Thursday 16 November 2017

The Unsustainability of Sewing

Have you heard about Earth Overshoot Day? Its definition (that I pilfered from this excellent website) is the date that marks when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. We maintain this deficit by liquidating stocks of ecological resources and accumulating waste, primarily carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. You want to know when 2017's overshoot day was? 2nd August. How depressing is that? So, seeing as governments and businesses aren't taking committed action fast enough to reverse this, it also has to be up to individuals to take steps, where we can, to cut our consumption and therefore the use of energy and raw materials. And let's face it, those of us who have the time to write and read blogs about sewing are probably lucky enough to live relatively comfortable lives, most likely in a developed country. We're the individuals that are in a position to make some changes.

(my newly shortened gingham ruffle Tova dress)

So I've been thinking a lot lately about the unsustainability of sewing, and it has lead to a fair dose of soul searching. I used to think that making my own (and more recently my children's) clothing was a way in which I was making a contribution to reducing my carbon footprint and being more sustainable. In fact, as you may have noticed, the sub-heading of this blog is 'Sewing Sustainably with Style'. (Granted, I came up with that when I was making a lot of garments out of reclaimed textiles, usually secondhand clothing that otherwise might be heading to a landfill, which is probably a more environmentally sound approach than making stuff from brand new fabric.)

My thinking was: if I was making my own clothing, then I wouldn't be contributing so much to all that energy used by hauling raw materials, fabric, trims and finished garments around the globe, from cotton field to the shop floor. I would only be contributing to the fabric production and distribution bit, and powering my sewing machine and heating my iron. And I guess that that is true to a certain extent, but more recently I've been facing up to the fact that sewing is an energy and resource hungry pass time, and that it is unlikely that the carbon and water footprint of the stuff we sew for ourselves is much different than something we may have bought from Topshop. For example, making things in many multiples rather than singly saves a lot of energy per item, and fabric through tighter layplans. A lot has been written in recent years about the ills of the fashion industry, but I have yet to hear about an energy and resource study that makes a direct comparison between mass-produced and home sewn garments, anybody know of one? If one has been done, sadly I don't think us home sewers/ists would come off lightly.

My feeling is that the most sustainable way to dress yourself has to be by simply wearing the garments we already have, and when those things wear out, replacing them with second hand items. However, I'm not advocating that we all stop making our own clothes; you'll have to prise my sewing machine and fabrics sheers out of my cold, dead hands. There are heaps of benefits to sewing your own clothing, Tilly unearthed many of them whilst researching her fascinating provocation paper back in 2011. So my thoughts turn to how can we make home sewing a more sustainable thing to do?

Whatever way I approach this question, I always draw the same conclusion: we have to use our skills to make things that we want to wear many many times, and that will last for years. Obviously, that's probably not going to be possible straight away if you are new to sewing, it's impossible to learn without making mistakes. But when you've got some skills under your belt and know a bit about what you like, here's some things we can all do to ensure that we're sewing as sustainably as possible:
  • Use the best quality fabric you can afford. I know that I definitely plan a project more carefully and take my time to get a great fit and finish when I'm using some really special fabric. Not only is the outcome likely to be more to your taste and body shape, but a better quality fabric will probably hold up to repeated wear and laundering. 
  • Make a toile/muslin. Although making a toile/muslin as well as the finished garment effectively uses twice the fabric than just ploughing ahead with your 'fashion fabric' (not sure why I hate that term so much), but that toile can help iron out any potential fit issues that will lead to a successful finished garment. A 'meh' garment that gets worn only a few times, or  never, may well have been avoided. Plus, once you've perfected the fit of a sewing pattern, you're more likely to make multiple versions that you know will be a success, so working through that initial toile/muslin would have been even more worth while.
  • Returning to an imperfect make. If you can dig deep and find the patience to rework a sewing project that wasn't quite right, you are likely to thank yourself later. Remember this gingham modified Tova dress I made a few months ago?  I eventually mustered up the arsed-ness required to make a very simple modification, raising the hem so that the proportions of the garment worked better, and now it is literally my favourite garment I own and I feel fabulous in it (see pics above). 
  • Analyse your style. Like many sewers, I use Pinterest to ascertain exactly what themes, styles and colours of clothing appeal to me. I then frequently refer back to my boards for inspiration and to check that a new garment project idea is likely to be something that gels with my style and I'll really want to wear. Personally, I collate images of RTW (modern and vintage), other people's creations, sewing patterns I'd like to own, kid's clothing ideas and lots of other categories. Of course, you then have to apply another layer of analysis to check that what you'd like to make is also something that fits with your lifestyle, but I really think that Pinterest has been a huge help in learning about myself and reducing my number of sewing fails. I wish Pinterest has been around during those first couple of years when I was making my own stuff...
  • Getting a good fit. This is linked to the point about making a toile/muslin, of course, but it's worth emphasising again I think! Making a garment that not only look good on you, but also that feels comfortable and non-restrictive, will keep you reaching for that garment rather than passing it over when you're getting dressed in the morning. Let's be honest, if a garment is really comfortable, we'll often even over-look the 'looking good' bit! Hands up who's continued to wear maternity clothing for more than a few weeks after your baby was born... There is a TON of fitting advice on the interwebs, as well as many amazing books on the subject. Recently, I subscribed to a jeans fitting class on Craftsy which includes access to an amazing teacher that you can post questions to and share photos with who will respond with expert advice. 
I'd love to hear from you about this. Do you think 'sustainable sewing' is possible? Is the impact of this pass time a concern you've had? Can you think of any other tips for eliminating sewing project duds and making long-lasting clothing you love wearing?


