‘Sew’ you want to be fashionable on a budget and still be sustainable? You may want to get into sewing. I started sewing at a really young age. My mom and I would make quilts, clothes for my dolls, and even clothes for myself. Not only is sewing super fun and a great life skill, but it’s also really good for the environment. Nowadays I don’t make doll clothes or quilts anymore, but I still use my sewing skills to make gifts for friends and family. Most frequently, however, I use them to upcycle, alter, and embellish clothes for myself.
In recent years we have seen thrifting become popular not only as a hobby but also as an essential part of a sustainable lifestyle. While I wanted to get fully involved in this lifestyle, I had a hard time finding clothes at the thrift stores in my area that I liked and that fit me well. Because of this, I looked into what I could do to make second-hand shopping more accessible and more manageable. I also wanted it to be of little cost to me and the planet. Knowing the basics of sewing made all the difference.
‘Sew’ what do I mean?
Fixing, upcycling, and even making your own clothes rather than buying from large fast fashion companies is a huge win in the world of sustainability. Not only do you have more options because of your ability to customize garments, but you’re now able to make clothes last longer and fit you even better. We all want to look our best and wear things that make us feel true to ourselves. Being able to take in the waist of your favorite, stretched-out skirt, turn a pair of old jeans into trendy shorts, embroider some flowers onto a sweatshirt, etc. will add to your fashion sense, allow you to get the most use out of your favorites, and save both you and the planet a lot of resources. Whether you’re a beginner or not, learning to sew or even just learning new sewing techniques can open so many doors.
‘Sew’ how do I get started?
The next big question is “where should I start?” Here are my suggestions:
Assess your materials.
Do you have a sewing machine, or just a needle and thread?
Do you need fabric scissors? Extra fabric?
What clothing pieces do you want to work on?
If pants, are they jeans, dress pants, shorts, etc?
What is the material? Do you need a thick or thin needle/thread?
Do you want to add or take away?
Do you want to make the item unique or do you want to get the perfect fit?
Once you have figured out where you stand with steps 1 and 2, you can gather your materials (as sustainably and low waste as possible) and begin to research your desired look. While it can be really nice to have a super specific idea in mind for your finished pieces, a lot of the time DIY projects don’t always turn out how you think they will. So, be kind to yourself. If you are worried about messing up, start with hand-me-downs or clothes that will not be worn again. Remember that destroying clothes that someone may get a lot more use out of is not the best direction to go in.
Although I alter a lot of thrifted finds, it is also a great idea to look into your current donation pile – or even the back of your closet – for old clothes that you still love but you don’t love the fit or look of. Some of my favorite go-to ideas are adjusting the waistband of jeans and pants, widening pant legs, adding decorative fabric linings to shirts and jackets, cropping sweaters and shirts, fixing holes/tears/snags, and turning jeans into shorts.
Not only does sewing divert waste from landfills, but it also encourages the act of second-hand shopping, lessens our contributions to the fast fashion industry, gives us a feeling of satisfaction and investment in our style choices, and – what I think is the coolest – allows us to adopt a problem-solving mindset when it comes to clothes. And, while sewing can be a little frustrating at times, it is such a great skill to have and to teach.