Earth friendly fabrics - brain meltdown!

I have always been worried about the effect humans have on this earth and the people and animals that live in it, but it is something I am thinking about more and more.

I confess that I love clothes but I have learned the benefits of a small wardrobe of quality, well made clothes. The clothesI get the most enjoyment out of are ones I have made myself. I recently completed my first sweater :T made out of acrylic yarn (cost) but as I was knitting it I became very uncomfortable with the idea of knitting a jumper out of plastic :eek:

The more I read about different fabrics and fibres the more confused I am!

It seems that synthetics = bad! They don't let your skin breathe and take a bazillion years to decompose. But what to line a skirt with if not polyester?

Cotton - a natural fibre, but still damaging to the environment? Also potential issues with where it is produced and bad treatment of workers.

Bamboo - often labelled as eco friendly, but requires harsh chemical treatment to get it to a state where you can knit or sew with it.

Wool - a good, wholesome, natural product! Very expensive in comparison, but is kind to skin and environment. But what about the poor sheep? Are they treated kindly?! I worry for their welfare.

Same with leather - I don't eat meat because I feel that intensive, modern farming doesn't give enough consideration to the welfare of animals. So by this logic I shouldn't wear leather. But the alternative is plastic shoes. Oh think of the landfills!

And what about dyes? Are these horribly bad for the environment? Shall I be forced to wear the natural colour of beige for all eternity?

I so want to do the right thing, without a major compromise of my personal style (and bank balance!). I figure you lovely people at mse old style would be my first point of call for some thoughts and advice before my brain explodes completely :D

Much love :blushing:
«1

Replies

  • ChocClareChocClare Forumite
    1.5K Posts
    ✭✭✭
    To be honest, I think that you're going to have to make a trade-off of some kind unless you're going to grow your own flax, beat it into linen, weave it yourself and then dye it with woad or nettles... ;)

    Failing that, there are various sites, eg this one, which have more ethical solutions for you. Let us know how you get on (she says, sitting at her desk in her fab polyester suit)...
  • ChocClare wrote: »
    To be honest, I think that you're going to have to make a trade-off of some kind unless you're going to grow your own flax, beat it into linen, weave it yourself and then dye it with woad or nettles... ;)

    Do you have any instructions for this :D

    There will have to be a trade-off, and I will have to accept that me being here is going to be bad for the environment!

    I bought a polyester duffle coat this year and it wasn't cheap - £45. The sleeves have already started to bobble and I don't think I will get more than a few years wear out of it before it starts to look really scruffy. A proper wool coat will be a bigger investment but hopefully it will last. I never really thought much about fabrics before but suddenly it all seems a bit of a minefield!!
  • edited 14 February 2011 at 1:20PM
    KittendreichKittendreich Forumite
    420 Posts
    edited 14 February 2011 at 1:20PM
    'Cost' per wear might be a useful concept to explore - i.e. the cost divided by the number of times you wear it. Often considered to justify expensive purchases (i.e. a cheap coat might only last a year before wearing out and needing replaced, whereas an expensive, better quality coat might last several years). This could also be used to consider ecological impact (i.e. the 'cost' is the cost to the planet). Sorry - cross posted with above!

    Everything will have some sort of impact, but as long as you are not wasteful in your purchases then that impact can be justified.

    Also - stick with the knitting - once you are better practiced it will be worth buying more expensive, british natural yarns. Another tip is to look out for old or high quality knitted items in charity shops - these can often be ripped back to the yarn and re-made into something else (most modern 'knitted' items are made from panels of knitted material, rather than actually knitted).
  • edited 14 February 2011 at 1:18PM
    Alison_FunnellAlison_Funnell Forumite
    811 Posts
    I've been Money Tipped!
    ✭✭✭
    edited 14 February 2011 at 1:18PM
    Retting (SP?) flax and nettle are smelly and time consuming. Ramie is the nettle fibre.

    TBH Natural dyeing isn't too hard but can be smelly (urine) and have varying results depending on the growing season of the dye plants etc.

