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?
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!
Today’s post is brought to you by a combination of my favourite things: books, vintage, tea and ethical fashion! These pictures are actually from two months ago, but after a delay in posting, I decided that they were perfectly suited to Fashion Revolution Week, so here they are now!
It is so satisfying to create a completely ethically sourced outfit, but, unfortunately, that is easier said than done, isn’t it?
Since I started dressing ethically, a few years ago, the one thing that I am constantly reminded of when shopping is that it is so incredibly hard to do! I wish that I could just walk into any store, find whatever clothes I liked and that I wouldn’t have to ask, “Who made my clothes, were they made sustainably and are they made to last?” I hope for that day, and that is why I care so much about Fashion Revolution Week (which is this week in case you didn’t realize!) But until that day comes, it can be hard to figure out how far to take the commitment to shopping sustainably: Do you sometimes buy things that are not made ethically? Do you go without if you can’t find a sustainable option? Do you rely on secondhand for everything? What about basics? (like socks and underwear. . . they are kind of necessary!)
When I made the commitment to dress ethically, I originally wanted to buy everything 100% ethically, whether it was secondhand, made by me, or bought from a fair trade brand. However, Canada, especially small town Alberta, is not a hotbed for ethical shopping. Some things are easy to find- you can easily source secondhand clothing, or even ethically produced clothing online, for example, but there are other things that are harder to find.
One such item is hosiery. I wear tights almost every day in the winter, and pantyhose other times throughout the year. But hosiery, especially pantyhose, is one of those fashion basics that is made very cheaply, and very unsustainably nowadays. It is one of the biggest fashion “consumables” that is contributing to making the fashion industry the second most polluting on the planet (after only the oil industry). I can find hosiery that is made in Canada, but it is more difficult to find good quality hosiery that will last more than a few wears without getting a run or pills. Nowadays, you are lucky to get a pair of pantyhose to last even a few wears, before you’ve got to throw them in the trash, and most pairs of pantyhose are worn only once. When I say that I want to shop “sustainably”, I don’t just mean that I want to buy “Made in Canada” (which is nice), but that I also want to buy items that aren’t creating a cycle of waste. Wearing something once, and then having to throw it out because it can’t be repaired, is not a sustainable way to dress. It’s actually ridiculous, when you think about it.
Enter, Swedish Stockings. My mom heard about this company and told me about it last year. I debated over ordering some pantyhose at the time, but as I had just stocked up, (on some cheap ones that didn’t end up lasting very long) I decided to wait. Well, in January, when my black opaque tights got a hole in them I finally decided to place an order.
This company is based in Sweden, and is the maker of “eco friendly pantyhose for women”, with a goal of revitalizing the entire pantyhose industry. In order to do that, they have come up with some great ways to make the hosiery industry more sustainable.
They make their pantyhose from recycled nylon. Most pantyhose are made out of petroleum (aka: nylon and polyester) which is extremely polluting to the environment, both when it is made, and afterwards, as it doesn’t biodegrade. Yay . . . our throwaway pantyhose is literally covering the earth. Who else wants to live on a landfill? They use nylon industry waste, diverting it from the landfill, and their stockings contain 76% – 97% recycled content.
The company has a recycling program to close the loop of stockings waste in the fashion industry, so you can send them any brand of old pantyhose and they will recycle them. They don’t make the old ones into new tights, as the technology to separate and break down textile fibres has not been invented yet (get on with it scientists!) but they take them and melt them down for fibreglass industrial tanks. In this way they have diverted millions of pairs of pantyhose from the landfills.
Sending them your old tights to recycle is nice- but wait- it gets better! If you send in three or more pairs, you get a coupon to spend online! Now that is really a win-win situation, is it not? That’s what I did- and I also ordered 2+ pairs in order to get free worldwide shipping.
Anyways, they’ve got tons of more sustainability cred, but I won’t write it all out here. They’ve got a page here, with certifications and a bunch of other great facts- so just hop over there to read more, as it is quite interesting. It is so wonderful to find a company that seems to really get the whole sustainability thing- and is actually doing something about it.
