Letter to my Son - Emma McLellan


This text forms half of a two-part response by Emma McLellan. You can also read her essay 'The Sustainability Imperative - Why We Need to Re-set our Textile Industry' posted as a separate blog.

Emma was invited to respond to the 'infinite hands' film programme as part of the project 'Langholm Made'.

View all of this project's blog posts 

Textile student & Langholm resident Emma McLellan responds to the â€˜infinite hands’ short film programme with the following letter, written to her son

July 5th 2021

Letter to my son, and all of the next generations

Hi honey,

I am writing this letter, because I wanted to let you know that I am so, so sorry I didn’t take this seriously enough in time.

As you know, I have been really keen on eco-issues, and I have in the last few years looked at ways of reducing what I buy, and in up-cycling things. Some of this was because I had to. I often didn’t have enough money to buy new clothes, and so for many years I would (and still do) buy as much as I can, from second hand and charity shops. Supermarkets were great though. It meant I could buy really cheap things for you as you were growing up. I was so poor at times, and I didn’t have a choice. It is also one thing to find a nice bargain in a charity shop. It is quite another to have to rely on them all of the time because you have to. I remember managing to go back to work, after getting through losing your Aunty Abby, and being so ashamed at having to buy ‘charity shop’ shoes. It also takes ages to go through a heap of charity shops, when you can do one journey to a big shop. Let me tell you, being poor is hard work.

Luckily, I have always been able to make stuff from scratch as well. Your Nain, (my mother) taught me to sew and cook, and my grandmother (your Grandads Mum), taught me to knit. I know that this has helped me to ‘make, do, and mend,’ and cook from scratch. Do you know I used to feel a bit embarrassed about being able to do these things? But it has actually helped me get back to University, and study for a degree in textiles!

But I know it just isn’t enough. When I look at my bin and see how much plastic there is, and then I think how much plastic there is in the world, I just feel overwhelmed. And then I feel guilty. What if our world is already ruined? What if we have changed our climate so much, that it is beyond repair?

Actually, I think it already might be. And that is just appalling.

It is really good to see that more and more people are understanding how awful it is, that we think we can just keep buying and buying stuff, not caring where it has come from, or how it affects our planet. I know that I re-cycle my waste properly. I have a compost bin and a Bokashi for food waste. I am also really chuffed that my studies are going well, and I have managed to get some work teaching textile skills from scratch, to absolute beginners, to help other people ‘make, do and mend.’ I am also working on an Alpaca Farm, to look at how to understand and share knowledge about the link between animals and crops in the ‘field’, to the fibre that they produce, to how this becomes our clothes. I feel good about all of these things. For a while.

Lockdown has definitely changed me. Before, for a treat, I would walk up a High Street of Charity Shops: up one side, down the next. I thought it was OK to buy something if it was cheap and second hand. I’ve lost my shame of that at least! Of course, with lockdown I have got out of this habit. I have been to a couple in the last wee while, but I didn’t feel comfortable. I have also been to a supermarket that sells clothes, and twice I looked at some stuff there. A nice denim shirt, and a nice ‘denim look’ jumper dress. I looked at the labels, as I always do. Got my mother (Nain) to thank for that! ‘Cotton, Polyester and Nylon’. Ok - but that doesn’t tell anywhere nearly the whole story of the supply chain that lead to these garment. Cotton that takes masses of water to produce, bleaches and dyes. And plastic! I ‘mindfully’ put these back on the rail. I did this once (after lockdown). I did it again after a second post lockdown trip…And…thats it! I honestly don’t think I will ever buy new denim again. I will never buy a ‘cheap’ garment from a supermarket either.

Do I need these? Do I want these? Do I really really need these? Do I really really want these?

So. We have seriously messed things up. Supply chains that pollute the planet, and maim people. Supply chains that leave others without skills to make things. Supply chains that so remove the link between where our food and clothing comes from, that we think of things as ‘units’, in isolation - not as connecting a chain of destruction.

I hope we can do something. I hope that we can start to properly care about our planet. As hopeless as I feel at times about what is the point of reducing, re-using, re-cycling, I do still have hope. It is an imperative!

I am so sorry for the things I have bought, and the actions I have taken that have led to this point. I will make change.

Love you to the Moon and back, and round the stars and round the Sun, and I always will,



(Read Emma’s companion essay here