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.
- 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.