Sustainable textiles and me

I’ve been asked to answer whether I agree or disagree on a few sustainability statements…

…here goes…

1. Our society values economic gain over the environment


Although, I think people are starting to wake up to the fact that we have no other home. I think many larger companies, the so called fat cats, are still in this for the money. Is it too strong to say they have been poisoned with a belief that money is the lifeblood of happiness?

It’s not a human trait to consider the future consequences of todays actions, we are all for the here and now. This is fine when you’re talking whether to buy that new outfit today and struggle financially till payday next week, but when we’re talking about the survival of the planet it’s a different matter. You should only burn your bridge if it leads to land, and since we have no alternative planet we should do everything we can to maintain our eternal relationship with planet earth.

2. Modern consumption habits cannot continue


You’d think, with all the things to make our lives easier we wouldn’t need so much ‘stuff’, but we seem to stock up on un-necesseties as though the meteor of fashionable living was on a direct trajectory.

There are people out there who seem to reach a point of accumilation that they simply give up. People who sell up and spend years living on a deserted island, or far from civilisation. There is something in that sudden urgency to quit the modern world that is freeing, I have tried it, made six months, but some of what I learnt in that six months – living off the land, sharing our wealth, only having what you need, owning nothing – was an experience that changed my need to horde ‘stuff’

3. In the future our needs for ‘more stuff’ will be met differently

I don’t know

I touched upon the need to have stuff in question 2. In one sense I think there will be those who live their lives to acquire things. There are those who will have an unlimited source of funding and nothing better to spend it on than collections of collections.

But I think many people are waking up, there is an increase in people wanting to grow their own food, make their own clothing, knitting and crocheting is coming back in popularity and I think people are realising that, while shopping gives a buzz, it is short lived.

4. It is up to the consumer to seek out sustainable products


It is up to the consumer to seek out sustainable products, especially amongst their usual shopping locations. It is the consumer who asks a shop assistant where products are made and how they are produced, and with that answer decide whether to shop or vote with their feet.

It’s also up to the companies to realise the need to source sustainable products, even before customers vote and leave.

The wonderful surprise to find that you already buy from an ethically minded supplier is a terrific feeling to behold.

5. It is up to designers to create desirable consumer goods that are sustainable


We can protest as much as we want, but there will always be the group of sheep that are followers. These people need to be shown the way, and if they can’t protect the planet without a designer label then designers must take the initiative.

6. Natural is always best


Natural is fantastic, but if there is a sustainable way of doing something without taking from nature, that too should be explored. We’re not a ‘one size fits all’ species, so having as many ways of development and choice is best.

A personal pet hate here… Yarn snobs. Those pesky knitters who believe knitting only occurs when real sheep fibre is attached to the needles. Some even think that knitting can only occur is that sheep fibre has a Rowan label attached.

Yes, some acrylic is awful, but a lot of it is good.

Being a yarn snob is not a nice thing. Acrylic has its place in knitting, could you imagine the cost at church fetes if soft toys had to be made from wool?

And what about those for whom wool is out of their price range?

Which brings me to a final thought.

Sustainability can only work if it is affordable. If it becomes a trend rather than a necessity, the fat cats of fashion will be in there bumping up the cost before you can say fracking.

Published by bettyvirago

Betty Virago is an award winning textile designer. Based in Yorkshire, England, and known for her Northern Folk dolls and the Quilts of Hope project.

2 thoughts on “Sustainable textiles and me

  1. Really enjoyed reading this, thank you. The whole yarn snob thing really made me sit up and think. I’m afraid I am a yarn snob who really can’t afford to be one!! would love to know which acrylic yarns you find to be the best – I find that Style Craft DK just isn’t consistant and all depends which colour you are using. Some of it feels thick and smooth almost like chenille and then another colour is really thin and and nasty. Any recommendations would be great. Thank you

    1. Embrace your yarn snobbery, but add a bit of acrylic when you can.
      My favourite yarns are made by Sirdar, their Hayfield Bonus DK is what I use to make dolls and I’ve only found one ball that’s had problems. You can sometimes find this wool under £2 for a 100g ball. It also has an enormous colour range which I think is a plus for toy makers.
      I also like Sirdars Country style range, not as many colours but the yarn has a little wool and feels wonderful.

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