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! ;-)

17 comments:

poppyinstitches said...

Like you I rarely follow cutting instructions as printed as they do waste so much and even the estimates can be amazingly way out. I don't have a stash as such, being the child of 2 hoarders the idea of a cupboard full of something not used fills me with dread. Having said that I do have a couple of projects lined up in their respective bags pattern with fabric!

wendyward said...

Really thoughtful post Marilla and that is a great challenge you've set yourself there! I'm luck to have a constant stream of eager students to use up my fabrics but my toiles do bother me. When I'm developing a new pattern I often make lots of very quick rough toiles to see if shapes are working and to check fit. I feel like I'd never get anything done if I then tried to finish these all to a wearable standard.....some of them do get chopped up and reused, I console myself with thoughts of making some sort of art installation with the rest!!
Anyway, I look forward to seeing your stash dwindle ☺

Marilla Walker said...

Hi Wendy - yep, there can be some very quick toiles in the beginning which tend to be for scrap, but once I get the shape/details established I go for it with full garments. The fit is often off and the finish is normally not like the final patterns, but I can end up with a lot of waste otherwise. My dungarees and coat pattern in particular would have been particularly wasteful, but yes it is time consuming and also makes the final samples a bit of a slog when you've repeatedly sewn the same garment over and over ;-P.

Marilla Walker said...

Poppyinstitches - good for you! I am historically a bit of hoarder, which is a habit I have been trying to break in other areas of my life. Just need to work on the fabric stash! ;-)

wethesewing said...

Such a good point regarding avoiding patterns that use too much yardage. Usually I can't afford to spend money on meters and meters of fabric, but consciously choosing patterns with low yardage for ethical reasons is an even better reason clearly! Also, vintage fabrics are awesome! I've got loads of old vintage sheets that unfortunately are too heavy for most clothes, but I haven't given up on finding a purpose for them!

Marilla Walker said...

Hi Ingrid - Maybe those vintage sheets could be dyed or printed to use as soft furnishings instead? I have been making bedding for the kids and a roman blind with some of the thicker ones and they have a lovely feel to them. I have even thought of making some garment dyed dungarees or jeans type trousers with anything that's really starchy! They can be a bit of a pain to sew though if they have a high thread count...

Nicki said...

These posts have really got me thinking about possible ways of maximizing the use of fabric, especially when it is handwoven! The typical designs for handwoven fabrics are quite boxy or kimono like and your origami approach has me wondering if I should look at the zero waste design again before dismissing it!

Blogless Anna said...

Fashion revolution week has had me thinking about amounts of fabric too. For 12mths or so I've been tracing patterns in full & avoiding cutting on the fold. This was a great first step. I now want to focus on stopping getting 'just a bit more... 'just in case' when acquiring fabric & notions. And I am having some luck with my 'stash first' approach to fabric. Baby steps.

Marilla Walker said...

Hey Nicki - I think that you could do something really cool with your fabrics, although I honestly don't know how you even have the courage to cut into them at all!!!

Marilla Walker said...

Hi Anna - It's great that people can take what they wish from all these ideas and keep the conversations flowing! I am pretty guilty of adding a bit more just to my quantities just in case, but have recently found smaller fabric amounts an exciting challenge in themselves. My other worst habit is to buy because I might not see such a great piece of fabric again, but am starting to realise there is always another great fabric just waiting around the corner...

Melissa said...

Thanks for the great post, Marilla. I just read your last comment (to Anna) and I had to smile because your worst habit is my worst habit, and maybe that applies to most of us. I think I've gauged the degree of "want" vs "must have" and I've gotten better *ahem* to a certain degree.

I don't follow pattern layout but try it on my own and I am, like you, a re-folder so I can save fabric. I also look at patterns now in terms of how much yardage they use. Sometimes my eyeballs would pop out at the large amounts and I will pass by a design just because of it. Unless it's a special occasion item of course.

