Friday, 21 February 2020

Patchwork Scrap-buster Scout Tee


Right, I hope you're sitting comfortably because I've got a lot to say about this project. First up, I feel I need to get this out of the way: I'm not sure that I like this top, or if I'll get much wear from it. But, that atypically doesn't bother me about this project. I'm trying to be as sustainable in my sewing as possible, so usually making a well-made, well-fitting garment that will have a long life and sees lots of use is the ultimate goal. However, this top is the product of two different trains of thought, and going on those little 'journeys' were more important and useful to me than if I'll wear this particular garment very much. 


On to these two trains of thought. The first one was to scratch an itch that I've had to try piecing together scraps and leftovers of fabric and use them to make a wearable garment, without (fingers crossed) it looking like a quilt. I've been collecting inspiration on this Pinterest board, and paying particular attention to Lauren from Elbe Textile's amazing pieced-together creations on her IG account (@elbe_textiles). When I found that Lauren had written an excellent blog post about how she approaches patchwork clothing projects, I got the push I needed to finally give it a go. 


I feel really strongly that everyone who is lucky enough to be living comfortably in a developed nation should try to reduce the amount of textile waste we are each responsible for. And that includes us sewers/sewists who make some, or all, of our own clothes. According to Patrick Grant on the GBSB, up to a third of the fabric we buy for each sewing project gets wasted. This is, of course, a higher percentage per garment than a mass produced item, which, in terms of textile waste, kind of takes the sheen off my smugness about shunning fast fashion! Like a lot of sewers who are interested in slow-sewing, my goal is to buy fewer pieces of fabric, but of a higher quality. And finding ways to utilise more than two-thirds of those lengths of fabric is of growing importance. 

But I don't want to be wasting my sewing time, or those pieces of leftover fabric, making random accessories or homeware items: sewing for the sake of it just to feel that I used up as much of my fabric as I could. My main passion is garment sewing, and I've used scraps and leftovers a lot for making kids' clothes previously. However, not all my scraps lend themselves to children's wear, nor do my kids need lots of scrap-busting new clothes all the time. So the time has come for me to explore combining scraps and leftovers within adult garment projects. 


The second train of thought that this project helped me work through, was a sense of low-level frustration caused by the feeling that that my sewing is not actually very creative. Most of my sewing projects follow this formula: match a piece of fabric with a sewing pattern that someone else has designed, then make a couple of tweaks to improve the fit, and rely on the instructions, plus my sewing-muscle memory, to achieve a nice finish. Then I parade the finished garment about IRL, and share it on my blog and Instagram feed, and usually enjoy receiving a few nice comments about it (because, like most people, I'm an approval junky). Yet I've been feeling that my involvement in the success of the garment is somewhat limited, and seeing as sewing is my main form of expression, that's pretty depressing. So this project was also about being more deeply involved in the look of my finished garment; by semi-creating the fabric that I cut the pattern pieces from, I was ensuring that I got a garment that was entirely unique.  


So for those who may be interested, here's how I approached this project on a practical level. First, I took out all my scraps and leftovers, and put them in groups according to fabric type. The result of that produced two decent piles: one of leftover viscose fabrics, and another of cotton lawn type leftovers. I was more keen to use the viscose pieces, as generally they are less useful for pocket bags, facings, hankies and such. I found that four  of the pieces combined made a nice teal/rust, shades-of-autumn-y colour story. Next, I took Lauren's advise and cut them into random squares and rectangles using a set square and rotary cutter, being as mindful as possible of the grainlines. 

