Monday, 7 May 2018

Sew Plastic Free

Since the Rana Plaza building collapsed in 2013, killing over 1000 workers. The fashion industry has become more aware of the poor working conditions in many areas of the world, just to keep us in 'Fast Fashion'. Slow fashion became a movement as well as the Who Made My Clothes campaign.

The big retailers have been forced to look at the conditions their clothes were made in as many of them were named and shamed in the months following the disaster. More recently we have become even more aware of issues affecting clothing production and waste. Companies are springing up all over who are trying to reduce the amount of cutting room waste going to landfill. Great examples are Zero Waste Daniel, Holly McQuillan and Tonle. ELUXE magazine has also identified a range of zero waste designers. These are all great ways to reduce the environmental impact and make fashion more sustainable. The creative Curator wrote a great post about this and you can read it here.

Holly McQuillan

Zero Waste Daniel
Since the airing of Blue Planet a few months ago the world has certainly become aware of the issue with plastics finding their way into the world's oceans. Not just the obvious litter, but also the plastic micro fibres that are shed from our clothing during manufacture and regular washing. How will the fashion industry respond to this - Only time will tell.

Still from the Blue Planet
We can't bury our heads in the sand on this one. We need to reduce our manufacture and use of plastics, especially single-use plastics. But what about the things we use in home sewing? What can we do to make a difference - even a small one?

OK, so where are we using plastics in sewing? I thought this was quite a simple answer at first but then I really started to think about it.

From Plastic is Rubbish - a great source for plastic free living.
Yep - synthetics.
In Brief - We all know that there are issues in the manufacture of natural fabrics - pesticides and chemicals used in the large-scale manufacture of fabric and particularly dyes. However ultimately these fabrics will biodegrade over time and if you can find organic products  -  go for it. There are certainly more suppliers out there than there were a few years ago.
Then you've got the cellulose-based fabrics. Rayon, Viscose, Bamboo - all of which can be blended with other natural fibres or synthetics, and dependent on which will also biodegrade, although the process is more akin to the chemical process used in the production of true synthetics.
So Synthetics are made using completely chemical methods, Polyester - for example, is made from ethelyne which is derivative of petroleum. There are many variations of such fabrics, some that resemble natural fabrics such as silk and some that have their very own unique properties. Many of these fabrics have made their way into our lives and we hardly notice them. Synthetics have many useful properties and are used in performance wear, protective clothing etc. Until someone has found a way of getting rid of them they will forever exist, never biodegrading. The more we make the more there is. (My son wants to be a chemical engineer - maybe I can convince him that solving this issue would be a great thing to research).  You can read more on how different fabrics - and other things - are made at How Products are Made.

I must admit that I do prefer natural fibres - I tend to sweat a lot and polyester does not breath! I also find it smells like turps when it's being ironed! I normally avoid such fabrics but have found myself sewing them a few times over the last few years. I often do like the finished item and then feel guilty about making it! Am I alone in this one?

Plastic Spools

Notions & Supplies
Here's where it gets scary.
Polyester thread supplied on plastic cotton reels - do you recycle yours? Gutterman have started doing a wider range of high-quality cotton threads, but I think they still come on plastic spools.
Sewing machine needles supplied in plastic cases.
Plastic handled scissors - you can get metal ones.
Plastic zips - most dress zippers are plastic these days.
Plastic sewing machine feet - I know some machines have metal ones - my Bernina does.
plastic bobbins - again some are metal
Plastic sewing machines - given these are not single use, but if I'm listing stuff...
Plastic headed pins - I prefer glass, they don't melt if I accidentally iron them.
Various tapes, elastics and clips.
Can you think of more?

So what do we do about it?
Recycle as much packaging as you can - the stuff that you just can't get plastic free.
Buy natural where possible. You can buy cotton thread on wooden spools - go for organic if you can.
Use up your scraps rather than throwing away.
When you replace items go for environmentally friendly organic if you can. Check out Plastic is Rubbish to find where you can buy plastic free. This is a great website with lots of tips to get you started. Go explore.

Take the #Sew Plastic Free challenge in the month of June.

I know it's difficult to go completely plastic free, but what can you commit to for the month of June?
Could you sew only natural fibres? Maybe you could use alternatives to plastic zippers for your sewing projects? Could you replace plastic headed pins with metal or glass ones? Or search out ceramic or wooden buttons. One small thing at a time do check out Plastic is Rubbish if you are planning on signing up.

Sign up

Copy the pledge below and paste it into the comments section below,  include your details and your personal sew plastic-free challenge before 1st June 2018:
'I, (insert name and blog /Instagram handle if you have one), sign up to Sew Plastic Free. I endeavour to..........................................................................During June 2018' 

This post is a stream of conciousness, based on some reading and news I've seen over the past few months. I'm not an expert and I'm just trying to find my place in this issue. Please do email me with any corrections and I will edit.

'I, Claire of Ragbags and Gladrags/ @artcoopsville, sign up to Sew Plastic Free. I endeavour to find alternatives to plastic fastenings during June 2018'

1 comment:

  1. This is interesting, and not something I'd considered. I've been doing my best to try not to use as much plastic and do more recycling.
    Thanks for linking to #pocolo.


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