Today True Up welcomes Betz White, author of the new book Sewing Green: 25 Projects Made with Repurposed & Organic Materials (STC Craft), on her blog tour.
Betz is the queen of crafting with felted (or fulled, if you’re a stickler for terminology) thrift-store sweaters — her first book was Warm Fuzzies: 30 Sweet Felted Projects (North Light Books, 2007). It was natural for her to start crafting with other reclaimed and repurposed textiles. Sewing Green features more projects using recycled wool … as well as vintage bed linens, men’s shirts, old jeans, juice pouches, and Tyvex envelopes.
But Sewing Green is not just about finding and using the materials already around you — there are also several projects that will help you reduce your impact on the environment (and save your money, too): a lunch tote and water bottle cozy, reusable produce and shopping bags, napkins. My favorite? A door draft buster shaped like a log, complete with woodgrain stitching.
For this stop of the blog tour, I focused on the raw materials: repurposed and organic fabric. Sewing Green will help expand your world view of what “fabric” is — but it’s one thing to have an open mind and another to find the inspiration to incorporate these things into our daily lives. So I asked Betz how she did it …
Why should people seek out organic fabric?
Great question! Organic fibers are healthier for the environment and for you, the end user of the product. Conventionally grown cotton is responsible for 25% of the world’s pesticide use. Organically grown fiber uses no toxic chemicals. By purchasing sustainable and environmentally conscious fabrics, you are essentially voting with your dollars. By choosing organics we send a message to textile manufacturers that we care about the earth. This leads to creating a stronger demand and ultimately more organic fabric production and options to enjoy!
In Sewing Green you cover different types of organic fibers — have you had a chance to work with them all? What are some of of your favorites beyond cotton?
I’ve really not ventured too much beyond cotton as far as sewing with organics goes. I touch on a few other organic and sustainable fibers in the book. The industry is evolving so rapidly that I felt it best to approach it in general terms, exposing readers to some of the options available. It’s an educational process and also an ethical one.
For some sewists so accustomed to thinking “I need fabric, so I need to go to the fabric shop,” it’s hard to make that mental leap to thinking of things already around us as fabric sources. How did you make that leap? Or have you had that mindset all along?
I think all sewers struggle to use their own stash before buying new. New often means exciting! The trick is to try to uncover the “newness” in materials you may already have whether it’s piece goods or other items that can be repurposed. I keep an ongoing donation box in my closet of my family’s outgrown/out of style/worn out items. Fortunately, I don’t have my act together enough to toss the box in the car on my way to the thrift store, because I often end up dipping into it for materials! Sometimes I’ll be working on a project that needs a simple lining, for example, and that old T-shirt or blouse might just fit the bill.
There is a big simplifying/decluttering movement going on these days that goes hand-in-hand with environmentalism. Crafters (including myself!) seem especially prone to craft-supply clutter, so collecting old shirts, sweaters, juice boxes, etc. to repurpose can get out-of-hand fast! What do you personally do to find the balance — or are you a happy hoarder? What do you recommend for others?
I guess I am a hoarder and luckily for me, I live with hoarders, so this behavior is perfectly acceptable in our household. Everyone has their own style of organization. I tend to have things loosely grouped by like items in the hopes that I’ll be able to locate what I need when the project mood strikes.
The projects in Sewing Green are not only about using organic and re-used/repurposed materials, but about making re-usable items (napkins, produce bags) to replace disposables. What do you say to creatures of habit who want to be more eco-conscious but have a hard time letting go of some of these everyday conveniences?
I’m certainly not perfect in this department. I suggest choosing your battles and try incorporating one change at a time. I love using cloth napkins. Each member in our family has their own special napkin ring. Using cloth napkins makes the meal feel more special somehow. I still have paper napkins on hand for certain instances, but we as a family are weaning ourselves off of them. I think back to the time of my parents and grandparents. They didn’t have the convenience of disposables. They used everyday dishes, silverware, cloth napkins and tablecloths, etc. Afterward they washed them (by hand!) and put them away for the next use. There’s something to be said about the frugality, sensibility and even the ritual of caring for our possessions in that way. Convenience doesn’t necessarily mean better.
How did you get into vintage fabrics? What is your stash like? What is your favorite design era?
I’m not a huge vintage fabric junkie, but I do like to collect colorfully printed sheets and pillowcases. I love florals from the 60′s and 70′s.
What are your favorite sources for vintage fabrics? Organic fabrics?
For vintage finds, I prefer thrift stores, flea markets, and sometimes eBay. For organics, I love Harmony Art Organic Textiles. I am also currently collaborating with a few other eco-friendly designers. We are developing a line of prints on organic cotton for the quilting and home sewing market. So stay tuned!
For my giveaway today, confess an un-green habit in your own household that you’d like to change. Comments will close and winners will be chosen Friday around noon central U.S. time and announced on my Twitter.