So, what did I think of the tights? I got the black opaque Lia Premium in both tights and leggings, and a pair of Elin Premium in the colour “medium”.
I am wearing the Elin tights here. When I took them out of the box, they were so tiny they looked like they were made for a small child. I was wondering if they would fit, as they were so small, but they stretched out fine. The yarn was thicker than regular pantyhose and it didn’t feel fragile as I put them on. They did have great elasticity, as when I took them off, they shrunk back down, and weren’t stretched out at all. But- this is an honest review here- I wasn’t as happy with the Elin as my first impression promised. The second time I wore them they got a run, and the fabric started pulling away from the seams in the gusset in the crotch. It was disappointing, especially since they cost more than a regular pair of pantyhose, so I decided to email Swedish Stockings and share my frustrations. Their customer service was great, and they said that the Elin is their most delicate pair of pantyhose, and so I decided to try out a sturdier pair instead. I am going to try the Irma, which is a 30 denier, and I am hopeful that they will be better, since I have tried “support hose” from different brands before and been happy with the quality.
As for the other pairs I ordered, I wore my Lia leggings and tights quite often during the winter. Now that it is spring, the 100 denier is too thick and opaque so I haven’t been wearing them anymore. I decided to get both the tights and the leggings, because in winter I wear boots all the time, and the feet on my tights always get worn out. I wore the leggings in my boots, since you couldn’t see that they were footless, and then saved the tights for open shoes. This way I preserved the feet on the tights, rather than wearing them out with constant wear. I am super happy with the Lia tights and leggings as they are very good quality. After a few wears, they started stretching out a bit, so I gently hand washed them and they sprung right back into shape. They haven’t gotten any snags or runs, and they haven’t started unraveling anywhere either. They are quite strong and are wonderfully opaque- although they are a little bit shiny- so if you want a matte stocking, these would not be the ones for you. For comparison, I got a pair of cheap footless tights last fall, and they turned out to be a total disaster. The Lia is high waisted, so you don’t have any lines under your skirts or dresses, but the cheap-disasterous-footless-tights were low rise, which was both uncomfortable (very bunchy feeling) and impractical, as you could see the line where they ended on my hip. The fabric on the cheap leggings also snagged very easily and the hem started unraveling the first time I started wearing them! So- all that to say that I am extremely happy with the Lia tights and leggings.
I will definitely be buying from Swedish Stockings again in the future. In fact, it will probably be difficult for me to not just keep buying! (They have quite a few that I love. . . the Rut Net is calling my name. . .) And, I will continue sending in all my old pantyhose too, in order to keep it out of the trash, in my endeavour to live as zero waste as I can. It is so great to find another company that I feel good about buying from; you’ve got to buy clothes, so why not buy them from a company that is doing something worthwhile, right?
As for the rest of my outfit, while it isn’t 100% ethical, I’m getting there. I would love to be able to know #whomademyclothes – all of my clothes- and not have to wonder whether they were paid a living wage or work in a safe environment. I hope for a day when I do not even have to ask this question, because it will just be given that all clothing is ethically sourced – but we aren’t there quite yet.
In the meantime, I do what I can: wearing vintage and thrifted clothes, making my own clothes, investing in quality and seeking out sustainable brands, like Swedish Stockings. Is my wardrobe 100% ethical? No, not yet, but small changes do make big differences!
I think that since this is my last post for this Fashion Revolution Week, I will close with this great quote by Orsola De Castro, the founder of Fashion Revolution.
I don’t think it’s possible to have 100% within (your) wardrobe clothes that were designed or made sustainably or ethically. I think that is going to be very difficult, (at this point in time) but I think 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. . . .
Have you ever heard of Swedish Stockings? Will you give them a try? What are your thoughts on balance in trying to shop ethically vs. also needing to have clothing even if it isn’t ethically made?
ps. I purchased the stockings myself, and haven’t been compensated in any way to write this post.