I picked the Scout tee pattern by Grainline Studio to use because, having made several before, I know that the fit is lovely and pairs well with other pieces in my wardrobe (I wear this one all the time in the summer). Plus, it'd provide a good, plain canvas for some (potentially-bonkers) patchwork fabric. I played around with positioning the rectangles together to make a big enough shapes to fit the front and back pattern pieces on. It look a long time, mainly because I was working with a very limited amount of fabric, and it involved quite a bit of recutting and rejigging. I stitched the shapes together using a 1cm seam allowance. but decided to use my pinking sheers rather than overlocker to finish the raw edges to A) save time, and B) reduce the bulk created by the seams. Squeezing the sleeve shapes out of the last of the fabric scraps was a real challenge. 


I wish I'd taken a photograph, but at the end of this project, I was virtually left with dust! That was intensely pleasing, seeing as one of the motivators for this project was to use up dormant, seemingly-unusable pieces of fabric. In the same vein, I kind of view this garment as a 'free project', because I associate the cost of these fabrics with the original garment projects. In a sense, I've created value from a pile of weird-shaped scraps that otherwise no longer held value. This project was also the epitome of slow-sewing, because a 'regular' Scout tee project from virgin fabric would usually take me an evening to make, whereas this took the best part of a week's worth of pockets of sewing time. 

As I say, I don't know if I'll wear this top very much, although I definitely plan to give a good run when the weather warms up in the hope that I fall in love with it. One of the reasons that I do want to wear it a lot, is that I hope it sparks thoughts, and even conversations, about waste and repurposing within sewing, and perhaps more broadly. I want it, in some small way, to contribute to a sea-change in how we view and behave towards the materials we consume. At the very least, I hope that a few of the people who come to my sewing classes, and anyone else who sews and happens to see me IRL, get inspired to hold on to their leftovers (if they have the space), and get creative with how they use them in the future. 

Have you tried to make patchwork clothing? Have you seen anyone IRL or on the internet who has done so particularly successfully, in your opinion? Please tell all! 

32 comments:

Catherine said...

You could always dye it if you want it to be cohesive rather strongly patchwork? I love your dedication to put all of your scraps together to use them up :) I have seen some people save all their scraps and make a huge footstall cushion - which I thought I would do .. until I remembered I don’t have space for a huge footstall thing and making it would just be a waste - I really agree that things we make with scraps have to be useful for us. I hope you do wear it as it’s great 👍

Michele said...

I didn't even realize it was patch work at first and was loving the "print" of your fabric. I think it's lovely.

Susan_in_Peckham said...

I think this is super attractive!

katherine h said...

I would wear this top all the time! It is exactly my style.

The garments I have made from leftovers have often turned out to be my favourite garments. I think because using the scraps pushes my creativity and I do end up with something that is more my aesthetic.

It is a great skill to develop, because your kids will grow too big for you to make them clothes from the scraps. So sad when I could no longer cut my daughter shorts out of the leftovers from my own shorts. Enjoy your scrap busting journey!

Anonymous said...

I love it and think it looks fabulous on you. I would call it a surprising success!

Anonymous said...

I think it looks great.

Claire Cooper said...

It's great to do this. I've been wearing my denim patch work culottes loads and I love them. I get a lot of inspiration from Zero Waste Daniel. Check him out.

Heather said...

I made a pieced top last year, from scraps and I loved the process. It was made at the end of summer so I’m hoping it gets loads of wear this coming summer. Your top is great. It is entirely unique and really does suit you.

Linda said...

I think the top looks great! I love the colours you have picked, they go together really well. You have inspired me to delve into my 'leftovers' too. As an aside, I often cut out a garment at my sewing class and we fit the pieces onto as small a length of fabric as we can, then just buy that length. It is often quite a bit less than the pattern envelope suggests.

Nane said...

I really really love this conclusion « One of the reasons that I do want to wear it a lot, is that I hope it sparks thoughts, and even conversations,  »  !
And thanks for sharing you trains of thoughts on this. Very interesting and inspiring.

Allison said...

I love your top! So pretty and so flattering.

Lodi said...

I think it's So Zo! Lovely!

Anonymous said...

