Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Zero waste - pros and cons

Yesterdays post was more focused on my individual zero waste exercise and did not really discuss my thoughts and feelings about the subject which I really want to talk about now!

So I mentioned about last week being fashion revolution week and how it's raised a lot of awareness about key issues surrounding the fashion/clothing industry and one of the key issues to me is waste. We produce a lot of it! I am guilty of being pretty mindless when if comes to fabric shopping. In the back of my mind is a little voice saying buy responsibly, buy secondhand and then I see a  pretty new print and fall off my perch. Well I am finally ready to take a pledge to buy no more 'new' fabric and make more of a concerted effort to sew from my stash. With my halo firmly on I can honestly say that most of my pattern development toiles and samples are made from vintage fabrics and generally finished off well enough to be donated rather than scrapped, so I'm happy about that bit!

What I plan to do for the next 6 months is shop my stash and buy second hand/responsibly if I need to buy at all. One caveat though is that I am going to a sewing meet up at the weekend and if I see any decent denim I'm buying it for some jeans for James. Good denim is hard to come by! My theory is that if I have a 6 month plan then it will become a habit I will not want t break out of after that time is over!

My own fabric stash has bothered me for a while and never used to grow beyond an old chest it lived in. Now it has it's own cupboard and it doesn't seem to shrink! I have some lovely, lovely pieces that I should really focus my energies on using.

Now I come back to the idea of zero waste. It appeals to me as a concept as the obvious reduction in scraps is brilliant and also encourages a greater respect for the materials you are working with (I feel anyway). However... The dress I made in this post used a full 2.5 metres of fabric. Whilst not outrageously consuming that is definitely not the most economic yardage for a wearable dress. When I was looking through the book (Zero waste fashion design) it was one of the first things that hit me actually. Not all, but some of the more innovative designs (this is not a sewing project book) were very fabric heavy (one particular design I can recall using 7 metres). Whilst little or no fabric was going in the bin, the energy and resources to produce that extra material seemed a bit counter productive. All this depends on the angle you are looking at it however, as we can not move on or innovate if limited to standard guidelines of what we can use and how much. It all gives great food for thought and it's stirring up questions that make me want to discover more.

I also want to encourage you all to think about how you cut your clothes. Do you follow cutting lay plans? I never do, even though I produce them! I have to plan a cutting lay in the most logical way that will lead to a guaranteed successful garment. This means limited folds in the fabric and all the pattern pieces following the grain correctly, which is by far the most economical way. When I cut myself, I will fold and refold and sometimes refold again as I go. Another way to do it, is to cut all the pattern pieces as whole pieces (the whole bodice front, back etc...). That way you can shift it all around your fabric until they all fit. As for following the grain along the length, I do not always do that, especially with facings or pocket linings. I shall happily turn the pieces to go along the width or use scraps of a different fabric if I'm a bit short of my main. I guess I am used to buying fabric too, so at a rough guess I normally judge that I can get a narrow knee length dress from 1.5 metres of fabric (150cm wide) and a fuller dress or trousers from about 2 metres. This generally works out pretty well and if the fabric is narrower then I add on a bit more.

Basically what I have taken from all this "thinking" is that it isn't good for me to just relax and fall into a routine way of doing things. I need to constantly question whether my way is the best way or whether I can improve at all. I realise that not everyone is going to have the same concerns or view point and it's important to remember that sewing is a terribly important skill to keep going. For some of you, the joy of learning that skill is of key importance at the moment and you may not need to be plagued with guilt about where you have bought your fabric! I do sense that too. Life is hard and busy at times and this post is not intended to make anyone feel guilty about anything, but more to open up some wider thinking! ;-)