I’ve started to think that sewing can be a pretty wasteful hobby. This textile waste just can’t be helped sometimes. There’s the waste from cutting out pieces, toiles that can’t be worn, garments that are a disaster and never see the light of day, or clothes we’ve stopped wearing. What we do about it is what matters…
Textile waste and the environment
Textile waste is an environmental issue. The average person produces 70kg of textile waste per year and I wonder how much sewing contributes to this. The problem with textile waste in landfill is that it produces methane; a direct contributor to climate change. Furthermore, there are chemicals and dyes in our unwanted clothing and fabrics that can leech out causing contamination of both soil and water.
Whilst sewing can be wasteful, because of fabric scraps or sewing disasters, I do wonder whether sewists are actually doing their bit for the environment even if they don’t realise it. During the learning-to-sew stage, I think we produce a fair amount of textile waste. This could be down to poorly laid out pattern pieces when cutting out; more toiles (muslins) whilst working on fit and make mistakes; choosing the wrong fabrics for a garment; poor sewing making something unwearable or similar errors.
I have certainly done all of these things, especially choosing the wrong fabrics! But I think that whilst we probably throw away (or try to recycle) a lot of fabric in the early days of sewing, we make up for it further down the line.
Why sewing is good for the environment
Despite the textile waste that it produces I think that sewing can be great for the environment. If you’ve read this post, you’ll already know that fast fashion is taking its toll. Opting out of the fast fashion cycle and sewing your own clothes is a definite win for the environment. Why? You aren’t on a constant cycle of buying, wearing and discarding.
If you’re an advocate of slow sewing and considering the wearability of a garment before making, then you’re making less and consuming less fabric. Sewing your own clothes often goes hand in hand with treating them with more care. You know the effort it took to create the garment, so you’ll look after it more. It would then last longer meaning you don’t replace it as quickly, again consuming less fabric.
I am in no way perfect here. This year has really been a journey for me of really thinking about my clothes, whether bought or made. I’ve made some terrible garments and I’ve wasted plenty of fabric. Maybe I should do a round-up of things that I’ve sewn recently that I still wear? I think I’d be pretty horrified at my wastefulness to be honest. Now I know more about fast fashion and slow sewing I think I’m heading in the right direction though.
What should we do with our textile waste?
I think that if we’re all mindful of what we do with our textile waste we can cut down on the effect on the environment. We can make our sewing an even more environmentally-friendly past time. With that in mind, I’ve put together a few blog posts this month all about what we can do with scrappy bits of fabric, sewing disasters and wearable unwanted garments. I’ve even got some guest bloggers lined up which I’m really excited about, starting with Elspeth Jackson from Ragged Life on Friday.
I’d love to hear from you too. What do you do with your textile waste?
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