Green Sewing: A Guide to Sewing with a Conscience

This article was originally written for and published on BERNINA USA Magazine Through The Needle. Republished as that resource is no longer accessible. 
Sewing is both an art form and skill that values time-honored traditions allowing us to connect, create, and innovate. As enthusiasts with the heart, mind, and hands of seamstress, quilt makers, crafters, and designers we have access to the wonders of modern technology and knowledge that living and working with a focus for improving our environment, economy, and community ensures an enduring legacy for our future generations.

I'm endeared when I hear the recollections of handmade/homemade garments whom lives were extended by one mom's ingenuity to sew sock tubes into the sleeves. Make do and mend: a 1940's war time motto that unfortunately has died out with the introduction of fast fashion.

Think a moment about how your sewing is sustainable. Do you use vintage or upcycled materials? Or perhaps you've already committed to sewing with organic cottons, linen, hemps and ethically produced fabrics. Readily available fabrics and sustainable sewing isn't nearly as tricky as sourcing environmentally responsible notions and products for your home studio. Today I'm introducing you to some companies that are committed to environmental excellence and share a few tips on greening your craft.

Image Credit: Cotton & Flax Home Goods 
Small but mighty, the amount of thread options out there can be overwhelming. Most threads are made from 100% polyester or a cotton-poly blend but many companies offer a 100% cotton option. Yet, conventional cotton is one of the most pesticide-intensive crops in the world. In fact, 16% of the world’s pesticides are sprayed on cotton crops. Organic cotton thead options are available in a wide variety of colors:

Fiberactive Organics carries a good selection of multipurpose and heavyweight organic cotton thread for sewing and quilting, both white and colored.

YLI was the first certified organic cotton sewing thread suitable for your machine as well as for hand sewing. It can be used in sergers, too 
Manufactures like Mettler, Aurifil, Gunold, Gutermann and Madeira have been awared The OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 with it's product label "Confidence in textiles" is the most well-known and most widespread independent certification worldwide for textiles tested for harmful substances.

Gutermann's rPET Thread - 100 % recycled polyester from PET bottles with approximately 1,100 yards of rPET thread produced by one PET beverage bottle.

Quality crafted cutting implements will help you to achieve precision cuts and a pair of maintained shears can last quite a long time. You can reduce waste and save money by sharpening your rotary cutters and scissors. Fold aluminum foil into 4 layers and cut through it 3 or 4 times.

Rotary cutters are also a great tool to have on hand. The replaceable blades are recyclable. However, The LP Sharp Company will exchange your blades for new ones at a fraction of the cost. Their return program allows you to send in (minimum of 5) blades any brand, size, condition in exchange for Olfa brand or generic blades.Http://

If re-sharpening just isn’t cutting it anymore (pun intended), you can recycle your scissors at the nearest scrap metal yard.

Quilters Dream Green is a soft, cozy batting made completely from recycled plastic bottles. Even the packaging is recycleable! Each pound of Dream Green Batting keeps 10 plastic bottles out of our landfills.
Hobbs Heirloom Organic batting has no defoliants, pesticides, or bleaching chemicals and is created with 100% organic cotton.
For lighter-weight projects, check out Air Lite batting, made from 100% organic cotton. You might get a little sticker shock on this one, but keep in mind that the batting is 100″ wide, and they’re selling it in 20 yardincrements.

Buckwheat hulls are considered desirable stuffing material for pillows because there is less risk of exposure to allergens than pillows that contain down (feathers) or synthetic fibers. Pillows filled with buckwheat hulls also conduct and reflect less heat than those filled with synthetic materials.

Natural shredded rubber is a mix of Natural Dunlop & Natural Talalay used for stuffing available at

Organic cotton and wool stuffing options are widely available online and in your favorite quilting/crafting store.

Eco-Friendly Fiber Fill by eco craft- This Fiber-fill is made of 100% PLA which is a new synthetic fiber made form the annually renewable resource corn.

Spools, Pins, and Needles

The plastic spools are all made using #6 plastic which is recyclable in most municipalities.

Sewing needles and Pins cannot be recycled in your single stream recycling bin. However, you don’t have to just throw them away. Did you know sewing needles are great for wall hangings? They make a smaller hole than nails and are surprisingly sturdy. If you have a sewing group or know other people who sew, collect your old needles and pins into a jug and when it fills up, take it to your local scrap metal yard for recycling. Every little bit counts and it’s completely free.

Salvaged Goods
I'm certain we all agree that the best way to reduce fabric waste is to reuse what we already have. Local thrift stores have sections packed with sheets, blankets, pillow cases, tablecloths, curtains and even unused fabric right off the bolt!

Notions are just as important to sewing as the fabric itself. If you have old clothes that are just too worn out to donate, make sure to salvage what you can. Take off any buttons, zippers, elastic, hook and eye, trim, or undamaged ribbing that can be reused.

I always promote reuse before recycling. If you have unwanted fabric, clothing, or materials try sharing them in your community on a site like Freecycle. Textile/clothing recycling may be available in your area or you can take advantage of mail in programs like I offer through TrashN2Tees where I've diverted more than 20 tons of clothing from our landfills.

Are you passionate about changing the way we consume and create? Remember “a good seam lasts forever.”


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