Textiles & Sustainability

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about the sustainability or otherwise of my own artist practice. I’ve been using Melody Vaughan’s sustainability audit to look at my working practices and think about things I could change. I’ve been very consciously working towards a sustainable practice throughout my nearly 16 years of making. When I started out making products I chose to work with recycled fabrics and did a lot of research into more sustainable textiles which I used for some of my ranges too. I also wrote a book about it (currently out of print) called Sew Eco, focussing on sustainable home sewing practice. The projects are a little dated now but my research into textiles and my passionate belief in re-use not buying new still stand today. In the wider sewing world I rather despair that so little has changed in more than a decade. Why do people still buy brand new, chemically-laded printed cotton which has travelled all over the world just to cut up into small pieces and sew back together again? I personally find it bizarre and shockingly wasteful. I have realised I don’t talk enough about how important I think this is.

My own practice is pretty sustainable although there are things I do which I don’t feel entirely comfortable about but at least most of my stash is decades old and I make conscious choices when buying for projects like Libraries Live. I was recently interviewed by TextileArtist.org about recycling and textiles, which puts my work alongside others who use old cloth, factory waste and other re-used materials. My tiniest scraps go in the compost if they are definitely natural fibres and cannot be used for anything else, while larger pieces go in materials packs or workshop kits.

This week I’ve been recording the videos for my Scrap Patchwork workshop (27th Feb) and talking about why I believe so passionately about re-use, about old cloth, about the important of using our waste and the power of creating something beautiful out of tiny, precious pieces of cloth that might otherwise go in the bin. Creating new work from these tiny, precious pieces is a meaningful and mindful act of making.

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