Addie Martindale from AddieK.com is a pattern designer and sewing instructor. She has a lovely handmade wardrobe and a passion for sustainability in the home sewing industry. (Learn more about her wardrobe via Seam Work Magazine and the Sew News Blog.) Here is a post from Addie with photos of her class participating in Fashion Revolution Day.
Addie has some important information and tips for How Home Sewists Can Reduce Textile Waste, including lots of links so you can extend your understanding even further. We’d love to hear your thoughts too, so fill us in on your best practices in the comments below! Addie also has a new tutorial at AddieK.com for how to make a muslin with interfacing, with a giveaway of five yards of 60″ width interfacing. Hop over to learn, and enter to win.
There was a time when I would quickly sew up an outfit or item for every occasion even knowing that it may never be worn again. Over the past few years, my prerogative towards sewing has changed. Don’t get me wrong, I love to sew, but now I put a lot of consideration into what I sew. As I learn more and more about the impact that textile and production waste is having on the world, I have decided to consciously sew less. I know this idea might surprise you as a sewist, and I do not expect you to drastically change your sewing. I just want you to be informed and tell you about some small– yet impactful– changes you can make. First I will discuss the issue of who makes clothing and textiles, and their living conditions. Secondly, we will cover what you can do as a home sewist to reduce textile waste.
Organizations like the Council for Textiles Recycling Center and Fashion Revolution are working hard to educate us on the effects of textile consumption. In the last two years Fashion Revolution Day has taken place on April 24th, marking the day of the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013. This event served as a wake up call for many to the conditions in which our clothing and textiles are produced. The organization asks consumers to reach out to their favorite brands and ask, “Who made my clothes?” and ask brands to share, “I made your clothes,” in pictures on social media. They even ask makers to share “I made my clothes.” The organization is looking for transparency in the production of clothing, and to get people thinking about who produces the items we wear, and how those sewists are living.
With new documentaries like Cotton Road and True Cost, consumers are becoming more aware of the issues behind our clothing consumption. Did you know the average American consumer generates 82 pounds of textile waste a year? Out of the 82 pounds only an average of 12 pounds is donated or recycled, while the rest goes straight to the landfill. The astonishing fact is that the amount of textile waste per person keeps increasing each year and has grown 40% since 2001.
I know many of you make clothing for yourself, your families and you may even make garments professionally. So how does this affect you even if you do not buy ready-to-wear clothing? The same issues often occur in the overseas textile mills that produce the fabric that you use. Conditions can be difficult for workers, and the typical clothing production textile waste is 15% when multiple garments are cut out together; with home sewing textile waste can be as high as 30%.
Here are some simple things you can start doing today to reduce your sewing waste and environmental impact:
- Make all adjustment to patterns and plan pattern layout before purchasing fabric. Buy what you need.
- Think about alternative pattern piece placement when cutting out patterns. Take a few minutes to try different pattern piece placements before cutting your pattern out. Challenge your pattern cutting guide layout.
- Avoid making muslins when possible. When you do make muslins, think about using alternates to fabric that could be reused. Interfacing is an alternate that can be sewed up and tried on the body like fabric. After testing it can be cut up and used in future sewing projects like facings, waistbands, buttonholes and more.
- When possible, reduce seam allowances on your pattern. Try to reduce all seam allowances to at least ½ inch and when you are serging consider reducing to 3/8 inch. You will be able to get pattern pieces closer together and you can save several inches of fabric.
- Make a plan for the leftover fabric before you even cut out your pattern. Think about positioning your fabric so that another item also be cut out. You could also consider making something small with that fabric that you could then donate. Two ideas, depending on the fabric, could be mittens for homeless or Sani-panti parts for girls in Africa.
- Think about altering things you have already made instead of making something new. This can be just as fun and result in great items. I recently altered two pairs of pants I previously made to have a tapered leg. It was like I had two new pairs of pants.
- Think about the environmental impact of the specific fabric you are using. You can go to The Material Sustainability Index to learn more.
- Sew items you or someone else will love and treasure! When you sew garments, be sure they will be worn for multiple seasons or years.
Here are some other ideas to consider for using the leftover fabric from projects before throwing it in the trash:
- Fabrics like fleece, velour and flannel can be cut into small pieces to make stuffing for softies and pillows.
- Donate your scraps to places like school art programs or children’s museums. Fabric scraps are great for collages and small hand sewing projects.
- Contact your local craft guilds to see if they know someone who could use it.
- List it for free on Craigslist or in a local for sale/swap Facebook group. I have done this and I met the cutest quilter who was ecstatic to take my scraps. Her warm smile and energy was worth the extra stop to meet her on my way home from work.
Are you interested in learning more? I know you are! Check out these sites and organizations:
Scissors image courtesy of Death to Stock.