Oliver + S

Ethical concerns

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    Profile photo of dubhels2003dubhels2003 @dubhels2003

    I am really interested in what others think about trying to sew things more ethically. I think there has been reference to this in a number of other posts, and on the blog. (If I am duplicating a post please merge it/bump the old thread!)

    If we are sewing ourselves we are doing away with part of the manufacturing process. What about fabric choices and sourcing? Have you found places which state where the fabric was manufactured? Are some fabrics inherently better to use due to where and how they are grown, pesticides etc?

    I was after some denim the other day and as my two kidlets are young, I could find an old pair of battered jeans in a charity shop to cut up. However that wont be an option for much longer.

    As some liberty print is still printed in the UK (*I think) I feel better about buying it as I know that at least the people doing the printing (possibly not the weaving?) will have been paid minimum wage and will be entitled to be unionised etc.

    What do you think about when you are making fabric choices, and do you have any good stores or online sites/other resources to recommend?

    Helena

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    Profile photo of SarviSarvi @Sarvi

    There was a really interesting series on my local radio station about this recently, they took a t-shirt and traced it as far back as they could, all the way to the cotton production, I think? Let me see if I can dig up a link for you. Very interesting topic!

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    Profile photo of Darcy StrubleDarcy Struble @darcyjane

    I think about this a lot, actually. I live in the US, I grew up in Charleston, SC, lived in Florence, SC during college, spent the first 5 1/2-ish years after college in Greenville, SC (which used to be a huge textile area but has since died out. I did have some friends living there who were still in the textile industry) and we just moved to western North Carolina. Anyway, the point of this is that towards the end of living in South Carolina, all of the quilting shops started carrying a locally made fabric. Everything was done locally, from growing the cotton, to weaving the fabric to dying. I bought that as often as I could but it was only in solid colors and only in quilting cotton variety so that limited what projects I could use it for.

    Anyway, the best answer that I’ve come up with is that I do the best I can. I try to make sure that I’m making ethical fabric choices but the industry isn’t perfect so I can’t be. However, I think by first choosing the most local, most ethical fabric (as far as making sure that workers are getting paid properly), we are voting with our money. And those kinds of votes are the ones that the manufacturers will hear, in my option.

    I think about this much more when I am purchasing ready to wear clothing. I want to make sure that I’m giving my money to someone who is paying their employees correctly. I get really concerned when I go to Belk and see an item marked down from $50 to $8 (this is a true story, I have seen this).

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    Profile photo of SarviSarvi @Sarvi
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    Profile photo of SarviSarvi @Sarvi

    Oh, and here’s something else — I have bought color cotton yardage from Raystitch, and I really loved it. The colors were very soft and beautiful, and the fabric felt lovely. Very high quality.

    http://alabamachanin.com/journal/2013/06/natural-cotton-colors-sally-fox/

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    Profile photo of Darcy StrubleDarcy Struble @darcyjane

    Sarvi, love this! I love NPR. I’m pretty sure this was the exact story that my husband listened to that caused him to start buying jeans from companies where they make them themselves (right here in North Carolina, actually). And he makes me make his t-shirts and button downs. I’m not complaining to much 😉

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    Profile photo of lucegirlsartlucegirlsart @lucegirlsart

    I have been wondering about this a lot too! I have seen a few solid quilting weight cottons that fit the bill, but not much else other than knits! I know a lot of the Girl Charlee knits are made in the US (LA I think), and I know most of the Birch fabrics are organic and made in India. I wish there were more options! Thanks for sharing the NPR link, I’m excited to listen!

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    Profile photo of lattemamalattemama @lattemama

    Did anyone catch the story on “Last Week Tonight” (HBO) that dealt with this?

    You can see it here on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdLf4fihP78 (some bad language involved). Very interesting and also entertaining.

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    Profile photo of sayiamyousayiamyou @maraya

    In one of my recent editions of Busiessweek magazine there was an article about US textile manufacturers (and one close to me in Gaffney, SC) working to secure all their raw materials from US growers again. I will try to find it and link for those interested.

