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Sustainability Matters to us at Textiles West!

Textiles are a major contributor to pollution and waste worldwide. Some even say they are second behind the oil industry. 

This can seem like an overwhelming problem to tackle but each of us can do our part to reduce textile waste. 

  • March 23, 2020 6:31 PM | Olivia Naumann (Administrator)

    Greetings Textile West Community. I think we can all agree that the past few weeks have been rather frightening. In light of this COVID-19 crisis, I feel the need to take a more Art-Therapy related stance with this post and talk about the ways working with textiles can improve our mental health at a time like this. I have no doubt that plenty of us have been self-soothing with creative hobbies lately- I, personally, have been knitting up a small, apartment-sized storm. Therefore, this study I dug up to share with you might not be shocking in it’s findings. Please let this information serve as a reassuring reminder and validation.


    The article I am highlighting this week comes from the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association and is titled The Well-Being of Women Who Create With Textiles: Implications for Art Therapy. Quite a relevant title right? In this study, 821 women textile handcrafters were asked to report on the how often they engaged in making, their reasons for choosing fiber as a medium, and whether they used their crafting to combat difficult moods. The most popular techniques in this population were knitting or crocheting, weaving, and spinning, (Collier p.106). One of the four hypothesis being tested was the following; “Textile making for psychological reasons is an effective way to cope with difficult moods; that is, women who use textiles to change difficult moods will be significantly better adjusted than women who do not use textiles to cope,” (Collier p. 105). The results for this hypothesis were in our favor. Women who use textiles to cope were shown to be “more successful at changing their mood, feeling rejuvenated, and feeling engaged when involved in a textile coping activity as compared to the non-textile-copers, regardless of baseline levels of depression/anxiety, health QOL, or overall mastery,” (Collier p. 109).


    Nothing helps ground me the way textile-making does. As I mentioned above, I am primarily a knitter. Everything from the tactile sensation of the yarn to the repetitive rhythm of the needles to the stitches building and growing right before my eyes helps remind me to stay present. My hope is that we can all find what helps us stay present and cultivate calmness in the coming weeks. Keep creating, and stay safe out there!

    Feel free to comment if you would like a copy of the journal article. Another, less academic read can be found at the following link: https://www.davidwolfe.com/why-crafting-is-great-for-mental-health/


    References:

    Collier, A. (2011). The Well-Being of Women Who Create With Textiles: Implications for Art Therapy. Journal of the American Art Therapy Associationdoihttps://doi.org/10.1080/07421656.2011.597025 

    Photo 1, person doing handcrafts, by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

    Photo 2, by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

  • March 01, 2020 1:04 PM | Olivia Naumann (Administrator)

    In my last post, I briefly mentioned the shocking lack of practical textile skills possessed by my generation and the generations that have followed. We covered the ways this impacts the environment, but not the way this impacts individuals in their day to day lives. The truth is, I wasn’t quite clear on the benefits of textile skills beyond repairing clothing and enjoying myself as us right-brainers do . Of course there is an art therapy perspective, but that can get a little more abstract. Because of this, I was very relieved to find an article by Heidi Ambrose-Brown, who does a fabulous job of outlining why textile lessons in the 21st century are not only still relevant, but indispensable.


    This article, titled Sew What? - Why Textiles Lessons Need to be Brought Into the 21st Century, examines the UK textile industry alongside their National Curriculum in schools as of 2016. Her argument centers around the way the general population is taking the textile industry for granted including fast fashion, diminishing work forces and, most distressingly, schools cutting textile design curriculum and funding. To drive her point home, Ambrose-Brown meticulously lays out skills acquired through textile lessons as they apply to each area of study. I will include a direct quote below, as I found this to be incredibly valuable. 

    Maths

    • Drafting the pattern – measurement, scale, tolerances
    • Dyeing fabric – ratios

    English

    • Researching and applying information with regard to properties of fabrics
    • Understanding and writing patterns and instructions clearly

    Science

    • Knowing the structure of plant and animal cells to determine the properties of fibres
    • Understanding the principles of polymerisation to manufacture synthetic and regenerated fibres
    • Knowing the chemical reactions that take place when dyeing fibres and fabrics, in order to get the desired outcomes
    • Sublimation (digital printing) – applying the physical change of transition from a solid to a gas and back again
    • Testing properties of fabrics – for example, tensile strength

    History

    • Developments/inventions affecting fabrics and clothing as linked with social history

    Geography

    • Environmental impact on the manufacturing of textiles products and the social responsibilities of companies

    Technology

    • Use of CAD/CAM to create accurate designs and patterns, before employing these as prototypes or in batch production
    • Development and application of new smart/ technical fibres and fabrics
    • Inclusion of wearable electronics through the use of conductive thread and fabric

    Engineering

    • Development of technical fibres engineered for a specific end use
    • Drafting technically accurate pattern pieces that relate to a 3D outcome
    • Understanding how the key components of a sewing machine operate in relation to each other

    Art-making has long been stuck in it’s own category and somewhat undermined in that way. I greatly appreciate the recognition that Ambrose-Brown brings to the subject and applaud her for such an articulate rallying call. Textile artists, feel pride! To engage in this art process is to be skilled in much more than aesthetics. 