Today is the first day of Fashion Revolution Week 2018, so I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about ways to refashion and recycle old textiles- since textile waste is a huge problem in the fashion industry today. If you’re reading this and saying to yourself, “what on earth is Fashion Revolution?”, you can just click over here and read my post from last week which will get you up to speed, and then come back to this one once you know what’s what!
So, as I mentioned, textile waste is a huge problem facing us today as a result of the fast fashion industry. It is estimated that 10.5 million tons of clothing are sent to the landfill, in North America alone, and only 20% of textiles are recycled- with the other 80% being lost to the landfill or incineration. Of the textiles being thrown away, 70% of it is damaged, such as with stains, fading or shrinking- but even then, rather than being recycled, it is being thrown away. It is estimated that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter after only the oil industry. This is a rather abysmal track record, don’t you think?
A while ago I received a comment on my post about my Astra fur coat, where I was talking about how the vintage fabric is slowly wearing out. The lovely Mrs. Rat (of Mr. and Mrs. Rat Blog) said, “My favorite winter coat is going the same way—no matter how often I sew up the tears in the lining, they reappear somewhere else or next to the old ones. The exterior is also starting to look a little droopy and shabby up close. I don’t feel like I have any good way of knowing when a garment is ‘worn out,’ especially when it is one I am fond of. I also don’t feel like I really know what to do with a really worn piece of clothing except harvest the buttons for future sewing projects and feel guilty about throwing away the rest of it. Maybe that could be a good subject for a post for fashion revolution month? I always like to read what you write about ethical fashion and its practical dilemmas.“
Thank-you Mrs. Rat for leaving such a great comment! That was a wonderful idea for a post, and it really got me thinking! And so, for today, I am sharing a post dedicated to 12 ideas for “what on earth do you do with previously used textiles?!?” I’ve got links to some of my past refashioning projects, features on some small projects I’ve made in the past few years that wouldn’t be big enough to dedicate an entire post to, ways to mend old garments and several tips for what you can do with old clothing that isn’t in good enough condition to be donated as is, but also isn’t usable for much else either. Even though none of these projects are huge- every little bit, does truly help. If each person in North America chose to recycle or refashion just one garment each year, that would be 360 million garments diverted from the landfill! Here are 12 ways to do just that:
If you have a garment that needs some mending; maybe a hole needs patching, or a button needs recovering, take a look at the hem or facings and see if you can steal some fabric to do your repair work. Last year, I found a 1960’s dress at the thrift store which desparately needed a washing, so I carefully soaked and washed it in the tub, and laid it flat to dry. Once it was dry, I realized that the buttons had reacted badly to being washed, and all of the buttons now had a yellowish/green tinge to them around the edges. You can see the colour difference in the above picture, left. I tried to dye them back to a nice shade of blue- but apparently this fabric is not actually wool, since the dye didn’t absorb! Fortunately the dress had a nice wide 4″ hem- common in vintage garments- and so I was able to cut a 2″ strip all the way around, re-hem the dress and then use the scrap of fabric to cover all of the buttons in new fabric.
2. If only part of a garment has worn out, see if it can be replaced with new fabric or hardware. For example, perhaps a collar or cuffs have worn through or gotten stained, and could be replaced with contrasting fabric. Jackets with leather patches on the elbows were trendy a few years ago- which is just what professors used to do with the worn out sleeves on their jackets. I bought this bag from SmartSet years ago, because I loved the combination of cognac leather and stripes. It proved to be an invaluable bag-especially for commuting to work, or as an overnight bag. About a year or two after getting it, the faux leather handles and pulls all started cracking and flaking to pieces. The bag was cheap quality to begin with- but I didn’t want to just get rid of it, so I instead decided to replace the original handles with leather ones. I searched the thrift stores, until I found a cognac coloured leather coat. I made sure to get one that was either damaged or wouldn’t be useful for any other purposes, so I wasn’t cutting up a perfectly good coat. The one I found had a company logo on it- so obviously no one was going to be wearing it second-hand! I removed all of the faux leather pieces from the bag- traced them onto the wrong side of the new leather, and then sewed all the new leather pieces onto the bag. The new leather has lasted about 5 years, and I still have several large pieces of leather left to use on other projects.