    Most historical re-enactment societies have living history sections who practice this kind of dyeing all the time so they can be a great resource for ideas, help and even dye sources.
    Put the kettle on. ;)
  • 'Cost' per wear might be a useful concept to explore - i.e. the cost divided by the number of times you wear it. Often considered to justify expensive purchases (i.e. a cheap coat might only last a year before wearing out and needing replaced, whereas an expensive, better quality coat might last several years). This could also be used to consider eceological impact (i.e. the 'cost' is the cost to the planet).

    Everything will have some sort of impact, but as long as you are not wasteful in your purchases then that impact can be justified.

    Ah that's mad - I just used the coat example in the post before at exactly the same time! :D

    I think you're right that my purchases should be justified and not wasteful or frivolous. Cost per wear is a very good way of looking at it. A jumper knitted with wool should last a very long time of well looked after.
  • Penelope_PenguinPenelope_Penguin Forumite
    17.3K Posts
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker I've been Money Tipped! Best Buy Bear
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    You don;t say where you livem OP, but I've stopped buying new as the charity shops near me are excellent for clothes :T That way I leave any guilt with the original purcahser of the garment :D
    :rudolf: Sheep, pigs, hens and bees on our Teesdale smallholding :rudolf:
  • Also - stick with the knitting - once you are better practiced it will be worth buying more expensive, british natural yarns. Another tip is to look out for old or high quality knitted items in charity shops - these can often be ripped back to the yarn and re-made into something else (most modern 'knitted' items are made from panels of knitted material, rather than actually knitted).

    I've been knitting and crocheting a while now and I have got to the point where I can justify paying more for quality yarns without worrying I'll ruin them. I just finished owls by Kate Davies - and have ordered some 'proper' yarn to make a short sleeved version.
  • You don;t say where you livem OP, but I've stopped buying new as the charity shops near me are excellent for clothes :T That way I leave any guilt with the original purcahser of the garment :D

    In Wales :) Nearly all of my clothes are thrifted, I rarely buy anything new. Yarn and fabric is mostly bought new though, which brings the dilemma of which fibres to buy.
  • rinabeanrinabean Forumite
    359 Posts
    Tenth Anniversary Combo Breaker
    ✭✭
    Hemp! It grows like a weed, like bamboo, but it's easy to process. And I'm pretty sure that material-hemp is the same type as seed-hemp so encouraging the farming of them is a double bonus (hemp seeds are really really good for you!) And neither type is the same type as drugs-hemp, but that's why they stopped farming it about 100 years ago with Prohibition and everything. It's very similar to linen, and they make soft cotton-type materials from it nowadays. Your best bet is to buy online. And people who go to the trouble of making hemp clothes, generally their stuff is British or fairtrade (but you should check). I'm thinking of relearning how to knit (not done it since I was a girl) and you can buy British hemp wool online, natural dyes and everything :)

    Re: wool - I think British wool is safe. THINK. Not sure. (I can't afford it regardless :o) I know that in countries where people are more likely to be paid per sheep than per hour, they are, and you can imagine what that is like for the sheep. Really awful stories out there.

    As others have said, charity shops are great!

    As someone transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, I had your shoe problem too. I always bought leather because it lasts, you get them mended instead of throwing them out. But there are good plastic shoes out there. Your best bet is to look for vegan/vegetarian shoes as opposed to just plastic, because they'll be higher quality and not just cheap fashion shoes. The way I see it with regards to landfill, your shoes are not that big and you'll wear them for a long time. Some things do have to be plastic. I think the real problem is buying disposable plastic things, and I count cheap shoes with those, too.
  • horsechestnuthorsechestnut Forumite
    1.4K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    ✭✭✭
    When you become good at knitting, and have a lot of money, then treat yourself to Jacob Sheep wool for knitting. It is the natural colour of the Jacob Sheep, so no dyes used, and it comes in off white, brown and a marl mix; better than they sound!
    I bought some of this years ago and it hasn't faded at all; in fact I unravelled a jumper and made a new one including some of the unused yarn that I had left over and there was absolutely no difference in the colour of the used and the new yarn in the finished jumper.
This discussion has been closed.
Latest MSE News and Guides

54 ways to ‘DIY it’

According to the MSE Forum

MSE Team Blog

£10 Christmas bonus

For benefits recipients

MSE News

Lidl '£10 off £40 spend' voucher

Via Metro or Daily Mail. Excludes NI

MSE Deals