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. Andrea says:

    I’ve been to a seminar on composting and need to just go ahead and get started. I think about it every time I throw away the scraps.

  2. sharon says:

    take home boxes from restaurants. i keep meaning to bring my own tupperware, but i’ve only remembered twice :( i should just keep some in the car!

  3. ikkinlala says:

    I usually take longer showers than I really need to.

  4. Jenn says:

    I always use those plastic produce bags at the store… and forget to bring them back with me, so, it seems like a have an entire closet devoted to their housing, because i can’t bear to throw them out.

  5. georgia says:

    Oh definitely plastic cups. Stupid city recycling doesn’t recycle them and I can’t seem to give them up in tough times!

  6. karen says:

    Grocery bags, I have cloth reusable ones but I never seem to have them when I need them! I am going to keep them close at hand!

  7. shortboots says:

    We’re doing okay here, I think, but just can’t get over that last hurdle to switch from TP to, ahem, “family cloth.”

  8. Jean Fernandez says:

    I use plastic grocery bags

  9. Kelley says:

    I hate to admit this…but I don’t recycle cat food cans or tuna fish cans. Washing out the stinky stuff inside grosses me out :-0 but, I am resolving to get over it and start getting those yucky cans in my recycling bin

  10. Anna says:

    I still haven’t set up a compost bin – perhaps a good long weekend project?

  11. Kelly O. says:

    HI there,
    I really want a copy of this book!
    I am pretty green around here but we do go through A LOT of papertowels! And I use plastic baggies to keep my cheese from drying out in the fridge. I really should put it in tupperware or something….convenience sometimes wins out. Too bad.
    thanks for the chance to win!
    Kelly O.

  12. Diana says:

    I took the flow-reducer out of my shower head because I love high water pressure showers. :(

  13. Heidi T says:

    I use clumping cat litter that I’m sure is filled with all sorts of toxic substances…I keep trying to find a natural product that works.

  14. Martha says:

    I’m going to start making my own salad dressing in a reusable shaker bottle because I’m tired of seeing 2-3 glass bottles and plastic caps in my recycling bin every week.

  15. kate says:

    Disposable diapers are my non-green thing. But, honestly I don’t feel guilty about it. I just try to do other things to make up for it.

    Kate

  16. Harley says:

    I use paper towels.. a lot :( they’re just so handy, but I need to seek out recycled ones.

  17. Crystal says:

    Great interview. I have a hard time letting go of the plastic produce bags. I take my own reusable bags to the store, except I always forget the produce bags.

  18. Maryjane says:

    Ah, my worst un-green issue….getting plastic bags at the grocery store every week when I could just use fabric bags! I have them, and they sit in my trunk, and get forgotten every.single.week.
    I’d love to win this book, it looks fabulous!

  19. Amie Plumley says:

    I think my worst issue is disposable diapers…I know, I know…..

  20. Love the look of this book – thanks for the insight and the interview!

    Here in my state in Australia, we have just banned plastic bags in the supermarket, and I must confess, I have no idea what to do for bin liners now! I’m working on finding something biodegradable, but it’s made me realise how much plastic I have been throwing away every week…. ugh!

    Cheers,

    Leah xx

  21. TheArtfulDogger says:

    We run the heater more than we probably need to (for Northern California) in the winter. I grew up in a desert, so I get cold easily. I’m trying to adapt.

    For those posters who need a green solution for trash bags, try BioBags. They are biodegradable and compostable. I kicked the plastic trash bag habit a couple years ago. BioBags are great, however, they aren’t so great if you put wet stuff in them. You’ll have to double-bag.

  22. stacy d says:

    Both my husband and I have been making a conscious effort to make our household a eco-friendly environment. We’ve bought aluminum water bottles to replace the plastic ones. We have also made a rule that if we forget our shopping bag when we go to the store that we HAVE to buy a new one instead of using plastic, at this point we have more shopping bags than we need.
    I think the hardest un-green habit to break is the use of chemicals. We have been doing a lot of painting lately and every time one of us washes a brush I sorta cringe. I am hoping to get a lot of home improvement stuff done but our budget is really tight.

  23. Kim says:

    I really hate plastic bags, but I keep getting them from the store every time I shop. I have reusable ones, but they never seem to make it to the car with me. Plus those plastic bags are oh-so-convenient for trash bin liners and used kitty litter receptacles. We recycle and compost, so I figure what little trash we do make can go into a tiny bag we are reusing instead of a big one that was manufactured for that purpose.

  24. Panya says:

    Paper towels and napkins are my shame.

  25. MzTallulah says:

    We’ve been trying pretty hard to do all that we can aroudn the house; one thing that I would like to improve is not leaving any appliance on standby – I’ve already managed to fit the laptop with a socket with an on/off switch, and intend to do the same with the TV, DVD player, Tivo, etc.

  26. Lark says:

    I do lots of green things–easy to do in an area where there’s lots of awareness and municipal systems in place.

    Hardest non-green habit for me to break is running the water while handwashing just a few dishes. Gotta get better about breaking that habit in drought country! Am getting better about catching the gray water to use in the garden though.

  27. Rachel B says:

    Great interview! I get coffee on the go, and don’t usually use a travel mug.

