Whew, this is a huge topic! To be honest, I’m a bit nervous to be posting about this, since it’s something I’m only just begun to think about, and I consider myself a total novice in this arena. However, I also think it’s a vitally important subject, both for the longevity of our sewing community as well as for our own emotional well-being. In just the short time that I’ve been sewing and blogging, I’ve noticed a marked increase in posts about sustainability and ethical resourcing, so it’s clearly something y’all are thinking a lot about, too. So, as I take a step back for Lent, I thought it would be good to follow up last week’s topic of “more vs. less” with a discussion about how to be more mindful in our consumer habits when we do choose to buy something.
In my mind, this whole issue of “ethical resourcing” falls into two categories: environmental sustainability and fair working conditions for factory employees. So, basically, there’s a “planet” side and a “people” side of the matter – and both are important. And, to me, both of these issues fall under the broader concept of stewardship. Now, to those of you who are church-goers, this is a terribly church-y word, but just hear me out for a minute. Stewardship is, quite simply, about using our resources wisely. Those resources could be anything – time, money, food, fabric, even our bodies!
In the olden days, “stewards” were caretakers – they oversaw the proper management of farms, vineyards, property, etc. Today, we have the tremendous power and responsibility to be our own stewards. We have a great deal of resources at our disposal, and how we make use of them strongly affects our overall feeling of contentment and well-being.
Just typing that makes me start to feel the weight of that responsibility – oof! Good thing we have an entire lifetime to get this stuff figured out! So, with all that said, I wanted to just jot down a few ideas about how we can begin to work towards this goal, and also list a few places for further reading on the topic.
- One easy way to start thinking about good stewardship of our sewing resources is to support our small, local shops instead of the “big box stores.” Of course, this isn’t always possible depending on our geographic location and what particular items we need. However, in general, I try to support my friends in small businesses (special shout out to Grey’s Fabric!)
- It can be difficult to tell what fabrics have been produced under ethical conditions, both in terms of environmental impact and fair labor. However, more information is becoming available, and here are a few articles and bloggers I’ve been reading recently that have been helpful:
-the fashion blog Birds of a Thread. Although this is mostly a fashion blog, the author talks a lot about which companies have policies about ethical resourcing, and how to find clothing that has been fairly made. And she sews, too!
- Reusing and recycling old fabrics is another great way to think about ethical sourcing! Zoe of So, Zo, What do you Know, Portia of Makery, and Suzannah of Create, Enjoy are some great examples of seamstresses who either refashion or use old clothes for fabric in new garments. This cuts down on waste, and also provides a fun sewing challenge!
Now, as I said at the beginning of this post, I’m only just beginning to scratch the surface thinking about this. So lest I become too preachy here (which is NOT my goal!), let me be the first to say that I have a very long way to go towards good stewardship of my sewing resources! In fact, a big part of why I am posting on this topic is to ask for your advice. Is this a topic you think a lot about? How do you go about finding supplies that have been produced ethically and sustainably? What are you top tips for those of us just starting down this road? I would love to hear about your experiences!