Monday 6 March 2017

Buying organic fabric in the UK

At the start of January 2016 my New Year's Resolution was to change my fabric buying habits, with a view to 'greening' my stash.  I wanted to focus on organic/fair trade fabrics as much as possible.  Fourteen months later I'm still shopping this way, but it's not always easy.  The positives about it for me are:

  • my hobby is now much better aligned with my habits in the rest of my life
  • I buy less and the more I stick to my principles, the easier it gets
  • I spend less time aimlessly browsing fabric stores online.  No point looking if you are not going to buy.
  • There has definitely been an impact on my quilt-making.  I have turned to recycled shirts as a way of adding the texture and variation I miss in the organic ranges and am learning to mix reclaimed fabrics in with quilting cottons from stash.  Turns out I love this way of working.
The biggest down sides are the obvious ones:
  • Much less choice, especially if you are not looking for feature prints.  
  • Some things are harder to go without than others. For me, it's Grunge, Carolyn Friedlander, Janet Clare,  that I miss the most. (I should say that I'm not rigid and do occasionally buy something non-organic, but I am finding myself less inclined to do that as time goes on).
I know that for quilters in the US there is a good selection of organic fabrics available, but often I see something lovely, try to track it down and sadly come to the conclusion that it isn't available over here.  The solution used to be saving up the pennies and ordering from American stores, but  the current exchange rate has scuppered that .  So I have been gathering together a list of all the places I can find organic fabric in the UK.  Most have relatively small ranges, but there is plenty out there if you know where to look, and I have also learned to check everywhere before I buy as prices can fluctuate quite significantly - some are a bit steep but there are also bargains to be had.  

Anyway, here's my current list.  If you are in the UK and minded to try a bit of ethical shopping, do go and check them out, especially some of the smaller sites.  

Quilting shops

Shops specialising in organic fabrics (they are not specifically aimed at quilters, but there are fabrics suitable for quilting.)

In addition to the larger ranges, like Cloud9 and Birch Organics, its worth looking for Daisy Janie, Monaluna, Saffron Craig, and small organic ranges by  Amy Butler and Robert Kaufman.

I am not claiming this is an exhaustive list, just that it's what I've found so far.  If  you know of  any other shops, please chip in with a comment and I will update the list.


Libby in TN said...

Very interesting, Kaja. My admiration for you grows!

Lisa J. said...

One of the things that has always concerned me about my quilting habit is that in many ways it doesn't align with the rest of my values. We tend not to be too consumerist...but I certainly am a big consumer when it comes to fabric and notions etc. Our Canadian dollar is in pretty bad shape right now so paying the extra for organic is also a bit difficult here as well. I'll try to draw inspiration from you here and maybe try to work some upcycling into my work in future and see where it all any rate I have a very large stash from all the consumerism I have indulged in, in the past so apart from backgrounds there is not a lot I need to buy.

patty a. said...

Yes, here is the states we are lucky to have so many choices when it comes to fabric. I haven't bought many organics because they are expensive even here - usually around $15.00 a yard. I have been trying to cut back on the amount of fabric I buy and just work with what I have. I will buy if I need something specific like that Essex navy for the t-shirt quilt I just finished. I have found that I am more creative when I work with less fabric and I want to eventually do more upcycling using used shirts from the Goodwill.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great post. It's just full of thought provoking info.

I'm working to use up every single bit of everything I have...even if it means using colors that just wouldn't be my first choice. I'm finding that colors that I didn't think I liked are happily finding their way into my projects.

I tried going to thrift stores here and I was very disappointed. The cost of living here is so high that even well-used thrift shop shirts are ridiculously expensive. The Salvation Army and Goodwill stores here wanted $15.00 USD per very used shirts and $25.00 USD for worn out sheets. Not much cheaper than our discount stores.

When I've used all of my stash items, I may start watching yard sales.

Take care and I hope you're having a great week.


Mary Marcotte said...

I have such an extensive stash, mostly because I inherited all of the fabric that my mom (and grandmother) had. Also I've been very thoughtful when buying fabric because we've always lived on a tight budget. Finally I made some smart decisions and purchased unused, pre-owned fabric when a seamstress closed her business, at estate sales, and when a local store closed.

I agree that it's a matter of being mindful and looking for other options. However, I'll admit, my heart skips a beat when I walk into a new quilt shop. It's quite rare for me, so when it happens I generally become overwhelmed by the prices (yes, even here in the US) and talk myself out of big purchases. My husband never argues about that. haha

Stephie said...

And The Eternal Maker have a few in their sale at the moment... I don't really buy any fabric unless it's for a specific project. I have scraps. and donations of scraps and old clothing, that are in my meagre stash and get used in most things I make. It can make life interesting when you really want/need a specific colour or style and you don't have it to hand! Thanks for the list Kaja, next time I buy for a specific project I know where to look :) x

Unknown said...

Hi Kaja! Thank you so much for including Offset Warehouse on your list. It's fantastic to see so many sewers starting to talk about organic and ethically sourced fabrics. I started Offset Warehouse because I couldn't get hold of small quantities of fabrics for sewing, that I could be sure hadn't harmed the person who had made it, or negatively impacted the environment. Thank you for spreading the word! Best wishes, Charlie.