Embroidery and our environment

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!


22 thoughts on “Embroidery and our environment”

  1. Speaking of making travel booking errors, my husband was once going to an academic conference in Bucharest. He checked in for the flight online and the tried to work out how to get to the hotel from the airport. He was startled to see it would take 17 hours! I then heard a cry of horror and he came running in with his boarding card print out for a flight to…… Budapest! 😉

    Whilst he was doing his PhD prep year (which brought the whole doctoral cohort up to speed with environmental issues, as they were all working on sustainability projects), one lecturer told them the most meaningful contribution each could make was to become vegetarian. The animal product industry is the number 1 polluter and destroyer of natural resources. In some cases, worse than all other industries added together…51% of emissions, 80% contribution to ocean dead zone and so on. Not good. 🙁

    1. Ha Ha love it!! So glad others make mistakes too. Thanks for the info, it seems that more and more people are making the change to become vegetarian, so hopefully this will make a difference also.

  2. Thank you for this post! My biggest environmental concern is climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gases — NOW. Doing my best toward that goal! Switching to a hybrid car this summer.

  3. It is very encouraging to read your thoughts on this topic Trish, and about the changes you are making particularly in regard to overconsumption and reducing plastic use. I will certainly make a note of your tips for plastic free thread and fabric storage. 👍🏻 One thing I think with traditional crafts like embroidery, is that we are more focused on using traditional (and therefore natural) materials. We are more likely drawn to quality because of the time investment in our hobby, and I think both those factors support us in consuming less. I think we all want to get the best use out of valuable fabric and thread and I know I’m always eager to find ways to use every scrap! 😄 My embroidery shopping is project focused, often projects are a long term commitment and it’s only when they are completed do I shop for further materials. I guess it’s taking those principles into other areas of our life that can help us continue to make a difference. Thank you for your thoughtful post on this subject. 😊

  4. This week I found a fallen bird’s nest in the garden. On close inspection woven through there are plastic filaments like fishing wire, a gold thread and a soft lining of what looks like toy stuffing. Raises the question are birds recycling? or just so much plastic waste around. Either way had the nest not blown from the tree it will last for a long time…

    1. Hi Sheila I guess some birds take bits from our garbage to make nests, lets hope its that and not plastic waste, that is a scary thought? Thanks for sharing that with us. Trish

  5. What a fantastic post and a great reminder! We all need to be aware of the impact we are having on the environment. And one small change we all make we add up to a lot of change globally!

  6. Thankyou Trish for your comments. The more we all talk about changing our habits the greater the understanding and the more we will be conscious of our choices. Every small thing we do will help us and our families now and in the future. We all want a cleaner and sustainable environment.

  7. Hi Trish. Great article. I’m concerned that many people are unaware that linen is environmentally friendly. Ours is organically grown, not bleached (boil washing works a treat) and does not use huge amounts of treated water in its production. We use naturally dyed embroidery wools and silks whenever possible. Please everyone don’t group linen with the disastrous production of most cottons.

    1. That’s a good point, I’m glad you mentioned this. Unlike cotton (even when it’s organically grown) linen doesn’t require irrigation so consumes far less water resources to grow, making it a much more sustainable fabric choice. And I’m also delighted to hear about your fabric production ethics. 👍🏻

      1. Thanks Trish and thank you for this excellent article. I’ll send you a sample of even weave to you and to any other tutor/designer who wants to sample our ‘Elizabethan’ even weave white. It’s not for my own technique of crewel work but to supply those who create kits or classes with even weave linen and for tutors on our retreats.

    2. Hi Phillipa thanks for the information on your linen, its wonderful that you are producing your own organic linen fabric – thats fantastic! If anyone wants to order this linen they can find it on Phillipa’s website, The Crewel Work Company:

  8. I absolutely love your comments about what we, as Embroiderers, can do to help with our environment. I wish to add one small statement. When we all first heard of bamboo being made into textiles, of course we were excited. A totally renewable resource! It seems, however, the process it takes to change it into a useful product requires the use of extremely harsh chemicals which in turn are very environmentally unfriendly. Hopefully this can be corrected in time and awareness of what we DO use is the important part.

    1. Thanks Bonnie that is so interesting, I had no idea!! Thank you for making us aware of this and I will stay away from bamboo fabric in future. I wonder if this includes viscose, will try to get some more info? Trish

  9. I liked your article bringing awareness to many ways we can help the environment. Thank you. Robin in New Mexico


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