April 15, 2020

Where to find sustainable crafting materials

Maybe a lot of you, who are super into sustainable living, zero waste and minimalism, textile crafts would not be something that you are likely to take up. You need a lot of tools, supplies and materials, most of which seem hard to source ethically or sustainably. Maybe you don't have a lot of space to keep those things either, and are worried to fall into the yarn hoarding trap. That's why I've compiled a little guide for you, going through all the available options for getting into handcrafting with textiles sustainably.

1. Use what you have at home or what you can find outside

Usually there is a very basic version of most textile crafts available, that can be done with basic kitchen tools. For example, chopsticks make decent knitting needles (especially when sharpened with a pencil sharpener or knife), a piece of cardboard or shoebox can be transformed into a weaving loom and so on. The best source for these craft hacks is pinterest and a little search around will bring up tons of ideas on how to transform what you already have or some packaging materials into crafting tools. I've also compiled a board for you with some of my favorite craft hacks here.

It might also be worth to take a little walk in nature to find some crafting supplies. Fallen branches can be carved into knitting needles or crocheting hooks or even used as a weaving loom, if you have a nice splitting branch (more on this on the Pinterest board..). If you go to your local recycling stations, they sometimes have a little place where they keep items that are dropped off by people and too good to be thrown away and that can be just picked up for free (at least in the German countryside that's a thing). One last option is of course dumpster diving and generally picking up trash or items that are left on the street - just be careful, don't break any laws and thoroughly clean whatever you find on your scavenger hunts.

Now for yarn, there is a few options too. You can check out my last blog post, to see how to transform old knitwear, like sweaters, scarfs and hats back into yarn. Another option is to make jersey yarn from some old t-shirts. This a great material to make crochet baskets or weave rag rugs. If you want to get into sewing, start with mending or transforming some old clothes in your wardrobe or use some old bedsheets if you need a large piece of fabric. If you run out of old clothes to recycle, ask your friends, family or neighbours to give you some of theirs.

2. Secondhand stores and flea markets

One of the best places to find craft supplies and materials here in Helsinki is the local recycling centers (Kierrätyskeskus). They have an amazing section dedicated to used crafting materials, but you can also find picture frames or furniture pieces to make frame looms with and of course secondhand clothes to unravel, transform or upcycle. Secondhand shops and recycling centers exist in many places in bigger cities and are worth a try. Some may only have clothes (which is still a source of material), but others might have a larger selection of all kinds of things. Go on a little treasure hunt and see what you can find.

One of the best things about spring and summer for me are all those amazing outdoor flea markets. Some places may have more or less of them, but it is worth to check your cities directory or facebook events to see when there might be some coming up near you. People sell all kinds of strange and wonderful things at flea markets and with some luck, there are some crafting materials in between all the weird stuff.

3. Online buying and selling platforms

Many countries have their own online buying and selling platforms, like Craigslist, Ebay or here in Finland for example Tori. Some of these platforms also come as apps and are usually easy to browse. There is plenty of them out there, some more or less local. A quick search will most likely lead you straight to the ones that apply to your area.

You might be surprised on how many people actually sell their unused yarn stash, extra knitting needles or even fully fledged weaving looms there. Facebook marketplace is another great option and so are local (even down to the city district) buying and selling facebook groups. All these platforms usually offer a little bit different supplies than the recycling centers or secondhand stores, as people usually only try to sell more valuable or higher quality items instead of just donating them.

4. Clothing or craft material swaps

Another option to get used craft materials are local swaps. Some environmental or cultural organizations in your area might hold some swap events. How it works is usually, that you bring some of your own clothes or craft materials, add them to the table and in return take some of what is offered at the swap home. This is a great way to switch up some of the materials or supplies you have in your stash and never use for something else from another persons stash, that they never use. I usually find these swaps by browsing my local facebook events. Once you discover one of them, make sure to follow the organizers, to get a notification whenever the next swap is coming up. (In Helsinki, my favorite swap event is this one)

5. Buying from small and sustainable businesses

If you want to invest in some quality crafting tools or some amazing, small batch hand-dyed yarn, there are plenty of awesome small businesses offering these things. A good all-in-one platform to find them is Etsy, but a lot of them might also have their own online or brick and mortar shops. Verena from My green closet has compiled a long list with some options for businesses selling sustainable fabrics and yarns here, that is a great way to get started with your search. Check it out here.

There are also some companies selling deadstock fabrics (for example fabscrap in New York) or other textile industry waste materials. These are usually a bit harder to find, as they are few and they are usually very bound to their location. A little bit of digging around might uncover something in your area though. Another option might be to contact local textiles manufacturers, small independent fashion labels, fashion programmes or sewing schools directly and ask them, if you can get some of their waste materials or purchase them for a small price. They might say no, but it is always worth asking!

What next?

Now that you have all your materials sorted, you might want to get into learning some skills, finding patterns or simply experimenting with things. I'm planning to release a series of DIY guides, more focused on techniques in the future (if I have done so already, check out my other blog posts for that!), but until then, there is plenty of resources on Pinterest, Youtube and different learning platforms available. I will leave you with some of my favorite online resources:

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