Embroidery and our environment

May 11, 2019

Hello everyone

Hope you have had a wonderful week?

Summer holidays are approaching and I will very soon be leaving for the UK to deliver the new book manuscript to Search Press (due to be released next year) and to visit Kew Gardens – all very exciting, but lots to do and of course there are the visa applications and all the travel plans to make. Travel is not simple these days do you agree? My family are very nervous when I make bookings because I tend to make huge boo boos – for example I once booked a skip the line museum pass for Milan when we were actually in Florence, and have been known to book for April when it should be June………… although we laugh it can be very stressful co-ordinating dates, hotels, flights etc!

Shop closure

While on the subject of holidays the embroidery shop will be closed from 7th June till 7th July so stock up on supplies for the holidays now. Iron on transfers and fabrics are back in stock. There is a limited supply of premium linen fabric but I will be re-ordering on my return in July.

Embroidery and the environment.

We hear a lot about Climate change and the environment these days but how does this affect our embroidery and how can we help? Thousands of people recently took to the streets in London UK, for the Extinction Rebellion protest to highlight the role of the finance industry in fueling climate change. Now I am not suggesting that you take to the streets with your banner, but with a few small changes to our lifestyles we can and will make a huge difference.

Here are some of the ways that I am trying to make a difference:

Quality rather than quantity

I am no saint when it comes to consumerism, like many of us I love to shop and to get new things, but I can also see that buying less, will ultimately produce less waste and benefit our environment in the long run. For instance I try to buy one good top that I love instead of 10 sale items, the top will last a few years and hopefully can be recycled whereas the sale items will inevitably end up on a land fill somewhere. My daughters buy a lot of their clothing in vintage shops – I am sure we all agree that they don’t make clothing like they used to so often these second hand pieces are beautifully made in lovely quality fabric, and of course “Vintage” is in!

Buy Organic

I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable about the fact that the chemicals used to grow crops like cotton are still present in our clothes when we buy them, so wherever possible I am trying to buy organic clothing such as cotton, bamboo, silk which has been grown in compliance with organic agricultural standards . Not easy as synthetic fabrics like polyester are more easily obtainable due to the fact that they are cheaper to produce, but as the demand for organic fabrics increases so will the supply, and hopefully this will bring the prices down?

I have also taken to using organic cleaners, cosmetics and make up. You all know how I dislike housework – “embroidery forever, housework, whenever”, but I figured if you have to clean things then why not use organic household cleaners, that you actually like the smell of and that don’t have any nasty chemicals in. The laundry liquid actually makes my laundry smell like fresh lemon and does not cause my family to come out in an itchy rash and I find that natural castile soap cleans my embroidery so beautifully and does not leave any residue that other soap powders do.

Embroidery Fabric

Whilst this is not always easy to obtain I prefer to use pure fibers such as cotton, linen or silk for my embroidery. Not only is it a joy to stitch on but ensures that my embroidery pieces last for hundreds of years without deteriorating – some of the earliest examples of embroidery found in Egyptian tombs were stitched on linen. The Inspirations newsletter yesterday (No 185) gave some interesting information on alternative, sustainable fabrics for embroidery such as hemp, lotus and banana fibers.

Embroidery with Cotton and Wool thread on linen.

Embroidery Thread

I use threads made from pure fibers such as cotton or silk for my embroidery. While truly organic threads are not yet available large manufacturers such as the DMC Organisation are making strides in this direction, their threads are Oeko-Tex® certified, to ensure that the products are environment-friendly and safe to use, and have been controlled for harmful substances (dangerous and irritable). 

Silk and cotton embroidery floss

Reduce plastic

Plastic, releases harmful chemicals and is responsible for much of the damage to our ecosystem! I used to use plastic for everything – I stored my threads and embroidery fabric in plastic bags and used them for packaging my products but last year I made the decision to cut back on plastic. I replaced all my packaging wherever possible with recyclable, sustainable options and now store my threads in organza bags that can be re-used and use washable cloth bags for keeping my embroidery in. I also keep a reusable grocery bag in my handbag for all my shopping – you could make your own in different fabrics, they make lovely gifts!

Do you remember the days when you went to the grocery store and got your meat wrapped in brown paper, and there was coke in a bottle which you returned and got your deposit back and of course the milk was delivered in bottles to your door?

Downloadable embroidery patterns

As you know all my patterns are available in a user friendly PDF format that can be downloaded. I encourage the use of digital downloads as a more sustainable way of purchasing an embroidery pattern as it saves on packaging, paper and of course shipping. You can print your pattern but you can also view it from your ipad/tablet whilst stitching as it has the added advantage of being able to zoom in on the pictures.

Spreading the love

We support the goal of the World Fair Trade foundation by donating the proceeds of the La La land pattern every month. There is a short little video there that explains what its all about and how you can help as embroiderers, so you don’t have to read screeds of writing!

I am thrilled to see that young people from all over the globe are taking up embroidery and actively leading the way by using their embroidery/craft as a platform to challenge the injustices of the world. The innovative Craftivist Collective encourages others to change the world one stitch at a time – find out more and see how you can get involved here. Think I might have a go!

Till next time, wherever you are in the world, keep smiling and happy stitching!


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