The first week of November 2021 has been an important one for our beautiful green planet. No matter where you stand on the issues (and I will leave that to your own conscience, it is not for debate here) as textile creatives and enthusiasts – quilters, dressmakers, embroiderers and the fashion-lovers – we might need to consider a few points – and think of how we might respond.

How many of us have said, or know people who have said, that we have more fabric than can be used in a lifetime? It is usually said in jest but there is often some truth in it. And then we/they go on to say something like “but just had to buy this, even though …….!”

Instead consider making a commitment to yourself to start where you are, use what you have – and keep your purchasing for things that can not be avoided. I know that this is a challenge, because we also want to support our favourite shops. So be thoughtful and considered about purchases, and avoid buying just to fill the cupboards.

Do we look for the next best thing? Gadgets and pieces of equipment that promise perfect results.

In my kitchen I am prevented from having pieces of equipment that will not do dual duty, simply because my kitchen is incredibly small with few cupboards and even less workspace! Can we apply that to our sewing room?   Do we NEED a triangle ruler, when with a bit of practice, we can create perfect triangles using the 45º and 60° lines on our regular ruler? Do we NEED the new sewing machine that has one clever feature – that we may hardly use? But, gosh, it looks so good in the promos! Remember, excellent results can be achieved with quite simple tools: a sewing machine, rotary cutter, board, rulers, pins, needles and scissors.

Buy carefully. And where possible, buy once.

In terms of consumables, consider their “ingredients” and their manufacture. I do prefer 100% cotton for fabrics and thread and cotton, bamboo or wool wadding. But it is not easy to do the right thing. Cotton and bamboo can have an environmental impact in their manufacture; polyester components within threads, fabrics, wadding etc impact the potential for biodegrading.

In terms of equipment, let’s try and buy things that will last, do dual duty and that we will not outgrow next year!

In terms of clothing, eschew the recent (as in the last 50 years or so!) trend for fast fashion! Choose clothes that will be useful for the next few years or more, not just the season ahead. Think about laundering issues – polyester or polyamide content will produce microplastics that are detrimental to the health of our oceans. And whilst we are thinking about that, also think about how you launder. Choosing to use a short cycle on the machine makes a difference. Think about your laundry detergent and its packaging. Drying outside rather than using a tumble dryer saves power, money – and the clothes smell great!

Re-use and Re-cycle. Quilt-making is the original recycling activity. Left over pieces from dress-making were cut up to make patches for quilts, old blankets were used as wadding.

A word of warning here though – make sure that you understand how fibres behave before you start making a project in this fashion.

Well washed fabrics can be very soft and floppy which can mean that they don’t go together as easily as newer, firmer fabrics. They might stretch or fray. How can you ensure that your fabric behaves the way you want it to?

Tightly woven sheeting can be hard to hand-sew

Learn how to assess the fibre content of a material before using it in your project.

I don’t have the one answer here – heck, I don’t even have all the questions! I feel lost in all the challenges that the world today presents, and feel responsible for creating the situation. I have 7 “sewing” machines, for heaven’s sake! So, hopefully you will ask yourself a few questions, and come up with a few answers that will suit you. You can only do the best that you can. Start where you are, work with what you’ve got, and try to make ONE change today.

Please do comment below, and share your ideas about what we, as individuals, can do.