Ethical considerations for dressmakers when working with cotton

Cotton has a lot of benefits.  Cotton production provides income for over 250 million people throughout the world.  The natural fibres enable moisture to be absorbed and evaporate, making it breathable and therefore a comfortable fabric to wear.  There is virtually no waste in the production of cotton, as almost every part of the plant can be used for other purposes.   If you regularly sew with cotton, you know just how satisfying it can be to get that lovely crisp finish when you press a seam.  It has a nice drape, can hold colour well, and is relatively durable.  Over-all, cotton can be one of the easiest and most versatile fabrics to sew with.  But it does come with some very real challenges.

What are the disadvantages of using cotton?

Despite its benefits, the production of cotton is a source of significant ethical and environmental concerns.  Unless cotton is organic, production methods use pesticides and insecticides which are bad for the environment.  The health of workers involved in cotton production can be put at risk, and local land and water supplies can become polluted.  Cotton farming can contribute to soil erosion and degradation, impacting on the fertility of the land and increasing the risk of flooding.  And all cotton production (both organic and non-organic) requires a large amount of water; statistics from the WWF demonstrate a single T-shirt requires around 20,000 litres to produce.

Can I make a difference?

Organisations such as the WWF are working with key partners to bring about significant change in cotton production by working with key stakeholders throughout the cotton supply-chain.  To support this work, the WWF urge consumers to contact their favourite clothing companies to ask if they are part of their Better Cotton Initiative; the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world.  However, one of the benefits of making your own clothes is that you can take even more control over the fabrics you choose to wear.  Consider purchasing from companies that produce fabric local to you, and who stock organic and sustainably produced textiles.  By each doing what we can to make a difference, we are able to contribute to bringing about positive change (whilst looking and feeling fab in our own creations).  Just one more example of how sewers can make the world a better place.

And if you love to sew, why not join my Creative Sewing Challenge?  Its free to take part, just sign up below to receive monthly prompts to inspire your sewing, as well as ideas and inspiration for all types of sewing.  All sewers welcome!  Sign up below or find out more here.

You might also be interested in my post ‘5 Charities That Need Your Sewing Skills‘.  And don’t forget to check out my Creative Sewing Challenge; open to anyone who loves to sew!

And here’s a handy pin for later!