By Magali M.
Meet the Maker
Magali is an animation producer by day, a knitter by night, and vintage sewist on the weekends. She tries to incorporate sustainability into her life by shopping mindfully and choosing secondhand first. She shares her experiences and thoughts about crafting on her YouTube channel and makes silly videos about it on Tik Tok and Instagram. She lives in a tiny NYC apartment with her husband.
5 Sustainable Tips
These days, you hear the word “sustainable” everywhere. And for the most part, it’s a good thing. In many places plastic bags have been banned, companies have switched to less plastic in their packaging, and more and more there are options to reduce the amount of waste that we create, and what new products are made of.
However, we can all agree that the way we shop and the items produced are still greatly affecting the world. According to UN figures, 21 billion tons of textiles end up in landfills each year. Of 100 billion items produced yearly, 14 for each human on the planet, three in five will be discarded within the year.
When it comes to making, it can be a little more complicated.
After learning all these facts, I wanted to incorporate sustainability in my crafts but I didn’t know where to start. I still wouldn’t call myself truly 100% sustainable. Last year, I stopped buying new clothes. Sometimes I still fall for coupons and buy more yarn. But I realized it’s not a competition. Anything we do to change our impact is significant when more people start doing it. And being sustainable doesn’t have to mean buying a certain brand or falling for a certain aesthetic. There are some simple things you can do, and that maybe a lot of us are already doing.
Here are 5 ways in which you can be sustainable in your own fiber craft!
1. Use what you already have
Knitters and makers make a lot of jokes about our stash. Anyone who says they don’t have a stash is probably lying or forgot about a tub in their closet. And that’s ok, it’s part of a hobby, yarn, fabric or other materials will probably be obtained faster than they’re consumed. And although it’s important to be aware of your stash and avoid buying things just for the heck of it (be careful with certain sales!) the best and most sustainable thing you can do about it is… use it!!
Do you know everything that you actually own in your stash? Every few months, remember to go through it to really figure out what yarn you already have. Tools like the Ravelry stash where you can take pictures and classify each hank of yarn are useful to remember what you have without having to go through it every single time. But something as simple as a notebook can be enough. Knowledge and awareness of what you own will inform your decision when buying new materials and which projects you can start.
2. Use those remnants
You know what I’m talking about. Those tiny balls of yarn left after you finish your project. Those scraps of fabric that you keep but don’t really know what to do with. If you, like me, also feel icky about throwing out perfectly good yarn, try a stash busting pattern! Scrappy afghans, small crocheted toys, dishcloths. Maybe your next round of gifts can be all made with leftover materials. If all fails, you can always use scraps as stuffing for other projects instead of buying actual stuffing.
Making sure that you use every scrap keeps it from ending up in a landfill, and even though it might seem small, multiply it by every project you’ve done, and suddenly you’ve got quite a lot of it.
Just because you don’t have a use for it, doesn’t mean others might not either.
Destashing has become super common in my Instagram feed and I’m here for it. Although it’s better to be careful and not overshop materials you don’t need, sometimes it happens. Your project ends up using less yarn, or it doesn’t work out and you have to frog. Or someone gives you yarn that you don’t know what to do with. (Regifting is totally ok, by the way)
If it’s been sitting in your stash for years and you have no clue what to do with it, maybe it’s time it moved on to someone else. And you can recoup a bit of cash in the process.
4. Choosing your fibers wisely
There is some talk in both the sewing and the knitting community about which materials you’re “supposed” to use, either because they’re “better”, true to the pattern, historically accurate, or in this case, sustainable. Yes, it’s true that materials like wool and other naturally derived fibers are biodegradable and ergo better for the planet. But not everyone can afford or can use those materials. So don’t feel guilty if all that’s at your reach is superwash or acrylic. However, when you can, try to lean into those materials or at least the ones with the larger percentage of sustainable fibers. Read your label, scroll to the description and ask about fabric content. Wool allergy? Try bamboo, alpaca, and recycled fibers!
5. Thrifting is magic
I see thrifting as a whole different shopping experience. It’s like a scavenger hunt, you have to dig to find treasures, and things might not be New, but they’re new for you. I like to think that every object has a story, and let my imagination go wild about who it belonged to.
In the case of crafts, did you know you can find fabric and yarn at thrift stores? Usually for very cheap prices! And you can also be creative. Love the pattern in that sheet? Maybe it’s perfect fabric material! Is that sweater not your style but you like the fiber? Unravel it for the yarn!
As always though, be careful with how you thrift. The goal is not to over shop just because it’s cheap. Mindful shopping should be practiced, because taking too much for yourself can mean someone who really needs it and can only afford thrifting, might go without.
Sustainable shopping and making might not look like what we’re told by ads and brands. It might not be Instagram worthy, clean aesthetic, matchy branded. But it is liberating.
When you start being mindful about the objects you bring into your life, your perspective changes, too. It lifts a weight off your chest. You might not be able to do everything in this list, or other lists. If you’re already making your own clothes, like knitting a sweater or sewing a top, not only are you enjoying a craft and honing a skill, but you’re fighting back the way we treat our clothing. Something you made by hand that you put hours into and you chose materials for, is more likely to be loved and taken care of. Which is the main issue with fast fashion and other textile industries. We have moved to looking at clothing as disposable. And it shouldn’t be.
“And if no one takes too much, there will always be enough.” – Hadestown
More about Magali…
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