Betz White Q&A and Book Giveaway

sewinggreencover

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.

betz-aprons

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.

betz-log

Sewing Green also features wonderful little profiles of leaders in the repurposed/organic textile world: Harmony Art Organic Design, Alabama Chanin, Crispina ffrench, Morsbags, and Swap-o-rama-rama.

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!

betz-fabrictypes

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.

betz-wrapskirt

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!

Thanks, Betz! You can follow Betz on her blog. Keep up with the blog tour for lots more inspiration, information, and projects, and many more chances to win your very own copy of Sewing Green.

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.

121 Comments

  1. Wonderful interview!

  2. Ginger says:

    I am bad about drinking bottled water- trying to stop, though!

  3. Courtney says:

    Great interview! I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.

    Un-green habit: (ack! this is a big one!) … our city doesn’t recycle glass, so I don’t always make the extra effort to get ours to a recycling center.

  4. Michelle says:

    I relaly need to make some napkins – I’m a big napkin user (or even if I don’t need one, I like having one on my lap while I eat)… I hate throwing them away, it’s so terrible!

  5. Jamie says:

    We water the lawn in the summer…but this year I am thinking of getting a rain barrel to collect the water to use in the yard.

  6. Rachel says:

    Wonderful interview-thanks!
    We don’t compost. I know we should but we just haven’t set up a compost system yet.

  7. Sarah says:

    Awesome interview! I have been looking forward to this book for what seems like ages.

    My ungreen (red?) confession: I cannot break my household’s extreme overuse of paper towels. We use cloth napkins and I try to keep sufficient clean dishtowels on hand. But when something spills, miles and miles of paper towels reel off so conveniently from that dispenser of doom.

  8. orata says:

    We are addicted to soda water in our household and I feel terrible about the plastic bottles. My boyfriend thinks it’s better than buying a metal seltzer bottle and having to throw away/recycle the metal cartridges, but I’m not convinced.

  9. Kat says:

    I’m a disposable razor user. I never want to fork over the cash for a permanent one:(

  10. julie says:

    Great interview!

    I wish I would have started with cloth diapers when my daughter was an infant. I don’t think she’d ever let me try them now. I’m hoping that I will feel less guilty after she’s potty trained.

  11. Betty Ann says:

    I use the dryer too often.
    I have a clothes line and love the smell of clothes dried outdoors.

  12. Shiela says:

    Our un-green habit? Plastic garbage bags. I need to find a better option!!

  13. mama TAVE says:

    I concur with two previous comments–paper towels and diapers. I use recycled content paper towels, so I don’t feel as guilty, but still… And to think of all the disposable diapers my daughter went through in two and a half years… I plan to try cloth with baby #2, whenever that will be. ;-)

  14. Nova says:

    Not turning off lights sometimes when I go to another part of the house.

  15. Gina says:

    Hurrah another great book to help us reduce-reuse-recycle. I can’t wait to read it and get making!
    Our worst habit is probably a general one – consuming too much. We’re trying to think before we buy more – not just about what we buy and whether it’s the greenest option, but whether we ‘need’ it at all.

  16. Tori says:

    My household’s biggest un-green habit – plastic food storage containers and zipper bags! We were raised with way too much Tupperware!

  17. ldp says:

    Failing to recycle plastics. The collection company offers lazy person’s recycling, but those tubs of various sizes are great for repurposing. I think we make up for it by using the psuedo Mason jars the fancy pre-cut fruit comes in for drinking glasses.

    I’m eager to read the ideas in this book!

  18. MegVS says:

    Paper towels for sure. They are just so convenient for wiping up those messy little faces and all the spills those sweet little cherubs make. ;0p

  19. Paula says:

    Our worst un-green habit is definitely using lots of paper towels. I sure want to change that!

  20. Christine C. says:

    My worst habit is not composting. I am working on creating a compost bin in my backyard, but until it is ready I feel horribly guilty about throwing away all those coffee grinds and orange peels!

  21. Lori says:

    Still haven’t begun using alternative grocery shopping bags. I want to… it’s not an I’m-being-stubborn thing. Just haven’t made it a priority, but I know I should!

  22. Anne says:

    Oh how I would love this book. Our family is guilty of not recycling empty coke bottles, water bottles and milk jugs. I hate admitting that we just toss these items but now I am seriously thinking we need to change our wasteful habits!! Thanks. a.haun@sbcglobal.net

  23. JenniMac says:

    Our most ungreen habit is our use of disinfectant wipes and paper towels. My husband insists we can not live without them. I tried to go without for a few months and mixed a solution of bleach an water to spray down the counters with. I did quite well with it as long as I did all the tidying up. hmmmm.

  24. Marilyn says:

    How ironic that I do ungreen things – like fertilizer, sprinklers, etc. – to enjoy a green lawn. Something to think about.

  25. Sara R. says:

    I definitely use too many paper towels. Ugh.

