Remember back at the beginning of MIY March 20 I told you we’d be having a very special guest host for one of the weeks?? Well here she is, I’m excited to welcome Portia Lawrie – refashioner, remaker and obvious choice to be my guest as part of this year’s MIY March in celebration of Sustainable Sewing.
If you’ve never looked at Portia’s uber stylish blog and Instagram for nuggets of wisdom on restyling and refashioning – where have you been? Living under a rock??! Go check them out. But for now, over to Portia….prepare to be inspired people……
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I am here, as part of MIY March, to make the case for refashioning as the perfect solution to sustainable sewing.
To me it’s always been somewhat of a no brainer. Buying, repairing, altering and refashioning existing garments hits the sustainability mark from numerous angles. It’s cheaper (financially sustainable), it reuses what’s already in circulation, prolongs the life of garments and delays/prevents them from going to landfill (environmentally sustainable).
In my time I have created some pretty transformational refashions of existing garments. And I love doing those. But for this I wanted to demonstrate that we can populate our wardrobes with all the functional basics we could ever need (something I know is close to Wendy’s heart!) simply by using garments already in circulation and make basic tweaks to them to suit our aesthetics and needs.
Here’s the outfit I’m wearing today. Wide leg monochrome windowpane check trousers and a cotton/linen mix utility style shirt. Both items bought pre loved. It’s a super comfy outfit, I love it, and it took me less than an hour to make the alterations I needed to make.
The trousers were actually REALLY long and I suspect designed to be dress trousers and worn with heels. I’m more of a trainers gal. So this was a really straightforward case of removing 4” from the hem, finishing the raw edge and re hemming.
The top had long sleeves with gathered cuffs and was very oversized. I loved the overall utility style of the top and the fabric…but my shape simply doesn’t suit voluminous and I always end up pulling long sleeves up. So this was a case of removing the cuffs and shortening/rehemming the sleeves to my preferred elbow length, then taking the body in at the side seams.
I also wanted to show you that refashioning is exceptionally financially sustainable too. (It’s a fortunate person that doesn’t have to take this into consideration.) Here is what this outfit cost me…
Compare that to how much these items would have cost me had I purchased them at the original retail price. A £61 saving. Not too shabby, right? Worth pointing out, this shirt was brand new with the tags still attached. The trousers were sold as worn. But judging by the condition, once or twice if at all.
All of which brings me to the environmental sustainability of using existing garments to either refashion/alter/repair OR as a source of fabric for from scratch projects.
EVERYTHING that is produced has an environmental cost. Every scrap of fabric currently on this planet has cost this planet in a detrimental way. From the water used and the pollution caused in the weaving and dyeing of the fabric in the first place, to the carbon footprint of the finished garment (or yardage) as it travels from the factory to a retail rail near you. So my outfit, has a hidden cost beyond what I paid for it…just take a look at the label.
Over 4000 miles of travel for my pair of trousers. From China to the UK. By air or by sea, that will have an environmental cost in terms of the fuel used and it’s associated carbon emissions.
Then the fabric itself. Polyester. When it comes to new garments and new fabric, I struggle these days, to feel right about contributing to its massive environmental impact by buying it. But there are literally tonnes of this stuff in circulation currently and part of me feels morally compelled to not let it go to landfill where it will take up to 200 years to decompose. Polyesters are not biodegradable. They are derived from petroleum (the oil industry is one of the worlds biggest polluters. The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter. The dyes used on polyester are toxic. The fabric requires an energy intensive heating process (double the energy cost of cotton) and requires huge quantities of water in the cooling process. All of which means, my trousers have already cost this planet dearly. To allow them to go to landfill kinda feels like the final insult, no?
So maybe this week, if you want to make a new garment, consider making it from one that’s already in circulation. Look in your wardrobe. Look in the charity shop. Look on ebay. See if you can get the fabric you need that way. Look at the labels to see how far it has travelled and what it is made from. And consider how much that fabric has cost already. Make it your mission to keep it out of landfill and in circulation. As makers we have the power to do that more than most.
Smacks you right between the eyes that one doesn’t it? I knew Portia would come up with something powerful this week, thanks lady!!
Now if only fabric retailers could also put those labels on fabrics hey?…… I’d love to know where they were made and the true composition of the fabrics I buy and it’s so disappointing that you can rarely find those details. Come on fabric shops, wake up, we’re looking for this information!!
Now it’s over to you dear reader. Portia and I are looking forward to reading about your refashioning successes (and disasters, because hey, it’s how we learn!). Post about your refashions on your blog or on Instagram (remember to tag them #miymarch20) and maybe have a go at analysing the financial and environmental impacts of your refashion inspired by Portia’s example.
One post (blog or Instagram) will be chosen by myself and Portia that best celebrates the art and benefits of refashioning and the writer will forever love unpicking for their future refashions as they will receive this gorgeous handmade unpicker courtesy of Grace at Beyond Measure! (Check out Grace’s shop and Instagram feed for inspiration, impeccable taste and hand picked, beautifully made tools and resources for makers that are a joy to use.)
Here’s more from Grace about how these gorgeous tools came into being:
“These stitch rippers are a unique design that I made for Beyond Measure as I wasn’t happy with the throwaway nature of plastic rippers or other solutions that were available in kits to make your own.
The handles are made from Yew or Oak and made for me in Wales. The blades are Japanese and can be replaced when blunt, only having to replace the small blade not the whole metal fitting. You could even use the handle to hold other implements such as awl blades or hooks.
They are beautiful, tactile and built to last.”
Here’s mine in action last week…..
View this post on Instagram
I've been doing a lot of unpicking of old clothes recently. This is one of those lovely surprises that can await you when you dismember old clothes – a dart "shadow" where the fabric has faded around the dart. My job has been made easier with this beautiful unpicker from @beyond_measure_uk The turned wood handle is so comfortable to hold and what's better for this month's Sustainable Sewing themed #miymarch20 the blades can be replaced. Built to last not built to bin, that's the kind of stuff I love. . . #builttolast #recycledclothes #recycledshirts #unpicking #sewingcommunity #sewistsofinstagram #sewcialists #lovetosew #sewingchat #makersrevolution #diyfashion #modernmakers #makersrevolution #makedontbuy #makeclothes #makeyourownclothes #sewyourclothes #MIYmarch #makeityourselfmarch #sewing #dressmaking #wearwhatyousew #wearhandmade #diystyle #diyclothes #sewyourown #shareyoursewing #sewyourownstyle #instasewing #sustainablesewing
Don’t forget, you can still complete my fun survey about your sewing habits here. I’ll keep that open all month and share the results with you after the end of March.