I put together some infographics for the East Gippsland Wool & Craft Group Open Day 2023 – inspired by a conversation with a colleague who was surprised to learn that her acrylic jumper was made from petroleum products!
There is no single perfect fibre (regardless of what marketing bodies might want you to think!), especially when you account for the sheer volume of textiles made across the world.
For example, in 2021 Australia was the leading global producer of wool, producing 22% (or 227,960 tonnes) of the global total of 1,033,927 tonnes. That might seem like a large number, however it’s less than 1% of the total amount of 113 million tonnes of fibre produced globally in 20211.
Industrial textile production creates a vast amount of pollution, waste and harmful emissions across the whole process from raw materials to finished garment. Often the different steps are undertaken in different parts of the world in pursuit of the lowest production costs, which adds further emissions from freight, as well as contributing to human rights issues. Lack of traceability in supply chains means a garment could be made from cotton grown in Uzbekistan, spun in India, woven in Bangladesh, and then sewn in China – and all we see on the label is the final step of ‘Made in China’.
There are many layers to the problems that exist within the textiles industry, however if we become more aware of how textiles are made we are more able to make informed choices, and to advocate for better options for our future.
Aside from learning about where our textile items come from, the other matter to consider is where they go to when we’re done with them. I know that handweavers and other hand-crafters, have an advantage on this one…
Understanding just how much work has gone into making each item gives us a sense of gratitude and desire to take good care of it, and use it well. Clothing made by hand, with love, becomes a treasured belonging and the incentive to care for, repair and prolong the life of such treasures is strong. Mending beloved clothing and upcycling things that are otherwise no longer useful becomes an extremely practical and beneficial skill – one that is well worth developing, and sharing with others around us for mutual benefit.
- Textile Exchange. 2022. “Textile Exchange Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report, Oct 2022.”