3. Lots of old garments can make great pillows- especially since they don’t require much fabric and are easy to sew. Two of these pillows were originally garments; the navy one was a short sleeved blouse that didn’t fit very well. It was such stiff fabric- and I loved the embroidery across it, so I couldn’t bear to get rid of it. Thus, it became a little pillow. The cream patterned pillow was a dress that no longer fit (and had also shrunk out of shape), which I then turned into a skirt- but it also didn’t fit well. I liked the fabric though- so I pieced it together into a square pillow. To make it more interesting, I did a chain stitch embroidery outline of the pattern for an added detail. The blue striped pillow was made out of a fabric remnant. With some strategic cutting and piecing, there was exactly enough to make this pillow, with no fabric waste left over!
4. Small projects such as tote bags or zippered pouches, can be made with small pieces of fabric. Here is an example where I am doing the opposite of tip #3- and am turning some pillows into a tote bag! I was hoping to finish it last week- but ran out of time, and so (on the right) you get a picture of the fabric pieces instead 😉 The khaki green fabric was originally a slipcover that got bleached by the sun, was turned into a pillow, and last week I decided I didn’t like it as a pillow anymore and so have turned it into the bottom of my bag. The gold and cream fabric is from some pillows I purchased a few years ago, but they no longer match my sofa and so I decided the fabric would be better as tote bag. I have not yet decided whether to make fabric handles, which will be good for laundering, or whether to make the bag a little bit more structural and add leather handles (made from the aforementioned coat). Another example of a bag that that is a bit more patchwork, is this 70’s inspired one, on the left, that I made quite a few years ago. I’m no good at quilting (as evidenced by the crooked patchwork pieces in this bag!), but even with rudimentary quilting skills, you can easily make a pieced bag.
5. Now to address Mrs. Rat’s dilemma with her coat: worn out garments often have pieces of fabric that are still useable for small projects- such as making hats! I tried out Tanith Rowan’s Grevillea Beret pattern earlier this year, and used some scraps I had leftover from making a cape. When I say scraps, I mean scraps: the fabric I used was only about 6″ wide, and I was still able to squeeze a hat out of it. In the Grevillea pattern, Tanith herself even recommends using an old coat, because even if some of the fabric is threadbare along the seams etc, there should be enough useable fabric to make a hat.
If a beret isn’t your style, how about getting a pattern like Vogue 7464? You could make any of these hats out of scraps of wool or other fabrics. There are lots of other vintage hat patterns out there, if none of these are your style, or check out Tanith Rowan’s blog as she often shares hatmaking tips.
If hats aren’t really your thing, you could also try making some “wardrobe spice” accessories such as gloves or a jabot out of the fabric (as long as it isn’t too scratchy!)
6. A past refashioning project, is this top made out of old jeans. Any pattern that has princess seams, or lots of piecing is great for making out of old textiles- as you can fit the pattern into narrow pieces of fabric.This top was actually the bodice of a dress pattern- Butterick 5882– which makes a great playsuit top, and was perfect for making out of old jeans- as the pieces are narrow.
7. Old garments are also wonderful for cutting down into new garments for children. Here are some tips from the 1970’s Creative hands books:
Be sure that the fabric isn’t too worn to withstand the tougher wear a child will give it.
Take the garment apart at the seams, and launder it, if it looks dirty. Sometimes when a garment has been taken apart, and the lining removed, the wrong side of the fabric looks brighter and fresher than the right side. Don’t hesitate to use the wrong side of a fabric if it appeals to you- it may even have a more interesting weave.
Adult coats: Garments made of tweed, woven wool, jersey, man-made knits and weaves, velours, doeskin cloth and corduroy will make children’s coats, jackets, teenage girls’ skirts and vests, girls’ and boys’ trousers and snowsuits.