  28. Katie says:

    I’ve been thinking we need to stop buying paper napkins – with two kids under 5 I’m addicted to their convenience.

  29. Amy says:

    My non-green bad habit is using plastic baggies. My husband packs his lunch, and uses one or two almost every day, and I use them to store my daughter’s leftover snacks.

    But I remember seeing a tutorial on Betz’ blog for a reusable sandwich wrap, and I’m looking forward to making a few of those to help break my bad habit!

  30. Victoria says:

    Oh man…foil. There it is. I really love foil-wrapped baked sweet potatoes, they just don’t cook the same without it! Then I have these syruppy covered foil scraps that I intent to wash and reuse (for more potatoes!) but I keep putting it off until my husband “takes care” of them (by getting rid of them).
    And I always seem to be one cloth bag short of the total grocery haul. Always one! I despise taking that extra bag at the store.

  31. amy says:

    i’m terrible about plastic water bottles. i’ve tried other options, but i still go back to them every time! i’ve found that i NEED to have a sports type top on the bottle, or else i never drink enough water. plus it keeps it from spilling too much when my cat knocks it over! i can’t stand the taste of water in metal bottles, so i never use the metal one that i bought, and i can’t find a nalgene style bottle with a sports top, and every time i try to use the nalgene style bottle that i have, i spill water down my front (stupid wide mouth!).

    so i buy a new plastic bottle every month or so and reuse it and then eventually recycle it, but even so, that’s 12 bottles that i wouldn’t be using if i could just find a reusable bottle that i like!

  32. Vicki says:

    We use a lot of paper towels and rarely use re-usable grocery bags. Both things I’d like to change.

  33. Neza says:

    Plastic bags :( (
    I have some fabric ones, but I usually forget them at home.

  34. Sarah says:

    I admit that I am guilty of using too much water. Leaving the tap running as I rinse dishes, long hot showers. I’m awful I know. Can’t wait to get my hand on this lovely book, great interview!

  35. Celina says:

    As a college student I find it easy to just throw things away. When moving out of the dorm I toss out clothing, shower hangers, toothbrush holders, shelving etc., rather than trying to donate or find new homes for things. This year I really want to work on green practices by repurposing items or donating them rather than essentially putting them in the landfill.

  36. Great interview! I must find that book.
    My un-green confession…definitely paper towels and those pop-up disinfectant wipes.

    I do reuse, recycle, and compost quite a bit, but I’m going to try to give up my paper towel habit this year.

    Kimberly :)

  37. Well, I grew up in a city and a time when conservation was taught in schools. I truly believe that’s where we need to start educating on living green. So I know how to save energy, water, and do all the recycling I can, but when it comes to crafting, I am all BUT green. I try to be conservative, but there are times when I just can’t. I am going to try to repurpose and upcycle more of my craftiness, and it will be a stretch to do more, but it’s a responsibility that I must stop overlooking.

    Great interview by the way! I love Betz. She is just the greatest.

  38. Heather says:

    I’m great about reusing, repurposing, remaking, fabric napkins, recycling bottles and all the stuff we can recycle, but I don’t compost. That’s what I want to work on this year — apartment composting, here I come!

  39. Alyson Hill says:

    Holey clothes Batman! I know I should make use of the kids worn out clothes but my rag bag is overflowing, and they’re too far gone for sewing…so I just chuck them. It keeps me up at night. From time to time.

  40. My un-green (would that make it orange or purple) household secret is that we use cling wrap and zip lock bags. I want to make some oil cloth bags for sandwiches and snacks.

  41. sherri s. says:

    Like many, I’m guilty of “can’t-be-bothered-to-wash-out-the-plastic-baggie” and also paper towel addiction. Sigh. There’s always tomorrow, right?

  42. kelli says:

    My kids love the yummy yogurt that comes in single serving containers. I’m trying to break them of that habit, but it’s so convienient — for me and for them!

  43. marnie says:

    we have reformed a lot of bad habits – but we need to recycle the paper we use – not the newspaper buy white computer paper, looseleaf, note paper… need some blue bins around the house

  44. mylist says:

    I still buy produce that’s out of saeson and is shipped from far far away – just can’t resist it sometimes.

  45. oona b says:

    I must confess that while we religiously recycle everything paper around the house, and all bottles/plastic, etc that pass thru the kitchen, I can’t ever remember to walk the empty toilet paper roll into the recycling pile in the kitchen. Must. Remember! Thanks.

  46. Marissa says:

    Paper napkins, for sure.

  47. MelodyJ says:

    I would like to stop throwing away so much paper. I need to recycle more.

  48. Jen says:

    Great interview. Very insightful. I eat lots of yogurt on the go and have feel awful about the small containers. I need to start buying large containers and filling a reusable container each day- only draw back, large quantities of yogurt don’t have as many flavors… agghhh, to be green and full of flavor.

  49. Nancy says:

    My worst un-green habit? Going to the grocery store without my reusable grocery bags. I have bought several but I seem to end up storing things in them or making impulse trips to the store without them and coming home with more of the plastic bags that pollute our landfills and waterways. Aacckk!!

  50. Cheryl says:

    Water waste is probably the most ungreen habit here. I think it is hard to remind yourself to catch water to use for other things, when you’re trying to get hot water to the kitchen sink! Working on that one.
    By the way, great review of the book!