Self Assembly Required

DIY dressmaking + crafts with Emily

Sustainable sewing and Me Made May

I’m sure a lot of you have been hearing all about sustainable sewing at the moment. I know I have! It’s always a vibrant topic during a Fashion Revolution week (which was last week) and has also been the foundation of a new sewing challenge and a podcast or two.

It’s not something I often think about. But should it? I’ve always been one of those in the “I’m already making my own clothes and am avoiding fast fashion as much as possible – isn’t that enough?” camp.

And if you’re there too I think that’s totally ok! Any sewing we do, whether you do it as a hobby now and then or if you’re aiming to a whole me-made wardrobe, will by default make us more aware of what is required to make a garment from scratch. We’ll know the time and effort as well as the material costs that go into it and that’ll put things into perspective when out shopping on the high street.

I’ve managed to avoid buying RTW for a while and that’s something that I’m hoping to continue!

But sewing-wise, do I need to look at sustainability there too?

The more I sew (and consume), the more I think I should.

There are a few areas to think about with regards to sewing:

  • Fabric

In other words, where are my fabrics coming from? What environmental impact is caused by the manufacture of these? Am I buying too much?

So currently most of fabric stash is from markets and the like. The upside to this is that this is mostly dead stock i.e. stuff that’s not selling elsewhere, end of rolls from factories etc. and actually buying from jobbers (that’s the technical term for people who buy excess stock from factories) can save this from going to landfill.

It’s also very kind to the wallet…

These beauts were on £2/metre from Walthamstow market.

The downsides? You can’t trace back where the stock is from and the conditions under which it was made.

I’m ok with that. I’d love to be buying 100% sustainable fabric but it’s quite unrealistic just because I know my tastes and shopping habits. Here’s a list from Wendy Ward of online suppliers if you’re looking for some though!

  • Waste

Where does my waste end up? Am I making too much stuff and causing more waste?

Another bad habit (habit might not the right word) I have is a tendency to fall out of love with a garment pretty quickly after I’ve made it. I’ve got a lot of makes in my wardrobe that have had fewer than 5 wears I’m ashamed to say. That being said I think that’s part of learning to sew and finding your style. I don’t think we’re going to love everything we make! Sometimes the fit isn’t quite right, the fabric might not have worked with a particular pattern etc. There could be lots of reasons why we might not wear it after.

I like to try to have regular clear outs of my wardrobe. I give away a lot of items – my friends and family tend to get first pick and the rest will go to charity. I find I tend to keep a few things for sentimental reasons though especially when I know a lot of work has gone into a garment!

  • Make do and mend

This is something I definitely don’t do enough. My pile of stuff to alter grows ever longer and I’m less and less inclined to dive in and fix them.

I’ve loved seeing people repairs on ripped denim jeans though and I think that this is definitely something I’d be looking at doing with my Ginger and Morgan jeans as they wear!

I’d like to improve on these points in future:

1. Buy more thoughtfully.

The reason I say thoughtfully and not less is that every self imposed shopping ban I’ve given myself tends to get broken in major style. I tend to purchase on a whim and often in bulk. If I force myself to really think about what I’m buying, what it’s for and when I’d be able to make it I find it’s easier to make better choices.

2. Make sure I separate all my fabric waste scraps and take them somewhere to recycle. All H&M stores are supposed to take them now and they recycle the fibres back into new fabric. For every bag of waste you give them they apparently give you a voucher to spend in store.

3. Tackling my UFO/ alteration pile.

I definitely need to force myself to do this every few months! Unfortunately I think I’m a bit addicted to the high of creating a brand new project and fixing up old things just doesn’t hold the same appeal. I think I’m going to have to start working it in to my list of chores to do!

So this all ties in with my Me-Made-May pledge for 2018…

‘I, Emily of Self Assembly Required,  sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’18. I endeavour to wear me-made garments everyday of May 2018. On weekends (and days off) I will try to wear garments that I have previous worn fewer than 5 times’

Hopefully the weather will get better and I’ll be able to wear some of these!

Basically the point of my self imposed challenge is to wear my more unloved garments more. Maybe I’ll find something I’d forgotten about and it’ll become a new item to love. Maybe I’ll just find out that I have terrible taste sometimes and that some makes just don’t work for me. Either way I’ll be exploring and finding out more about the content of my wardrobe and my mind!

Wish me luck!

Who else is doing Me Made May this year?

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  1. I’m doing the same for Me Made May, focusing on makes that seem to get worn once a year in er May! I think I’m going to rehome a few things. Better they go to someone who will get wear out of them. I’m also on a fabric shopping diet and have only bought one piece for an unselfish sewing project. I tried to stop buying patterns too but the Simplicity sale landed…

  2. I did participate last year (quietly on the sidelines) and it kicked off a habit to continue wearing at least one garment that’s me-made in my daily outfits. It worked! Now I would never consider dressing without at least one me-made in the mix. I also did the Curated Closet around the same time so both of these goals helped me get more focused on what I need in my wardrobe which has been interesting 🙂 Interesting in that I see where my intentions START and where crazily they FINISH. For example recently I was intending to sew up a couple of Liberty cotton housedresses to be cool in the summer at home and got lost in fitting challenges and lo and behold ended up with dresses that are a little nice to just wear around the house! 🙂

  3. I have trouble getting jazzed about my mending basket, too, but I mend for the same reason some people run – because it feels SO GOOD when you stop! Haha.

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