  26. AmyLeigh says:

    I must say I have been doing a good job with recycling everything I can, lots of reuse in my craft projects, doing a better job of keeping consumables use down… now, I am working on trying to notice other types of use that are not sustainable- where are things made, under what conditions, was it local, etc. I worry that maybe I drink too much coffee- gosh, I don’t want to give it up, but I wonder, it’s a perfect example, what is the impact of a big surge of consumer demand for a commodity like that.

  27. Carrie in KC says:

    I’m definitely interested in making some cloth napkins. Thanks for a fun giveaway!

  28. I’m eating red vines as I type this. . . That’s about as un-green as you can get. Someday I’ll be evolved enough to let go of ALL high fructose corn syrup!

  29. Emily S says:

    I like to take really long showers. Definitely need to cut them in half.

  30. Meg says:

    Great interview – so hope I win a book and can get crafting

    We don’t recycle as much as we should especially when it comes to plastics. I always say i’m going to get a can just for the plastic and put it right next to the trash but I continue to forget.

    Meg

    onourwayonline.com

  31. Andrea says:

    I confess that I do not buy local as often as I would like to. Especially when it comes to produce. We have a new farmers’ market starting in just a couple weeks down the street and I am hoping it will be the motivation I need.

    Thanks for the great interview!

  32. Alison says:

    Great post!

    Most ungreen habit, paper towel usage. And the worst part is I have tons of tea towels so really I have no excuses! I just need to break the habit.

  33. Rachel says:

    LOVE THAT BOOK!

    I must admit our most ungreen habit is using too much water! Long showers, leaving the faucet on while brushing or washing dishes…etc. Other than that we are doing pretty good, right down to the cloth diapers.

  34. Sarah says:

    I have twins and I use disposable diapers.. I know its horrible. I am working on potty training them as early as I can! your book looks amazing

  35. Barb says:

    Even though I have a compost, I don’t use it as much as I should. This year I am going to build a new one that is more user-friendly and hopefully I’ll be better at using it.

  36. Jennie says:

    Probably paper towels and paper napkins. I try to use cloth as much as I can, but with two little ones and a dog I’ve found it next to impossible to go paper-free in my house right now.

  37. stacy says:

    Disposable diapers. I’ve seriously given thought to the gDiapers – which are the ‘hybrid’ of diapers… the convenience of disposable (the liners are flushable) but earth friendly!

    BTW, I just checked out this book at the bookstore this weekend and loved the projects inside! Crossing my fingers on this one!

  38. Jackie says:

    Our household is pretty green – we recycle all we can, compost, have a garden and belong to a CSA, do not drink bottled water, and judiciously use paper towels. What I would like to change is that we often take two cars to our kid’s sporting events. One parent takes the “player” who has to arrive early, and the other parent comes when the game starts.

  39. gwensmom says:

    I drive a low mileage mini van because we need room for my daughter’s wheelchair. Also, I quit using paper towels long ago but gwensdad still buys them and uses them to keep food from splattering in the microwave. Drives me nuts!

  40. Michelle says:

    We tend to take long showers in this house. We could work on that for sure.

  41. Maranda says:

    Water bottles:

  42. Tanya says:

    Hmm, I guess our biggest issues are disposable diapers but working on potty training now. Another would be the cleaners I use, they smell so strong and I know they can’t be good for us or the environment

  43. Leigh says:

    I know I need to stop using paper towels, but I am having such a hard time giving this one up…

  44. Jessica says:

    With 2 little boys I wipe up spills all day long, I’m starting to feel bad about my dependence on paper towels…I need to reach for my flour sack towels instead of the Bounty. I suppose that isn’t as bad as the stacks of plastic bottles that I always forget to take to the recycling bin (which by the way are very inconveniently located in my town!)…once the stack gets so big, it winds up in the garbage because I just can’t take it any more.

  45. Jennifer says:

    Diapers. I tried to do cloth but the first time I pricked my baby with the pin, that was over. With the second kid I found plastic fasteners, but she just wiggles right out of them. I hope to have her potty trained by 2 yrs old.

  46. katie says:

    Making too much trash! Disposable napkins and wipes, and all packaging that comes with toys!

  47. Marcella says:

    I think our worst habit is being lazy and driving to places we are able to walk to. It would really help our waistlines too…. ^ ^

  48. tia says:

    I would say using my dryer for every load of laundry. Our dryer has been broken for a couple days, but the clean clothes still need to dry. I have been using our clothes line again and the clothing actually dries in about the same time. We do live in Australia, so that makes it a bit warmer than the rest of the planet this time of year…

  49. connie says:

    Using disposable napkins rather than cloth ones. It’s just laziness and a desire for convenience on my part…

  50. charlotte says:

    My husband and I use paper towels a bit too much… he is the one that keeps buying them, but I need to sew up some cloth towels and make use of them!!!