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Haptic & Hue

Nov 18, 2021

There’s a way of producing cloth that has been called 200 years of secrecy and lies. It has played a central role in wars, and slavery. It was the foundation of cheaper clothing and clothes rationing. It has changed laws and been the subject of many official inquiries as well as helping to grow the finest rhubarb in the world. This episode looks at how it may now be entering a new phase of its life, offering us a way to prevent our addiction to textiles from ruining the planet.


Shoddy cloth and its sister mungo were first produced in Batley in West Yorkshire, a town that became so filthy from the trade they said the birds flew backward to stop the soot from getting in their eyes. Shoddy production made this part of West Yorkshire’s fortune in the 19th and 20th centuries but also bought a myriad of problems – from accusations of moral hazard to charges of war profiteering and smuggling.  


This episode looks at shoddy’s past – its role in the American Civil War and in creating West Yorkshire's wealth. It also looks at how shoddy, as the ultimate recycled material, is now being recast as the perfect way to cut pollution from textile waste.


If you would like to find out more about shoddy and see some of the pictures referred to in this episode or read the full script – you can find them in the show notes at, where you can also find links to books about shoddy and access to Haptic and Hue’s textile bookshop, which has a selection of the best textile books in publication at the moment. Every purchase helps the podcast at no extra cost to you.

The bookshop for US listeners is here.

The bookshop for UK listeners is here