Here’s how to do it sustainably

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bikini tops and bumblebees, shopping bags and mushroom hats, washcloths and water bottle holders; If you can dream it, you can pull it off. What started as a trend in the early days of the pandemic seems to be here to stay in the fashion world. In the year Until 2020, crochet was stereotypically reserved for grandmothers. This has changed since covid-19 and the lockdown. When the epidemic began, hundreds of thousands of people had nothing to do but twiddle their thumbs and tremble in fear of existence. What better way to prevent stress than to pick up a hook and thread? As a result, the craft exploded on TikTok. In case you missed it, this Mashable article details how scammers have found popularity and comfort by showcasing their creativity on TikTok.

Primarily used pottery on Etsy, they are made and sold directly by artists. Unfortunately, when something becomes fashionable, cheap and less ethical touches always follow, and krancha is no exception. Fast fashion sites like SHEIN and big retailers like Target have gotten into the crochet trend, cutting off Etsy sellers at high margins.

The craft is relaxing and rewarding, but as wearable craft clothing becomes more popular, it’s important to understand the labor required to produce these items. It may be a tough pill to swallow, but most busy goods don’t have to be cheap. Something that may shock you: embroidered items are impossible to replicate with a machine. With knitting machines, the only way to knit is by hand. The stitches are very intricate.

That said, this $15 cropped top from SHEIN is handmade. If I were to make this myself, the materials alone would cost $15. After factoring in labor costs (let’s say five hours, if you’re very fast and constantly ticking), if the maker is paid $10 an hour for their labor, that top price should be at least $60. On average, SHEIN employees are paid much less than that. The joy reviewers get a very unpleasant sound after they stop and think about the job done. A real man sweated over that top and was paid pennies in return.

By buying the cheapest option, your dollar is more likely to support deeply unethical labor practices. Most people aren’t used to spending more than $20 on a shirt, so dropping more than $50 on a crop top might seem ridiculous. But the fact is, if you want to properly compensate artists for their work, you have to get a higher price. Granny squares are some of the most popular crochet items right now, and can be made into anything from bucket hats to quilts. It takes the average crocheter about 30 minutes to make one granny square, and a top like SHEIN’s requires 20 granny squares to complete. This is over 10 hours of work.

These facts are not meant to shame you in your purchasing choices; If you’re interested in crafting, this is your chance to think deeply about where your clothes come from. In America, we are often completely disconnected from the processes (and people) that create the clothes we wear. It is so easy to overlook that there is a real person sewing our clothes together. We drive to the store, look at the neatly hung racks, try on an outfit, take it home and that’s it. Handmade items are a whole other ball game and should be approached with a completely different anti-consumer mindset.

If you want to participate in the debate trend, value quality over quantity. Having a few well-made items that are ethically produced will pay off in the long run. Buying from a small, independent artisan means your item will not only be more unique and guilt-free, but also more durable. A fast-fashion crochet made with low-quality thread and shoddy stitching will fall apart after a few washes, while a more expensive and slowly made one will last for years. Over time, you will actually save money. When you wear twisted items from sites like SHEIN, you have to wear the guilt that comes with knowing that your purchase has directly contributed to an extremely harmful and wasteful industry.

You can spend all day researching brands to determine their ethics. Or, you can pick up a hook and crochet yourself. This is the most ethical option of all – you know exactly where the product comes from, and the only person you have to worry about is yourself.

I’m not going to lie and it’s ridiculously easy. There is a learning curve, especially if you’ve never considered yourself a crafty person. The most important thing to remember is that it’s okay to do something that looks dirty. You are going to count your stitches wrong. You are going to be upset. Your final product will probably be horribly messy and flawed, and you’ll probably never want it to see the light of day. But this is how they learn. Even the most talented crocheters had to start somewhere.

