Step Four, Know Your Fabrics

First off, apologies for being a day late in my read along! We had a weekend full of celebrations and are wrapping up school (hurray!) so it’s been busy, busy over here. Which I admit is very nice, especially after almost 2 months of what has felt like Groundhog day.

Anyway, here we are with Part Four our read along from The Conscious Closet, The Sustainable Fashion Handbook. This section begins with the chapter that I am most interested in, Chapter 18, Sustainable Fashion Lunatic. I think it’s easy when we make our own clothes to feel like we’re above the fast fashion industry, that what we’re doing is automatically more ethical than shopping. But if we ignore the fabric we use and where it comes from, we could still be contributing to environmental and human rights concerns in big ways.

In fact, Cline says “The majority of fashion’s environmental impact on the planet happens while manufacturing textiles, in the phase where fabric and materials are grown or made, then spun, dyed, and finished into something we recognize as clothing.” This should be a huge concern to us sewists and seeking out sustainable fabric should be just as important to us as seeking out sustainable clothing companies.

But of course, it’s not just that simple. This chapter goes through common materials and describes the process of how they are made and what their environmental impacts are. It also explains how to buy as consciously as possible and Cline gives a lot of resources on organizations that offer certifications or that make it easier for consumers to know what they’re buying.

I think I was most surprised to read about the impact of viscose rayon and the damage it does on the environment and to the people that make it. Rayon is sometimes touted as sustainable, especially if it’s made with bamboo, and I realized that I need to do more research when I purchase fabric and look for certifications that make it more sustainable and not rely on the branding.

I also found it interesting how much humans and the environment are tied together when it comes to making materials for our clothes. When harmful chemicals are used, both the earth and the people working with them are put at risk. When water is wasted or trees deforested, there is a direct link to us as human beings and what it means for our future. This isn’t surprising to me, but to see it broken down step by step makes it harder to just run out and buy any old t-shirt. We need to start looking at our part in the fashion cycle and know that each step affects all of us.

So what to do as someone who makes clothes? Here are ways that I try to buy fabric consciously and sustainably.

Buy what I need Lately I have been trying to plan out my makes and only buy for clothes that I know I will be sewing. While plans do change, I find that this has made sure my fabric stash isn’t massive and it also lets me invest a little more in high quality, sustainable fabrics instead of just accumulating more.

Shop from places I trust I love Blackbird Fabrics as they offer a lot of information on all the fabric they source and their goal is to find sustainable options for the home sewist. Deadstock fabrics are great and many fabric stores are offering them for sale. Deadstock means they were manufactured for another purpose, a designer or big brand, and whatever was left is being sold off. This means it isn’t just being thrown away and these fabrics are usually high quality. Check out this list from Amy Nicole Studio and this one from Half-moon Atelier. 

Reuse other garments for fabric We’ve talked a little bit about this, but there is a huge refashioning movement among the sewing community. It’s more than just resizing or fitting a garment. Refashioning usually means completely deconstructing something and making it into something brand new. A great way to keep otherwise wonderful fabric out of landfills.

Buy vintage fabric There are a lot of resources online (checkout the lists I linked above!) and plenty of people on instagram selling vintage fabric. Sometimes you have to think outside the box (don’t be stuck on the fact that it was curtains or bedding!) but old fabrics can absolutely be made into modern clothes. I haven’t had as much luck sourcing fabric from thrift stores on my own, but I’ve heard estate sales are where the action is!

As expected, the other chapters in this sectional are full of useful information and action steps. Chapter 19 talks about what chemicals to look for, and get rid of!, in your closet and chapter 20 is how to find sustainable clothing brands and what to look for with big brands. Cline offers great tips on what to look for and how to start demanding change within brands that you already love.

I think the first step of realizing we all have a part to play in the fashion cycle because we all wear clothes makes it easier to go from there and care about who you buy from. We have the power to demand more of brands and this section is full of information on how to do just that!


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