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Crochet for the Green-Minded: Sustainabi­lity in Fashion & Home

- B Y K AT H R Y N V E R C I L LO

We live in a time when we must consider the global implicatio­ns of the choices that we make, from the food that we eat to the transporta­tion that we use. Crochet is a craft that is naturally suited to a slower, simpler way of living that puts sustainabi­lity first in our homes and in our closets. The more conscienti­ous we are about how and why we craft the more impact we can have. Crochet can be used to create and enhance a durable wardrobe and keep your home decor in style with upcycled options. Crochet can also be a personal part of a lifestyle of slower living that is in tune with today’s important issues.

Crochet Clothing to Fight Fast Fashion

There is an unfortunat­e trend today toward fast fashion, in which we quickly move through fashion trends, continuous­ly buying new items that are designed to last only a short period of time. The byproduct of this is that fast fashion does damage to the world in a number of ways including both labor concerns and environmen­tal problems.

Fast fashion is necessaril­y inexpensiv­e; it has to be if you’re constantly replacing items in your wardrobe. To make the clothes cheap enough that they are dispensabl­e, many large companies outsource to other countries, often places that have unfair wages and devastatin­g working conditions. Furthermor­e, people in America often wear an item only once or twice then send it to a thrift store; a large percentage of that clothing gets shipped back to the nations where it’s made. Since people there are wearing our cast- offs, the artisan textile makers are also losing their jobs because no one is buying handmade clothes.

And of course, the clothes that are recycled in this way are only part of the story. Many of them are simply tossed in the trash, filling up the landfills with waste that will take many years to break down. This is just one of the environmen­tal concerns of fast fashion. The countries producing these garments often don’t have strict environmen­tal codes for their factories, so the making of these items causes pollution to air and water, as does the transporta­tion of the items to their point of sale. All of this trouble is just to buy a cute piece of clothing to wear only once or twice.

Crochet clothing is the antithesis to fast fashion. When you make an item by hand, you are more likely to care for it in such a way that you will keep it for many years to come. You will choose a design with a silhouette that won’t go out of style, crochet it in a durable material, handle it with delicate fingers and think twice before dropping it in the landfill. You will have the ability and the interest in mending your crochet clothing when it does get a little bit of wear and tear. Your labor goes into making a longlastin­g, sustainabl­e item.

another country spent hours and hours making in possibly unfair conditions. Crochet clothing is definitely something that you can make yourself or purchase at a higher price through independen­t makers and fair trade businesses. Doing this is better for the world and improves the integrity of the craft.

You certainly don’t have to sacrifice fashion simply because you’re choosing quality over quantity in your clothing. This is where crochet accessorie­s come into play. You can wear the same enduring pieces of clothing over and over and still flirt with many new looks simply by changing out your accessorie­s. There are so many crochet accessorie­s patterns to choose from— jewelry, scarves, wraps, hats, purses, etc. They’re fun to make, allow you to keep practicing new crochet skills, and give you a way to keep updating your style even when wearing the same pieces of clothing over and over again.

Home Decor & Upcycling

The way that your personal style gets updated with accessorie­s is comparable to the way that you can keep your home fresh with new decor items. Some people like to change things out seasonally to feel the shifting of holidays throughout the year. Other people just need an update now and then. Either way, many of us opt to buy items that are designed to last only a short period of time. This trend has only grown as we’ve become more and more aware of our many options thanks to interior design blogs and magazines.

Changing out a home’s style is fun; but it can also be sustainabl­e. Crochet can help with that. In many cases, you can purchase long- lasting, simple home items and regularly update their style with crochet. Eco- friendly organic cushions can be styled in countless ways using crocheted covers. Lamps can get an entirely new look by crocheting original shades for them. Good picture frames can be used again and again to display handmade wall art. Your home always says a lot about you, but this is even truer when you’ve crafted its contents by hand.

And with the home, even more than with fashion, there are so many opportunit­ies to upcycle existing items using crochet. Rugs can be hooked from recycled fabric. Single- use throwaway items like jars and boxes can be turned into adorable, long- lasting storage items when covered with crochet cozies. Not only are you no longer constantly buying things to make your space look new, but you’re actually able to use items that you were previously throwing away.

Slow Yarn & Mindful Crafting

Crocheting clothing, accessorie­s and home decor items is in itself an antidote to the woes of fast fashion and design. But you can take things a step further by being conscious of the items that you purchase for your crafting. Just like you can choose “slow food” and “slow fashion,” you can also choose “slow yarn.” Slow yarn means making ethical, eco- conscious choices in materials and practices. This may include growing, spinning and dyeing your own fiber or purchasing it from a local and/or fair trade maker who does. As with fast fashion, you pay a little bit more money, but the cost to the world around you is much lower.

When purchasing yarn from others, some of the things that you might consider include:

• Was the yarn spun and dyed using eco- friendly practices? Is this yarn organic? If it’s an animal fiber, how was the animal treated? • How is the treatment of the people involved in the making of the fiber? What transporta­tion was required to get the yarn to you? • How long is this fiber intended to last?

Slow yarn isn’t just about the materials, though; it’s about a way of thinking. Compare the practice of crocheting your own shirt to popping into a store and buying one for $10. Your mind is in a completely different place when crafting your own items, a place that is more mindful. The same is true if you slow things down even further by first spinning and dyeing the yarn you use before you even get to crocheting with it. All of this allows you time for contemplat­ive crafting, which means that you are able to slow down and really live in alignment with your personal principles. It’s likely that, you are already a big step of the way there since you crochet. Consider how it might help the world if you take another big step in the direction of sustainabl­e fashion and home design.

This article is written by Kathryn Vercillo, the author of Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet. Her articles have been published in Interweave Crochet, Happily Hooked, Knit Edge, Inspired Crochet and Crochet Savvy. She blogs at www.crochetcon­cupiscence.com.

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