Bella Coco’s “How to Crochet Perfect Beginners” series is one of the best places for newbies to start, but the free resources on how to crochet are endless. Type “crochet beginner” into the YouTube search bar, and you’ll get a dizzying array of results. Learn the most basic stitches (single, double, and treble), learn how to change thread colors, and you’ll soon be a certified pro. The best beginner projects are laundry baskets. Pick up some cotton thread and make little squares to your heart’s content. After your third square, the edges stop fraying and start looking something close to perfect. Remember: the beauty of handmade items is handmade, Flaws and all.

YouTube channel “ikoxun” should be your next stop once you are comfortable with basic stitches. She offers step-by-step visual instructions on how to style trendy items like sweaters and granny square pants, as well as how to modify styles to fit your body perfectly. It’s surprisingly easy to make the items fit your body like a glove. SHEIN NEVER CAN. As your skills develop, you will gradually create a collection of items that suit your body and needs. You’ve spent hundreds of hours crafting something with your own two hands that you might otherwise have spent aimlessly scrolling through. It is very cheap and very useful. Creativity is a natural human need, and imitation is one way to fill that void. Once you get the hang of it, you can’t resist knitting and embroidery and sewing and felting and – you get the picture.

Before you head over to Jo-Ann, there’s one more thing to consider when talking about sustainability in the context of crochet. Although making your own clothes is more sustainable than buying fast fashion, it’s not completely guilt-free. The cheapest and most accessible thread on the market is acrylic. Acrylic yarn is attractive for many reasons: it’s more budget-friendly than most natural fibers, it’s easy to find (large craft store chains like Jo-Ann and Michael’s stock nearly all acrylic yarns), and it’s durable and washable. Machine safe. That sustainability comes with a price. Acrylic fibers are made from petroleum, which means they are non-biodegradable. Every little thread of yarn ends up in the landfill for decades.

Well, very good. What if I can’t buy ethically sourced products, but can’t buy sustainably crafted? The solution is a bit complicated, but that’s why sustainable fashion is often called “slow” fashion. It takes a long time to get there, but knowing that your choices aren’t actively harming the world around you is worth it in the end.

Natural fibers are the most sustainable choice. They include threads made from naturally derived materials such as wool, cotton, silk, linen, bamboo or (my favorite) hemp. These materials naturally degrade over time. They also feel good on your body. In an age where we’re at risk of consuming a credit card’s worth of microplastics per week, it’s good to know I’m not intentionally putting too much plastic on my skin. Natural fibers are very expensive and sometimes difficult to find in stores, but this does not mean that it is impossible to find them.

First, find a local craft store near you. They can carry not only complementary yarns made from natural fibers but also yarns spun by local artisans using local materials. There is something very comfortable about knowing exactly where your materials come from. If that’s not an option, hit the thrift stores. Facebook’s marketplace and estate sales are always full of people selling at low prices. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can unravel a sweater or other knitted garment, spin it, and then wind the yarn back into a ball.

If you can’t or won’t reduce your acrylic yarn usage, try to be mindful of your waste when crocheting. Save your scraps as you cut the ends of a project and use them as pots for projects like pillows and amigurumi. You’ll sleep better at night knowing your debris won’t end up in the ocean or landfill. Also, keep in mind the tools you choose to use. Invest in metal or wooden hooks instead of plastic – the price difference is minimal. Instead of buying cheap plastic studs that look like baby teething rings, use safety pins or old hoop earrings. Your wallet and the planet will thank you in the long run.

It’s easy to tinker with sustainability, but it’s an exercise in patience. You’ll see other artisans with walls and acrylic yarn wall hangings in a rainbow of colors, but don’t let the excess tempt you into making a poor purchase. Make crochet a slow, deliberate hobby. Actively distancing yourself from the consumerist propaganda machine of “more, more, more” will quiet your mind and make you a more complete person. As your skills develop, so will your pride in your new, handcrafted wardrobe. Making ethical and sustainable choices doesn’t just benefit the planet. It feeds your soul.

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