How I Am Learning To Be More Sustainable

Grainline Cascade Duffle front closed

Hey, Sewcialists! I am excited to share my recent exercise in sustainable sewing. I will be the first to admit that I am typically not much of a sustainable sewist. I love to sew…a lot!  On top of that, I also use a lot of polyester fabric and have a lot of scraps.

With all that being said, I have been trying to find little ways to make my sewing more sustainable. There has been a lot of talk in the sewing community recently about sustainability in sewing and it is high time I do something about it. This coat is a great example of some of the little things I have been implementing.

Grainline Cascade Duffle lining

Some quick details about the coat first. This is the Grainline Studios Cascade Duffel Coat. I made the longer version, view B. I used a gorgeous ruby/black/cream/tan herringbone wool/poly blend fabric that I had been hoarding in my stash since 2016 for the shell. The lining is a leopard poly charmeuse that was lingering since 2015. This coat has been a long time coming. I knew once I ordered the herringbone that I wanted to make myself a duffel style coat. Adding the leopard sure makes this one loud coat and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Grainline Cascade Duffle underlining

Here are the things I did to make this coat more sustainable:

Reuse fabric. I am a huge believer in underlining my wool with cotton flannel when I make coats. It adds more structure and warmth, which is great for these Chicago winters and helps them to last a long time. This coat is underlined with two different flannel prints.  Before being underlining, they had a brief life as the muslin for the coat pattern. I muslin fit all my coats since I am putting so much work into it. I want to make sure it fits. I baste it together so that it is easy to take apart.

What’s more, is that before being a muslin, these two prints are the leftover yardage from when I made pajama pants out of them a few years ago. Instead of buying new flannel that coordinated with my shell or lining, I chose to use what I already had on hand. Glad I was able to use up more stash in the process.

Grainline Cascade Duffle zipper close up

Use vintage notions. While my toggles are brand new, my zipper is vintage. I picked up a couple of these heavy-duty metal separating zippers for pretty cheap. I opted to use the vintage zipper because modern coat zippers are typically made of plastic. I wanted a strong zipper that was going to last and the metal vintage zipper made the most sense. This zipper is olive green with gold teeth and pull. It may have some patina on the teeth, but I know that this zipper is going to last for the life of this coat and beyond. Plus, how cool looking is that vintage Talon pull compared to modern plastic pulls?

thread scraps

Recycle clipped threads and fabrics. This one is the biggest change for me.  Recently I have implemented a new system for waste in my sewing.  I have four trash cans, FOUR, that I separate waste into. One is for recyclable materials like paper, thread spools, and notions packaging.  A second is for recycling scrap fabrics that are too small to reuse or save.  Once this one gets full the bag goes to H&M for their textile recycling program. A third, and by far the smallest, is for things that cannot be recycled. The fourth, and the one pictured above is for clipped threads and the trimmed bits that come off the serger.  I plan on using this to stuff a pillow once I have enough.  For this coat project, I was actually able to pull the individual yarns from the shell fabric scraps apart. So instead of ending up in my H&M donation bin, it will be apart of a future pillow. Win!

Grainline Cascade Duffle side

While I don’t think I will be able to go fully sustainable in my sewing, I am going to continue to find little ways to do what I can. That is what I think the most important thing for us sewists to do. Don’t stress about trying to do it all. Make small changes over time that you know you can keep up. Do what you can with what you have.

I’m Sarah of Musings of a Seamstress. I have a BA in apparel design from Ball State, have been a professional in the garment industry as well as a technical designer, I enjoy historical costuming, and hope to start an indie sewing pattern line. I’m also on Instagram.