Sewing Efficiency ≠ Toxicity

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I bought a new cutting mat a few months ago. This mat is the mat of mats… the green kind – you know – self-healing, 3×4 feet, gridded to the max. I read up on this beforehand, as I am somewhat chemical sensitive. A number of people mentioned “the smell” but most said it was either no big deal or if it was, it off-gassed in a while and it was fine.

I spent days, and maybe weeks, researching and deciding before ordering. I took a chance. This seemed like “the best mat.” I spent about $100… It arrived… I was excited… and it was so stinky it sat out in the rain for 3 days. Being that it was a $100 investment, I was unhappy to leave it out there, but it was totally intolerable to have it in the house.

When I finally brought it in, that little hanger hole they provide came in very handy. I hung it on a screw my boyfriend put up in the closet for another week or so – setting it outside now and then for further airing. Then, at last, I finally went to use it… it was amazing, cutting is efficient, edges are so clean and precision straight. My rotary cutter is set up to cut many layers at a time and less fabric is wasted if you plan well. …By 10 minutes or so, my glands are swelling. 20 minutes or so and my cheeks and ears are getting hot and my neck is sore. 30-40 minutes and I have a headache for the rest of the night and most of the following day. Long story short….. I really really just need to ditch it.

Now that I needed to re-think this… I recalled this other kind of mat, which I had seen in the local quilt store. The mat was whitish in color and was used on the cutting counter at the quilt store (which somehow, for some unknown reason, seemed inferior to the green mat). This mat also gave me the feeling of being more inert (which I somehow IGNORED amongst the excitement of “the mat of mats”). I started to investigate the white mat further… Interestingly enough, somewhere in the midst of all this, the quilt store owner got rid of her white mat (it was old) and bought one of these heinous green mats! which on my first visit following it’s arrival, made my eardrums itch and I could barely breathe.

After talking with the quilt store owner again, on a later visit, she said she felt neither mat was either better or worse in function (they do a LOT of cutting in that store). In a way, she almost seemed to miss that white mat… she even mentioned “the smell” of the new green mat.

Anyway, this white one, which is semi-translucent and sort of milky white, is not branded and looks to be the material they make those flexible food cutting boards with. It seems pretty much inert and has no smell that I have noticed (except the smell of the store itself, which should air off in a day or so I hope!). We drove 40 miles to get it and it happened to be on sale for $39.95 : ) It does it’s job well, cost less than half the price and is not making me ill. It is like a breath of fresh air.

What I really want to share is, efficient sewing does not have to mean getting totally toxed out. It is just not worth it. This green mat is awful. Awful awful awful. And I would offer you a deal on it because I need to get rid of mine, but that wouldn’t be right, now would it. If I can find an online link of where to find this white mat, I will add it to this post…

My next step is to get in touch with Alvin, the manufacturer. I hope to return this. This kind of toxic waste should not even be on the market.

0 Responses

  1. Jeannie

    Have you ever found out where to get this white mat? I am new to sewing and am looking to get one, but am also very sensitive to fumes from plastics (especially PVC, ick!). Thank you for writing your blog and creating your work – it’s very inspiring!

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