My name is Charlotte, sometimes known as Ms Lottie, occasionally as The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady. This is my blog, where you'll find me writing a lot about my quilting and textile arts and a little about my family's life in a small seaside town in New Zealand. Haere mai!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tentative steps.

Last night I read Julie's (from Towards Sustainability) parting post.  It made an impact.  She talked about how she loses readers every time she blogs about the hard issues - peak oil and the like.  She is saddened by it and wonders why.

I think I know a little bit of why.  Because I'm one of the guilty ones.  I'm guilty of ignoring those hard issues and hoping they will go away.  Also, blogging is a little bit of escapism for me.  In the evening, when the kids are in bed, I can zoom around the world learning interesting and useful things, looking at beautiful work and peeking into other's lives.  After a hard day's work, the last thing I want to do is be scared, depressed and overwhelmed by reading about global warming and the oil crisis.  But can I really afford to be so ostrich-like?

From Julie's blog, I jumped to Causabon's Book and I watched this clip.  Go watch it for a little humorous but serious de-ostriching.

One big reason I know I've been ignoring the issues lately is quilting....

Quilting.  My obsession, my love, my sanity, my work (maybe one day).  Quilting is not generally an environmentally friendly hobby.  It has it's roots in thrift and recycling, but not any more.  The vast majority of quilters, me included, buy new fabric to add to our stashes whenever we can.  And our preferred fabric is cotton. 

Cotton growers traditionally use a hideous amount of synthetic fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides to grow their crop.  And when it is grown in a developing country, like India, safety practices with these chemicals can be severely lacking, leading to human poisoning.  Then, of course, is the genetic modification issue - another thorny one.  If you want to read some more scary facts, click here for Organic Trade Association's Summary of Cotton and the Environment.  Shall we talk about dyes?  Let's not, we might all end up naked for fear of poisoning ourselves.

If I acknowledge that we have a real environmental crisis on our hands and that I really need to keep making changes in my life, then I can't go on blissfully ignoring my quilting and fabric addiction.  My conscience just won't let me.

So where does that leave me?  I've had a little look around in the past and organic fabric is not readily available and is very expensive in New Zealand.  I could source only thrift store fabrics fabrics and cut up old clothes etc, but that limits me with colours and patterns.  I could try dying my own colours with vegetable dyes, but I know they are not that stable.  All my immediate options that spring to mind all have drawbacks that makes me want to dismiss them.

Maybe this issue was a subconscious factor in my recent vow not to buy any more fabric this year.  I don't know.  But I do know that I can't really ignore the elephant in the room anymore.

I have made plenty of other steps in my life to live a little lighter on the land.  I compost.  I grow my own veges.  I raise my own meat and have chooks for scrap disposal and egg production.  I'm mindful of food miles and try and buy local and organic when I can.  I reduce, reuse and recycle.  I combine outings to save gas....the list goes on.

But fabric is what is niggling in the back of my mind every time I quilt.  And I don't want to feel guilty and sad about my most favourite past time. 

So it is with some trepidation and some excitement that I'm going to take some steps  in what I hope will be a journey towards more sustainable quilting.  I am going to seriously investigate organic fabric supplies and eco-dying.  I am going to add fabric to my shopping list when I visit thrift stores and I am going to restrain myself from buying new fabrics 'just because'.  And I'm going to regularly post about what I've learnt and where I'm going on my little journey.

I'm going to stick to my pledge not to buy any new fabric this year, however I'm not going to turn my back entirely on commercial fabrics.  Quilting is my art as well and I don't want to stifle myself so much that I begrudge the whole journey.

What a challenge!  Environmentally friendly, sustainable and, hopefully, beautiful quilts!

Wish me luck!


  1. Wow, Ms. Lottie.That is a lot to think about. I did watch the clip.I try not to buy new fabric, only once in a great while. I use fabric I find in garments,curtains,sheets,and pillow cses, and the like.I find them at yard sales and consignment stores. I don't make the fancy decorative quilts like most, but I am proud of my quilts, and feel they are as nice as anyone who needs a quilt, would want.I give most of my quilts to friends and family.I get lots of pleasure making something pretty out of something that's no longer needed.

