Today’s prompt for the New Craft House Sew Yourself Sustainable challenge is ‘Eco Fabric’ but if I am totally honest with you, I kinda disagree with the term. Production of all fabrics take something away from the planet so none of it is ‘good’ for the Earth. What matters most, is getting as much wear as possible out of your garments. I don’t think that means everything we make has to be everyday garments such as knickers and plain white t-shirts. If you make a timeless dress and wear it twice a year for 20 years surely that would be just as sustainable as a pair of trousers that you wear 40 times in the next 12 months? (this ethos is largely why I make very few fitted pieces, most of what I sew is loose and flowy and will hopefully fit me at a range of weights and sizes – our bodies fluctuate and that is OKAY).
For me, the best way to *try* and choose sustainable fabrics is to buy secondhand and not create any demand for any new fabric to be produced. But buying secondhand can be time consuming, often fruitless, and not everyone is able to. Also, if you are looking for something specific buying secondhand can often be impossible. The fabric I am wearing in these photos is secondhand and was picked up at a local fabric swap. My lovely friend Catie brought a half-sewn dress that wasn’t going to fit her and the remaining fabric scraps to the swap. I jumped at the opportunity to turn them into something that would fit me. I unpicked the half-circle skirt from the dress she was making and added a button band down the front and a waistband – voila new skirt! Then I carefully cut the remaining scraps into a Helen’s Closet Ashton Top. I thought I might wear them together but I actually prefer to wear them separate and was actually wearing this top yesterday!
I honestly believe that if you love a fabric then you will wear it, and getting lots of wear out of something is the best way to be sustainable. Let me tell you how I know this… I sew with a lot of secondhand fabric (like this outfit!). I dye them to bring them into my colour palette, I refashion garments to make them my style. But for me to pull something out of the wardrobe and wear it, I have to *love* it. I recognise that is a huge privilege, I have enough clothes in my wardrobe to be choosy, not everyone has that luxury.
Many of the garments that have seen the LEAST wear in my wardrobe have been garments I’ve made from sheets/pillowcases that I didn’t love but sewed with because the fabric was cheap and available to me. Thanks to looking back through my wardrobe during One Year Sewn, I have been able to make this connection. Yes, secondhand or thrifted fabric is a great way to consume fabric without using any virgin materials, but if you don’t actually like the finished garment then that’s a bigger waste than actually buying new fabric that you love and can’t wait to wear the garment over and over again!
This top was a perfect example, I wore it a few times before deciding that the fabric felt cheap and I didn’t feel good wearing it. This dress was an excellent use of time because it allowed me to toile a complicated pattern, but the duvet fabric is too thin to be suitable for a dress and is almost completely see-through (wanna good look at my pants anyone? Probably not.) Obviously, I am a flawed human being (aren’t we all?) and not everything I’ve made has been a great success, that’s why I am committed to my One Year Sewn reflections to make sure I am not repeating past mistakes.
Now, please don’t think I am suggesting that buying secondhand fabric isn’t a GREAT way to source fabric. (All of the garments in the above gallery are made from secondhand fabric). I made this dress and this one using old stained tablecloths I dyed, and these have been two of my most worn dresses. This gorgeous creation was made from a friend’s leftovers after she made a top and we swapped some fabric through the post, I absolutely love it and hope I will be wearing this for many summers to come! This top was bought as scraps leftover from garment production, I look forward to wearing this every autumn! (yes I have been wearing it already – is summer over yet???). This dress was made from some vintage fabric I bought in a charity shop, it took me almost ten years to cut into it because I believe it is Liberty Wool Crepe – literally my best charity shop find ever. This skirt is the softest linen, probably because it was washed a million times as a tablecloth before I bought it and made it into a skirt. I hope I am showing that secondhand fabric can be a true treasure BUT ONLY IF YOU LOVE IT. Don’t stop yourself from buying new fabric you love and make something out of a tablecloth if you won’t love it and wear it. You do you.
Do you sew with secondhand fabric? What have you made with it? Do you believe there’s such a thing as Eco Fabric? Let’s chat!