Fabulous Fabrics: What do Mainstream Stores Offer?

bolts of fabric in a shopSo far in the Fabulous Fabrics series, I’ve been looking at offerings from independent designers as well as specialty online shops. We’ve seen organic cotton, recycled fleece, hemp, and other fabrics that try to step more lightly on our common home.

That’s great for people reading this blog and other green crafting blogs, but large scale change is going to require many, many crafters demanding organic and other earth-friendly products. If all the products are sequestered in little green boutiques, that’s going to be a slow process. What about the crafters who aren’t reading this blog? Do they know these products exist? Have any of these products gone mainstream? I went on a hunt through some of the biggest mainstream fabric shops’ websites to find out.

First up, online mega-shop EQuilter. Doing a plain text search for organic products was tough here, because they also use the word organic to describe some of the designs. Once I found the right category, though it was easy to see their products. ORGANIC Solids, Textures & Threads offers YLI organic cotton thread, Michael Miller organic cotton sheeting, herringbone, fleece, terrycloth, and “fuzzy sherpa” (anyone want to tell me what that is?). They also offer “organically dyed” handmade cotton fabric “dyed by hand with natural elements such as vegetables, berries, minerals, and more.” The cotton itself is not organic, but the dyes are earth-friendly. They have eco-spun fleece in one color, latte tan.

My next stop was Hancock’s of Paducah. They carry the Michael Miller fabrics, including the gingham check that EQuilter doesn’t seem to have, as well as organic cotton batting.

What about Joann.com? They have Lion Brand and Bernat organic cotton yarn, plus organic cotton batting on a roll, but nothing else. (They do have recycled paper cardstock for scrapbooking, which is kind of cool.)

Keepsake Quilting is near and dear to my heart, since I once got stranded there for four hours when a friend and I drove up from Boston on a pilgrimage and then had to call a tow truck to jump her ailing vehicle. Yes, stuck in Keepsake Quilting for hours. It was HORRIBLE. (Kind of. Not really.) I was really hoping they would knock my socks off with organic products. They have the YLI organic cotton thread, as well as two fabric medleys: the lightweight Oasis Canvas Medley in solid colors and the Woodblock Vegetable Dye Medley, which is kind of paisley and stripey and floral. The former is organic cotton fabric, the latter is printed with vegetable dyes.

Hobby Lobby doesn’t sell online; they partner with Crafts Etc. All they have is some recycled paper sketch pads.

Michaels, though, had even less. They had nothing.

So what does this mean for green crafting? Autumn has asked crafters what would be in the green craft store of their dreams, and I have to say that I had no idea we were so far from it. I don’t go to craft stores very much, and when I do I’m looking for one specific thing. I’m more used to grocery stores, and in crunchy Austin, organic products are popping up left and right even at the corner market.

I try to think about the average crafter in mythical Middle America and whether she or he would be interested in greener options. I think so. Crafters are a thrifty lot, and we pride ourselves on using our supplies wisely. So how do we get the word out to them about greener alternatives?

[Image by Steve White.]

Written by Skye Kilaen

Skye Kilaen began sewing at an early age and eco-rabble-rousing shortly after that. Many years later, someone finally told her that there are books about how to make quilts. Life was never the same. In fact, she spent more on her sewing machine than her car. Bringing her green and crafty passions back together, Skye is now happily discovering ways to create beautiful and useful objects using thrifted and sustainable materials. No, that's not just an excuse to visit Goodwill more often. Honest.


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  1. One green option is to simply reuse what you already have, or what you can find in thrift stores, etc.

    I agree, finding organic materials in chain craft stores would be ideal, but until that becomes mainstream enough, a great option is hitting thrift stores or doing stuff like the Don’t Shop, Swap events.

  2. I wish so much that Joann’s, at least, had more eco-friendly options. It’s the only fabric store around where I live, at least since I do clothes and not home dec at this point in my life. I feel kind of guilty every time I shop there now, since I have no idea where this fabric is coming from or how it was produced or what the conditions of the workers there are or anything….but the fabrics are so pretty…augh!

  3. Not suprized that Michael’s has nothing, they are sort of an environmental hell shop. One thing i found there that was kind of reuse was they sell these tubs of glass beads called “mass of glass”, the beads are very obviously offcasts that are deformed, broken, odd ball…i used to made necklaces out of them and everyone loved them. They had character 🙂 AND are really cheap. (but then again what if little children were forced to make them in inferno glass shops in some poor country ! Ahhh)

  4. Hello, I’ve lurked here for a while, I feel CaGW is a true gem for environmentally-minded crafters. I just wanted to pipe up to say that two Joanns stores I went to this past weekend had an “eco” line of organic cotton knits, and their latest circular advertises it as well. I didn’t have a need for it, although I wanted to buy it just to encourage them!

  5. This is an interesting article. It is hard to find organic textiles in many shops in the UK. We have recently started to add organic and fairtrade products to our website, http://www.looklovely.net. So far we have focussed on ready to wear, but this makes me think that we must start researching textiles.

  6. Why not demand Congress to change this? It’s about time American politicians do the moral thing. I’m also sick of them lying to us and keep letting companies sell consumers more uneco-friendly products. What about all those chemicals in our food products? We need a crafty and green revolution in American. : )

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