Linda said...

Great post Zoe! I have become interested in 'slow fashion' this year, and have tried not to buy any new RTW clothes. So I have made my own and bought second hand. I totally agree that it is important to get the fit right so that the item becomes something that you wear all the time! Thanks for the post.

Unknown said...

Hi Zoe,
I think you're absolutely right! Home sewing doesn't necessarily mean less pollution. Less consumption does.

Recently I read something interesting: that a cotton t-shirts biggest environmental impact doesn't lie in the production, but in the many laundry circles it undergoes. (Maybe fast fashion has changed that a bit.)

So another big way to positively impace overall environmental impact can be wearing camisoles to keep a pullover fresh for 2-3 days instead of 1-2 days. Or wearing a daily changed t-shirt with a cardigan one washes less often, instead of wearing a long-sleeve on bare skin that needs to be washed daily. Or wearing more wool, which doesn't stink the way cotton does and can be worn much longer in between washing it.

Often the things that we feel the most proud about (e.g. sewing our own wardrobe) are not the things that make the biggest overall impact.

Knitlass said...

Interesting post. In many ways sewing is just a different way of consuming stuff. There is a nice discussion of this on Abby Glassenberg's podcast

But, yes, sewing means that you might be able to reduce your impact. Impact is not just about the ecological footprint of the raw materials - it's also about the social and economic impact of the materials and the production. Making your own clothes means bypassing sweatshop labour - although it does not guarantee that the fabrics or notions that you use have been ethically produced.

Just Delphine said...

interesting post, I must admit that I don't think about the environment while sewing, however I do think that by making my own clothes, less people have to work in bad circumstances so maybe that's also a good thing to start with

rosylea said...

A thought-provoking post. I do worry about the fact that I own considerably more clothing now that I make what I wear; I enjoy sewing so much that it would be hard to stop. Making a new garment from remnants, or recycling a charity shop find, is the most fun overall. Today I have four new pairs of knickers instead of a bag of left over knit fabric, and I do feel pleased with that. Even the lace trim came from Help the Aged.

Gry said...

Thank you, Zoe. Sustainability and sewing have been on my mind a lot lately and it is to read your thoughts. I think the main justification for sewing your own clothes is that it teaches you the cost of a piece of clothing (in the same way cooking your own food teaches you what you are actually eating) and that it enables you to repair or alter your clothes to give them longer lives. My own list of ways to make my sewing more sustainable (or at least less wasteful) is a lot like yours. Right now I am focusing on making items that will go with things I already have in order to get more out of them.

And I am so glad you included making a muslin. Seamwork has had a couple of articles on how you reduce waste by not making a muslin, but I agree with you: the cost of unbleached muslin to get a good fit is less than making a entire garment you don't wear due to a poor fit. A better solution is to buy less patterns and instead learn to make alterations so that you can use old patterns you know will fit you. It is so easy to fall in love with all the lovely new indie patterns but TNT patterns are less wasteful.

Naomi said...

I have thought about this a lot! Home sewing may be less economical when compared like-for-like to mass production but there is a huge amount of waste in the fashion industry - Did you read the recent report about H&M being accused of burning 12 tonnes of unsold garments per year? Even if this is incorrect (as they claim), the swift turnover in fast-fashion promotes a throw-away attitude to clothing that we don’t have to support with our dollar.

