My thoughts on sewing and sustainability

I feel like I've been reading/hearing a lot about sustainable sewing recently. Articles/podcasts such as from Love to Sew, Wendy Ward, Megan Nielsen and Sewcialists are just a few that spring to mind. Ethics and environmental impact is something that's always on my mind and I strive to act responsibly, but I'm going to admit to you, there are many ways in which I fall short. It's not easy to do the hobby you love, keep creating new things and produce zero waste. I endeavor to mitigate my bad habits, but I don't think it's all negative. I'd like to share a little bit about how I think sewing has had a positive effect on my environmental/ethical consciousness:

1. I value the clothes I make
Creating is not just about the end product. It's about the process. I have a special bond with everything I make because I've taken so much time over it. This is why I love longer, more complicated projects. I very rarely throw away my handmades, I'm much more likely to store, repair them or gift them to someone. I can't say the same about shop bought clothes.

2. I can choose my materials
There are a lot of ethical questions around fabric production, I know, but when you take factory garment construction out the equation you can focus much more on fabric sourcing. This means buying better quality, natural fibers, organic and fair trade.

3. I'm more careful about what I choose to wear
I'm much less interested in fashion trends now. I'm interested in clothes that will suit my style and look special. Again, as sewing takes a long time there's no point in making something that won't be on trend next season, better to go for longevity.

4. I've learnt skills that enable me to mend and alter
Now that I've been sewing for a number of years, I have a much better idea about how clothes are constructed and how to repair them. This means that I've mended and adjusted a lot of shop bought clothes. For example, I once almost threw out a pair of jeans because they were too loose around the waist (a classic problem for me). I fixed it by inserting elastic into the back waistband, and now I wear them almost every week.

Of course constantly buying new fabric and making new clothes isn't that much better than buying from the shops all the time, but as I've said, there are a few ways in which it is preferable. After reading more about the subject I've changed my mindset slightly though. I'm choosing projects that take longer so that I'm not piling through quick makes. I'm also hanging on to my scraps and trying to be more imaginative about how I use them. Shauni on The Magnificient Thread has a good leftovers challenge. Finally, I'm either using second hand fabric from old bed sheets or buying expensive, quality fabric from now on.

And what do you think? Have you changed your sewing habits due to sustainability? I 'd love to know your thoughts. 


  1. I found that I sewed more than I need, I like testing patterns and upcycling it always felt productive but after a while I had too many makes, and sending them back to the charity shop felt like 'dumping' so I did a stall and sold stuff at a cheap price. This year I am donating the makes to a charity shop as part of fashion revolution week and they will have a rail to separate them to show that clothes can be remade. This way I am still sewing on my terms (ie experimenting and environmentally friendly as I can be)

    1. That sounds like a great way to enjoy sewing without wasting too much in the process.

  2. Rachael this is a really wonderful post. The sustainability of my sewing has been on my mind a lot recently too (I've been doing a lot more mending!) and you've really hit on some of what I've been thinking about here. I am aware that my addiction to sewing clothes may just be as bad in terms of consumption and waste as anyone addicted to buying new clothes but all of the points you make above have really made me see that I actually am very conscious about the longevity of my clothes and the knowledge of what goes in to making a garment does give us a unique perspective on the ethics and environmental impact of the fashion industry. Thanks very much for taking the time to write this!

    1. Thanks Fiona! I'm glad you found it interesting


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