green English

Crafting green, linguistically speaking

This year, my sewing club, sew make believe’s theme is “green”. It’s about using up what we have already, making rather than buying, mending rather than replacing. And in running the club I’ve discovered a whole new vocabulary set – or eco-lingo – particular to this topic.

Everybody recycles these days, but did you know that “recycling” as most people understand it is usually what is recognised as downcycling in eco-lingo? This is the process of taking rubbish and reducing it to a material ready for re-use. At our club we mostly upcycle, taking an item of rubbish and seeing its potential as a pre-existing material without any need for processing. We take objects that are perhaps past their use, and repurpose them to make something more relevant to our personal lives. So those baby clothes that the wee ones have outgrown become their first ‘grown-up’ quilt, cheap, threadbare towels and face flannels become bath-time hand puppets, and retro sheets and curtains become summer dresses or tote bags. Upcycling is about repurposing waste objects to put them to use.

Knowing the power of upcycling carries the unfortunate side-effect of increased hoarding. When you’ve learned to see the potential in everything it suddenly becomes very difficult to throw anything away. This is where the stash begins to mound up, and stashbusting comes into play. Many of our tutorials this year have been about stashbusting – minimising what we have lying around rather than going out to buy new materials. Stash-swaps have also become a regular event.

Over recent years, swishing has become popular – ethical clothes-swapping events at which your seldom-worn clothes are exchanged for someone else’s. Where crafters are concerned this goes even further, with clothing being chosen for its potential re-use. Sweaters are swapped with the sole purpose of frogging (=unravelling the wool) and one woman’s skirt becomes another’s mini dress. Tinking is also a much desired skill – the ability to unravel one single stitch at a time in knitting, “tink” being “knit” backwards.

The momentum with which green crafting vocabulary has expanded is directly linked to the degree to which crafters are online. We are on Etsy and Folksy, on Ravelry and Burda, we blog, we meet up, we sneak attack and we swap. We’re green at heart, learning the make do and mend mantra of the war years and applying it to our current climate. And we do it all with the aid of the internet!

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Caroline Short

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