sustainable fashion

all posts related to sustainable and ethical fashion

Thoughts on “Investing” in Clothing, Featuring the Purse of My Dreams

a lady wearing a black vintage style trench coat, satchel and beret

Dare I suggest that the Long Winter is nearing it’s end? With the warming of temperatures in the past week, it feels like it! Of course, we’ve still got a ways to go before Spring, and while that cold snap wasn’t really that long, it sure felt like it! We’ve gone from -38C to + 8C within a couple of weeks, and it has been so incredibly lovely to be able to go for a walk and open the windows for some fresh air and be able to leave the house to take some outfit photos without having to bundle up like a marshmallow. Even though I know that the temperatures will drop again before Spring, it is still worth it to have this small respite!

So, in other news, I’ve been searching for a new “everyday” purse for quite a while. I have been looking for a new one since my other purse started wearing out. (The leather strap was beginning to crack, the metal buckle had broken, and there was a hole forming in the top fold…) I bought that purse five years ago in England and carried it almost every day, though, so that wasn’t too bad, considering that it wasn’t full grain leather.

holding a vintage style satchel purse in copper coloured leather

In looking for a new purse, I didn’t have a definite idea of what I wanted, but I did have a list of requirements.

I’ve realized over the years that, while I do love a good statement bag to coordinate with an outfit, most days I walk or ride my bicycle and a large handbag is just not practical to carry for long distances. I also like having my hands free for when I am running errands or going shopping, so I wanted a crossbody bag.

I also didn’t want the purse to be too big, because while I do want to be able to put everything in my purse, I didn’t want it to become to heavy to carry, or too big to fit in my bike basket. However, I didn’t want it too small, otherwise I would end up carrying a purse and a tote bag.

It also had to be brown or cognac leather and I wanted something in a vintage satchel style, but not too bookish. I wanted something timeless and classic, but not too vintage either, considering what I talked about in my recent personal style post.

I searched for quite a long time, and while I came across a lot of purses, none of them quite ticked all of the boxes until I found this one on Etsy, made by Sunray Family Workshop from Ukraine. It was a bit more than I had originally planned on spending, but I used the money I earned on Poshmark so, as my mom said, it was like I traded a bunch of clothes and accessories that I didn’t want for something that I did! I was also able to get it on sale, so that was nice too.

a lady wearing a vintage plaid skirt and green sweater with a vintage styled purse and beret in the snow

I was nervous about purchasing online, because I’ve been disappointed in the past with online purchases, but my fears were unfounded, as the bag was even better than I hoped it would be. I asked the seller to make it in a darker colour of leather for me, and I love the shape and style of it. It’s so nice to be able to purchase a piece directly from the person who makes it, and it really is a piece of craftsmanship.  I think that this purse was a good investment, and is definitely going to be a good addition to my wardrobe since it fits in with my style description, “unconventional classic with a dash of history” pretty well.

I recently read somewhere (and I can’t for the life of me remember where) that we should stop saying that we are “investing” in clothing purchases, because the value of clothing depreciates immediately after purchasing. You only have to scroll through Facebook Marketplace, or Poshmark or Thred Up to see how much clothing has devalued once it has been worn. Even designer pieces aren’t worth as much as when they are new. Until an item has survived long enough to become “vintage”, it really can’t be called an investment.

lady wearing a vintage styled outfit on a snowy lane

However, I do think that even if we aren’t “investing” in clothing in a monetary way, there is another definition for “invest” that can apply to our wardrobes:

“Devote (one’s time, effort, or energy) to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.”
We should carefully choose which items we buy and add to our closets, even though that may add a bit of extra bit of time, thought and effort. I think that many of the clothing pieces that find their way to secondhand selling sites or thrift shops were not thoughtful purchases, which is why they are for sale again. (I often even see items with the tags still on!) Perhaps we should coin the phrase “purposeful” or “thoughtful” shopping. I think that it is a principle that most of us could use a bit more of- at least I know that I do!