    References:

    teachwire.net/news/sew-what-why-textiles-lessons-need-to-be-brought-into-the-21st-century

    Photo 1, embroidery, Image by Anita Smith from Pixabay

    Photo 2, boy in classroom, Photo by Gabriel Rodrigues on Unsplash


  • February 21, 2020 2:41 PM | Olivia Naumann (Administrator)

    As a young adult, I am frequently embarrassed by the lack of practical skills which I feel I possess. Even more frequently, however, I am reminded that I am ahead of my peers in this regard. I know how to change a tire and the oil in my car. I can confidently assemble furniture, even from Ikea. I can write in cursive and still send “snail” mail. Most impressive of all, I know how to sew a button back on to a shirt or a pair of pants. For those of you reading, that may not seem the most impressive, or impressive at all, and I’d have to agree. Unfortunately, according to ATTN.com, a popular educational media platform, 70% of young people do not know how to sew on a button- a statistic which puts me on the endangered species list. We’re just talking about one little button! If the statistic is that high for a button, I immediately wondered, what about patching the knee of some jeans? What about darning a sock? How many articles of clothing are being thrown out because millennials lack the basic ability to repair something that was completely salvageable? Why aren’t more people concerned about this?


    But others are concerned about this. We, Textiles West, are not alone. And when I say “this”, I mean Post-Consumer Textile Waste, a term that was rather new to me. A fantastic resource I found is the Redress Design Award website under their LEARN tab. I will be attaching a link at the bottom of this post. Their LEARN platform has multiple articles about sustainability in the textile industry. My favorite one was called Sourcing Textile Waste. In this article, Redress defines Post-consumer textile waste as “waste generate and collected after the consumer has used and disposed of it.” They identify two different types. The first is Secondhand clothing waste, which includes clothing and accessories, or wearable textiles. The other is non-clothing waste such as home furnishings like sheets and curtains. According to Redress, millions of tons of textiles are discarded every year;

    “In Europe and America, it is estimated that 10 million tonnes of textiles are discarded every year. In China the total annual production of pre and post-consumer textile waste is estimated to be over 20 million tonnes. Not only does this textile waste pollute our environment and clog landfills around the world, but the precious resources that went into making these textiles are wasted,” (p. 3).


    To update that report, 16 million tons of textile waste was reported in 2014 by the Environmental Protection Agency. Again, I ask myself, how many tons could be saved if people simply knew how to repair or repurpose their textiles? In this time of extreme wildfires, melting icebergs, and Greta Thunberg, the maker communities can not be ignoring such harmful environmental consequences. Certainly not in the Pikes Peak Region! 


    This is where Textiles West comes in. Sustainability is a major value here, and I urge you to reference the Sustainability Matters page on our website. There you will find “18 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Textile Eco-Footprint” and cool ways to Up-cycle. Chances are though, if you’re on our website, you already possess basic textile skills. I bet you can even sew on a button! Therefore, my next post will be further addressing the textile skills that we should be reintroducing to our young people to combat textile waste. 

    Until then, I leave you with one last article to assist you in your clothing shopping. The Good Trade provides an extensive list of ethical clothing brands. Note: the first one is based in Colorado!

    Links:

    https://www.redressdesignaward.com/learn/designers

    https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/fair-trade-clothing


     About the Author

    Olivia is an enthusiastic new intern for Textiles West. She is currently located in Boulder County where she is finishing her undergraduate degree in Art Therapy at Naropa University. She can usually be found knitting an absurdly long scarf in a coffee shop or procrastinating her responsibilities in the ceramics studio. 


    References:

    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/582d0d16440243165eb756db/t/585a15a9bebafba69927c172/1482298805626/LEARN2014_Sourcing_ENG-07.pdf

    https://www.facebook.com/attn/videos/1079636055405186/




18 Simple Tips to Reduce your Textile Eco-footprint

  1. Wash your clothes only when you need to - this prevents wear and saves water!

  2. Only buy what you need - a simple cotton t-shirt takes seven full bathtubs of water to make.

  3. Choose natural, biodegradable, and organic products and fibers over synthetic materials.

  4. Get thrifty - you never know what you can find!

  5. Shop local!

  6. Aim for quality over quantity.

  7. Treat your items with love and care and they will last for longer!

  8. Only throw away what you need to throw away. Before throwing clothes away in the trash try donation bins, charity drives, clothing swaps.

  9. The 30 Wears test! Buy items that you know you will wear more than once and can style in many different ways over the statement piece that you may only wear once.

  10. Shop vintage! 

  11. Shop ethical and eco-friendly brands.

  12. Try renting clothes.

  13. Eco-dyeing and printing - use natural materials such as onion skins, avocado pits, and flowers to dye and print your own fabric and clothes!

  14. Learn how to sew! Making, mending, and reusing your old fabrics is a lot of fun and can save money and support the environment.

  15. Follow ethical blogs! They can give you lots of information about ethical and sustainable brands that have wonderful pieces of clothing.

  16. Swap clothes with friends and family! 

  17. Organize your wardrobe before buying more clothes - you may have cute pieces that you have forgotten about.

  18. Air dry your clothes - this saves energy and prevents wear and tear from machine drying.


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