Hello everyone, I’m Shauni – also known as The Magnificent Thread – a clothes maker and sewing blogger from Leeds in the North of England. More recently, I’ve also become coordinator of #sewingleftovers, a community initiative, which aims to encourage makers to reduce waste by putting better use to the bits of fabric left over at the end of a sewing project. It’s just one of many ‘challenges’ out there that’s trying to encourage positive change and sustainable behaviours in the sewing community, so being asked to write about it’s impact for the Sewcialist Sustainability theme month is a real privilege!
‘Sewing Leftovers’ was born out of an increasing awareness of my own bad habits – overbuying fabrics, stockpiling fabrics I didn’t need, making garments that didn’t go with anything – many of them a hangover from my former days as a keen fast fashion fan. I had 5 loose aims at the beginning:
1. Be more cost effective
2. Waste Less
3. Build a cohesive wardrobe
4. Become more aware
5. Re-energise my sewing
As primarily a garment sewer, I’ve always been keen to transform my leftovers into something wearable, whether that be an entire item, or a garment ‘feature’, but the actual wider impact that conciously #sewingleftovers has had on my sewing habits and behaviours has really suprised me. It’s encouraged me to think more creatively in making the best of what I’ve already got – my pattern collection has received much more attention as a result, and my once embarrisingly large stash is slowly but surely decreasing. I’m becoming better at project planning and far more confident in challenging given lay plans for more effective fabric use.
My fabric buying has been much more considered and restrained, and I’m gradually getting better at buying the correct yardage – my last few big projects didn’t even generate any leftovers! One the most unexpected changes for me has been in my approach to fabric swaps at sewing meet ups. Rather than entering elbows out and grabbing all I can, I’ve become much more focused on donating, with no expectation of anything in return, only taking something that I absolutely know I will make use of.
Outside of sustainability wins, perhaps the most noticeable impact of #sewingleftovers for me personally has been on how I get dressed in a morning. Having multiple garments in similar colours/textures/fabrics has made it so much easier to plan outfits. I used to get changed multiple times before leaving the house, but now I can quickly mix and match garments without giving it much thought, or even wear them together if I’m feeling particularly bold that day – the faux jumpsuit look being one of my favourites!
It’s been inspiring to see the sewing community join in with #sewingleftovers to make the most of every last inch of their precious fabric. There are currently over 1000 posts shared using #sewingleftovers, with everything from patchwork and pocket linings, to full on garments, fashion forward accessories and even fashion for cats(!). I can only hope that other makers are noticing the similar positive impact it can have on their sewing, shopping and wardrobe too.
Above are just a few of the incredible community contributions to #sewingleftovers:
- Simona (@draculashbv) has made many Ogden Camis with her leftovers – you can see all of them in her blog post here
- Pauline (@sewuthinkucan) made this killer contrast Kyoto Tee hack with leftovers
- Maria (@mariasyrgrejer) made these dreamy patchwork Gaston Pants – I can’t wait to have enough leftover denim for something similar!
Do you think making a conscious effort to sew your leftovers would work for you too? If you find yourself with some leftover fabric, then I can only encourage you to try it – see if you can make something new! It’s only a small step, but it could be one small step on the way to changing our habits for good – and who knows, maybe one day we’ll no longer have leftovers and there’ll no longer be a need for #sewingleftovers at all!
If you want to find out more about ‘Sewing Leftovers’ and see more of my sewing (leftovers and otherwise) you can visit my blog, The Magnifient Thread, or find me on Instagram @shaunimagnifique. Be sure to check out #sewingleftovers on Instagram for loads more inspiration from the sewing community too!
Interesting and a very good project! Myself I quilt to use my fabric leftover and even my old clothes 🙂 I like the ‘out of the box’ thinking using whatever you have forces you into
Thanks for your work on this hashtag. I follow it and have been very inspired by the ingenuity of the sewing community.
Thank you! I’m so glad you’re as inspired as I am 🙂 I have more inspiration than leftovers at the minute!!
Brilliant…I myself have not bought material for years..I even have a seamstress who sends bags of cut offs to me..I recycle anything and everything and use what I have in all my sewing… 🙂
Just some examples of things made with recycled material…..
Wow! You really have been busy – it’s amazing that you can put someone else cut offs to such good use 🙂
I try and use as much recycling as possible. Busy with a bag, recycled from an old jeans and an old sofa material…will send a pic when its done. Might be after Dec because we are currently packing boxes to move to our own house….
The first pattern I tried called for 3 metres of fabric, I used only 1.3 and have always tested out my pieces to see how much I actually need since then. Either that or I buy enough to eg:make two garments rather than having a random small piece over! I love finding patterns (like the Mandy boat tee) which allow blocking and using leftovers and will start following and adding the hashtag now! It encourages us to be creative as well as conscious of budget and waste. I am very much motivated by budget and lack of storage space too!
Wow that’s such a huge difference! I understand patterns giving the maker a bit of leeway, but 1.7m is really something. I find the really small bits the most frustrating/hardest to use, but I’ve been trying to save them to use for pockets and linings where I can. I think my sewing leftovers has naturally merged in with elements of Pilar and Kate’s ‘make your stash’ initiative and I’ve spent so much less and reduced my over flowing fabric drawers as a result 🙂
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I think the lay plan one is a good tip – I can’t remember the last time I even looked at a lay plan to be hones, think it comes with experience. I have it on good authority from a pattern maker friend that indie companies generally put an extra 20-30cm over what is required – the last thing you want is someone complaining that you didn’t specify enough fabric and they can’t buy it again.
And a really good point about sewing leftovers helping to build a more cohesive wardrobe and making getting dressed easier!
Yes I always get creative with lay plans. I can appreciate pattern makers adding that bit extra on, but I’ve noticed a few indies just stating the largest possible amount of fabric you might need to make the pattern, rather than offering specific fabric requirements for each size. It definitely makes it harder to estimate the yardage and avoid leftovers – I hope it doesn’t catch on!
Such a great post, Shauni! As hard-core advocate for sustainable sewing, I’m always so glad to see such initiatives popping up in the community. There is no one answer to sewing more sustainable, so the more ideas, the easier for people to find what works for them. And I love your outfits (of course I do, my style twin :)).
Thank you Alex! Haha, we are total style twins – perhaps we should be sharing each other’s leftovers 🙂 I need to take a leaf out of your book soon and do a 10×10 now my wardrobe’s looking a bit more cohesive! x
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