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Sustainable Sewing Tips

sew sustainable fair pipet design TLZ movement

Fashion Revolution Week at The Sew Sustainable Fair, London

Saturday 22 April is Earth Day and the start of Fashion Revolution Week 2023. Which coincided with our first eco sewing event, Sew Sustainable Fair. We are took part in Fashion Revolution Week with a pledge wall to encourage sewists to get involved. Make a pledge on any of the below sustainable sewing swaps you can make for 2023 and share on Instagram with the tag #sewsustainablefair.

The nature of making our own clothes is a protest against the fast fashion industry. But have you considered who made the fabric and haberdashery? Have you swapped shopping for fashion for shopping for fabric, haberdashery and patterns?  There are no judgements here, all we ask is you consider what you make and what you make it with. Even one small change in 2023 can make a difference.

Sustainable Sewing Tips

1. Plan your makes

Before making a new garment a good rule of thumb is to question yourself ‘will I wear it 30 times?’ A philosophy created by Livia Firth, founder of Eco-Age to help reduce the number of clothes bought and not worn. I like this explanation about the philosophy. Another question to ask is ‘Do I need it?’ Rosy Sews Modern Vintage recommends auditing our wardrobes before we start sewing. Are we making what we love to sew or what we actually wear? ‘I made myself five dresses but I walk our two dogs every morning so I tend to live in jeans and long sleeved T-shirts’ Kerry commented on the video and has now made six T-shirts.

If you love listening to podcasts whilst you sew then we recommend Check Your Thread. Created by Zoe Edwards, she interviews conscious sewists. During episode 24, Zoe and Rebecca Evans-Merritt chat about planning their makes. Zoe Edwards gave a talk with her top tips on how to sew sustainably at our fair. Sharing the processes she has learned during her 18 months of interviewing other slow sewists. We recorded the talk and will share it soon.

2. Use and organise your Stash

‘I can’t buy any more fabric until I use what I have’ is a phrase I see many times on socials. We completely understand and it could even be the number one tip for sewing sustainably to use up your stash before buying more fabric. We  all love looking at a well organised fabric stash (especially by colour) but the fabric was created to be used and worn and re-worn. All of the time and effort that went into growing or creating the fibres, spinning the yarn, knitting or weaving the fabric, dying and print processes, finishing processes. Plus shipping, probably many times during its journey to make it into our fabric stash. With all of that effort fabric deserves to be worn proudly and shown to the world. A bit of organisation helps. Perhaps creating a limit on the size of your storage, when it is full then it is time to use up, swap or sell. We love the Stash Hub app to help us keep track of the fabric in our stash and give us self imposed deadlines and check the status of each project. It prevents us buying more of the same when we are out shopping. Equally the app holds pattern information so we can buy what we need. Yvette and Doug from Stash Hub joined us at the Sew Sustainable Fair.

3. Swap and sell

We know that sometimes we get the purchases wrong. This happens when we buy clothes and we can return them within a certain time period but usually fabric shops don’t accept returns. We might buy fabric on a whim but then decide it doesn’t suit us or any of the styles that we like to make.  Earlier this year, Olive Road London hosted a fabric swap. It was super fun with everyone bringing along a fantastic collection of fabrics that they could not use. Patterns and haberdashery included. New friends were made and we’ve already seen some of the makes from the swap. Is there a fabric swap in your area? Could you organise a smaller swap with your friends? If swapping isn’t an option then try selling on resell sites such as eBay, Etsy or Facebook market place. The North London Waste Authority have written this useful blog post on how to organise your own swap.

4. Buy vintage, pre-loved or deadstock fabric

A report released in 2017 found that 73% of clothing that is thrown away by consumers goes to waste, with 57% ending up in landfill and 25% of this being incinerated. By using the fabrics that are already in circulation, it means we are not using the Earth’s precious resources to make new textiles. Buying vintage is a fun way to recycle. Saving these often bright coloured fabrics from landfill. Wondering what their story is, who owned them before us and why didn’t they use the fabric they so carefully chose? At the Sew Sustainable Fair we had a shopping gallery full of vintage and deadstock fabric from Olive Road London, Simply Vintage Designs and Missy Mop Fabrics.

5. Buy organic certified fabric

Fashion Revolution Week highlights their campaigns on #whomdemyclothes and #whomademyfabric to highlight the thousands of textile workers who are not paid a fair wage and who often work in dangerous conditions. Sadly, buying vintage or swapping fabric often means we don’t know where the fabric was made. The fabric shop may know the origin of some of the process but not all of it, such as where the cotton was grown for example. Buying certified labelled product guarantees it is sustainable. For example, GOTS is a global standard for textiles that are made from certified organically produced raw materials and includes very strict ecological and social standards throughout the entire supply chain. You can find more information about GOTS and other sustainable labelling over on the James Tailoring website. James Tailoring joined us at the Sew Sustainable Fair on the 22nd April with their eco friendly sewing supplies. New sustainable fabric can also be found at Bornella Fabrics, who joined us for her first sewing event.

6. Scrap busting

scrap busting patterns and kits

We all know that scrap fabric is part and parcel of sewing. Taking up room in our already cramped sewing spaces. We don’t want to throw it away so what do we do with it? There are lots of free scrap busting ideas on Instagram and YouTube. I’ve designed a leaflet that includes scrap busting patterns. Sign up for my newsletter for your free download.

7. Mending, Alterations and sewing masterclasses

beginner sewing workshops london

The clothes we make are no different to the clothes we buy in the sense that they get worn out and often need repairing. TLZ movement taught a workshop at the Sew Sustainable Fair to encourage us to mend and alter our clothes. Often it is the smallest repair or alteration that stops us wearing our favourite clothes. Bring along your mends or practice on samples at this fun workshop. £25 per person booking.

About Fashion Revolution Week 2023

“Fashion Revolution Week 2023 marks 10 years since the Rana Plaza tragedy. Using the 10 points of our manifesto as building blocks, our Global Network of Fashion Revolutionaries in 75 countries are bringing people together to build a vision for radical change. Find out more about the campaign and how to get involved here.”

If you would like to know more about what goes into making your fabric and clothes then please click on the relevant blog posts below: