One of my March rituals is to join in with @thatwendywards #MIYMarch challenge. My first Instagram post EVER was for day one of MIYMarch15 and I have been there in some form or other ever since. This year instead of a daily prompt, Wendy is giving us weekly prompts around the theme of Sustainable Sewing and Making and for the first week, apart from talking about ourselves, Wendy asked why sustainable sewing was important to us. I started to answer this and decided that Instagram may have a limit on how long I can go on for, so decided to make a blog post of it instead.
Sustainability is the new and very important kid on the block and hopefully will remain the top dude for a long time after we have managed to sort out the mess we have got ourselves in to. I try to do my bit with recycling and making considered choices when I shop. But at the forefront of most of the sustainability discussions recently are the problems within the fashion industry.
The current trend for “fast fashion” makes me so sad. The desire to own so many cheap and ill fitting clothes, that you only have to wear once then throw them away, is heart breaking. These cheap clothes are made out of awful fabric whose manufacture is polluting the water ways of the world’s poorest countries. They are made by adults and children in the most disgusting and dangerous environments who are paid a pittance so that they can be sold to us at a ridiculously cheap price. How can we as a society continue like this?
There is the thought that as makers we are not part of the problem, but actually we may be. I know I was part of a TV show that’s main theme is fast sewing, but I can assure you the majority of us on the show do not sew that way. I personally enjoy and savour every step of making a garment. Right from the start the searching for a pattern to match your fabric, or vice-versa, is fun. Chatting to sewing friends either IRL on via your IG post asking for recommendations or feedback on patterns is good for us. Sewing, on the whole, is a solitary pastime and we are not solitary creatures. Getting a chance to chat with others about your passion is good for our souls.
I like tracing out patterns as it gives me the chance to get to know its foibles, think about any fitting issues, how I am going to put it all together, any issues there may be in its construction and if I want to change anything. Toiling ensures that I am going to get the best out of my precious fabric when I make my garment. I get the chance to practice all the skills needed and have a perfect fitting pattern. Cutting out the fabric is a skill as well. How am I going to layout the pattern to get the best from the fabric, have I got the grainlines correct, do I need to think about the nap and of course the potential of the dreaded pattern matching issues. Right there I have a four, maybe five sewing sessions that are challenging and, to me at least, fun and all part of the joy of making.
When it comes to the actual “sitting behind a machine” part I don’t rush this either. Why should I it is not a race to get to the finish first. Once again I will enjoy each stage, try to make a garment that is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, a garment that fits well and a garment that I can wear loads and feel a million dollars every time I do. This could take me four or five weeks with 10 mins here, 20 mins there and the occasional “husband is out lets sew till he returns” treats. I do realise that having a sewing room makes this easier for me but the principle remains. I personally struggle to understand how rushing and making a garment from start to finish in 4 hours can be a good thing.
I also realise I need to be conscious of the amount and type of fabric I buy. The desire for bargain fabric to sate our desire to make also needs to be evaluated. We need to move away from the cheap fabric that is damaging to our world and start investing in the more sustainable fabrics that are being created. This fabric, by its nature, is going to be more expensive, but is not cheap fabric one of the problems with fast fashion. It may mean that we can only afford to make a garment a month, but there is nothing wrong with that.
Push yourself to sew slowly, to enjoy every part of the process, to value your garment and cherish the time and effort you have invested in it. Once you have mastered a technique try making a more challenging pattern. I believe everyone is capable of making anything they want, if they take it slowly, one step at a time. I once spent the whole day working out how one seam in a garment was constructed and I don’t think it makes me a bad or incapable person. Simple patterns made in an afternoon are a perfect way to introduce beginners to this amazing craft, but how many 2 hour tops do you actually need?