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Textile Economics.

One of the things that come up frequently when I do presentations or demonstrations of textile techniques is the value of textiles. We’re so used today to going into a clothes shop that sells things for ridiculously low prices that our estimation of textiles and their worth tends to be very low.

The ridiculously low prices are not without their own price, though – only it’s usually not us here who are paying it, but cotton farmers, clothing factory workers in Bangladesh, or everyone in the area where cotton is grown when water supplies are used up and the groundwater level plummets (no wonder if up to 20 000 litres of water are used to produce one kilo of cotton), or is poisoned by herbicides and pesticides.

It’s not fair, it’s not sustainable, and a lot of people have been talking about this “fast fashion” and its problems in the last years. (Just plug “fast fashion problems” into your favourite search engine. You’ll be surprised.) There’s things we all can do, though – one of them is becoming more aware of what we buy, and how often. Another thing is to try and avoid conventionally grown cotton (organic is much kinder to both producers and the environment) and look for clothes that were not produced in Bangladesh, but more locally. Buy used clothing, mend things that can be mended, and give things you do not wear anymore away instead of tossing them into the bin.

The fact that textiles are such a cheap commodity today has coloured our perception of textile crafts, and our internal valuing of fabrics. This makes it hard for many people to understand why fabrics were so precious in the Middle Ages (and also way past that time, until rather recently). Clothes used to be a very valuable thing, in our past, and I do wonder if they will, one day, be again.

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