While purchasing a higher quality item might not be an investment we will have a monetary return on, it may still be one that still has a worthwhile result. Having one higher quality item is always going to be more sustainable than ten cheaply made items because it will last longer, thus reducing the need for so much production. Fast fashion in and of itself is not sustainable because of the model of consumption that it is built upon. For example, vintage clothing is a testament to the longevity of a well made item- garments from the 1960’s will outlast a newly purchased item from Forever21 because of the craftsmanship of the items.

closeup of a vintage styled leather satchel purse with a buckle

Another worthwhile result of investing in clothing purchases, may be in having less items in your closet because the one item you truly love is better than having multiple items that you don’t love as much. I am not advocating for coveting fashion pieces, but if there is one particular piece that you want, then it’s not worth buying something else and being unsatisfied with it. Saving up to buy this one specific purse that ticked off all of the boxes was a better choice for me, than settling for a purse that I would end up decluttering down the road in favour of another because I wasn’t truly happy with it. As I’ve been going through my own wardrobe, I have tried to be careful to not turn around and immediately replace everything I’ve gotten rid of. Instead, I have been taking my time to see which are the items I should be concentrating on, and “investing” in, rather than continuing to have a closet full of clothing (or purses) that I don’t wear.

I have a few more posts coming up related to the topic of personal style and creating a purposeful wardrobe, so I think I will end this post here for today, but what do you think about “investing” in clothing? Have you ever saved up for a long time to be able to finally buy something your really wanted for your wardrobe?

a lady wearing a vintage styled outfit with a plaid skirt, cardigan and beret on a winter day

wearing a vintage styled brown leather purse

a lady wearing a black vintage styled trenchcoat and beret on a sunny winter day

a lady wearing a black trenchcoat and beret walking down a snowy lane

Turn a Shrunken Sweater Into a Retro Wool Beret

turn a shrunken sweater into a felted beret

While we’ve been pleasantly surprised with a very warm winter this year, the weather has turned cold lately, and it is definitely feeling like winter in Alberta again. Since it is only February (which means we’ve still got a ways to go before Spring) this is the perfect time to share one of my latest projects- a felted wool beret. Berets are not necessarily the warmest of headwear, but they do add a great vintage element to your winter ensemble, so I definitely consider them to be a fall and winter outfit staple.

While berets have risen in popularity the past few years, I have yet to come across one in brown. So, if you can’t find one at the store and you can’t knit or crochet one for yourself, what can you do? You can easily turn a shrunken sweater castoff into a felted beret!

I would not recommend that you take a perfectly good wool sweater and felt it, because wool sweaters can be expensive and it always seems like a waste to cut up something in good shape that someone could actually wear the way it is. However, there are so many wool sweaters in thrift shops that are no longer in good condition. Whether it’s due to the previous owner accidentally shrinking them, or that they are full of moth holes or runs, or even that they have stretched out of shape due to improper care, the thrift shops are full of them. This project is a perfect way to recycle and refashion those sweaters that are completely ruined and useless into something new!

shrunken wool sweater perfect for felting

I found this chocolate brown sweater years ago, but hadn’t yet figured out what to make. Since brown berets have proven difficult to find, I thought that this would be the perfect way to get the colour I wanted.

To Make Your Own, You Will Need:

  • A 100% old wool sweater. Make sure it is real wool content, so it will felt for you. I know you can also use blends that have a high wool content, but I’ve never done that myself, so am not sure whether they felt differently or not.
  • Needle & thread/ sewing machine
  • Beret pattern- I used Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret. (Tanith gifted me that pattern several years ago. You can see the first one I made here). Edited to add: Another free beret option is this style from Brittani of Untitled Thoughts. She has a free pattern download, as well a sewing tutorial. 
  • Button to cover, or a decorative button of your choice 
  • Elastic to make the hat fit tighter, optional

To Make the Hat:

My wool was already partially felted, so I cut the pieces out of the sweater and went from there, felting the final hat a little more at the end. After making this one, I was wondering whether you could also make it by cutting your pattern pieces out a bit larger and then felting the wool after you already have the hat sewn up. This might make the seam lines disappear a bit, and make the hat easier to form, but I haven’t tried it yet to know for sure.

