Authored by Stephanie Mahr
Humanity has gotten wonderfully smart at making our lives easier in so many ways. Not so long ago, to make one item of clothing would take time and dedication. I believe each finished item was probably a real product of pride and the wearer would wear that clothing till they simply couldn’t anymore.
There was a time almost every woman had to know how to sew. They made all their own patterns and clothes, including under garments! Everything was done by hand, taking sometimes hundreds of hours to complete an outfit.
Fast forward to now, we have premade patterns that make the construction process a breeze. The patterns are usually a thin tissue paper so it can be easily discarded when you’re done. We’ve gotten accustomed to the idea that everything needs to be disposable and replaceable to make our lifestyles easier – including our clothes.
By now, it’s not a secret fast fashion companies have put this problem on hyper speed. If you cycle through your clothes as often as they want you to, you might throw a lot of clothing away. Even if you donate your unused items, donation centers often get over loaded and end up throwing those clothes out anyway. Most garments contain fibers such as nylon, rayon and polyester. These are forms of plastic and do not break down well. Don’t burn them either! Burning plastic is bad for the Ozone layer. So what are we supposed to do?
To see the real gravity of this issue, maybe it will help to break it down to just one person. In my sewing room alone, last year, I made a jumpsuit of sequin scraps and used over 2 kilograms (5 pounds) of scraps! Had I not made that jumpsuit, that would be a lot of fabric going to a landfill! Yet, it’s not much compared to the amount that actually does end up there. Globally, we produce about 11 million metric tons (13 million tons) a year and sadly, only about 10-20% of that ends up going fully through the second hand shop process.
I started sewing using only scraps or upcycling my existing clothes because that’s what I had available to me at the time. I continue to try and practice the same today, in an effort to prove that what was once on its way to the garbage can actually be beautiful and even quite fashionable. I enjoy making patchwork pieces and reuse different fabrics to make wearable art. If I have to buy clothes, I try to get something I know I can use many different times and different ways. Roughly 90% of my wardrobe is either upcycled or from a thrift shop.
I encourage you to try and make this change, too. Even one small adjustment can make a big impact. Even if you don’t know how to sew, there are many resources to give ideas on how you can find ways to help slow down the dumping of fabric on to our Earth. There are many websites and blogs from companies such as Canvasetc.com and Contrado that have offered free fabric scraps. Other websites, such as Fabscrap.org offer fabric for a small price. I look forward to a time when our clothes will again live the long life like they once had!