Week two of MIY March is all about sharing knowledge. To be honest, most of my tips this week come from making mistakes and figuring out a, hopefully, better way. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m trying to get better at this and figure out best practices for me. Your mileage may vary on what is attainable, but as perfect is the enemy of getting anything done, you may as well start where you are.
1. Tips for sewing in a more sustainable way
- My first tip would be to get to know your style. If you find that you make things that get little wear, this is a great place to start sewing more sustainable. The Curated Closet is a very good starting point if your style has been all over the place. I particulary liked the workbook (which you can use on its own). Colette Patterns has based the free series The Wardrobe Architect on principles from the book. There’s also the twice-a-year series from Seamwork to Design your wardrobe and a free sewing planner. Getting to know what fabric you will want to wear and the sort of garments you’ll actually love will ensure that what you make will get worn.
- Try out your pattern layout before buying fabric. The layout plans that come with patterns are just suggestions and you’ll find that you’ll need a lot less fabric than suggested. For instance I made my velvet Anna dress out of 2.5 metres fabric (size 16) instead of the suggested 4.5 meters and the Sew Over It Lois dress in the photo took me 2 meters instead of 3.1 meters.
- Save all your scraps and threads. There’s a ton of scrapbusting projects out there. Here’s my Pinterest board with projects. Now that I have a completely full wardrobe these are the projects that keep my sewing going. I’m making reusable make-up cloths at the moment. So far I made a quilt, beeswax wraps, foldable bags, handkerchiefs, a Bread bag, two of the Closet Case poufs (which use up a megaton of scraps and threads) and a drawer full of underwear made from my jersey scraps. I’ve used small jersey scraps to make clothes and blankets for Hanna’s dolls.
- Make your clothes to last. Work on your seam finishes and make them durable. Use good quality thread and the right tension.
- Prewash your fabric! Fabric shrinks a lot more than you expected and it might even shrink your garment to unwearable status (that happened to me once with fabric I really loved, so not taking that chance again).
2. Tips for sourcing more sustainable fabrics
- Learn how to colour block any pattern so you can use up scraps. Or try patchwork. I’m currently assembling a large piece of fabric from scraps.
- Learn about fibers and sustainability and start checking labels and certificates. Mail fabric companies about the origins of their fabric. Do your own research and try to see through greenwashing (when companies use terms that seem like they’re doing the right thing, but the fine print says something else entirely). Accept that there will still be things you didn’t know.
- Using what you already have is the best choice, but deadstock fabric and vintage fabric are good options too. This is my favourite Etsy shop for vintage fabric.
- When you work with a large fabric stash (like I do) make sure it’s stored in a way that makes it attractive for you to browse it. At the moment I have folded my fabrics using this method with cartoon boards, but I re-fold everything a couple of times a year and frequently just browse my fabric to keep inspired. I definitely am guilty of saving the best, which is what left me with a lot of very beautiful fabric and, because I used all my practice fabric for clothes, no wardrobe space for new clothes made from those beautiful fabrics.
3. What are your most treasured textile items?
I love my clothes a lot. They would be my most treasured textile items! But apart from clothes:
I really like my first Closet case patterns pouffe. It was such a joy to make and it took up so many scraps, but most importantly: it is very much beloved and used in our household. It made an actual positive difference in our lives as my husband can now rest his left damaged leg better than he used to. The second one I made is the one we use to read to my daughter at night. I’m saving up scraps for a third and fourth.
I also love the first quilt I made. It is definitely and emphatically not perfect, but when I see it lying on my daughters bed or see her curled up under it on a comfy chair it gives me feelings of belonging and home. I made it from fat quarters I got in my fabric subscription box from Sew Hayley Jane. And then there was THE BAG:
I think I fell in actual love with this bag. It was made from the sustainable tote bag kit from Time to Sew’s Kate. I used sashiko stitching on the front from the book Make + Mend by Jessica Marquez. The first weeks after I made this I was keeping it with me most of the time so I could stare at it longingly. It reminded me how much pleasure there was to be had in working really slowly and enjoying the process.