Working With Fabric
When you work mostly in thread and fabric, it is easy to think that you are an eco-friendly crafter. The flexibility and soft texture of the materials in your hand suggest something organic and natural, safe and gentle. These qualities are often the thing that draws people to work with textiles.
There is also the heritage of fabrics that has so much appeal. I love scouring social media for makers who reuse old clothes, home furnishings, packaging and charity shop finds in their projects. Whether it is junk journaling, quilting, slow stitching or collage, crafters all around the world are finding ways to keep discarded resources out of landfill and give them a new life as a piece of art.
No matter how thrifty we are though, there will inevitably be an occasion where we don’t have quite the right resource and have to invest in something new.
The Cost of Natural Fibres
I get through a lot of felt in a working week. All of our kits include felt; every piece of my own art uses felt in some way and my 2022 stitch project, ‘Winging It’ is encouraging people to try embroidery on felt each week to see what can be achieved with this versatile resource.
I love wool felt. There is no question that it is a lovely resource to work with. However, it is invariably new wool that is used to produce it. There are also a growing number of people who are trying to reduce their consumption of animal products as a way of contributing to the fight to reverse climate change, not to mention those who are choosing to live a totally plant-based life. Most wool felt produced in the UK is cruelty-free, but that is not always the case everywhere in the world. Pure wool, whilst natural and biodegradable, isn’t always an animal-friendly product and it’s always worth checking the origin of the felt you buy.
It’s the same with cotton. While it’s a natural, plant-based fabric that, cotton grows in dry environments. According to WWF, it can take up to 2700 litres of water to make just one shirt and the UN estimates that it’s 7500 litres for a pair of jeans – that’s the same amount of water one person drinks in ten years! Producing that same pair of jeans can also generate up to 33 kilos of carbon, so it’s clear that using natural fibres is not as simple as it seems.
The Decision to Use Recycled
When we launched Featherstitch House, we knew that we wanted our business to have the natural world at its heart. Not only as inspiration for the products we produce, but also in the way we operate on a daily basis.
Using recycled felt in our kits was a very conscious decision for us. We knew that it might put some people off. We knew that our customer base might need some persuading and more information, but that seemed like part of the fun.
For us, avoiding virgin plastic and using biodegradable and recyclable materials in our products was non-negotiable. We don’t want to add to the problem. But there is still a problem… the 381 million tonnes of plastic waste produced in the world every year. If we don’t find ways to reuse some of that, we really are doomed.
What’s So Good About Our Felt?
It’s hard to look at a plastic bottle and imagine it as a beautiful piece of home décor, or art. However, after hours of research, and felt testing, we decided that, for us, recycled felt was the way to go. We found Kunin Ecofi to be an excellent alternative to wool as it behaves in much the same way. It isn’t fuzzy like cheap craft felt – you can cut shapes with precision, it doesn’t pill easily and it holds up well if you need to unpick and re-stitch embroidery. It’s also super soft, with the added benefit of being machine washable up to 30˚C.
Every metre of Kunin Ecofi felt takes 15 plastic bottles out of landfill and oceans. That means every Autumn Leaf Garland or Alphabet Kit we sell, saves about 5 bottles. Every Sunflower Book Sleeve saves about 4. That may not seem like much, but it’s something. The more kits we sell, the more plastic is saved. The more people who choose recycled felt, the bigger the market. The bigger the market, the more recycled felt gets made and as production increases, the more we make a dent in the waste plastic mountain that threatens to engulf our planet.
We don’t just use recycled felt. Our ribbon is also made from recycled plastic too. All our booklets, patterns, instructions, stickers and boxes are made with recycled paper. We know that this might be a little less pretty, but it’s all deliberately done to reduce the impact we have on our beautiful world.
Making it Easy For You
If you are still not convinced, we have created a new product to help you further. Our Felt Rainbow Rolls were created mainly as a ‘taster’ product. We understand that you might not want to splash out on a kit made with recycled felt, so these little rainbows are a low-risk option to let you try out a selection of colours to test the quality of the felt rather than just taking our word for it.
You can also check out Kunin’s Instagram feed @Kuninfeltbrand and see what their design team conjures up with sheets of recycled plastic bottles! I also love the work of @schmaltzycraftsy who embroiders the most beautiful and intricate pincushions using exclusively Kunin Ecofi felt.
I don’t want you to think that I never use anything synthetic. I do. But when I do, I know I’m doing it! Over the years I have learnt where plastics are lurking in my craft supplies and now I use them with caution, care and restraint. I am absolutely not going to purge my stash of anything made of polyester – that would be completely counter-productive. However, I am going to make sure that these resources are used to create beautiful things that will be kept, passed on through my family and never find themselves in the back of a bin lorry heading for the local landfill site. It may not be a perfect solution, but it’s small choices, made daily, by each of the 7.75 billion people inhabiting planet Earth that will make all the difference.