Zero Waste Art + Supplies

As we move into the weekend, which always provides great shopping opportunities (for moms and all of us!), I wanted to share a little bit about the core principles that drive my business (and me as a human). As it says right on the front page of my website,

I am committed to helping increase the environmental sustainability of my customers and students by offering naturally dyed fibers and instruction on how to grow, forage, and incorporate natural dyes into their own creative process. My mission is low impact and zero waste fiber art and supplies.

What’s this zero waste stuff all about? It seems to be popping up everywhere we turn these days. The Good Fill is a company in Nashville, TN that “exists to offer more sustainable alternatives to items we all use or dispose of on a regular basis.” They define zero waste as “a way of living or doing business that avoids waste as the end result of consumption.”

In their blog, they wrote about the 5 principles of no household waste, which I believe can be translated to business as well. Here they are:

  • Refusewhat you do not need. 
  • Reducewhat you can't refuse. 
  • Reuseinstead of tossing. 
  • Recycleanything that can't be reused or refused. 
  • Rotwhat is compostable. 

In my business, I focus on the last three – reuse, recycle, and rot – because I’m already pretty good at the first two. In my business, that is! Please don’t ask how many jackets or pairs of shoes I own. 😳

Other than the tools I use over and over in hooking, reusing happens mostly in the dye studio. I reuse mordant baths up to 3-4 times before topping them off (mordant is the stuff that makes the natural dyes colorfast). I also reuse a dye bath until I can squeeze no more color out of them. This can be 3 to 5 times for some dyes! Reds are the best for this. I can start out with a deep dark red or magenta with the first use, and then get a lighter pink for subsequent uses. These two wools are dyed with madder full strength (left) and madder exhaust (right). 


So much beautiful color left in those pots after one dye! We call them exhaust baths because we are using the exhaust from a previous bath (and because we’re trying to exhaust all the color out of them!).

Recycling, or repurposing, happens in my hooking and fiber art studio. I’ve started using repurposed t-shirts more in my hooking, which has been great fun. Here are a couple:


Left: Brood X FC (our local rec league soccer team where we all wear #17), made with a couple of the championship t-shirts my sister collected over the years. Right: Jenny's heart.

This is a great option for repurposing your own t-shirt stash. After you’ve made the t-shirt quilt or even instead of it, consider creating something that still carries the great meaning behind the shirt, but that can hang out in public spaces for you to enjoy year-round. Click here to check out custom orders that celebrate life! 

Meanwhile, I did an experiment a few years ago and collected all the little snippets that happen with every piece I hook. Here’s what snippets look like:

These were collected from the heart above. They don’t look like much, but let me tell you, they add up! It’s like compound interest, but without the extra cash. Okay, so nothing like compound interest, but you get the idea. They multiply into a huge amount of snippets.

Some hookers like to use them to fill their pillows or other stuffed works. This is a fantastic idea! I enjoy looking at all the pretty colors, so I started filling small bottles and little glass vials. The glass vials can be worn as a necklace. Here’s the necklace that I wear to every show and often just because:

This is filled with snippets from most of my mom’s projects (Happy Mother's Day, Mom!). I love looking at the colors and remembering which piece each of them came from.

Last year I learned a new thing to do with snippets and threads, and I learned a new term for those! ORTs = Old Ratty Threads. I LOVE that term! Anyway, you can make the cutest little balls with scraps of thread and snippets:

Once I get enough balls, I’ll be making some fun garland!

So, what’s the rot business about? Well, if you’re not composting, I highly recommend it. Not only does it cut way down on your weekly trash, it provides you with some seriously beautiful, nutrient-rich soil that you can feed back into your garden!

All of the plant material I use to dye is composted after I’ve gotten as much color as I can get out of it. The walnuts are the only thing that don’t go in my garden compost because they have a chemical in them that can kill other plants. I think it’s only in the roots, but why risk it? They go at the bottom of the walnut tree because we know it can take it.

Instead of an image of my yucky compost bin, here's a pic of my thriving garden from a couple years ago. It benefitted greatly from compost! 

There you have it – 3 out of 5 of the principles of zero waste I incorporate into my business.

We all do what we can when we can. I don't always hit the mark, but I'll keep striving for zero waste in my business and at home. 

Wishing you all the best for the weekend and coming week!

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