I recently made a post about needles and how its time to ditch those old cross stitch needles, and in it I said about using new needles every project. This has played on my mind recently, and whilst I would still strongly suggest starting a new project with a new needle, it does create waste. And that’s what we’re talking about today; how to make cross stitch more eco-friendly.
Its been just over 6 months since I was approached at a fair and someone asked me what did I do with my clippings of threads. I answered, but it got me thinking, we talk about those little snipped bits often, but just how much other rubbish does cross stitch create, and how can we minimize that? So I went on a journey. Today, I can tell you that actually, you can do a lot more to help the environment that you currently are; but the fixes are easy. Let’s start simple.
ORTs: Thread ends
The biggest source of rubbish for cross stitch is a small snippet of thread, however, these threads multiply. Like, seriously; so many. I started my journey here, and the good news is that there are some clever ways to help you. The first; make an ORT jar. Ort is actually a really old term for ‘waste of any type’, however, more commonly known as Old Raggedy Threads, making a jar to store old snipped threads has two fantastic effects. The first is you realized just how much thread you’re wasting. It’s a lot more than you think, and a few economical ways to stitch will save meters of the stuff. Secondly, once you’re done, you can use it. Now, you can use them a whole load of ways, but in my mind, the best are fire starters. Threads burn really well, and if you place them inside an old loo roll (and you can add tumble dryer lint too) you can create fantastic fire starters, which not only work better than the ones from a store, but they aren’t covered in hellish chemicals.
Word of warning though, do this with cotton only threads, some brands such as CXC use plastics in their thread production.
Whilst we’re talking about threads, the next biggest thing we waste is the little wraps threads come in. Now, I know not all of these wraps are plastic, but the vast majority are, meaning the biggest concern we have is; is it recyclable? It took a VERY long time for me to find the answer, but the DMC wraps are made from Polypropylene. Not only is this a plastic that can be recycled and reused, but its one of the best as it can be reused for foodstuffs too, meaning that its the one plastic people like to recycle. Just make sure you put it out with your recycling waste!
I won’t bore you with the numbers here, however I worked out that the next biggest waste item in cross stitch; was hoops. Yeh, it shocked me too. Turns out however that kg for kg, the hoops are seriously wasteful. You can help this by buying wooden frames, which while not recyclable (they’re made with lots of glues), you can burn them, and they do biodegrade. The only problem is that the metal components don’t. So instead of throwing broken hoops, you could try using them as frames where they don’t need to be as strong, or even choosing to buy less in the first place (a wooden cross stitch frame is always a better choice).
Now we start talking about things that require a little more effort on our part. Canvas initially seems super recyclable, and it can always biodegrade, right? Wrong. In fact, most aida canvas has loads of starch. This effectively stops the biodegradation and means it can’t be burnt off. But you can fix this. Wash it. Yep, a simple wash will remove these starch fibers enough that you can throw it away without thinking too much about it. Your local refuse center will either bury it (where it will biodegrade) or burn it (which is now safe to do). Go you, eco-warrior!
How about something much harder? Plastic canvas, waste canvas, and ‘training’ canvas all come in two types; recyclable or not recyclable. If you get the right one, you’re in the clear, but picking the right one isn’t always that easy. For waste canvas, get the plastic-looking sheets, which are actually starch and are washed away into treatment plants (which can biodegrade it). For plastic cavas, look for the stuff which wobbles, not the stiffer stuff. They might be harder to use, but they save the environment.
And so we go full circle. I’m sad to say, needles aren’t anywhere near reusable. You can’t recycle them, you can’t reuse them, they don’t biodegrade and there is no natural alternative. However, there is a small silver lining. In an old post about how cross stitch needles are made we found out that the process for making needles is super precise, meaning there’s next to no industrial waste. I guess, for now, that’ll have to do.
Finally, let’s talk about thread dyes. If you buy natural threads, such as DMC, they use natural dyes. I hope you all the best in reducing cross stitch waste.
This Post Has 6 Comments
Thanks for the info!
Just to add –
Check your threads, if they are 100%cotton they are also compostable! Where I live I would rarely ever start fires for warmth or camping so this might be an option for us that don’t require the ends and won’t actually use them.
Any idea if Madeira’s packaging is recyclable? Also, I’ve read that there’s no environmentally-friendly way of making colourfast threads. That would rule out DMC, Madeira and Anchor. Moreover, cotton production is enormously damaging environmentally, as is bleaching. The best option might be linen threads, but nobody seems to make those any more and I’ve not seen any organic cotton embroidery threads (though you can get organic cotton sewing threads).
Madeira’s packaging is recyclable, however, not all countries/states/counties recycle it.
You can colorfast threads using any positively charged ionic solution, so you can 100% make environmentally friendly color-fasting, however, and this is a big one; the dyes, once colorfast are almost impossible to break down. It’s the dyes themselves that are a problem, rather than the colorfast process. That said, both DMC and Anchor use (in the EU) environmentally friendly dyes, so whilst they won’t break down, they won’t damage the environment… A small positive… Bleaching is TERRIBLE for the environment though.
Sadly, organic cotton is still pretty bad for the environment. Whilst chemicals aren’t used, you have to make a lot of land over in order to grow cotton, it’s a highly inefficient crop.
Linen is MUCH better though, and there is still a demand in Japan. I’ve used Art Fiber Endo threads before, they have a good color selection too. I think they have a UK agent online, but they’re expensive threads.
I always get very annoyed when people treat ‘ort’ as an acronym as it is a whole word in it’s own right. People who didn’t know ‘ort’ was a word made that up and I’m sad to see you perpetuating that and taking away from the word itself by treating it as a non-word.
It annoys me too, however most people know it as the made up acronym. I did try to help educate though! “Ort is actually a really old term for ‘waste of any type’”
Thanks for this post 😀