I too believe that the best option is buying secondhand and often feel guilty that my preference lies with sewing with new fabrics. The two fabric stores I mainly buy from sell overstock fabric from the fashion industry which seems like a good thing, as it’s not going to landfill, but buying it is probably also supporting bad practice as manufacturers might not bulk produce to the same extent if there weren’t an on-sell option? It’s so tricky!!

I think there is such value keeping sewing skills alive amongst us rather than leaving it up to corporations. We can choose ‘how’ we sew and whether we approach it thoughtfully or in a fast-fashion way. I try to improve my practice in small ways, creating garments that will get plenty of wear, to avoid synthetics where I can (all fabric production has a terrible impact but microfibre pollution seems like a particularly concerning issue right now), to launder less, to use secondhand fabric/garment for muslins and to turn scraps into useful items (baby bibs and oven mitts are a fave).

Whenever I discuss this I feel like a hypocrite because I absolutely do buy new things every now-and-then despite kind of hating the fast-fashion industry. There is so much we should all be doing better but I guess the reality is that we are emotionally wired to want to fit into the society we live in by having new things and we often just don’t have the time to make everything or find it secondhand. I really enjoy reading discussions and people's comments about this topic; it makes me feel like it's worth trying to be better.

Emily said...

I'm not sure that home sewing a garment or buying one is so different, I mean environmentally. Someone more clever than I could probably give statistics about what the exact carbon footprint of a home-made or factory-made shirt is, and I'm sure that there is a wide variety.

But there's another factor which can't be translated into hard numbers so easily. I think that sewing my own clothes, just like growing your own food or building your own furniture or whatever you do, has an impact on how I view the world. I start to appreciate my material (no pun intended) possessions more, and I think that ripples out into other aspects of my live. It makes me a better person and a better world citizen.

Unknown said...

I’m with you here. I feel a little bit isolated from the temptations of fast fashion by the fact that anything that goes on my top half won’t fit, but also realized that making things that don’t last or don’t get worn often is just as bad, maybe worse because they are less likely to fit anyone secondhand. 14 dresses is a dream for me. 7 for summer, 7 for winter. Maybe another for dressing up. How complicated they could be. How slowly and thoughtfully they could be made. How much room I’d have in my closet. How few is enough?

PsychicSewerKathleen said...

I enjoyed your post very much too Zoe! I do all the things you list here actually :) I love the nicest fabrics anyway (a BIG reason why I sew), always do a full "practice" run with cheaper, often thrifted fabric (then donate the fully made garment back to the Thrift Shop because it might fit someone out there!) and I've been working with the Curated Closet for over a year now. I'm also sewing much more slowly - taking time with each garment for nice finishes, embellishments and more hand sewing. I'm 63 and when I was 17 I belonged to Pollution Probe ((1971) in Sudbury Ontario Canada. My peers thought I was weird as you can imagine :) I've been in the environmental movement for more than 40 years. It saddens me now for this next generation and the one following for they will be the ones who must cope with the consequences. I get very excited when I see someone younger taking on the issue with gusto! Sewists are making a significant contribution! They are informing themselves and those close to them that fast fashion is a BIG polluter and is rife with exploitation and yet they do it with such a positive approach! Instead of doing THIS, do THIS :)

Anonymous said...

All good advice. Also sensible to think about what colours suit you and make sure that you sew items that go together. So you can mix and match to avoid wardrobe orphans that you don't wear as you have nothing to wear with them.

eimear said...

its a conundrum alright . I think the underlying paradigm of overconsumption is the flaw. a lot of sew-ers will accumulate stash (and I fall for this myself) without getting to use it (only way I contain mine is to keep to a minimum of one shopping bag) and even though I sew mainly from charity shop buys - there is always the lure of the new make....but ultimately I do think home sew-ers are more inclined to wear their makes for longer.

I recently did a pop up market stall to sell my own 'sample' makes (ie made it to try a pattern and it was not my style, made it to test upcycle patterns I am developing, or just made it and didnt like it). I did it in part as I didnt want to just give these back to the charity shop and have them deal with the excess as I felt they have enough of it, and I should be responsible for my own, and also in doing so I got to talk to people about upcycling clothing too!

Anita said...

Thanks for this post! Very interesting thoughts, and very good points also in the comments.

