Sustainable wardrobe challenge – Rebecca

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 wardrobe challenge from Bobbins and buttons

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

Hi I’m Rebecca and I’ve been sewing for 7 years. I started sewing when my first child was 2, I wanted to make her a quilt. A lovely friend then sent me some me made clothes she’d made for my children and it inspired me to try clothes sewing and I’ve never looked back. I’m self taught and get lots of inspiration from the sewing community online. My wardrobe is about 95% me made.

I occasionally sew for my children and other family members.

Sustainable wardrobe challenge from 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?

Sewing started out as a fun hobby to have some precious ‘me’ time when my children were babies and toddlers. However, over the years it’s come to be both practical and mindful. I hated clothes shopping, nothing would ever fit right and I’d be left feeling upset with my body that didn’t belong in these high street clothes.

And like many of us my home life and work life is busy and noisy. I’ve always enjoyed being creative and sewing is where I get to be mindful, slow down  and have some much needed time to myself with the added bonus of lovely clothes to wear, mostly.

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

Pretty much, unless it’s a bra or socks I’ll make it. I just don’t enjoy clothes shopping, so don’t do it.

Making clothes means I get to choose the fabric, pattern and make my adjustments I need, therefore I’m much more likely to be wearing these clothes much longer and taking time to repair them when required.

Sustainable wardrobe challenge from Bobbins and buttons

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

My eldest needed some additions to her wardrobe and I had some left over fabrics that I’d used previously from an outfit I made her so I thought what better way to use them up. They’ve been languishing in the stash, not quite big enough for a garment on their own, but together with the lovely Ochre French terry from Julia I was inspired to make her a jumper dress.

I have used the Theodor jumper pattern many times for my children, so I used this as the base. I lengthened the jumper by 20cm from the bottom of the Jumper as seen in the photo. Remember to take into account the hemband length when deciding what length you want the finished dress to be.

I then decided I wanted to add a contrast panel on the front bodice, so cut the pattern piece where desired and added seam allowance to the 2 new seams created.

Then to try and match the contrast to the sleeves I measured from the edge of the raglan sleeve edge to the beginning of my contrast front bodice pattern piece I previously created which was 5 cm. I then cut across the sleeve 5cm from edge of the sleeve to try and match across the dress. However, it doesn’t match up, but it’s good enough for me and I don’t think it takes away from the dress. When cutting the sleeve, remember to add seam allowance onto all the new edges you make which will be sewn together.

Sustainable wardrobe challenge from Bobbins and buttons

Sustainable wardrobe challenge from 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?

Its a hard question to answer I think, for a few reasons. First I have a stash of fabric, it’s not massive, but it can cause me anxiety at times. After all, the manufacturing of fabric has environmental impact and what if I make something I hate, and then don’t wear. What if I decide I don’t like the fabric anymore?! Then there’s the waste we make as sewists, where does that end up.

To try and be more responsible I am trying only to use fabric from my stash, and only buying if I don’t have what I need and I know what I want to make with the fabric. So it has a definite purpose and will be loved and worn many times.

Also, I think I wear my me mades much more than any ready to wear clothes I would buy previously,  they fit better, are made from nicer fabrics which are more comfortable to wear and I have spent hours planning and sewing them so I am much more invested in caring for them and using them.

My children also like to use my scraps to make bags, and clothes and use my sewing machine. And I try to use most of what I can in bags and knickers etc.

Sustainable wardrobe challenge from 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 do agree in part to this, I have made a few things for some of my children which they have then refused to wear! So mainly I only make for the ones I know will love it and if it’s really needed. But I also have 3 children and a niece and nephew, so anything I make, say for my eldest daughter gets passed to my niece, then back to my youngest daughter. But also, my children are quite a slim build and finding well fitting trousers especially, is hard. To get the correct waist the length is too short, so making them custom fit clothing is a win! And definitely not a waste.

Sustainable wardrobe challenge from Bobbins and buttons

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

I think the best thing to do is make sure it is well made and will get lots of wear, my children’s wardrobes are full of hand me downs. Altering if needed and when damaged, like my sons knees on his trousers, you can cut down into shorts if you’ve repaired them too many times already.

Also choosing more sustainable fabric, that are produced in a ethical and sustainable way.

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

I’ve used some to stuff a footstool we have, cut them into squares for cleaning clothes. And I also try to recycle any fabric that can be recycled if they can not be used by others. I generally take clothing to the fire station, which they use to raise funds and its used to make car seats etc.

Sustainable wardrobe challenge from Bobbins and buttons

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

Yes, yes, yes. They love getting on the sewing machine and looking through my fabrics! They’ve all sat on my knee when younger taking out pins for me and lifting the pressure foot.

My eldest loves to create clothes for herself out of my scraps and I let her use my machine on her own. I love how interested they are and together we made skirts this summer.

Sustainable wardrobe challenge from Bobbins and buttons

How do you manage unsuitable or inpractical ideas?

Luckily they have never had an impractical idea, my eldest has made some things that aren’t very practical but it’s how you learn so I let her have a go. And try to gently say that it’s just to wear around the home.

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

I love making little pouches and bags, which make lovely gifts, and using scraps for knickers. Quilting is good for scraps too, I’ve yet to do this but I’ve seen some lovely examples, including your project Julia.

I have also given our local schools some of my scraps, and a friends daughter who has made some lovely things.

My eldest likes to make little pillows out of my scraps, which she then stuffs with more scraps. A little project she can do on her own.

Sustainable wardrobe challenge from Bobbins and buttons



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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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