Sewing more thoughtfully

When I started sewing, it was just something fun to fill the odd spare afternoon. I never imagined it would become such a big part of my life, influencing everything from how I spend my spare time (sewing, obviously) to how I shop.

I’ve never really been into fast fashion – if I love an item of clothing, I’ll wear it until it falls apart – and now that I sew a lot of my own clothes I rarely shop. Recently, though, I’ve been starting to think about sewing as another form of consumption.

I don’t need to sew – if I stopped sewing today, I would still have more than enough clothes. Similarly, if I stopped buying fabric today, I would have enough to sew myself an entire wardrobe of new outfits (and then some, judging by the current state of my fabric stash – but more on that later).

And yet, I’m not going to stop sewing. Obviously, this is mainly because I enjoy the making process itself as much as I enjoy wearing the finished garment – learning new skills is as important to me as the final outcome. But I’ve come to realise that I have been mindlessly buying fabric and patterns almost as much as I once bought cheap clothes. I’ve bought fabric that realistically I would never wear (or, at least not very often) just because I liked the print; fabric I love but have no plans for sewing with anytime soon; and patterns for swishy 50s dresses that definitely aren’t my style but I’ve bought because I like the cover artwork (please tell me I’m not the only one who has done this). It’s all too easy to scroll through blogs and social media and feel like I should be sewing more, buying more, and sharing more – which, ironically, is exactly what I don’t like about fast fashion. This is especially true when every sewing blogger in the world seems to be sewing the latest cult pattern and I’m still making the same tried-and-tested favourites that I love to wear but aren’t always that interesting to blog about.

I also feel slightly ashamed to think about all the lovely fabrics that I could be wearing but are instead piled up in a basket next to my sewing desk. I recently made a list of all the fabrics in my stash and found that I had enough to make at least 20 garments, probably more.

We’re now five months into 2018 and I’ve finished two makes on my sewing list so far (they don’t call it slow fashion for nothing, right?). If I continue sewing at the same rate, I’ll make about four new garments this year, which means I’ll still have 16 left to make from my current stash if I don’t buy any more fabric in 2018. Basically, my fabric stash could last me at least a couple of years easily.

It’s taken me way too long to realise that I can’t sew as quickly as I can shop, but I’m also still working on honing my ideas into a realistic sewing list. My to-sew list seems to change constantly, so I end up planning my projects too far in advance; I buy fabric and patterns for summer clothes in November, and then, when summer finally arrives, my tastes have changed and I want to sew and wear something else.

And it’s not just the amount of fabric I own that’s been giving me the guilt – it’s the type of materials, too. I’ve read a few articles lately about the microfibres in synthetic fabrics, and would like to switch to using more natural fibres in my sewing; unfortunately, though, most of my current stash is synthetic.

This presents a dilemma: do I recycle/destash the lot and start over, or keep sewing with it and vow to buy more eco-friendly fabrics in future? It’s something I’m still undecided on: for now I’m sewing with my stash as it feels like such a waste not to, but it also means I’ll be contributing to the micro-fibre problem everytime I wash those me-mades.

I’m not going to pretend I won’t buy any more fabric or patterns, but I am going to try and achieve more of a balance between what I want to sew, what’s sustainable, what I like to wear, and what I realistically have time to make.

Further reading:

  • Join the Fashion Revolution, campaigning for a fair deal for the people around the world who make our clothes.
  • Admire the amazing thrifting skills of blogger Paloma in Disguise, who shares snaps of her impressive secondhand wardrobe, and a few DIY ideas too.
  • This guide from Megan Nielsen has some great advice for taking a more responsible approach to buying fabrics.
  • For ethical fashion inspo and thoughtful articles, look to Tolly Dolly Posh – a teen blogger taking on the world of fast fashion one stylish thrifted outfit at a time.






5 thoughts on “Sewing more thoughtfully

  1. Hmmm I could have written the first few paragraphs of this. When you sew, fabric beckons because of what it might be. It’s always amazingly cheap compared to garments, so buying feels paradoxically like being frugal.

  2. This raised important issues. I wonder why some sewists make so many things and whether it leads to waste. I do what feels right to me.

  3. Yeah, there’s a danger of just replacing one form of consumption with another. No need to be too hard on yourself though, sewing is a better hobby than shopping. You could try setting a limit like no new buys for a month/year.

  4. I think a lot of people in the sewing community are going through the same thought process at the moment. Btw, all fibres, including natural ones, shed microfibres. So finishings on natural fibres are as bad or worse as the ones from synthetics, so unless you buy undyed organic, it’s the same (from a microfibres perspective). You can try a Guppy Friend or Cora ball, especially when pre-washing, that’s when the most shedding occurs. Also, wash cold and use fabric conditioner. And I would suggest that if you like the fabric, use it instead of buying new one. That’s the more sustainable option. Hope this helps!

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