It is true that by economies of scale a mass product takes less energy than an equivalent handmade product. But there's the word "equivalent".

I don't want to buy or wear those cheap garments that stink of chemicals, use cheap fabric and are most probably be done by workers under unfair conditions (to say the least).

Apart from the human factor, those factories also work under very lax environmental conditions - I once read about the process of making a Jeans look "used" which takes lots of energy, chemicals and workers exposed to those!

When we make our garments, we have far more control over the conditions under which the garment is made: fabric choice, sourcing our material, putting labour and effort into a garment which we will appreciate later on.

I know there are people who instead of shopping lots of new clothes just shop for shiny fabric and sew lots of often unnecessary things.

But I don't want to be arrogant and smug, I hope that doing things with your hands at least plants a tiny seed of appreciation: for the work that goes into something handmade, and that their is a value to it.

Anita from Germany

Tasha said...

I think the key to sustainable sewing is to reduce overall consumption, and make more thoughtful choices with materials. You're right that if we just switch from buying new clothes to buying new fabric, it's not too different environmentally (although I agree with other commenters that there are other benefits to creativity and lifestyle through sewing).

I also wouldn't ever want to suggest that we stop making, but I do think we all need to consider the idea that we have enough—continuing to acquire more more more is not sustainable, whether we are buying or sewing. Certainly making things to last, mending, and using what we have and can find second hand are all good goals.

I think choosing more sustainable materials for sewing is very important too. Since I know I already have most of the clothes I need, I can save up for fabric which is organically/locally/ethically produced. I also find that I get a special sense of connection when I'm sewing with fabric that I know where it came from, and I feel like I'm helping make the future a little bit better.

marina said...

this is great! and i think making things to last is key, making our own clothes or whatever becomes so much more sustainable when the intention is to use it for years and years. i mostly quilt, and make everything from repurposed clothing or secondhand fabric, and you're right that it's not just about reducing consumption in that first step, you have to also think about how it's going to continue to last and be of use for years and years.

Fabric Tragic said...

So thought provoking... the only thoughts I could add would be to not over purchase fabric - once one has toiled one should be able to know an exact amount to minimise scraps/leftovers which either take up space or get chucked (although with bebes I am realising so many leftovers can be repurposed into kiddy clothing).

Sarah Sparkles said...

What a great post, Zoe! You raise some very interesting points which I'm currently mulling over. I try my best to reduce my own carbon footprint by buying second hand and locally/within Canada but I need to get better in reworking/rethinking less successful makes.

Unknown said...

Interesting post. I often make "wearable toiles" with inexpensives or secondhand fabric. I wonder if there is any argument for using muslin(or calico) for toiles? Is this a more or less sustainable practice? Often the inexpensive fabric is the same price, but maybe I should be considering the environmental impact of both these fabrics? Any thoughts?

badmomgoodmom said...

I've thought about this a great deal, too.

I'm a scientist, so I collect data.

Do you read Timo Rissanen's blog, I read that factories have ~85/15 use/waste ratio of 85% yield. So I set out to weigh by fabric before and after cutting. Really efficient factories can get their waste down to 3-5% for a 97% yield! Furthermore, they collect and recycle their scraps.

Home sewing rarely approaches the efficiency of factory cutting because we are sewing only 1 size. I have hit 85% efficiency on rare occasions. I usually do 75% efficiency.

However, I save and reuse my scraps as much as I can. Pocket linings and facings, bias, muslins, napkins, etc. Everyone needs scraps to test techniques and stitching.

I also use light-colored scraps instead of paper towels when for jobs in the kitchen or bathroom that are not appropriate for reusable/washable rags (those involving bacteria.)

Finally, natural fiber scraps can be composted.

Although it takes more time, I reuse second hand textiles and buy fabric seconds from an odd jobber. I cut around the flaws/worn bits.

We can be part of the ecosystem of squeezing as much usable life out of produced goods as possible. It's like the Welsh Bricks quilts made from offcuts from woolen factories. Or the homespun cotton fabrics made by weavers in Japan with short bobbins from factories.

Jo said...

Thoughtful post Zoe. I like to make my girls clothes out of the left over bits of my clothes so I guess waste is not an issue per se but I have recently got to the stage where we simply do not need any more clothes in our wardrobes and I have to think carefully about what to sew next. That Tova looks soooooo much better that new length. I skipped back and checked the older length (too much like a nightdress) but now awesome. I am just adding length to jumper sleeves that I finished last year but never wore. It onlytook one evening to pull back the cuff, knit a few more inches and add the cuff back on again so now it is wearable and not on the scrap pile. Jo xxx

Anonymous said...

