Friday, October 23, 2015

Giving Thanks for Natural Stuffing

Nope. I'm not talking about turkey (or tofurkey) stuffing, although we all have our favorite recipes. I'm thinking more along the lines of a recipe for natural crafting goodness.

This year, I am grateful for the increasing accessibility to natural fiberfill toy stuffing. Want to know why? Because I'm tired of people who want to sell us something telling us it's completely safe when it isn't. 

Why do people sell something? They want you to buy it. But WHY do they want you to buy it?

Natural stuffing choices, like cotton, kapok, and wool, were the norm until the 1960s when polyester fiberfill, a revolutionary, washable, lightweight fiber was made popular as a toy stuffing in mass-produced stuffed animals. Polyester fibers are made from oil-waste and by the 1960s, what to do with oil-waste was becoming a big problem. "Pollution" became a topic of motivation to reinvent this hazardous waste.

So makers of plastics want you to buy their products, because they don't want you to complain about that hazardous waste going into in your landfills, waterways, and air instead.

But polyester fiberfill is listed in the US Toxic Substances Control Act due to its toxicity when 1) it makes contact with soft tissue (eyes, lungs, stomach) and 2) when it produces highly toxic fumes when it burns.

Polyester fiberfill manufacture requires the use of half a dozen known highly toxic, carcinogenic, and polluting chemicals including dichloroethane. The making of these fibers, even the recycling of them, can never be considered eco-friendly given the amount of toxic pollution it causes to air and groundwater. According to this toxicology report by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), dichloroethane has been found in peanut butter due to manufacturing run-off into local groundwater near peanut farms.

If you aren't quite familiar with what polyester fiber really is, read this fascinating article describing the formation of polymers and specifically polyester and why it is more toxic than we have been led to believe.

Thank goodness nature is still providing plant and animal fibers for use in crafting, sewing, quilting, and toy-making. If you haven't played with warming wool fleece, bouncy non-GMO corn stuffing, or luxurious kapok, you're missing out on a world of sensory delights. 

Ready to buy a natural fiberfill? Here's my latest list of sources for natural fiberfill and also fabrics. 

And if you want to know more about the toy stuffing performance of various types of natural fill, read this.

To-do: If you have any favorite natural fiber or fabric sources where you live, please share them in them in the comments or email me so I can include them in the list. 

PS: Click on the turkey photo for a link to the pattern by Angel Lea Designs.


  1. I recently made three dolls, loved it. While stuffing the dolls I began noticing the fibers floating around and a sudden cough. I woke with a cough the next morning, I paid no attention until I started stuffing the dolls again. The fibers were floating; it hit me then. There has to be a connection and breathing poly fiber can't be good. I knew there has to be a better product. I can't be the only one who doesn't want to breathe plastic. Thank you for sharing your information. I hope more people read your information. It's important.

    1. M.C., I'm so sorry you had that reaction, but so glad you've found alternatives now. We're just so used to the FDA and USDA telling us things are safe that aren't necessarily so. We trust these agencies to protect us, but in the end, they are designed to protect big industries and businesses. I don't think the system ever intended to hurt us, but the result is that it does.