Have you noticed? Somewhere along the way, the environment stopped being about the largesse of recycling your empty wine bottles at the weekend and started becoming… Well. Really urgent.
All around us are images of micro beads floating in pacific oceans, sea birds drowning in plastic, and turtles caught up in nets. Young activists lead the way – god, don’t you love our future generations? – and I feel compelled to follow.
Sewing has a pretty good track record in terms of sustainability. As a community we:
- turn our backs on fast fashion
- regularly recycle fabric, patterns and clothes
- use our craft to protest
- pass down generational skills
- rescue forgotten sewing machines
We can feel good about ourselves, but we could feel better. Shall we agree on that?
I pondered what we’re doing today that we might look back on and regret. A few thoughts came to mind:
Recommended fabric requirements for sewing patterns. It’s not uncommon to have as much as a metre extra yardage left over once I’ve cut out all my pattern pieces. My guess is that pattern producers err on the side of caution when recommending fabric requirements – one way of avoiding angry emails. But can’t we just be a little bit more realistic and stop wasting fabric? I know we can use those scraps for something else, but how often do we?
Tiled PDFs Some of them have acres of empty paper between pattern pieces that just ends up going from printer, straight into the recycling bin. Sob! (I still think tiled PDFs are a bit crazy, that we’re currently stumped by lack of technology. I’m sure future generations will look back at us and be like, ‘What? You printed off 40 sheets of paper and then painstakingly taped them together and cut them out? You call that a hobby? What were you, insane?)
Packaging Yes, we all love the pretty tissue paper, the postcard, the butcher’s string, the Jiffy bag, the plastic bag… Do we need all these? Do we? I know some sewing suppliers are already considering what they put into their parcels. Beyond, you know, fabric.
Types Of Fabric A reader recently informed me that polyester … it ain’t gonna decompose in that landfill any time soon. Could this be another good reason to wear natural fibres?
International Orders I’m just leaving those two words there for us to consider next time we get seduced by online fabric. Hey, I’ve been there. Guilty as charged – and paid the import tax to prove it.
Equipment Should we leave that iron on between pressing seams? Actually, it depends! Way back in 2011, a sewing friend who works in energy wastage posed this question to her scientist friends, and the below answer came back:
Our estimate, based on the data we’ve seen, is that turning it on only when needed is probably slightly more efficient, but it probably won’t make a huge amount of difference. Running a typical iron for an hour costs about 7p, so the amount you’d save by turning it off for some of that time is probably only about 1p. So if it makes life easier to just leave it on, it’s probably reasonable to do that, and look for other ways to save more significant amounts of energy!
So, these are the few thoughts that bubbled to the surface of my rotting synapses. The above include makers and suppliers, and this isn’t meant to be about pointing fingers – it’s about working together. We all might learn something new today.
Do you have anything to add? Sewing is fun, it’s joyous, it’s satisfying. Let’s keep feeling good about ourselves and the things we make!