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Is embroidery sustainable? Here's what you need to know

Most of us are paying attention to the environment these days. Whether it's lowering emissions to do our bit for climate change or reducing waste to minimise landfill and preserve nature, practically every choice we make in daily life comes with an ethical dilemma. In our industry, printed and embroidered clothing naturally come with a list of impacts, from farming of cotton, dying and washing to sustainability, disposal and recyclability. We take it all seriously and understand that we can actually play a positive part in guiding people to make the right decisions to minimise their environmental footsteps.

So here, we're looking at embroidery and how sustainable it is.


First up, there's the raw material itself - cotton. It's a natural product that has been grown and harvested for thousands of years. Its environmental impact can come in for criticism as it is quite energy-intensive and can use a lot of water. However, it's not necessarily the case, and the cotton industry is cleaning up its act. Furthermore, there has been enormous growth over the past 10 to 20 years in clothing recycling. 

When you take your old clothes to the council recycling centre or a private collector, some of it will be washed and re-sold as is, but the rest can be sorted into materials and broken down to make new thread or turned into padding or filling for toys, cushions, insulation or upholstery. So it's impacting the amount of cotton that needs to be grown, and that's a good thing.


Why do you throw clothes out? Some of us might only wear garments a few times, others wear them as long as they're in fashion, but for basics like t-shirts, hoodies, and sweatshirts, we often wear them until they start fraying at the edges. If the garment has a printed design on it, though, that day might come sooner.

After washing it enough times, the image can start to crack, fade or wear off, and although the fabric might still be in good nick, the garment itself looks a bit rough around the edges. With embroidery, however, that's not a problem. It's fast dyed, and because the individual strands of cotton are flexible, they won't crack or fade. And since the embroidery acts as a kind of reinforcement for the fabric underneath, the embroidered patch and that part of the fabric will probably long outlive the garment. And once it does finally get thrown out, the cotton from the embroidery can be reused along with the garment.


Finally, there will always be some cotton thread that isn't reused, recycled or repurposed. What will happen to that? Well, any embroidery thread that does end up in landfill or otherwise disposed of will break down over time as it's an organic product. That's in contrast to the synthetic threads, which can last untold hundreds of years in the soil.

All things considered, embroidery is a sustainable way to put logos, name patches and so on onto clothing. You can rest assured that it's natural, reusable and biodegradable, and if that matters to you, it matters to us.