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Sustainable Craft Month - and why it matters

Updated: Mar 23

An environmental footprint comes in many forms: what we drive, our devices, electricity consumption, even what we eat. As crafters, we aren’t always perfect either, often buying new when we can make so many wonderful things from what we already have.

There is a growing sustainable craft movement - some of you, I'm sure are already part of it - and there are many makers out there creating work that is both sustainable and beautiful. In this post, I will explain my own journey in this area, and how I believe, as a global collective of makers we can certainly make a difference.

My craft and sustainability story

I’ve always been conscious of not wasting things. I buy what I need, and grow what I can. The adage ‘waste not, want not' was part of my childhood. This started to spill over into my work as a young adult when I began to sew my own clothes. I’d mend jeans before I’d buy new, but that’s also what we did back in those days.

These days, one of my favourite things to do is hit the local thrift stores and look out for quality materials - usually linen or cotton shirts - and turn them into quilt cushions or summer clothing (see pics below of a cushion I recently made, and me looking all fancy in a man's shirt I upcycled into a top).

It was many years ago, after I watched a particular episode of, the ABC's, War on Waste that I became a lot more conscious of wastage in my craft practice. The episode was specifically on textile waste, and in it, they reported that in Australia alone, we create 6000 kg of textile waste every ten minutes.

I remember the host, Craig Reucassel showing a huge mound of clothing being piled up in central Burke St Melbourne (a busy inner-city pedestrian thoroughfare, for those not familiar with it) and asking people how long they thought a pile of waste that size would take to create. Those who passed by looked as shocked as I was at the answer.

Now, fast fashion and today’s incessant consumer culture do have a lot to blame for here - but after picking my jaw up off the floor, I got thinking about how we can all do our bit to make our craft practice more sustainable too.

This is a coloured DIY textile basket made from different fabrics
A great example of a textile basket by Miranda Brett. Look at all those colours and fabrics!

At the time I had already been teaching students how to make textile baskets from recycled fabrics. I enjoyed it but it certainly wasn’t my sole focus. Suddenly, though, my thinking had shifted. I threw myself into sharing my basketry skills. My shtick I guess you'd call it.

On this journey, I sort new alternatives to buying new. I found that baling twine, for instance, could be easily reused in the centre of the core of a coiled basket.

As an avid sewer, slow stitching became a love affair of mine around the same time. It’s a craft that beautifully complimented my focus on sustainability. In my pieces, I only used recycled clothing, textile leftovers, and used homeware fabrics – if anything, that’s what made each piece so special.

After I started teaching people to make textile baskets and to slow stitch, I realised that crafters almost always have a huge fabric stash. It's just what we do. I'd bet that almost every crafter on earth has bundles of precious textile pieces they’ve collected, some from mums and grandmas, others from thrift shops, some just saved over the years of collecting - all unique in their own way.

A project made from materials you have at hand has something so magical about it. As does the process of making those things into something new with just your hands, movement, and some creative YOU time.

This is a pic of a range of slow stitching projects
Slow Stitching uses up spare fabrics, upcycling them into beautiful projects you can gift or keep.


Sustainable Craft Month - meet our featured artists!

Many years ago, when I began researching sustainable craft I was surprised how little there was on this topic. There were the odd craft projects you could download: how to turn a plastic cup into a creature or a paper plate into a funny monster mask, but there was nothing that showed how sustainability could be bought into a craft practice in a more meaningful, and ongoing way.

We have featured so many incredible artists on this blog, for example: Jess Lietmanins who works with discarded ocean rope to create the most incredible, though provoking works of fibre-art. Lately, I've been thinking how this movement and the amazing makers within it needs to be showcased more - and celebrated in a way that inspires others to change their crafting habits. That’s why we think having a Sustainable Craft Month here at Craft School Oz, really matters.

For the whole of March, we want to showcase people we know are making headway in the area of sustainable craft, across a wide spectrum of makers too. These makers are a real cut above, brilliant in fact. I didn’t just want to show them to you, I absolutely had to!

The first maker we speak to for Sustainable Craft Month is Jane Milburn from Textile Beat whom I met at one of my textile baskets workshops in Brisbane. She has been a strong advocate for sustainable fashion for years now, and this year she was awarded an Order of Australia (OAM) for Fashion Sustainability.

We will be having several other guests blogger join us too. All incredible, and selflessly willing to share their stories with us. We don’t want to give too much away just yet, so keep your eyes peeled.

The sustainable craft challenge!

This challenge is pretty easy, and likely loads of fun for all you crafters out there! Simply, it's about looking at what you have in your stash, and seeing what you can make with it. For the month of March, tell yourself that you can't buy anything new for a craft project.

We look forward to seeing your creations no matter your medium. Please share what you’re working on and let us know if you have any ideas that we can talk about, explore and share with the Craft School Oz Community.

Interested in sustainable craft courses such as Textile Basket Making, Slow Stitching or Baskets from the Garden - Head to
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