Sustainable wardrobe challenge – Karen Court

This is the next in my series of wardrobe challenge posts. The first posts are published in the blogger network section of my blog.

In this 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 Challenge.

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!

sustainable sewing challenge Bobbins and Buttons

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

Hi, I’m Karen and I’ve been sewing since just before I turned 30 (13 years ago!), when I got my first sewing machine. It all started after seeing a dress that my mother-in-law had made for my niece, who was a toddler at the time, and as soon as I saw it, and she told me that she’d made it, I knew I wanted to sew.  So, my mother-in-law taught me and I’ve never looked back.  I’ve been sewing garments for myself and my family for the past 6 years now and it has become a very passionate hobby.

sustainable sewing 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?

I’ve always been fairly creative, but sewing my own clothes was something I’d never thought I’d be able to do, so never thought of it in a practical way.  When I started sewing garments for myself it was just for fun and to see what I could learn from it.  Now I’m very familiar with sewing patterns and class myself as an experienced dressmaker, I find that I make more practical choices about the clothes I make.  I still find the process fun, but look through my wardrobe first to see what I need, rather than just what I want.  I now have a wardrobe that I can mix and match with some of my other makes and ready to wear garments.

sustainable sewing 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?

Regardless of cost, I usually end up making my own item of clothing. Even though I find sometimes my time is limited for sewing and that it may cost me more than to buy it off the peg, I find that I appreciate the garment a lot more if I’ve made it myself and will take more care of it.  It also gives me the opportunity to play around and get the fit I want.  I very rarely buy brand new these days and if I do end up buying a ready to wear garment, it is usually from a charity shop.

sustainable sewing challenge Bobbins and Buttons

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

I decided to make something for my son Harry, as he needed something more than I did. I had a vision in my head and just had to go with it. I chose to make the Joseph Joggers to pair up with his David jacket that I’d made previously. Harry loves to be outside and to ‘work’ with his dad – he has several pairs of ‘work’ trousers, but they have all got holes in the knees!  He won’t let me cut them into shorts, so I thought a new pair of trousers would be a great idea.  The Joseph Joggers come with optional knee patches, so I have added some different fabric, which I had left over from a previous project, to make a feature of them.  I’m hoping these patches will ensure the holes don’t come as quickly!  I also added contrast ribbing for the cuffs, as this was also fabric left over from a previous project – I thought it matched his jacket well too.

sustainable sewing challenge Bobbins and Buttons

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

I definitely think that sewing your own clothes can have an impact on these issues, as you don’t churn out the same volume as the clothing industry does. Sewing for me is a more considered option, whereby you take time over choosing what you want to make and you make something to last, not just to wear for one season.

sustainable sewing challenge Bobbins and Buttons

One of the issues I often hear about making children’s clothing is about the cost and time taken when children grow so quickly. What are your thoughts on this?

I don’t think it costs any more in the long run to make your own clothes for children. The fabrics I buy maybe more expensive than buying a ready to wear piece of clothing, but the quality is usually so much higher and will ensure the garment will last longer.  In my household the clothes get worn until they are worn out and are always handed down to siblings or other members of the family.

sustainable sewing challenge Bobbins and Buttons

Do you think it is possible to make children’s clothing sustainable?

Absolutely! The phrase ‘make do and mend’ is something I always try to apply within my outlook of making clothes last.  I always cut trousers into shorts if they are worn out at the knees and add patches when necessary.  You can also ensure that you buy sustainable fabrics to make your own clothes with in the first instance.

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

Clothing for my children, whether it be handmade or ready to wear, will always get handed down to siblings or other family members and if the item has worn out to the point it is no longer wearable, it will become a rag in my husband’s garage. Clothing that is still in good condition that has gone through the family will always be given to a charity shop.

sustainable sewing challenge Bobbins and Buttons

Do your children like to get involved with what you make for them?

Sometimes! As they’ve gotten older, they have certainly become fussier about what they wear.  I always try to involve them with picking out a fabric, to ensure they like it.  They tell me what new garment they would like too.

How do you manage unsuitable or impractical ideas?

Thankfully I haven’t come up a cropper with this one as yet, but I would suggest alternatives and show pictures of other ideas to try and sway them to something more practical and wearable.

sustainable sewing challenge Bobbins and Buttons

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

For any left-over jersey scraps that I’ve used for children’s wear, I like to make pants for my boys. I use the Waves and Wild Speedy Pants pattern which is a really fun sew and the boys find these pants really comfortable. If I have any woven scraps leftover, then I use those for facings, linings and pocket inserts.

Where can readers find out more about you?

You can find me on Instagram @sew.little.time and also on YouTube as Sew Little Time where I share all of my sewing and dressmaking projects.

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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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