethical business practices. Nobody's perfect but we are trying!

Earth, The Blue Marble. Image from:
Everything we do has an impact, there is no escaping this fact. Every day we all make hundreds of choices, big and small, that affect the environment we live in. When it comes to making these decisions in our daily lives we can get a bit hung up on certain things. I’m hung up on natural fibres for example. I prefer the way they feel on a sensual, tactile level. I prefer the way they behave, regulating my body temperature and moisture rather than being too cold or too hot and making me feel sweaty and confined. I suppose I’m a bit of a Goldilocks now I think about it..


A vintage style illustration of Goldilocks trying a bowl of porridge.

Apart from loving the way textiles made from natural fibres feel, I have also always disliked the idea of textiles being made from plastic and oil on an environmental level. Then I read a book by Mike Berners Lee called ‘How Bad Are Bananas?’ which claimed that polyester clothes are actually better for the environment because they are much more durable and are also much quicker to dry. It blew my hippy-reared mind a little and I realised that I hadn’t really been considering the question of eco-friendly fibres in an holistic way at all. I had just taken on board my climate warrior of a mother’s opinions wholesale and never really held them up to the light.

Since the publication of that book however, research has found that damage is being done to the environment by micro plastics, which are shed when we wash clothing made of synthetic materials. So now what’s better/worse? Synthetic or natural fibres?


A cartoon of pinocchio as a wooden boy, shrugging

Full disclosure: I don't think there is a black or white answer to this question.
But, what I have taken away from Mike’s book, is to become more careful with my ideas about sustainability and to remember to keep an open mind even when I’m convinced I’m right. Sustainability is a complex issue and should be approached as such. It is worth regularly doing a bit of research into it to keep up with changing information as it comes in and is processed.

It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brain falls out.

- Carl Sagan (astronomer, astrophysicist and cosmologist, 1934-1996)

I'll be writing more about sustainability in sewing in the coming months, but don't just take it from me - I'm no expert and I have my own biases. Do your own research, come to your own conclusions and put into practice those things that work for you and your unique set of circumstances.

Happy Sewing!

x Geertje

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