Adult dresses: Garments made of woolens, jerseys, woven fabrics, man-made fibre fabrics, velvet needlecord, cottons, linens, etc. will make little girls’ dresses, skirts, boleros and sleeveless blouses, pants suits, shorts, and vests for both boys and girls. Knitwear will make pullovers, jumpers and romper suits for babies.
A more satisfactory remake job will result if a pattern is chosen with the same number of pieces as the adult garment and in a fairly similar style. By following this simple rule, you will find that there is enough fabric of the right shape in the adult garment for a child’s garment.
8. A lot of those tips for cutting children’s clothing could be utilized to cut down larger sized adult garments, into smaller sized ones; for example a large men’s coat could be remade into a women’s coat, (like women did in the 1940’s during rationing) and even a women’s coat could be made into a new vest. This gingham pinafore I made a few years ago, was made out of an old dress which was several sizes too big for me. I completely recut the fabric and made a new garment out of it. If you have a garment with quite a lot of fabric- a long dress or skirt, for example, it is often perfect for cutting out an entirely new garment.
9. Old sheets make great fabric for projects! I made this skirt out of a vintage sheet- even though the project required some strategic cutting, since the sheet had been used as a dropcloth sometime in it’s past and had several paint stains on it. Vintage sheets are a great source of fabric for sewing projects, especially as most vintage sheets (at least fitted ones) don’t usually fit modern mattresses. This sheet wasn’t good for anything else- but I managed to get a new garment out of it. Vintage sheets are great for making test garments of new patterns, as they are relatively inexpensive and have a lot of fabric.
10. What do you do when you can’t refashion a garment/textiles? If a garment is ruined, such as with stains that won’t come out, or is threadbare along the seams, and it is 100% woven cotton, you could use it to make a quilt, or, if you don’t quilt, see if someone else would like it for quilting squares. Quilts originally were made with scraps, and as long as the fabric is not too worn out, it’s nice to get some free fabric. In the past, I made a lot of my dresses out of quilting cotton, and when I cut out my patterns, I saved all of the scraps, of a decent size, in order to use for future projects. I’ve got a suitcase full of fabric scraps, to make a quilt someday, and even though I’ll probably never actually make that quilt- it’s nice to have a stash of scraps to use for projects, such as the tote bags I mentioned earlier.
11. If a garment is completely worn out and it is 100% cotton, then remove the buttons and hardware and cut it up for rags. Instead of using paper towels or buying cloths, cut up old t-shirts and soft cottons to clean with. Soft t-shirt cottons work quite well for cleaning glass and mirrors as well as for dusting. As long as the majority of the fabric content is cotton or natural fibres, they work quite well. Synthetic fibres or blends don’t absorb liquids very well, although you can still use them for dusting, so avoid using them for cleaning rags.
12. After you have gone through all of these ideas, and still have a garment left- for example, old hoisery or a polyester blouse with snags on it- then the last thing you can do is remove the buttons or any other hardware, and send it to textile recycling. Although I don’t shop at H&M, they do have a textile recycling program, which our family has used several times. In many of their stores, they have a drop off bin for end of life textiles- you can find out more about that here. Our family recently dropped off 5 bags of textiles at one of their stores. (The man who was standing in line was so confused to see us walk into the store, throw 5 bags into the textile recycling bin, and then turn around and leave the store without stopping to buy anything!) All of the textiles we sent were end-of-life textiles, which meant the fabric was ruined, unable to be recycled into a future project, or was of some kind of synthetic fibre and couldn’t be used for rags. Their program accepts all unwanted textiles where it is sorted into three categories:
Reworn- if it is in good condition
Reused- for cleaning cloths
Recycled- to be turned into textile fibres and used for insulation.
Well, those are the 12 ways I have used up old textiles. It is nice to be able to repurpose and refashion as much as you can, isn’t it? It always makes me think of the Depression era women, when I recycle old garments and textiles into new projects! I hope these ideas have helped you to figure out how you can reuse your garments, rather than simply sending them to the thrift shops or textile recycling programs.
What creative ways do you refashion and reuse old textiles? Have you tried any of these ideas before? Are you taking part in Fashion Revolution Week this year?