But, in order to make the hat exactly as I have here, you are first going to need to felt your sweater, if it isn’t already shrunken. You can do this by putting the sweater into the washing machine with a little bit of laundry soap and washing it in hot water. It works better if you have a few sweaters in at the same time, so they can bump into each other and cause friction. You can also add a foam ball or flip-flop to help it felt even faster. Once you have washed your wool, take a look at it and see whether it has felted enough. If you want it to shrink a bit more, you can put it through the dryer, removing it before it is completely dry. Once the wool is good, let it dry.

wool sweater and sewing supplies

Once your sweater is dry, it is time to figure out your pattern. There are several different ways to make a sewn beret; I chose to use Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret, since I already had the pattern. This hat is made up of segments, giving it an octagonal shape. Her pattern has a more vertical shape to it and doesn’t lie flat, but since I wanted the hat to have a similar flat shape and fit to a traditional round wool beret, I made a couple of changes.

adjusting the pattern to make a flat style beret

To adjust the pattern, I made a sharper angle on the bottom segments so they would be narrower at the bottom edge. This way the hat would lay flat back on itself.  I measured the inner circumference of a beret that I already had and made the opening of my pattern add up to 20″ circumference. I actually should have made the opening a little bit smaller, since the hat ended up stretching quite a bit, so I would recommend that you go at least an inch or two smaller than you want it to be, to account for stretch. The other change I made to the pattern was using a facing, rather than a hat band. (More on that in a minute)

Once you’ve chosen your pattern, it’s time to cut it out. Watch out for where the seams are in the sweater, you don’t want to accidentally cut across them, or you’ll end up with a bulky piece. Also, look for any areas that may have holes or other flaws, since they won’t have closed up during felting. I cut my pieces out of the sleeve and around the neckline to maximize the amount of fabric I would have left over to use for future projects. I also saved the bottom of the sleeve pieces including the cuffs, since I might make a pair of matching mittens in the future using this method here.

Once you’ve got your pieces cut out, it is time to sew them. Since the wool is felted, you won’t need to worry about it fraying, so you don’t need to finish the edges in any way. Sew together your pieces of the hat, excluding the hat band, following the instructions of your pattern.

sewing the felted pieces of the hat

Make sure to use a zig-zag rather than a straight stitch when sewing, since this is a stretch fabric.

Instead of making a flat hat band, I decided to made a round facing. The advantage of a facing, rather than a hat band is that it flips to the inside, so it is completely hidden. This is just a style preference, you could also use a flat hat band if you prefer. To make my facing, I measured the diameter across of the opening of my hat, then measured out 2″ and cut out the circle pattern piece. My sweater had a large enough section left to cut the facing in one piece, but you might need to cut it in 2 pieces and sew them together. If so, remember to leave seam allowances!

making the hat facing

With right sides together, sew the facing to the hat.

Once you’ve got the hat sewn, it is time to form the shape of the hat. To make a form, cut a piece of cardboard into a circle the size you want your finished hat to be. I measured the beret I already had, to figure out what size I wanted. Since your hat will be wet, you need to waterproof the form, so place the cardboard piece inside a bag. I was originally going to use a dinner plate as a form (it was the exact size needed!) but then I wasn’t sure I would be able to get it out after the hat had dried without having to stretch the hat completely out of shape…or smash the plate! The cardboard turned out to be flexible enough to remove easily and it worked well.

hat all sewn up and ready to form

Now, fill a basin or sink with hot water. Submerge the hat so it is completely wet, and then slightly agitate the wool. Once it is fully soaked, take the hat out and gently press the water out. Don’t wring it, or it will stretch too much- the wool will be quite floppy! Roll the wool in a towel to pull out most of the water.