    I worked for several years with (then US manufacturer) Springs Industries, and it was very sad to watch the company slowly dissolve its reliance on US goods, and eventually even nearly all its US manufacturing/distributing.

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    Profile photo of cybele727cybele727 @cybele727

    I find this really challenging. Not just because it is hard to find stuff that one might personally deem as ethical, but because what is ethical?

    Ethical as a labor practice means definitely European, US, or UK (former UK) manufacturing.

    But ethical in environmental practices? Is organic ethical? I’ve read somewhere that the water usage of organic can be significantly higher. If true, in a world with so much drought, is organic ethical?

    And what about pollution of the non organic or the dyes?

    I find it depressing and so much to think about, you know?

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    Profile photo of theknittinganxietytheknittinganxiety @theknittinganxiety

    I cannot do ethical choices at all, I don’t have any fabric store near me! Yes I live in the middle of nowhere! I buy all my fabrics in a street market that happens once a month and I don’t even know where the fabrics came from so is impossible to know how they are manufactured.
    What happened in Portugal is that until a few years ago everybody thought that they can buy everything done and with the arrival of big stores and shopping centers the small business that actually sold fabric died (as all other small business), at least in the small places as my town.
    Now with the crises I think that people are starting to DIY again, so I’m hopping for better days.

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    Profile photo of dubhels2003dubhels2003 @dubhels2003

    I’m looking forward to checking out the links when I get home and I have one or two to post. I also struggle with the ‘what is ethical’ question, thinking about it is overwhelming. I am keen to consume less and make my choices more wisely. I suppose I think I think I have purchasing choices, so I can do a little something with them. It may not start a revolution, but I feel I want to start somewhere.

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    Profile photo of juliamom2009juliamom2009 @juliamom2009

    I agree as to the vote with your dollar. It pains me to shop for clothes – my kid likes to wear super simple little tanks – they sell them at Target for $5. I really hate to buy them, but I do. Those tanks, and underwear and socks are pretty much the only “new” items I personally buy her. I’m trying to buy her shoes made in the US or Europe at very least.

    I like it when I hear things I like about retailers – for my job, I inspect companies for safety violations. I recently went to this farm type operation where they grow houseplants. Their largest client is Ikea. The owner of the company was so happy for my help and insight as he told me that Ikea literally sends representatives from Sweden to his facility to inspect his premises, interview his workers about the working conditions, and ensure that he complies with all safety regulation regarding pesticides, water run-off, etc. So, I really feel like I can support Ikea – for at least trying. I’m sure this is WAY more than WalMart, etc. do.

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    Profile photo of NicoleNicole @motherof5

    I have teenage girls that earn their own money, it is so hard to encourage them to shop ethically.

    The really annoying thing is, the cheap and cheerful clothing they buy is shocking quality and I have to wash it separately and carefully press it back into shape.

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    Profile photo of brenda1652brenda1652 @brenda1652

    My concern relates to the use of pesticides in the farming of cotton, which equates to 5 lbs. of pesticides per tee shirt. That is a lot of toxic stuff we are pouring into our Mother Earth and then passing it on to our children. But the other issue, and certainly not the least, is the health of the farmer and his family. It is easy to understand the impact of being doused daily with toxic chemicals, having little precious water to even wash it off, then of course having it end up in the vegetable gardens and in the homes. I watched a show on this and it showed the positive aspects of growing organic ag products on the health and welfare of the poorest of farmers and families in India. But, as we know, organic fabrics are more expensive than the non organic varieties and therein lies my personal challenge. I hunt down sales and specials and buy primarily organic fabrics. I do buy less fabric and do not waste it, so projects are carefully thought out and executed. I also buy more wool yardage than before, a luscious fabric that for some reason intimidated me for no good reason, and yet another good choice for pesticide free fiber.(and much thanks to Nicole, our very own fiber producer!)

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