Simply stunning! I love everything about it and your story. I hope you do love it and wear it a lot because you did a stellar job and it looks wonderful on you. Very inspiring.
Vancouver Barbara

Johanna Imhoff said...

I love this, both in concept and in the way the final product looks. I hope you grow to love it. Were all your scraps the same types/weights of fabric? It looks like maybe some of them are slightly different from one another, but that doesn't appear to affect how the garment hangs, at least from my screen.

Tasha said...

OMG I love this so much! If you decide it's not for you I'd happily trade you something for it. It's so lovely, and inspiring!

SewRuthie said...

great use of scraps. I would like to try it with jersey scraps.

grandmak said...

Love your top and the fact that it was made from scraps

Karen said...

Your top is gorgeous. You should definitely wear it. Your colour choices are very complimentary and to a non sewer it looks like RTW.
Well done on your scrapbusting.

Sam said...

I love this. I'm definitely going to have a rummage through my scraps and see if I can do something similar.

annie said...

Il est superbe et donne envie...

BeMedina said...

Well, I'd use this top every day! It's gorgeous.

badmomgoodmom said...

I think it's beautiful and hope you wear it heaps. I sew with pieced scraps a lot, using 4 different fabrics on one voluminous wrap skirt.

Jo said...

OMG! I was only just thinking about doing something like this today - it came into my head as I was cutting some very expensive Art Gallery fabric and I thought I need to patch these off cuts up with something. You have completed the inspirational thought now because I have the scout Tee pattern and also find it a great fit. I am off to root out some other fabrics. The solid colour looks good too. XXXXXXXXXXXX Jo

Anonymous said...

It is perfect! I would buy it if I saw it in a store.

Anonymous said...

I love this, I would definitely wear it. I will now try something similar with my husbands shirts that are sitting waiting to be recycled. Fab inspiration thank you

Anonymous said...

Hi Zo
Thanks for being such a huge inspiration and general all round force for good! Other blogs have a tip jar for readers to acknowledge the work of bloggers, maybe you could try that? I recently bought one of your patterns to recognise and appreciate your work/time. Cheers :) vix

Anonymous said...

It took me the whole post to figure out what IRL meant! That said, I like the look of your top, it looks like an expensive designer piece.

Jacqueline

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Anonymous said...

Yes, I can very much relate to the thought processes you described here. For me, I began sewing as a means of finding a way to make things I have a hard time thrifting, in order to avoid the fast fashion shopping cycle (sewing using thrifted fabrics and notions as much as possible), as well as learning a new skill, which I always enjoy doing. However, since discovering sewing blogs I have fallen into a consumerist rabbit hole - watching other peoples' clothes and posts, as if I were window shopping, and feeling tempted to buy new and shiny things - as well as doing some major pattern magazine hoarding. I love reading about sewing, but I have been a bit sad lately of how consumerist a lot of it seems to be, just cranking out a garment from the latest trend fabric, following all these set sewing rules that the community and/or tradition imposes on itself. It seems to be more about attaining a perfect garment with invisible stitching and construction that copies a RTW look (but with better fit), than it is about the act of the making, being creative or inspired, or being independent, I would even say existing as a person behind the product(both maker and wearer). I have to admit I feel more attracted to a styled photo of a young, hip blogger trying an on-trend pattern than of some anonymous person recycling their torn jeans into a tote bag; the best compliment is still to say something looks 'from a shop', the worst is to say it looks 'home made', at the same time I find this a bit cheap and sad of myself. This sounds like a rant from some old hippy, but I am merely just posing questions to myself here (also, I'm a 30 y/o hippy). And I have been shocked also by the waste I am creating with this hobby. So many scraps! I feel like other crafts have way less waste. I find myself wondering what to make, just so I can use them. Quilting is not for me, but this technique will definitely go on my list. On a side note, I really do like your shirt - especially the back has great fabric placement and a balanced composition. I can relate to how you explain feeling about the shirt as well, but honestly it looks really good.

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