soaking the wool hat to felt

Take your cardboard form and place it inside the hat. Smooth the seams flat and shape the hat around the form. The hat will shrink as it dries, so in order to keep the opening of the hat from pulling back too wide, sew a stitch around the inner edge and slightly gather it in. Once you’ve finished, it’s time to let it dry. I placed my hat directly onto my drying rack, which ended up leaving some marks from the rods on the wool that I had to steam out, so I would recommend either letting the hat dry on a fabric mesh sweater drying rack, or placing a towel across the bars of a drying rack for the beret to sit on top of.

putting the wool beret onto the cardboard form

Once the hat is dry, you can snip the gathering stitch from the edge and then take the hat off of the form!

Not all of my seams dried completely flat, so to help shape it a little bit more, I used a tailor’s ham (actually a towel wadded inside an old t-shirt) to steam press the hat into a smoother shape. Then I pressed it flat. Make sure to use a wet press cloth, dampen the wool and lightly go over with your iron while it’s on full steam, so you don’t scorch your wool and make it go shiny.

steaming and shaping the beret once dry

Once you’ve pressed the hat into shape, it is time to tack the facing edge down, sewing through the seams to hide the stitches. After I finished the hat and tried it on, I discovered that the wool was a lot stretchier than my other berets and was quite loose. One of my other berets has a soft elastic around the edge which works well to keep the hat in place, so I added a piece of elastic along the edge of this hat. Place the elastic between the facing and the top of the hat and stitch in place by tacking it through the seams in order to hide the stitches.

sewing elastic along the edge and the facing into place

The final step is to add a button. You can either cover a button with wool, or use a decorative button. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to use a covered button because the wool was so stiff, but I actually managed to push the back/shank onto the button form. If your wool is too thick to use the shank to cover your button, you can cut a circle of felt, run a gathering stitch around the edge and gather it in around the button form. (Like making a fabric yo-yo) Since it’s not a functional button, it doesn’t need to have a shank on the back and you can just sew it on like that, with the raw edges hidden underneath.

covering the button and adding it to the top of the hat

Once the button is sewn on, your hat is done. There you have it- a vintage styled felted beret, without even having to know how to knit or crochet!

the finished upcycled wool beret

Have you ever made anything with felted wool before? It’s a lot of fun, since the wool is so easy to manipulate. We’ve got some more wool sweaters in our stash, and I am now wondering whether I should steal some of them to make some more hats….

Do you think you will try this and turn a shrunken sweater into something new?

wearing an upcycled wool Tanith Rowan Grevillea beret made out of a shrunken sweater

the finished beret

Who Made My Fabric?

fashion revolution 2020

Today is the 7th anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory tragedy in Bangladesh. Today I ask, “Who Made my Clothes?” because never again can 1,134 people lose their lives from unsafe working conditions.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about supply chains, because so many people worldwide are involved in the manufacture of clothing and textiles.

Cotton is grown and harvested, spun into fibre in mills, woven into fabric, cut into pieces, sewn into garments and then sold in a shop…it’s a lot of steps and a lot of people are involved along the way.

I don’t buy very many new garments. To be honest, tagging a brand today doesn’t make very much sense.(The last new piece of clothing I purchased was in October.)

The majority of my wardrobe is vintage, thrifted or home sewn, so, I’ve been thinking about the supply chain in my own homesewn garments. What kind of impact does the fabric I use have? Who made that fabric? Who made my thread? Who made my buttons and zippers and snaps…

Fabric in some ways is actually harder to trace origins as there usually isn’t any indication as to where it came from. I would love to be able to walk into a fabric store and easily see where the fabric came from, how it was dyed, whether it was made in a closed loop…

Do I have any answers for how to get from here to there? Not really, but it’s a question I’d like to start exploring more. Just being a bit more mindful with new fabric purchases, taking time to seek out fabric companies that are doing things right, buying 100% natural fibres, and in the meantime using up my stash and seeking out second-hand fabric (this skirt was made from vintage fabric I found in a thrift store!)

