Hi everyone! I’m Anna from Finland and I’m a recent entrepreneur. I run my own small business of sustainable fashion (RAILOclothing), portrait photography and content writing. I’m so happy Maddie chose me as one of her guest bloggers – this is a great way of telling you about sustainability in sewing, which has been a passion of mine years before I even dreamed of starting my own business.
Being a nature loving person, I have always recycled, reused and reduced. That’s how the idea of having a sustainable clothing business was first born. I was frustrated by the racks of unused fabric and clothing that I found in so many thrift stores and second hand markets. It started as a hobby, fixing unattractive clothing into pieces I wanted to wear myself. Shortly after, I found myself getting inquiries from people with the same sustainable goals. So I started making clothes for birthday presents, later on sold a piece here, another there, and over the years, set up a small Etsy shop.
These days, it’s so easy to find inexpensive clothing and fabrics, that most people don’t even realize they could use something else. The very core of my sewing business is to use thrifted and remnant materials – curtains, leftover pieces of fabric, old clothing and pretty much anything you can think of. They are easy to find and, in fact, the older the materials, the higher quality they tend to be. Somewhere along the way, the fabric and fashion industries made a bad turn from quality to something they could use to maximise their profits. I bet you’ve noticed these days garments don’t last very long anymore… unless, of course, you make them yourself and only pick high quality materials.
Something people are afraid of when using thrifted or old materials is that they might ”smell old” or have stains or other flaws in them. With every piece of fabric I use, I have the same routine. At first, I put it in a sealed plastic bag and let it stay in the freezer overnight. After that, if I want to be extra thorough, I give it a bath in vinegar and water (you can find tutorials online). Then I throw it in the washing machine and take it outside to dry in the fresh air. This should take care of any possible scents the fabric may have.
The next step is to iron and check them carefully for any stains or holes. I cut out anything that doesn’t look perfect but you would be surprised by how well these old materials have lasted! I love using curtains for my projects; they hardly ever have any stains or other flaws.
Some other things I like to salvage from pieces of clothing are pockets and buttons. If you think of how long it takes to sew a nice pocket from scratch, you can consider using old pockets as saving a lot of time and money. Buttons can also be on the expensive side, so I never throw any of those out. Sometimes it’s even worth buying a stained shirt from the thrift store for 50 cents or so, if it has really nice-looking buttons.
Another thing you can reuse are waistbands, stamps and different kinds of cuffs and fabric belts. If you don’t want to use them for their original purpose you can get creative and turn them into totebag straps (or pretty much anything you can think of, use your imagination!)
My main purpose of introducing people to sustainable sewing is to reduce the amount of waste that’s created in the industry every year. Take a good look into your closet, go to your grandma’s attic or just talk to your friends to see if they have bits and pieces of fabric or clothing they were going to get rid of anyway. Using these kind of materials will ensure you’re going to have a unique garment – or whatever it is you decide to make. Happy sustainable sewing!
(The skirt you see in these pictures was made from an old curtain and a waistband from thrifted jeans. Even the zipper was salvaged from the jeans. For DIY instructions for the skirt you can visit my blog)