Lovingly handmade sustainability

February 23rd, 2012 by Martine Ellis of iMake

Sock yarn blanket (click image to expand - ©iMake)

Sustainability has been ‘on my radar’ for a few years, but it’s only recently that I have realised what a big part of my life it plays, particularly in relation to my love of handmade crafts.

Understanding what sustainability is about helped me make the connection.

I rather like this definition:

“Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

‘Our Common Future’, Brundtland Commission, 1987.

If something is sustainable it should be able to last forever. The handmade craft movement slots comfortably into sustainability territory in many ways.

Re-use, recycle, upcycle…

The mantra ‘reuse and recycle’ has been associated with handmade crafts for some time, and recently we’ve been ‘upcycling’ (not just recycling, but improving on the original use of a certain materials!)

There are many knitters out there who, rather than spend vast amounts of money on luxury yarn, will acquire an old woolen sweater that has seen better days and unravel it to reuse the yarn.

Old food tins can be put to good use by piercing holes in them and placing a tea light inside giving you a lovely tin lantern.

(click image to expand - image @iMake)

Save all the Christmas cards you receive every year and turn them into next year’s Christmas cards or gift tags.

Turn an old, misshapen, slightly felted sweater into a pair of mittens or a hat… the possibilities are endless.

It turns out I have been sustainably crafting since I made my first Blue Peter style space rocket out of a used washing up liquid bottle!

Craftzine, Make-Stuff.com and free kids Crafts.com feature some clever ideas using recycled materials.

Sharing skills

If sustainability is about ensuring things last, then the manner in which the craft community shares skills definitely ticks the sustainability box.

Take the Stitch n’ Bitch phenomenon. Knitters, crocheters and crafters meet regularly to craft as a group. It’s about socialising mainly, but what tends to happen is that skills are shared.

iMake runs a Stitch n’ Bitch group in Guernesy. So many people have been taught (very informally) to knit or crochet. There is no ‘official’ teaching, but if someone turns up with some yarn and knitting needles or a crochet hook, there is usually someone willing to show them the basics.

There is also a vast amount of information available on the Internet for people who want to learn creative skills, particularly traditional crafts.

Look on Youtube for whittling, weaving, spinning, tatting and lace-making. Traditional crafts have enjoyed a revival recently. I am sure the revival has been helped by the Internet.

Not buying mass-produced items

As a knitter, I appreciate the time and effort that goes into making garments by hand. It takes me a week’s worth of steady knitting to finish a pair of socks. It’s estimated that a traditional Guernsey jumper takes around 84 hours to knit.

The time it has taken me to make a garment by hand relates directly to its value. I treat my handmade items with care, I hand-wash them and I mend them as needed. They aren’t just tossed in the bin if they develop a hole! The life of the garment is lengthened through proper maintenance, and because care was taken in the making of it, it tends to last longer anyway. I would always prefer to wear a handmade garment over a mass-produced item. Handmade is bespoke – it’s tailored to your size or body shape. It’s individual.

blue sock by iMake (click image to expand - ©iMake)

Well being

So it seems to me that sustainability is about well-being; the well-being of our community, our culture, our environment and our economy. I believe that my happiness and well-being is enhanced immeasurably by my love of craft.

My favourite de-stressing activity is knitting. Someone once described it as the ‘new yoga’ and I can see why. There is something incredibly relaxing about the rhythmic movement of my knitting needles. You also get something at the end of the process – it’s productive relaxation!

While I don’t necessarily think that knitting is the key to saving the planet, perhaps it’s a small step in the right direction!


Martine writes popular craft blog iMake and is the voice of the iMake podcast.  She has lived and worked in Guernsey all her life and, when she isn’t blogging or podcasting, she can usually be found trying to stop her beloved cats interfering with her latest knitting project!


4 Responses to “Lovingly handmade sustainability”

  1. iMake » Handmade Sustainability

    […] is a guest blog post I wrote for Sustainable Guernsey.  I hope you enjoy […]

  2. Yvonne

    Great post Martine. I can highly recommend both the entire Sustainable Guernsey website – such a valuable resource for our small island – and Martine’s regular Stitch’n’Bitch sessions.

  3. Martine

    Thanks Yvonne :-)

  4. Handmade Sustainability | iMake

    […] is a guest blog post I wrote for Sustainable Guernsey.  I hope you enjoy […]

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