How have you taken part in Fashion Revolution this year? Do you have any other ideas for making home sewing more ethical?

Fashion Revolution 2019

fashion-revolution-2019

Hi everyone! I just wanted to pop on here today and remind you all that it is Fashion Revolution Week this week. Since it came right on the tail of Easter this year, I almost forgot that it was happening, so I thought I’d mention it, in case any of you forgot too. 🙂

In case you’re wondering what on earth Fashion Revolution is, it is a global movement that was created six years ago, to raise awareness and create change within the fashion industry in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse which killed 1,138 people and injured 2,500 in 2013. If you’d like to find out more about it, you can check out my previous blog post here which has more in depth information, or check out Fashion Revolution’s website here.

In past years I’ve done more in depth posts, including ideas for how to dress ethically or ways to reuse textile waste, but I felt like this year I didn’t have anything new to add, so I’ll just be participating over on Instagram, tomorrow by sharing my label and asking the brand “who made my clothes”.

Progress has definitely been made within the fashion industry to increase transparency and improve working conditions within the past 6 years, but there’s still so much that needs to be done.
Change comes only when it is asked for, so if you’d like to join in, simply snap a picture of your clothing label, and then tag the brand with the tag #whomademyclothes. The more people who take part, the better chance we have of things changing!

Have you ever taken part in Fashion Revolution? Are you planning to join in this year?

PS- I just realized that one of my favourite bloggers, Mr. And Mrs. Rat, is publishing a series of posts for Fashion Revolution Week, so if you’re looking for some more reading/ideas this week, you should definitely go over and check them out!

Failing at Ethical Fashion

mustard sweater feature

I was almost hesitant to share these photos, and for a reason that isn’t readily apparent. It’s not because my hair wasn’t quite cooperating this day, my camera wasn’t focusing properly or because it was really warm in the house and I was eager to get this sweater off.

It’s because this outfit fails at ethical fashion.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, it won’t come as a surprise that I care about responsible fashion- I talk about it a lot. I take part in Fashion Revolution each year. The majority of my clothing is secondhand. I sew slowly and thoughtfully- I try to make sure that each of the items I make are ones that will add value to my closet. I don’t technically have a “capsule” wardrobe, but each and every item is chosen carefully and definitely worn more than 30 times.  I very seldom purchase anything new, and when I do, I try to buy natural fibres, and search out ethical brands if possible.

I love fashion (no surprise there), but seeking to be purposeful and ethical in a world where fast fashion is the norm, can be hard.

And sometimes when you find a mustard yellow sweater, you buy it.

mustard sweater 3

A few weeks ago, I was visiting a local clothing store with my mom and sister, trying to help my mom find a sweater, and as we were looking, I came across this mustard yellow sweater. I’ve been looking for a long time (a couple of years) for some mustard yellow pieces, since it is my favourite colour, but is extremely hard to find!

Since it was on sale, I bought it.

And then I immediately started thinking about the fact that it is made out of rayon and polyester, and dyed with a toxic mix of chemicals, and was made in China, and other than that, I definitely don’t know “who made my sweater”, and then I started regretting it, because this is not ethical fashion, and how can I call myself an ethical fashion proponent, when I just made a very unethical shopping choice?

mustard sweater 1

But I’ve been doing some thinking lately, and I would like to share a few of thoughts on whether it’s possible to be completely “ethical” in your shopping choices.

I participated in a course that Fashion Revolution was offering a while ago. It was an interesting activity, but the one thing that stuck out to me, was this response by the founder of Fashion Revolution, Orsola De Castro to the question, “Is it possible to have a 100% sustainable or ethical wardrobe?”

