cleaned out her sock
drawer over the holidays, she
presented me with this colorful pile. I
wondered what to do with these mismatched
dirty old socks. I don't want to add more clothing waste
to the landfill, but because they are made
of synthetic fibers, I can't compost
them. What's a gal like
me to do?
I cleaned out my
two years ago, I came home
with bags of scraps from all the clothes
she had had altered to fit her - - At
5" and getting smaller, she
needed a lot of hems
and cuffs removed
thinking they could
be used to mend her shirts
or trousers if they needed it. Or,
perhaps she had a vision for making
a quilt some day. But then she
forgot about the scraps &
those ideas faded
her bags of cuffs, hems
and other fabric, I wondered if I
could compost, recycle or reuse them.
That's just how I think. The thought of tossing
these remnants of my mother-in-law's life into
dumpsters made me really sad. I couldn't
do it. It's not that I am a hoarder
or that I am overly
And it's more
than the reality that
I hate waste. In fact, I found
these on a day when I had been
ruthlessly sending all manner of things
to the landfill. At that moment, though, I had
a feeling there was a story embodied
in those bags that I would
So here I am,
wondering about my
daughter's old socks and my
mother-in-law's fabric remnants.
The thing that's bothering me most is
that they can not be composted because these
colorful textiles are made from or contain synthetic fibers.
As I have recently learned in Rebecca Burgess's
Fibershed, there is more to our clothes
than I ever knew.
piles of fabric are kind
of like the piles of vegetables and
other scraps I witness in the compost pile.
The colors, textures and shapes
seduce me, inviting me to
Pam's love for
blues and greens. I
notice the mix of silk, denim,
linen, wool, cotton-knit and shining
polyester. Although she now needs a wheel-
chair to get around, she once swooshed and swished
at parties, did errands in town, and dug in her
garden. Each of these scraps reveals
a different part of her life, a
It turns out
that I am asking
the same questions of
these scraps that I ask of my
compost. Where you do come from,
how did you grow or how were you made?
Who was responsible for your emergence and
ultimate journey to me? Were those responsible for
you (fabric or fruit) paid a living wage? Was
the soil from which you grew (veggie or
fiber) rich with compost, or was
it polluted? The Fibershed,
it turns out, is like a
foodshed or a
there is a connection
between geography and the
health of our food, the cleanliness
of our water, and the sustainability of the
clothes we wear. Each is part of a system much
larger than itself. I started exploring these connections
last year when I wrote blog posts about an
old t-shirt, old dresses that belonged
to my grandmother, and
finding new shoes.
when I eat yummy,
healthy good, I feel better.
When I wear well-made, beautiful
and natural fibers, I feel better as well. To
continue exploring the relationship between re-imagining
my clothes and, in the process re-imagining myself,
I'm excited to start hosting a community
conversation on this very subject.
Stay tuned. I have no idea
what will emerge
I'm still hanging out
with compost, but I'm also
seeing where that compost leads me.
For the moment, it's inviting time with fabric,
because, like food, textiles could be
removed from our waste
stream if we only
Evelyn R. Swett
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