scientist by day but a creative quilter at night! Creativity is a part of my everyday life. I enjoy designing and completing experiments in my daily work as a Biochemist, where I develop a ‘protocol’ similar to designing a pattern. I experiment with fabric, quilt patterns, and quilting pantographs. I like modern, edgy, and creative designs.
In addition, Gingerberry Quilts provides thoughtfully and sustainably designed digital and physical modern quilt patterns to our quilting community and spotlights how easy and inclusive it is to Eco-Quilt! If you want to keep creating beautiful quilts for the ones you love, check out my modern, easy, and quick quilt patterns!
Eco-Quilting: Stitching to Support Sustainability
What is Eco-Quilting? Eco-quilting is a method that uses sustainable techniques to reduce waste and reuse material in the quilting process. I had never heard of Eco-quilting before reading a blog from a local fabric store. It got me thinking and I started to do research on discarded fabric (because I am a scientist...) and was horrified to discover that fabric accumulation in landfills is quickly becoming a global problem. In some countries, fabric waste can make up to 9% of the total solid waste each year! You may have seen the photos of the huge piles of discarded clothing and fabric that cannot be reused.
Furthermore, the textile industry uses an enormous amount of energy, water, chemicals, and other valuable resources to produce fabric. For example, cotton, although 100% natural and harvested from a quickly growing plant, is usually sprayed with pesticides and fertilizers, chemicals that normally would not go into the soil or groundwater. Fabric made using polyester and nylon uses byproducts produced from petroleum (oil), an industry that is a large emitter of greenhouse gases. Eco-Quilting can be one way to address fabric sustainability.
Repurpose, Reuse, and Recycle
Essentially, Eco-quilting is the practice of repurposing, reusing, and recycling fabric. Like the three R's of waste recycling - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - this involves introducing small habits into your everyday quilting routine that are friendly to the environment.
Some easy ones to include are:
Repurpose fabric from items around the home into new projects - such as unused sheets, shirts, and jeans and incorporate them into your quilts. I currently use handwoven cotton fabric from a baby wrap that I got at a thrift store to make small makeup bags.
Reuse second-hand fabric from thrift stores. Every thrift store I have visited has a section for fabric. These are usually pieces of fabric that have come in as a donation and are essentially new. You can find some hidden gems in this section! These fabrics could also be useful for a backing or accent fabric.
Buy recycled fabric for projects. Recycled cotton is available and can be used for many different purposes. I use recycled cotton muslin for the backing of my pillow tops, pet beds, and wall hangings. No one sees this layer and it makes me feel better about my fabric choices!
Another way to reduce fabric production is to use little to no-waste patterns. This one is a little harder to monitor as these patterns are not usually marked as low waste. I recently made a quilt pattern that was featured in a popular quilting magazine and was shocked at how much waste it generated. It was pieced in such a manner that I ended up cutting off the corners after another piece was added on top (like how flying geese are made with squares rather than triangles). Some of the pieces were 11" and generated huge left-over triangles of fabric. Fortunately, I can use this fabric in other projects, but I would prefer to use a pattern that starts out with little to no-waste. To try to counteract these types of patterns, I am currently designing little to no waste quilt patterns, such as the Lynn County Quilt Pattern and the Rockies Quilt Pattern.
Use the fabric in your stash for the next new project. Try to challenge yourself to make a quilt using fabric that you don't particularly like or won't use in other projects. What you don’t like, someone else may love. You could use this fabric to make quilts to donate to those in need, such as for Blankets of Love, a charity that gives a quilt to people who are currently in mental health facilities in Alberta and across Canada.
Finally, use up those scraps! Little pieces can be used for a puff quilt, sea glass wall hanging, pet bed, scrappy bag, or anything that uses small pieces, even filler for a poufy footstool! The other option is to give your scraps to someone else. There are many people who are unable to afford fabric and love using scraps. Ask around in your guild or even in quilting Facebook groups. Lots of quilters will be interested!
Hopefully incorporating these small changes will affect the amount of fabric that goes to landfill.
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