One of the great things about sustainable design is that it encourages people to collaborate. Since the sustainable fashion and textile industries are so small, I hope that this list becomes a useful and ever-growing resource for people who wish to practice sustainable textile crafts and e-commerce businesses.
- Cloud 9 Cirrus Solid Fabric (link opens in new window)—This fabric is not only beautiful but it was the only GOTS-certified cotton fabric that I could find that came in multiple stock colors. (“Stock” meaning that none of the colors are made to order and that the company always has the colors available.) What I love about the Cirrus fabric is that it’s yarn-dyed, meaning that the individual strands of fiber are dyed before the fabric is woven, giving the fabric a beautiful streaked effect that resembles linen. Since I embroider with cotton thread, this makes my designs fully recyclable. Cloud 9 posts the GOTS certificate for the fabric on its website, ensuring that anyone who wants to know can see that the fabric is from India and processed in Pakistan, free from forced Uighur labor in China. In order to reduce my carbon foot print, I like to order from Hawthorne Supply Co. (link opens in new window), a company located in New York State that also sells beautiful print-on-demand fabrics.
- FABSCRAP (link opens in new window)—FABSCRAP is an incredible NYC-based organization that collects fabric waste from designers in New York City and resells this upcycled fabric to students, small designers, crafters, and anyone who loves going into a fabric store never knowing what they’re going to find. When I am not using Cirrus fabric, I exclusively use upcycled fabric. FABSCRAP does not keep records of the fiber content of the fabric it collects, so when I list fiber content on the back of my work, I try to make my best guess. FABSCRAP has a great online store and they are working to expand to other cities so stay tuned! As of 2019 (PDF, link opens in new tab), FABSCRAP has diverted a total of 493,697 pounds of fabric from landfills!
- Muslin—I source all of my organic muslin from OrganicCottonPlus.com (link opens in new window.) While not all of their organic muslin qualities are certified organic, I am able to pick the country of origin. I only buy muslin from India to avoid the possibility of forced Uighur label.
Supplies and Notions
- Bamboo Hoops—I only use unstained bamboo hoops in my work in an effort to keep all supplies as recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable as possible. Bamboo is considered a sustainable material because it grows back so quickly after getting cut down. I alternate between buying bamboo hoops from DMC (link opens in new window) and from Michael’s (link opens in new window), which I suspect are actually the same as the DMC hoops but half the price.
- DMC (opens in new window)—I mostly work with classic, tried-and-true DMC embroidery thread. One of the great things about DMC thread is that it is OEKO-TEX certified, meaning that the dyes are free from toxic chemicals and the working conditions in the processing plants in France are safe and ethical. Unfortunately, DMC does not say on its site where the cotton comes from or in what conditions it is farmed. We can only hope that as the organic cotton industry grows (according to Textile Exchange, organic cotton is only 1-2% of the global cotton industry) that DMC will adapt ethically and sustainably farmed cotton. I always try to shop local and mainly get my floss from Daytona Trims (link opens in new window), a mainstay in New York City’s Garment District.
- Papirami (link opens in new window)—Papirami is a fellow Etsy seller located in Spain offering sets of beautiful organic Peruvian cotton embroidery floss. Her site claims that the cotton is organic and hand dyed, but without any certification it’s hard to know under what conditions the floss is made. Her color system follows DMC’s and I found the floss beautiful and very easy to use. The texture is slightly more coarse than that of DMC thread—understandable, since the staple (cotton fluff that gets spun into yarn) in an organic cotton plant will have a more variegated length than the presumably GMO cotton that DMC uses. The longer the staple, the smoother the yarn. Given the cost and the relative carbon footprint of sending the floss all the way from Peru to Spain back across the Atlantic to North America, I am using this beautiful floss sparingly but you shouldn’t have to!
- ThreeHeartsDesign Co (link opens in new window)—ThreeHeartsDesignCo is another wonderful seller I found through Etsy. She takes DMC cotton floss and perle thread and overdyes them with all-natural dyes made from fruits, leaves, bark, and berries, creating beautiful, bright, variegated colors you won’t find anywhere else.
- Needles—There aren’t exactly ethically made needles (that I can find anyway). I mostly use DMC brand or whatever brands Daytona Trims carry.
- Stabilizer—Because I am making my designs over and over, instead of tracing them onto fabric, I have found it easiest to print my designs on water soluble stabilizer from Sulky (link opens in new window). The stabilizer feels like paper but is actually made from starches that dissolve in hot water.
- Ribbon—I offer an optional organic, naturally dyed cotton ribbon as an add-on. The company is called Botanica Tinctoria (link opens in new window) and the ribbon is for sale on OrganicCottonPlus.com The company says that the ribbon is dyed in a close looped system by hand using natural dyes. The ochre ribbon I am offering was dyed with guava peel.
- Padded Mailer and Plastic Protectors—I proudly use shipping products from EcoEnclose (link opens in new window), which offers a wide variety of affordable, environmentally friendly packaging options. I chose to use padded mailers made out of recycled paper to avoid consuming trees for an item that can only be used once anyway. The plastic protector envelope is also made from recycled plastic and is recyclable. I decided against using compostable “plastic” envelopes (which EcoEnclose also sells) since most Americans do not have access to compost bins. Let’s hope that changes!
- Stickers and Shipping Labels—These are also from EcoEnclose and made from recycled paper. The liner paper for the stickers can be sent back to EcoEnclose to be recycled in a special process while the liner paper for the shipping labels are recyclable in any municipality.
- Postcard— I include a postcard with a shorter version of my 7 Sustainable Shopping tips in each package. I have chosen PSPrint (link opens in new tab) to print these cards: the cards are printed on recycled paper on soy-based ink (most printers use petroleum-based ink) and they automatically send your print job to the facility closest to you in order to cut down on carbon emissions and fossil fuels between the printing plant and your home or office.
- Washi Tape—Okay, so the washi tape I use to decorate my packages and attach your receipts to the postcards isn’t exactly sustainably sourced (I got it from Michael’s) but I did some research and washi tape is indeed recyclable and biodegradable! So it counts as sustainable, right?