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Eco-Friendly Sewing

written by Sarah

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Fabric and Notions

I think we can all agree that the best way to reduce fabric waste is to reuse what we already have. Most thrift stores have an entire section packed with sheets, blankets, pillow cases, tablecloths, curtains and even unused fabric right off the bolt! Thrift stores are a great way to find unique embroidery treasures or vintage prints that are sure to liven up your projects. You can also find tons of unique clothing that can be updated into something fantastic. You’re creating less waste and a one-of-a kind outfit. Thrift stores are also a great way to practice a new sewing technique. Let’s say you want to take in the bust of a formal dress, but are too nervous to dive right in to a brand new one. Learn how to do it on a thrift store dress first!

Can’t find what you want at Goodwill? Try yard sales! Someone around the corner is bound to be cleaning out their fabric and notions stash. Many people will list the items of their yard sale in the paper or on craigslist during the week. Map out your yard sale stops and get there early so you don’t miss out. You can also check out freecycle.org to find people in your community who are getting rid of sewing supplies. Just in my community, I have seen sewing machines and huge bags of fabric listed and it is all free!

Notions are just as important to sewing as the fabric itself. If you have old clothes that are just too dingy to donate, make sure to salvage what you can. Take off any buttons, zippers, elastic, hook and eye, trim, or undamaged ribbing that can be reused.

Speaking of re-using, there are many ways to get the most mileage out of our items. For example, an old blanket would be great quilt batting. Before you throw out a old pillow, take out all the stuffing and save it up for a new pillow. Towels with holes can be cut up into smaller dish towels. Many of us recycle our children’s clothing by either saving them for future children or giving them away. You can also alter your child’s clothing to get extra wear. For instance, if your child is too tall for their pants, but the waist fits fine, cut them into shorts and hem. You’ll save money and a fussy trip to the store. After summer is over, donate the clothing as you normally would. Same goes with shirts. Turn a long sleeve into a short sleeve. If you daughter’s little dress is getting too short, add a great ruffled trim to the hem and you’ll get another 3 – 4 inches.

The production of “green” fabric is becoming more popular. Fabric marketed as “organic” must undergo extensive inspections and follow rigorous regulations to ensure they have little environmental impact from start to finish. Organic cotton, Hemp, and Soy are trusted organic fiber sources. Before you buy dyed organic fabric, check to make sure they advertise the dyes are non toxic.

There is some controversy as to whether Bamboo fabric should be considered environmentally friendly. It’s true that the growth of Bamboo is sustainable, but the process to extract bamboo pulp and turn it into fabric involves the use of highly toxic chemicals which are not safe for the environment. Although the process is being worked on, it’s not yet a truly “green” fabric.

Spools, Pins, and Needles

You can roam the web for dozens of different re-purposing projects for old thread spools. Check out our Pinterest board for ideas.

Sewing needles and Pins cannot be recycled in your single stream recycling bin. However, you don’t have to just throw them away. Did you know sewing needles are great for wall hangings? They make a smaller hole than nails and are surprisingly sturdy. If you have a sewing group or know other people who sew, collect your old needles and pins into a jug and when it fills up, take it to your local scrap metal yard for recycling. Every little bit counts and it’s completely free.

Scissors and Rotary Cutters

Reduce waste and save money by sharpening your rotary cutters and scissors. Fold aluminum foil into 4 layers and cut through it 3 or 4 times. You blade will cut like it came right out of the package.

You can also exchange your rotary cutters through a company called LP Sharp. It only cost a few bucks and everything is done on their website and through the mail.

If re-sharpening just isn’t cutting it anymore (pun intended), you can recycle your scissors at the nearest scrap metal yard. If you have a sewing or craft group, keep a recycling box around that can be taken to the scrap yard once filled. In fact, scrap metal is paid for by the pound. You might be able to get a pretty penny for all those scissors!

Links

Sustainable fabric and notions www.nearseanaturals.com

Organic cotton https://www.pmorganics.com/index.htm

Exchange your rotary blades at https://www.lpsharp.com/3.html

Consign or sell your unused fabric and notions to https://fabricrecycles.com/

Recycle fabric in NYC https://www.grownyc.org/clothing

Great source for sustainable sewing and craft workshops in Ithaca, New York https://www.sewgreen.org/

Community Recycling site www.freecycle.org

Article about an completely sustainable sewing factory in Oregon

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1 comment

Zoe April 29, 2018 at 2:27 pm

I was looking for info on recycling my sewing machine needles when I found this. There are some really helpful suggestions here – thank you! I can remember my grandmother cutting down old towels to use as bath mats and wash cloths when I was a kid. I wish I’d thought to use old blankets in quilts. Will keep this in mind for the future.

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