I don’t think it’s possible to have 100% clothes that were designed or made sustainably or ethically. I think that is going to be very difficult, but it is possible to make sustainable and ethical choices about all of the clothes you have in your wardrobe. So, somehow, you can refresh with love and turn them into something they weren’t originally. . . You can do things like shop at Primark and H&M, but with the same respect if you were shopping somewhere like Gucci. You’ve got to treat your fiver like it was $500, and choose that piece not because you are “stress shopping at Zara”. We are not stress shopping at Zara: we are “deep love shopping at Primark” or Zara or wherever. . . Because, if we were to commit to 100% not putting one foot wrong, we would be damaging ourselves and our wardrobes immensely, and also the people who actually make our clothes, because there are an awful lot of people making clothes who are waiting for the industry to ameliorate, and what are we going to do in the meantime?  Boycott them all? As consumers, we still buy that product. We just buy it in a different way, so we can give a really strong message to the brands. This message might be “Slow down”. This message might be “No, we don’t want five for the price of one; we want one well made piece for the price of five”.

This past year I have started going zero waste in my lifestyle. At first, I thought the concept of “zero waste” was to try and produce no garbage at all. We’ve all seen the pictures of people’s “trash jars” where they are able to fit all of their garbage from the past year (or more) into one glass jar. It’s inspiring to think about living a life that doesn’t result in garbage, but it’s not completely realistic for most people.

I live in a small town, and there is no bulk store. Cauliflower comes wrapped in plastic. I recycle or compost everything I can, but still end up with garbage at the end of the day.

As I’ve been reading more, and started following several zero wasters on Instagram, one thing that keeps coming up is the fact that we are currently living in a culture that is designed to result in garbage. “Zero waste” doesn’t mean that you are producing zero garbage, but is rather a name for a movement that is trying to restructure our global economy to one designed to be circular, where garbage isn’t part of the cycle. Today our products (whether it’s clothing, or food or other things) are designed with waste. It’s impossible to create “zero waste” as a consumer. And even if you think that you are doing a fairly good job, there is garbage that has been created before the product even reaches you. (I work in a shop, and the amount of packaging garbage that is thrown out before a product even reaches the shelf is astounding.)

mustard sweater 4

But again, this quote by Instagrammer Andrea Sanders (@bezerowastegirl) has been bopping around in my head for a while:

“Zero Waste isn’t easy because it’s an infrastructure that doesn’t exist right now. Access to bulk stores, fresh markets and the like are not accessible to most. Everyone makes trash. Period. Do what you can. Never feel guilty because you can’t do something. There is no absolutism.”

And so, it makes me ask: Was this sweater an unwise shopping decision after all? Am I “failing” at ethical fashion?

Our current fashion culture is one that is driven by the need to buy more and more, regardless of how much we already own, but when I purchased this sweater, I wasn’t buying it from a fast fashion perspective.

I have been searching for a mustard yellow sweater for a few years, so it was not a spur of the moment purchase. It was “deep love” shopping, not buying for the sake of buying.

It is estimated that wearing a garment at least 30 times, reduces the carbon, waste and water footprint of a garment by 20%-30%. I wear all my clothes at least 30 times, and despite the fact that this sweater is not made of completely natural fibres, it is well sewn and will last me many years. I also take care of my clothes, and will be hand washing this one to help increase it’s lifespan.

mustard sweater 2

It’s a tricky issue. I can’t say that I’m completely convinced that I should have bought it. Maybe if I had waited a while longer I would have come across something in mustard yellow that would have ticked all the boxes, but then again, maybe not.

I want my wardrobe to be 100% ethical, but that’s not really feasible right now. If 95% of my wardrobe is ethical fashion, then is the 5% that isn’t ethical, OK? Where do you draw the line? Is there a line? How do you balance want vs. need, especially with something as “frivolous” as fashion?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. How do you decide for your own wardrobe?

mustard sweater 7

mustard sweater 7

mustard sweater sleeve

mustard sweater 6