Thanks Zoe - I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and have made some plans to sew more sustainably though I have a long way to go. I have been reading your blog for years now and there is a lot of inspiration here. I recently made a pretty blouse from an old duvet cover, and I like wearing secondhand ready-made clothing as well. I save all my scraps and worn-out items, and I intend to make some quilted items with them - though I haven't done so yet. My mother-in-law has knitted some amazing things from unravelled secondhand garments. I have lots more plans but I'm only just getting started.

As creative people, we have the ability to reuse the materials that we might otherwise throw away.

Also, I love the shortened version of the Tova. How wonderful that a small change can make such a big difference.

BLD in MT said...

Thanks you for this, Zo. I buy ALL my fabric and zippers second hand. But there is still thread, interfacing, and other bits and bobs that are certainly new...and almost as certainly made in a less than sustainable way. I think you nailed it buy secondhand and make things you'll wear the heck out. I'll think extra hard before I start a new dress--will I want to wear it over and over and over, is it a passing fancy or is it my true style. It is good to be more thoughtful about these sort of decisions.

I do really enjoy the new look of your Tova dress. It is wild to me that sometimes those little changes make all the difference. I made a dress once that I found too short. So, I never wore it. When I found the remnant of fabric in my stash I realized I could make a six inch long ruffle and thereby make the dress longer. I did and now I wear it all the time.

I'll be thinking on this. And I was unaware of Earth Overshoot so thanks for that, disheartening though it may be. Knowledge is power.

vintagerockchick said...

Hi Zoe, I caught the end of an interview on Radio 4 this morning with Dame Ellen MacArthur (the yachtswoman) talking about the appalling waste of textiles. I'm going to see if I can find it on iplayer, but when I searched I found this article -
Which you might find interesting.
By the way, don't pass out but I am FINALLY half way through an Anya bag! I don't like to rush into projects! Gill x

Joo Mi said...

I can identify/agree with many of the sentiments expressed in both post and comments. I had bought an adult diaper pattern and recently decided to make the pattern using old cotton bed linens and towels. I had originally wanted to source my supplies from an online organic cotton vendor but decided against it for multiple reasons.

This year I altered a fast fashion thrift store find, an H&M white organic cotton skirt, by hand with a hand sewing needle. It took longer than if I had used my sewing machine but I felt tremendously pleased with myself.

If I see a pattern or thrift store product I like but don't think it's worth my time and energy to do by hand or alter then it prevents me from adding to my stash/wardrobe. Most of my patterns are uncut and I may end up giving most of the rest of them away after I have made up my mind.

It may take me another 10 years before I can save up the money to buy a one way ticket to South Korea. My parents will get this sewing machine just before I take off.

You can tell the wealth of a country or neighborhood by the number of thrift stores it has per capita. My current city, Fontana, has 3 Goodwill stores, one large Salavation Army store, besides another mom and pop charity thrift shop. Thrift stores are a sign of wealth and unheard of in South Korea back when I lived there over 20 years ago.

Joo Mi said...

I wanted to add that I was talking about old linens and towels we already have at home. I may end up crocheting the edges with cotton thread/yarn.

In spite of the tremendous amount of stuff I have given away to others we still have a lot of stuff that still doesn't get used the way it was meant to be used. I currently live with my senior parents.

Right now, this year, my dad has used my sewing machine more than I have. He sewed leather, fake leather, and other shoe materials on industrial shoe repair sewing machines back when he owned 2 shoe repair shops.

Zoe is right in that women who own sewing machines and have easy access to thrift stores and the Internet speak from a position of wealth. We may not be among the superwealthy of the Bill Gates type but we are used to inventions and conveniences like reliable tap water, toilets, libraries, and so forth that a genuinely dirt poor person can only dream about.

When a wealthy woman sees a cockroach her immediate reaction is, "Ew!" When a dirt poor woman sees a roach she thinks, "Free food!"

I wanted to emphasize that my life and priorities are different from married women with children that are much younger than me. I don't have any children of my own. I have never been married.

In the past I got those hair perms, wore conventional make up with who knows what kind of synthetic cancer causing ingredients, nylons that ripped before I could wear them once, hair spray, gel, mousse, and many other things that contributed a tremendous amount to the current overpollution of our planet.