  2. Good on you Ms Lottie for being conscious of your fabric addiction. Yes, patchwork and quilting used to be all about "making do" and reusing...but now, like alot of's about gratification and money...which is kinda sad. i think it is good to be satisfied but as humans we can easily get caught up/over-obsessed if we are not careful. I look forward to following you on your journey. May it be a source of encouragement for all your blog readers!

  3. That's a pretty quilt there... ;-)

    You could probably get excited about plant dyeing. you can plant--dye organic muslin or something.

    I think acknowledging these things & trying to work with them is a good step. Most people never get to that consciousness level.

    I'm like that with yarn. I should buy all organic & plant-dyed. I don't always, but I do try to keep my stash within reason.

    Too bad i missed the rabbit thing. I remember reading the post and thinking I should come back after thinking about how I feel about eating rabbit. I did as a kid. It was normal. I think for our family now it would be awkward as we were really attached to our pet bunny. Sorta like eating cat...

  4. Wow Ms.Lottie, you really touched a chord with a few people, eh? I get what you're saying, but I own a quilt shop and a shop on etsy, lol! I too, love the idea of buying organic and trying to fit it into my life. I have found that it's easier then I thought for alot of different things, ie; fruits, veggies, coffee, etc. Another friend also pointed out that "free trade" items are better for the planet, so I like to choose those...most of the time. Then stupid me, watched a news journal program (here in the states, it's called Vanguard and is broadcast on MSNBC) that delves into issues you probably don't want to know about. It's issues about human waste turned into fertilizer really grossed me out! There are organic cotton farmers here in Texas, just a few hundred miles away. I may have to look more into this. But, my question is, regular cotton is @$8.50 a yard and the organic cotton is @$16.00 a yard. Do you think that there are that many people out there that is looking for this product? I know that the ladies from "yesterday" re-used fabrics from clothing, etc. to make some quilts with. But, if THEY were contributing monetarily to the household, do you think they would continue to re-use or buy the ready made goods? I'm rambling now, lol. Great conversation starter Ms.Lottie and good luck on your new venture. Take care, Elaine

  5. It had occurred to me - yes. I mostly have reused and recycled bits anyhow because I simply can't afford anything else but I am guilty of some purchases. Being poor has some advantages :)

    You'll have to keep us informed about what you discover.

    As for yarns - I earn part of my income knitting and cannot afford real wool. Most of what I make is decorative so I don't feel quite as bad about that. I use a lot of recycled wool too. I figured that I would be earning about a dollar an hour if I did use wool so you see my problem.

    viv in Dunedin

  6. P.S. I actually think you are doing great. I know you use wool blankets for the inside rather than the acrylic batting many people use...

  7. Dear Ms Lottie,
    I have only recently discovered blog-land and the wealth of valuable information it contains. I just happened to arrive at your blog, which is very good. The reason I comment is your name! I happen to have the same name as you do, which I think is quite rare. I currently work for a multinational company with 65,000 employees and I am the only one and two years ago I worked for another multinational company with over 100,00 employees and I was also the only one; and here you are: another Lottie in far away New Zealand! Pleased to meet you.
    I am Dutch, born in Friesland and was baptized with the Frisian name Lolkje but my parent always called me Lottie. When I was about 13 years old, I thought it was too simple and changed it in Lotty.
    Kind regards,

  8. Thanks everyone.

    Viv- it's a hard one balancing surviving on a decent income with being as eco-friendly as possible. One day I hope it might all balance out.

    And I must add, I think alot of quilters are still very thrifty kinds of people too, but there is definitely an air of consumerism too. (I'm guilty!)

    Lotty - I have to confess, my first name is actually Charlotte! Most people I know call me that, but those close to me call me Lottie. My mother was Dutch (Rotterdam) and moved to NZ when she was 10. Her name was Lineke and so is my daugter's middle name. Lovely to meet you.

  9. Whoops, that first comment was for Viv and Elaine.


Hi, I love reading comments, so thanks for visiting my blog and leaving me a message :)
Due to a huge increase in spam, I've disabled anonymous comments. Apologies if this effects any real life readers!