Thursday, 27 June 2019

Sustainable Sewing: Zero-Waste Product Swaps

For the last six months or so I've been seeking out swaps I can make around the home, switching our usual products for non-disposable versions. There are, of course, heaps of fancy-looking, eco-products now available in ethical shops and online to help with this. But I've been relieved to find that a basic level of sewing ability and the reinterpretation of textiles we already own has saved me a stack, even if my versions aren't so pretty! I know that a lot of people are trying to make similar changes, so in the hope of providing inspiration, here's what I've been making:

1) Dish scrubbers. There was a surprisingly involved discussion in the comments section of my IG post about possible alternatives for what to use to when washing up. I bought a couple of VERY cute, fruit-themed, crocheted pads from Etsy, however they disintegrated pretty rapidly when they were put to the task of actually washing up multiple times a day. I finally landed on making these towelling circles for washing up, instead of the disposable, synthetic, sponge scrubbers we were using. I cut up an old, 100% cotton towel that was already pretty abbrasive, and overlocked/serged two layers together. You could even stuff them with scraps if you wanted to make them bulkier and possibly easier to grip. I made three so that I could chuck them in the wash regularly, and after six months of intense use, I can report that they are only just starting to develop a couple of holes. I don't think this is bad going, considering we don't have a dish washer and therefore do A LOT of washing up. And because these are 100% cotton, I feel much happier about eventually chucking them in the textile recycling bank (which may actually mean landfill because sadly who knows where it all actually goes).

2) Surface wiping cloths. Instead of using the same synthetic sponge scrubbers that we used to use to wash up with, or those foam-y sponge cloths that eventually disintegrate, I cut up yet more of that sacrificial towel (which we got via Freecycle about 10 years ago) and simply overlocked around the edges. Pat actually prefers these to wash up with as well; I think I made the circle ones a bit small for him. Anyways, these have been great.

3) Hands/face cloths. A former baby towel that got too ratty for bath-time got cut up into squares and the edges overlocked. We use them dampened for dealing with sticky toddler hands and faces after meals times. I'm not proud to admit that we used to keep a pack of disposable wet wipes/baby wipes on the dining table for this purpose. Marilla Walker recently shared on IG that she'd made some far more attractive ones of these using scraps of vintage towelling, but whatever works!

4) Nappy changing wipes. When we emerged from the 'milky and puke-y' stage of babyhood, we were left with a mountain of muslin cloths. I've still got some on hand for mopping up spills and covering the table when it's painting time, however, I've given a couple of the softest muslins the old cut-into-squares-and-overlock-around-the-edges treatment. I've been using these to further reduce the amount of disposable wet wipes/baby wipes we get through by dampening one before a nappy change to use if it's just a wee-based situation. I then chuck the used wipe directly into the washing machine to be washed in the next round of laundry. I still use regular wet wipes for dealing with pooey nappy changes, but these muslin squares alternative have meant we are buying the disposable kind far less frequently. I'm kicking myself for not doing this when my daughter was a baby/toddler too; I shudder to think how many of those things, plus the plastic packets, we've sent to landfill.

5) Handkerchiefs. I wrote about my foray into making fabric hankies to use instead of paper tissues here, but they have since been embraced by the whole family, so we needed MORE. This batch are bigger, 'man-sized' hankies (45cm x 45cm before hemming) made from a soft, old, bed sheet. I've discovered that when choosing suitable fabric for making them, softness really is the most important factor. Even though we have this new stack in addition to the previous ones, we still don't have enough if one of us has a cold or a bout of hay fever, so more are on the way. Plus Dolores has lost most of hers at school. 

6) Menstrual pads/Panty liners. Last year I made a batch of menstrual pads/panty liners, and I'm pleased to report that they are still going strong. I have not bought any panty liners since making these, which is a total win.

7) Wash mitt. I made a basic wash mitt for myself from yet more of the sacrificial towel. I zigzagged two layers of towelling together that I'd cut into the shape of a mitt. I used some leftover bias binding to finish the edge of the hole where your hand goes in, and some grosgrain to make a hanging loop, although I never actually hang it up. Picture an oven mitt made from an old towel. It didn't warrant a photo, but it does gets used everyday.

8) Cotton pads. I don't use cotton wool pads very often because I prefer to remove my make up with a foaming face wash, rather than specific make up remover. However, when my current stash of cotton wool pads runs out, I plan to make some like these from the Helen's Closet blog for taking off nail varnish.

So what about you? Are there any product swaps you've made that have been made easier and/or cheaper because you have a sewing machine and stash of textiles? Have you made any alternatives to products not listed above? I'm always looking for new ideas!


Liz said...

Oooo love it! I'm going to steal the towel/dish scrubber idea. I knitted a few scrubbers from garden twine (the 100% jute kind, not the synthetic mix) just doing a basic square of all-knit stitches. These work really well for tough scrubbing, even on the non-stick pans, but I have struggled to replicate a sponge texture. Attempts at sewing some jersey scraps to the back of the jute square to pad them out worked, but they take FOREVER to dry out, so I might add towelling instead.

Would highly recommend the knitted twine squares as a biodegradable swap, but be warned that they are quite rough while you are knitting them, I had to keep stopping to give my fingers a break. Using them is no problem though.

Lisa said...

What great ideas! I use a lot of washcloths when my grandkids are around! Might try some of these to see if it will work for us!

Outrageous wonderful said...

Awesome thank you Zoe and thank you Liz going to find some twine right now. Those sponge thingys bug me every time we get them. I've been eggsperimenting with crushed egg shells. They work great and as my husband has an egg for breakfast are always available but they are messy.

Liz Haywood said...

May I contribute an idea? Flannelette makes excellent winter hankys, superbly absorbent and soft.

BLD in MT said...

This is cool! We already do hankies and cloth napkins, but our rags are just cut up t-shirts and a serged towel would be such an upgrade. I knit our dish cloths, but don't find them as scrubby as I'd like with just plain cotton yarn. I'll have to try the towel there, too.

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