When I say overpollution I mean that humans have reached the tipping point of overpolluting planet earth beyond human repair. Even if you do the right thing from an individual standpoint doesn't mean you can force someone else to do the right thing. Only someone in heaven can repair what mankind has ruined. Thank God for that.

I still eat at fast food places almost every day. This will eventually slow down but most likely not this year.

Some things bear repeating. Even if everyone stopped using fossil fuels today the abnormal carbon emissions rate would continue to go up for years afterwards.

jessica said...

Zoe, a thoughtful post and wonderful comment thread, as always! I am glad you are continuing to create a space on the internet for these kinds of discussions.

I am struck by the comments about considering the impact of garment washing, and how this is a long residual effect most of never consider. Unfortunately for those who love knits, many are blended with polyester and that, I suppose, really ought to be factored into the consideration of whether, and how much, to sew with those types of fabrics (I mean, if you really love ponte, I say go for it, but consider compensatory strategies, perhaps washing less frequently, locating and using a local scrap recycler, etc.) I already try to wear everything at least twice before it's washed (except in summer), and my partner only washes his jeans a couple times a year, which probably is additional food for thought in terms of how long one can truly go between washes.

I am also reminded of a blogger I once followed, who said that every winter she buys herself one pair of wool tights and one wool sweater/tunic/dress (usually locally/independently made). After four or five years, she had four or five of each and felt that her closet was getting crowded! In a similar vein, I have an aunt who lived in Italy for a year, and one clothing philosophy she brought back with her is to buy one great item each season and then just wear the heck out of it. I imagine we need a broader cultural shift away from the seductive NewNewNew of fast fashion, and reimagining our wardrobes back to contentment with a few well-chosen, well-loved pieces. What if sewists didn't just think, "Will this get tons of wear?" What if instead they thought, "Will this be my one make for the season?" How might we change the way we create?

And I think this is trickiest when we are in the middle of a style or wardrobe shift, as it sounds like you may be (and as I am feeling as well). How do you make those big adjustments with the smallest possible impact on this planet? I had a roommate who had a couple black and a couple white t-shirts, which she paired with either black jeans (2 pairs) or blue jeans (1 pair) and then a statement cardigan (she maybe had 3 or 4). Throw in a couple statement scarves, a fedora, a couple flannel shirts for variety, and a couple shift dresses, and that was about the extent of her wardrobe from October through May. Enough accessorization to keep things interesting, but modular and small (admittedly, she had a number of shoes). I keep returning to her as I rethink my wardrobe now, wondering how I focus in on some great basics, stylish statement pieces I won't mind wearing all the time, and then accessories that make an outfit feel new. How to keep it modular and self-contained yet fresh and interesting.

No answers, just a lot of questions. Thanks for inspiring this train of thought! Look forward to seeing how your thinking continues to evolve as well.

Cate said...

I would highly recommend you watch The True Cost documentary because one of the biggest issues I have with making clothes (which I do a lot of!) is the fabric production process and the use of plastic fibres. Too many sewers are oblivious to the impact of cheap cotton and polyester fabrics on the environment and the workers who create them and so continue to use them. Even natural fibre fabrics cause a great deal of problems which the documentary goes into in detail. You can read more about it on my blog here -

Nina said...

I reckon making for the sake of making is probably just like shopping for the sake of shopping - if you're not doing it to serve a specific need, it's wasteful. Not to mention the shopping that still goes on, for fabric and supplies! I'm always kind of surprised by how many people see their sewing as an ethical act, no matter what/how much they're making or what fabrics they use. For me, choosing to be pretty strict about only buying 'vintage' or organic fabrics serves a number of purposes: they're usually a bit more expensive, so it limits the amount I can buy; there is much less choice (although still more than enough!) which reduces overwhelm and shopping opportunities; and obviously it reduces the environmental impact of what I make, as well as being friendlier to the people doing the making. I wrote about questions I ask when buying fabric here: and I have loads more posts on the subject if you click back through the archive.

Sew Shelagh said...

Hi Zoe I just stumbled across this post which was interesting. One thing I have just discovered is tissue fitting which I think is a more sustainable solution to toiles. The latest love to see podcast has an episode with Melissa Watson about it. I found it very interesting and I've just tried it the approach myself. It seemed quite effective, I'm waiting until I finish the final garment before deciding though.

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