Sarah said...

Hello, this is my first comment here. I don't do a huge amount of dressmaking and only buy for projects as I make them, but I do have leftovers. In part because its just a habit for me to try and use fabric as economically as possible. Some of them get used but not all, however I do intend to make a quilt some day! And it seems to me that that is another way of using leftovers - for making Other things to use - after all this is what our grandmas did: in the days before it became commercialised, quilts were made from scraps and worn out clothes. Bags, placemats and camisoles can all be made out of small amounts and can make good gifts.

The idea of a zero waste dress sounds great in theory but if it means we end up using more fabric then what really have we saved?

And if the cloth is conventionally grown cotton it was riddled with pesticides plus the dying process is incredibly noxious and harmful to the environment - and us, as it happens- so really 'not wasting' cloth is meaningless. Better buy organic/non toxic or second hand and just use as much as we can of it and mending our clothes.

Phew! I have more to say, but I don't want to end up preaching! Do I do all these things? I try, but not always, though I do mend and only have three items of clothing bought new from the last ten years - the rest are second hand or made by me. Anyway, lots to think about, glad to see the issues being discussed.

Helen said...

This is great food for thought. I would probably rather cut my fabric as economically as possible, and hopefully have enough leftover for another project - or facings and pocket linings at the very least. I can often squeeze a top out of a metre of fabric, if I'm careful. However, I don't have a lot of storage space, so I can't keep every scrap. For the little bits, I take them to the charity shop as "rags" to be recycled.

I'm also trying to shop the stash currently. If I can't, I make sure that any fabric purchased has a definite and realistic plan (preferably with a back up too, just in case), and I try my best to sew it up as quickly as I can. To be as virtuous as we'd all like would mean never going into a sewing shop, not even for thread, and completely coming off social media, including blogs. And where would the fun be in that?! ;)

Marilla Walker said...

Hey Sarah - thanks so much for commenting and I can't believe I didn't even discuss using the scraps elsewhere as this is what we all try and do anyway. Thank you so much for making such an important point!

I have to say that one of the things that disappointed me most about the zero waste dress was the lack of scraps in a way, as there was nothing left for trims or binding.

Totally with you and I would prefer to use fabric more economically than wastefully (although that is just my viewpoint of zero waste and there must be designer makers who achieve both economical and waste free).

You seem to have some great principles in place and it's very inspiring to read about your lifestyle.

Marilla Walker said...

Hi Helen - I'm with you on the scraps to use elsewhere! It is very limiting to not ever have any scraps and this is a far from mainstream solution to everyday clothing. I am making another dress at the moment and have a piece of handwoven cloth that I am keen to turn into another zero waste garment, but as far as garment sewing goes, I will be just continuing to cut as economically as possible.

You're right, social media is a killer! Maybe I'll just unfollow all the fabric companies ;-)

zijkant said...

Hi Marilla,
This is a subject that's in the back (and front) of my mind al lot, trying to find a way that feels ok for me.
I like fabrics and clothes and am often tempted by nice things. I do sometimes buy new clothes and fabrics that are not really 'consciencely' made. But I also really enjoy finding second hand treasures and seeing the beauty in things that are handed down. Giving things a second life can make me very happy. (A quality fabric, a nice colour, a good fit, a nice cut, a good design, ... so nice to save those things and honour it.)
Like you, I cut my fabrics economically, making the most of it, and using scraps for mini clothes, costumes, ... My children both have a shoe-box of fabric leftovers for all kinds of little projects of their own (and mine are a lot bigger than shoeboxes ;-)
Sometimes this collecting, and thinking, gets on my nerves and I would like to throw it all away, and probably most of all I'd like to throw away the 'I have to make this, and that ...' that often is connected to the fabric stash. And start fresh.
Sofie X

jane said...

Love this. This is another way of thinking about zero-waste clothing...http://www.danielsilverstein.us/zwd No new fabric needed. :)