I’ve been wanting to compile sources for socially conscious fabric and yarn for a long time but keep procrastinating. Why? Because I don’t feel like I know enough and I don’t feel I’ve researched it enough. But at this point, I think a lot of us are just muddling through it, doing our best. Ideally, all my fabric and yarn would be organic/recycled, dyed with low impact dyes, fair trade, and local (to reduce the impact of travel), right? Did I miss anything? Oh, beautiful too. Realistically though, I’m unlikely to find it all. And an imperfect, incomplete guide is better than none at all, right?
I was going to post about clothes shopping as well but there already is a good source over at the Overdressed website. My only issue with that guide is that it is very US centric. I live near New York City. Clothing made in Montreal is more local to me than clothing made in LA. Still, it’s a good starting point.
Let’s start with fabric. Keep in mind that I haven’t tried all of these sources personally. I’ve only just started paying more attention to my shopping choices and part of that is also not buying more than I “need”.
Sustainable Fabric Shopping
This usually means organic cotton but there are others. Like hemp. I need to try hemp out. I suspect it behaves much like linen but I won’t know for sure until I’ve tried. Also keep an eye out for recycled polyester and organic wool. Tencel or lyocell can be a good choice too. It’s the same thing as rayon but the chemicals used are recycled which makes the process relatively eco-friendly.
Cloud 9 Fabrics : certified organic cotton, low impact dyes, not certified fair trade but socially conscious. They have voile, flannel, canvas, broadcloth, sheeting and quilter’s weight cotton. I’ve used their Geocentric canvas on a jacket for me and the quality has been great. I’ll check back in when I’ve had it longer. I also have some of their Palos Verdes voile to make myself a dress and some extra for something for the souricettes. It’s beautiful. See website for list of retailers.
Birch Organic Fabric : certified organic cotton, low impact dyes. They have canvas, flannel, interlock knits, fleece, quilting weight cotton, and voile. I haven’t sewn with their fabrics yet but I have some interlock ready to go for a dress for souricette 1. At first blush, I’m liking the quality. See website for list of retailers.
Monaluna: GOTS-certified organic cotton. I haven’t tried them yet but the prints are lovely. I think it’s all quilting weight cotton and knits. See website for list of retailers.
Organic Cotton Plus: Fully GOTS-certified. They grow their own organic cotton, spin the yarn, make the fabric (in the US and overseas). I haven’t tried them yet but I regularly drool over their website. Lots of selection there: muslin, twill, sateen and percale, flannel, canvas and duck, voile, terry, poplin… And that’s just the cotton wovens! They also have a variety of cotton knits: fleece, french terry, interlock, thermal, jersey, rib… And hemp too! Their store also carries, batting, stuffing, buttons, dyes, beautiful organic cotton lace, organic cotton embroidery floss, organic cotton thread, and brass zippers attached to organic cotton. Order straight from the website. Will ship internationally.
Near Sea Naturals: fabrics made in the US from organic fibers grown in the US. They also carry imported silk and hemp fabrics. Some of their blends include recycled polyester or spandex. They carry a variety of knits and wovens as well as notions. I haven’t tried them and they aren’t taking orders right now. You can get on the mailing list to find out when they start shipping again.
Edited (May 8): It seems that Near Sea Naturals has joined forces with Organic Cotton Plus.
Quite a few fabric manufacturers have an organic cotton selection on top of their regular cotton lines. These include Riley Blake, Robert Kauffman, Amy Butler, and Moda, just to name a few. If a fabric is organic, recycled or in any way sustainable, rest assured that manufacturers will make sure you know it. And online stores will usually make sure you know which is which too! With that being said, here are some stores with a good selection.
Fabricworm: I’ve ordered my Birch fabric from them. They ship internationally.
Honey Be Good: I haven’t ordered from them but they only carry sustainable fabric and notions. It’s nice to have somewhere to go where you don’t have to ask questions! They currently only ship to the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.
Fabric.com: A whole category devoted only to organic cotton. You do need to look at each individual fabric to see what certifications it may or may not have. They ship internationally and I’ve only ever had good experiences with them.
Alabama Chanin (added Feb 26): They carry organic cotton jersey. Great place for inspiration too! I love their esthetics.
Spoonflower: Create your own print! Or choose from the unbelievable variety on the site. They have two organic cotton options : interlock knit and sateen. I haven’t ordered from them yet but they do ship internationally. I’ve heard the darker prints can fade though and that washing items inside out helps a little.
Etsy: I have never bought fabric from etsy but there are a LOT of sellers there. Try searching for recycled polyester fabric, organic fabric… Any of the types of fabrics I listed. I’ve tried a few of them and found several options. The truly recycled rather than repurposed polyester that I found was mostly felt.
And finally, thrift stores. You can find some good to fabulous fabrics there. They may not be eco-friendly in and of themselves but the fact that you’re reusing someone else’s trash? Definitely good.
A note: I do realize that sustainable fabric is going to be more expensive and that’s just not doable for some people. My belief is that non sustainable fabric (and shopping in general) may seem less expensive at first but has a lot of hidden costs. I believe we will pay for all that non sustainable consumption. I believe we are already starting to pay for it, especially in poorer countries. But there isn’t much arguing to be done with a slim wallet. If sustainable fabric really isn’t a possibility right now, then maybe just thoughtful consumption might be? I’m sounding preachy. Sorry, I don’t mean to. And I honestly, truly, don’t judge. We all have to find our own way.
Feel free to comment if you have any sources I haven’t found! If there aren’t that many, I will edit this post. If there are a lot, I will add another post based on your suggestions.