Sustainable wardrobe challenge – Ashley Cramp

This is the second in my series of wardrobe challenge posts. You can read the first one here.

In this new series of blog posts I have invited fellow sewists to create a new outfit from one of my patterns and gifted fabric from my shop with the following brief:

The Brief:

Choose a Bobbins and Buttons pattern and fabric from the online shop selection to make it in. Choose an item/s of unloved clothing or unused textiles from your home to create a new outfit.

The outfit can be for you or a member of your family.

The pattern can be from the range or one created for Love Sewing magazine. It can be hacked or adapted to suit your requirements.

The unloved clothing or textiles could be just bought back into circulation by becoming part of a new outfit or upcycled into something to wear with the new piece or as part of the new piece. It might be clothing or table linen, curtains or other unused textiles. Think as creatively as you like!

Ashley Cramp:

Hello Ashley can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your sewing. How did you start sewing?

Hello Julia, Thank you for opening this very important debate on sustainability and for inviting me to take part.

I started sewing when I was 10 years old, I am now 59 therefore I have been sewing on an off for over 49 years! I can’t quite believe it myself. I was hooked from the moment I switched on my old sewing machine. The machine was very old and had been converted to electricity for me by my beloved Grandfather. An Aunt taught me to sew my first garment , a bomber jacket with zips and pockets. I wish I still had it! From then on I sewed cushion covers, dolls clothes and dresses for my best friends.

sustainable wardrobe challenge Bobbins and Buttons

Sewing your own clothes can be everything from a practical solution to a mindful, creative practice. How do you feel about the process?

For me sewing is everything, it saves me money, allows me some ‘time out’ from the chaos of this world and soothes my soul. Then there is the feeling of achievement when a project turns out well, you can’t beat that feeling!
sustainable wardrobe challenge Bobbins and Buttons

When you need or want a new item of clothing what are the deciding factors for whether to make or buy?

So many factors. Of course, today cost is a big one, sewing is not a cheap hobby anymore. Need is another, do I really need another garment? The phrase that crosses my mind and influences my choice the most. Time is another, choosing to make a simple project saves time as opposed to a slow sew involving a more tailored complicated project. Last but not least is sustainability.  Then the only option is to make something out of fabric I already own and not buy new.

sustainable wardrobe challenge Bobbins and Buttons

Please tell us about the outfit you have chosen to create and the unloved items you have used.

I have recently put on some ‘menopause weight’ and my body has drastically changed shape. A lot of my tops and blouses no longer fit me, therefore I decided to sew your lovely shirred blouse, fit it to my new shape and hopefully be able to wear more of my jeans, pinafores and skirts that have been stranded in my wardrobe for almost a year. Choosing a linen mix fabric was a no brainer for me, as it is cool to wear and linen is more sustainable than cotton.

The clothing industry is responsible for many problems from ethical to environmental impact. Do you think sewing your own clothing can offer some solutions?

Unfortunately, I do not, fabric is an offshoot of the fashion industry one of the biggest polluters of our planet. I do however, believe that all of us making small changes is the only way we can combat the ongoing damage to our planet. Reusing what we have, making smarter informed choices in my opinion is the only way ahead.

sustainable wardrobe challenge Bobbins and Buttons

One of the issues often raised with sustainable fashion or sewing is that the price of products tend to be more expensive. What are your thoughts on this?

I know from my own sewing experience that this is true. However, I have seen that as more people buy into sustainability the prices are slowly coming down. A comparison can be made with electric/hybrid cars. When they were first introduced the prices were out of this world, now they are coming into line with family budgets but still have a long way to go.

sustainable wardrobe challenge Bobbins and Buttons

 How can we make sustainable sewing cost effective?

As I mentioned in question 5, we all need to make smart, informed choices about what we buy new. Education is key, my 20-year-old son has taught me many things about living a more sustainable life. Recycling our old clothes wisely and at the very least,  cutting them up to use as dishcloths rather than throwing them away. I am presently working my way through my fabric stash rather than buying new. It is not always possible, particularly when sewing for others.

What do you do with items of clothing that no longer fit or serve a purpose?

As a family we all recycle where and when we can. Jeans and old trousers become shorts, old t-shirts become dusters and rags for cleaning. I also have a bag for fabric scraps to use as filling for cushions etc.” Donating to charity shops or selling on are other options.”

sustainable wardrobe challenge Bobbins and Buttons

Do you get seduced by new fashion trends or an exciting new pattern that has just been launched? Do you have tips how to balance the desire for novelty and newness and what is needed and necessary.

Now that is a very good question, luckily at the age of 59 I know my own style, what works, what does not and what makes me happy and comfortable. I am old enough to have seen some of these trends for the third time around! My personal style is simple and neutral, so I will never be tempted by new and bright fabrics, choosing instead to live in linen in summer and warm but natural fibres in winter.

sustainable wardrobe challenge Bobbins and Buttons

Do you have any tips or project ideas for using up scraps of fabric?

I believe the best tips are the simple ones. For instance, I keep two bins by the side of my sewing bench, one for rubbish and one for fabric scraps. Every now and then I sort out my fabric scraps and divide them again, one pile for use as stuffing for future toy or cushion projects and one for an abstract quilting project. Another tip is to always use the snipping tool on your machine, when you come to the end of a row. It saves so much thread wastage. I also save large pieces of newspaper for self-drafting my own pattern pieces. I know it is a cliche but ‘every little’ does help.

Where can readers find out more about you?

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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