Sewing creates textile waste, should we care?

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…

Sewing creates textile waste. Should we care?

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

Why is sewing 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?

What to do with 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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  1. Sherri
    2nd August 2017 / 10:51 pm

    There are remnants and there are scraps. I rarely throw away either because there are so many things you can do with them. Pockets, appliques, small gift bags, crazy quilts, rag quilts. I use small pieces to test stitches before I start sewing. Items that don’t turn out for us can be deconstructed and reused some other way. Piecing is having a bit of a resurgence now. I even save little bits of thread and fabric to make paper fabric for hand made postcards and cards.

    • Toria
      3rd August 2017 / 9:40 am

      I love the look of piecing, but I just don’t think I have the patience for it! I do love the idea of having some crazy patterned quilt made from all my scraps though. Larger remnants I tend to try to use for something for my daughters, but at the moment I give the smaller bits to school for art projects.

  2. 3rd August 2017 / 10:45 am

    I am stashing my knit and wool waste (any jersey fabrics really and will be mixing in some wool weave) to make a footstool/poufe as I had also seen this recommended as alternative stuffing for a tailors ham or roll if you cannot get sawdust…..I am trying to reuse some shirt scraps from last project into a patchwork. and twice I have given away large fabric scraps on freecycle where I answered 2 ads looking for them, one from an upholsterer and the other from a quilter!

    • Toria
      3rd August 2017 / 11:21 am

      I’ve never thought of looking on Freecycle to see if anyone wants scraps, what a great idea! I think I need to do a little round up of everyone’s ideas in the next couple of weeks 🙂

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