How to reduce the environmental impact of your clothes? I just watched this Youtube video on the huge clothing waste problem that is created by the fast fashion. The good thing about sewing is that it’s harder to make those shopping binges where you buy cheap clothes that you don’t need. The time and effort that it takes to make a garment makes it harder to throw things away. However, there are still things that you can do to make your hobby even more environmentally friendly. So, here is my list of 10 tips for environmental sewing:
1. Concentrate on quality
When you make garments, do not rush. Take your time and consider what kind of clothes suit you and how to best make them fit. Use good quality materials that make your garments last.
2. Refashion old garments
The thrift stores are full of old-fashioned clothes that have good material in them. Especially those of us that are smaller in size can benefit from the amount of material that is available in larger sized garments. You can also add darts, embellishments, change collars and shorten sleeves. Just to give you a few examples: I have turned an old silk shirt into a set of pyjamas and turned leather from an old pair of leather pants into nice little slippers for my daughter.
3. Salvage materials from old clothes
When you have garments that are at the end of their life, you probably still have perfectly good buttons and zips in them. Men’s shirts get worn from the cuffs and collars but the other parts of the shirt might make a dress for a toddler or a summer top for you. Old bedsheets and pillowcases often have hand-crocheted lace that I will always salvage. It can be used to decorate different kinds of projects. This bicycle basket has been decorated with vintage hand-crocheted lace.
4. Use factory remnants
Factory remnants are those end-of-rolls and slightly damaged pieces of fabric that the garment factories throw away. They are practically waste and it’s a good idea to make them into something wearable. They are also cheaper than regular fabric so you’ll also save money.
What I also like with the factory remnants is that the fabric quality shows with the fabrics that are not rolled neatly into bolts. If your fabric has been bunched up in a bin for a long time and it still is crease and pill-free, it’s probably good quality. Quite quickly you develop a sense of what is good quality fabric and what kind of fabric suits for which project which helps you to develop yourself as a sewist.
5. Be mindful of how you cut your fabric
Use the cutting diagrams as a suggestion only! Often you can save up to 30 % fabric if you play around with the pattern pieces and look for the most optimal placement of them. Just make sure that you still follow the grainline! Down below is an example of one instance where I was particularly happy with how little fabric was wasted. This is particularly true since the pattern pieces in this particular case didn’t have seam allowances. Often I also fold the fabric several times to further reduce the fabric waste.
6. Avoid mixed fibre fabrics
This is something that I should probably pay more attention to. The mixed fibre fabrics are much harder to recycle. So if you can choose, leave those cotton-polyester-elastane fabrics in store and try using 100 % cotton or other fibres. Or at least save the elastane for those garments that really benefit from the increased elasticity!
7. Organic cotton
Cotton growing has a big cost on the environment where it is grown. Organic cotton is grown without using synthetic pesticides which harm the local biodiversity. Nowadays it is easier and easier to find organic cotton fabrics in fabric stores. The other good thing is that you will yourself be less subjected to those pesticides that may have effects on your health. This is especially something you should think about when sewing garments for children. My example is this sleepsuit I made for my nephew out of pretty organic cotton print.
8. Quilt and make little projects from remnants
Not all the fabrics are good for quilts but 100 % cottons do make beautiful ones. Or if you don’t quilt, find someone who does and is happy to give a home to your remnants! This quilt has some fabrics that I couldn’t find any use for and some remnants from dress and shirt projects. And this little bag to carry snack foods was made out of cotton remnants from dress projects:
Other things that you can make from remnants are pencil cases, toys, doll’s clothes, baby clothes and scarves.
I’d think that most of us already do this with garments that we no longer use. If your garment is still usable, donate it to charity or give it to someone who can use it. You can also do the same with fabric remnants. Many clothes stores take in fabrics. Unfortunately, not everything that is donated is used and recycled. You can also think of people that may have used for smaller pieces of fabric. Kindergartens, schools and nursing homes often need materials for crafting. I have donated fabrics for the local recycling centre, my daughter’s kindergarten and my son’s school.
I also spend one busy weekend turning some of my remnants into cool play costumes for my daughter’s preschool that didn’t have any. It doesn’t take much time to make some hero capes, princess dresses or animal tails for kids to fuel their imagination. It’s also pretty easy. In fact, my then 6-year-old daughter helped serging straight rolled hems for belts and capes.
10. Buy less or make less
The last but not least advice. It is always a good idea to consider, whether you really need something new. Do you really need that new shiny fabric or do you already have a big stash at home? I admit that I am always struggling with this. Luckily there are those thrift stores where you can shop with good conscience!
I hope you liked this post. Do you have any other ideas on how to reduce the impact your sewing hobby has on the environment? Please share them down below in the comments! Happy and eco-friendly sewing!