Sustainable Sewing and Hygge

Hello Sewcialists!

I live in Canada and we are about to start winter here which means that I am all about the Danish art of Hygge. For those who don’t know what Hygge is, I’ll give you a brief intro.

Hygge, pronounce HOO-gə, is a Danish word for coziness and feeling of wellness and contentment. Hygge, in mainstream culture, is mainly practiced during the winter; however, Danish people generally embrace it all year round. It’s about comfort, togetherness, good food, and lots of soft coziness.

The below video gives a nice little snapshot of what hygge means featuring the author of The Little Book of HyggeMeik Wiking.

The concept of hygge ties in very well with sustainable sewing. Hygge isn’t about the mass consumption of objects and consumerism (in spite of what the recent hygge trends will say); hygge is about thoughtful and meaningful objects that help increase your joy and comfort. It’s not about buying all the blankets and pillows, but about pulling out the quilt your grandmother made you or the handmade blanket you bought on your trip to Ireland. It’s about a meaningful attachment to objects.

To me, sewing gives me a meaningful attachment to the creations I make. However, sewing and sustainability don’t necessarily go together. Fabric manufacturing can be incredibly harmful for the environment and home sewists aren’t necessarily any better than large clothing manufacturers in terms of wasting fabric. In fact, I would argue that we are terrible at wasting fabric. I often use fabric wasting as my argument for ignoring pattern matching. LOL. Joking! The fact is, though, that unlike large clothing manufacturers, home sewists just don’t often think of the most economical way of cutting out their fabric. Large clothing manufacturers want the most clothing for their fabric so they utilize large laser cutting machines and software programs that allow them to test layout for the least fabric waste. (I am not at all complimenting large clothing manufacturers since their industry develops such a large amount of waste and uses up a large amount of the world’s water resources.)

Like many other sewists, I have lots of scrap fabric in my home. Recently, I figured I could put this to good use to create my hygge space after reading a post from Jen at Maker Heart when she created a dog bed using scrap fabric. I sorted my scraps and then cut them into tinier pieces in order to stuff large pillows with the fabric. Pillows stuffed with fabric scraps are great for more supportive back pillows. They are much heavier than regular pillows, though. In general, I would recommend them for propping yourself up in bed or using it as a floor pillow with other softer pillows on top.

I also created a wedge pillow for when I work from home or need to elevate my legs due to my chronic illness. The wedge pillow is great for supporting my limbs when I need to rest and recover from an injury.

Finally, I created a scrap blanket. Last Christmas, I made mermaid and shark blankets for my sister’s family. Using the scraps, I was able to make a small blanket with hand embroidered details. The back for the blanket is flannel. Also pictured is a flannel pillow cover I made for my body pillow.

Except for the flannel back for the blanket, all the other materials were thrifted or acquired in a fabric exchange with someone locally. If you don’t have a local thrift store that has a good fabric selection, doing fabric swaps with other local sewists or visiting estate sales is a great way of finding vintage fabric and rescuing it from the landfill. Another great tip for sustainable sewing.

Stuffing the 3 pillows and large wedge pillow saved about 10 small grocery store bags (probably the equivalent of 1.5-2 large garbage bags) filled with scraps from the landfill and helped create a comfortable space for me to either work comfortably from home or rest comfortably and recover from my chronic illness with a good book.

Andie blogs at Sew Pretty in Pink and is an editor with the Curvy Sewing Collective. Andie lives in Toronto, Canada, and has lived in several provinces on the east coast of Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland). Andie has a rare genetic disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and speaks about sewing for accessibility. Andie is married to a wonderful man and she identifies as bisexual.