#MayWeRemindYou: I want to be (sew) sustainable…

I want to be sustainable, I want to be sustainable… sounds a bit like a catchphrase you can sing, doesn’t it? What does the word sustainable evoke in you? A shout of yippee? A groan of “here we go again” or a feeling of guilt? Or maybe it’s in the too-hard basket, so let’s not even think about it

In the current climate, focussing on sustainability can seem almost trivial. But it doesn’t mean we need to totally forget about it if we have a little headspace, so seeing that it’s #MayWeRemindYou month, let’s revisit.

“Less” is the only approach accepted by the majority

In the last few years, I’ve thought a LOT about sustainability, particularly within textiles and fashion. Through a lot of reading, talking to academics, journalists, scientists… the one thing that everyone can agree we can all do it embrace the idea of less. Less stuff being produced, less stuff being consumed. For the rest, there’s nothing black and white about the fashion supply chain or textile production, or the way that sustainability is measured.

Kate wears a bright coral coat with a blue zipper, and matching bright blue earmuffs. She stands in front of a blue door punctuating a brick wall.
An old make and picture from 2016 that appeared on my original Sewcialists post on sustainability in January 2018. I still wear it regularly in cold weather.

But less isn’t the only way

Even if the most simplistic solution is “less” everything, there are loads of ways that we can try and reduce waste and be more resourceful in our everyday lives. We even had a whole theme month dedicated to sustainability at the Sewcialists back in November 2018! In the spirit of #MAYWeRemindYou, here are my favourite inspiration posts for you, plus some other things to check out on the internet.

Sewcialists sustainable sewing theme month posts (November 2018)

Elsewhere on the internet

  • Grace is a scientist with a PhD in chemical physics, and she makes clothes. She knows a ton about environmental issues and whether or not you agree with her, she will give you an angle you haven’t considered before.
  • Josie is an awesome upcycler based in the UK. Her stuff is so unique and suits her so well, and she’s a fabulous person as well.
  • Barbara de Ru is based in the Netherlands, where she screenprints and sews stuff. Feeling a bit bored with your old or second-hand stuff and need to jazz it up a bit? Visit @bobbin.hood for inspiration. Barbara makes screen printing as easy as 1-2-3.

My own (un)sustainable situation 

Finally, I’m also reflecting on where I’m at with sustainability. 2.5 years ago I wrote my first blog post for the Sewcialists: Interested in sustainable sewing? sometime after I’d finished studying a short course in sustainable fashion.

These days, it turns out that whilst my awareness levels have gone up, my sustainable sewing life hasn’t improved much. Maybe it’s hypocritical of me to be always talking about sustainability, and sometimes I feel like I have to justify myself. But here’s the ugly truth:

First, my personal stash is now 6 storage boxes instead of 3. Partially because I started quilting (mostly for charity) as an alternative creative outlet to garment sewing. Secondly, I work for a sewing magazine and do blogger/Instagrammer stuff so I make a lot of womenswear. Thirdly, I have a fledgeling baby and kids brand, Bean & Ted, where I make things myself or manufacture locally in the Netherlands. Finally, I occasionally sell (more sustainable) fabrics via my Instagram @timetosew which is usually the excess I’ve sourced either for my womenswear work or for Bean & Ted.

Kate wears a pale pink linen shirt-dress with a waist tie. She stands in front of a lush garden of ornamental trees.
Fibre Mood Ivory dress in pink linen with front yoke detail (a newer 2020 make)

Well, what can I say? Over time my approach has evolved to focus much less on fabric specific sustainability (though I’ve loved linen for a long long time anyway). And much more on careful fabric/pattern selection and accurate sewing with a lot of care to do the finishings well. In my day to day wardrobe, I still wear a lot of my old makes that are at least a few years old. I still feel encouraged by the Instagram hashtag #makeyourstash which lives on even if it’s not an official sewing challenge that I run anymore! 🙂

How do you go about sustainability in your sewing life? Has it changed over time?

Kate @timetosew is a former guest editor of the Sewcialists. An import to the Netherlands via the UK, she thinks sustainable fashion and sewing should be accessible to everybody. Subscribe to her website Time to Sew for sustainability chat and Instagram for garment sewing!