Designing a Sustainable Fabric Collection
This month sees the launch of my Crafty Pinup fabric collection. In this blog post I'll be sharing with you in more detail what actually makes Crafty Pinup fabric sustainable and ethical. Because it's all well and good saying it, but it means nothing without substance.
I don't want to write a post about fabric sustainability or the industry as a whole/in general, I'm only sharing my own point of view to talk about my range specifically and the information I have gathered from my supplier.
When I initially decided to design my own fabric to sell, it was SO overwhelming and it quickly became clear that drawing the actual designs was the easiest part...
The cost of printing fabric varies wildly internationally. I spent weeks sourcing suppliers, contacting factories and trying to think of the actual logistics to having my fabric designs brought to life (with absolutely no experience of knowledge of the industry...). All of this is very long & boring and I don't want to ramble on too much here. But in short, and after a good couple of months of back and forth and pulling out my hair over it, I kept coming back to a particular UK printing company.
Having your own fabric produced is incredibly expensive and as just a one woman operation with no savings to invest or any financial backing, I almost gave up a few times on this journey because it started to feel a little ridiculous for me to attempt.
On one hand, sourcing production to China or India or perhaps in Europe would have provided me with wider margins and a lower price point, and yes I could have gone with a drop shipping style option (but that wasn't something I wanted), but for some reason I just couldn't let this UK supplier go.
The further down the rabbit hole I got and after some very informative discussions with my friends in the sewing community, it became clear that having my fabric made in the UK was the only option I was going to feel comfortable with. So that's what I've done!
Who makes Crafty Pinup fabric?
Crafty Pinup fabric is printed in Worcestershire, by one of the UK's leading digital textile printers for individual designers & retailers like myself. They're a family owned business, with 30 years experience in the industry. Above all other suppliers I came across, they had an in-depth ethos on sustainability and a breakdown of their role and impact on the environment which was really important to me.
Photos from The Silk Bureau Limited ©
What is the fabric made from?
Currently, Crafty Pinup fabric is printed on 'viscose poplin', which is manufactured from renewable plant wood pulp.
What is the impact of digital fabric printing & how is it sustainable?
Of course there is no perfect fabric supplier or factory. But I believe my supplier has made a conscious effort to keep their impact on the environment as low as possible .
The following is taken from my supplier's website.
- There are no screens or plates to produce (as for screen print or rotary printing) and so needs less setup equipment.
- Printing direct to fabric means less wasted surplus ink (unlike dyeing) through precise applicaton of the artwork.
- The inks we do use are certificated as Azo dye free.
- Using the best quality inks through the print heads stops clogging and waste.
- Many of our fabrics also have a OEKO-TEX certification or are to European REACH standards.
- There is less use of chemicals and water than traditional methods. Use of water is unavoidable however, by investing in high tech equipment we have reduced our water consumption to the minimum required to achieve production. The disposal of waste water is treated through approved channels and vetted by the local authority as effluent friendly.
- Our machinery is designed to last. We are diligent with our maintenance programs and our staff are highly trained in their operation. Taking care of the machinery prolongs its lifespan.
- There are unavoidable fabric off-cuts caused by rolling on and off the printer beds, testing print heads, etc. Mindful not to clog our landfill sites and to protect copyright, we send all wasted fabric for recycling. Our waste fabrics are collected by a recycling specialist who shreds them and uses the resulting fibre as bioenergy, incinerating it to create heat sources and electricity. Plain fabric offcuts may also be donated to education and charity facilities.
Is it made in an ethical workplace?
The fabric is printed in a state of the art production environment by a dedicated team and by visiting the weaving mills, my supplier has been able to see the ethical working conditions first hand that the employees enjoy.
"The positive environments we were introduced to clearly demonstrated sound working conditions, reflected in the desire to produce the best quality fabrics by the work force we met."
As my fabric is only printed a couple of hours away from me, I hope to be able to visit the factory myself in the future.
If you have any questions I haven't answered here, feel free to contact me.
Having fabric produced in the UK, in an ethical and sustainable manner, does all come at a cost. Whilst my fabric collection is definitely not the vast range and low price point I initially wanted. The way I've produced my collection makes me feel truly proud and like I am adding something of real value to the sewing community.
Learning about the process of producing fabric has opened my eyes to how sustainable sewing is and can be. In the past, knowing how my fabric was made didn't even cross my mind, but now I'm increasingly concerned with my impact on the planet and knowing where my supplies are coming from (also including the types of brands I want to support and if they reflect my own values).
So whilst I know my fabric collection is small and pricey, it is a true reflection of the cost of producing something sustainable and I hope if you're able to you'll support it. I can guarantee you'll feel fabulous wearing my designs!
If you want to know more about sustainability in sewing check out the following resources:
- Sustainable Sewing by Selkie Patterns
- Sustainability In the Slow Fashion and Home Sewing Industry via Seamwork
- Does Sustainable Sewing Lead to Ethical Fashion? via Wendy Ward
Thanks for reading!