Sew and Sewing-Sew


Sewing Skills on the decline

It is time bring them back.

When did you last mend a garment or sew on a button? Chances are many of you do not own a sewing machine or hardly ever thread a needle.

The decline of subjects in schools involving arts and creative studies has been increasing. These are viewed as subjects that are merely hobbies for those with a creative flair.

Your parents will remember domestic science and needlework classes at school. Embroidered aprons and apple crumble will undoubtedly conjure up some memories. In those days, these classes were aimed at every schoolgirl.

Back then, having a good understanding of needlework and cookery served a purpose, however, some of those skills in the past couple of decades have dwindled and are now in danger of being lost to a generation that needs them more than ever. No, I am not saying that we all need to go back to being good housewives, however, re-kindling those old skills would be more beneficial than limiting, especially needlework in particular. There are a lot fewer people making and altering the clothes we wear, and fast-fashion has transformed our creativity into something much less cost-effective.

We are buying two tonnes of clothing every minute in the UK.

According to Oxfam, we buy more than two tonnes of clothing in the UK every minute. A study involving a sum of 1,000 people revealed an estimation of 11 million garments ending up on a landfill every week. This is a crazy situation.

Sadly, convincing consumers to give a moment’s thought to how our clothes are made and by whom remains a thankless and problematic task. It is crucial now to re-educate nations on their attitudes to buying and disposing of their clothes for the sake of the environment.

However, all is not lost. Well not yet. There remains a growing trend of consumers asking these questions and the movement is increasing fast, as are the concerns. The attitude of ‘put up and shut up’ is no longer acceptable. If the issue doesn’t affect you then why should you care? Giving your clothes to charity shops is not going to solve a growing problem and we ought to be aware of what happens after we have left our donation. Charity shops do an amazing job, however, they are solely giving what they cannot sell or recycle to landfill, contributing to a pile that continues to pollute the earth and our atmosphere.

Fighting Fast to become part of the solution and not the problem.

 Our desire for fast fashion encourages our habits to throw away unwanted clothing, carelessly adopting a ‘happy go lucky attitude’ we continuously struggle with an addiction to buy new when the old breaks or simply goes out of fashion. This has brought us into a situation leading to an environmental crisis.  The whole of society is guilty of this, so it is time to think consciously before we stuff our unwanted tee’s and jeans into a carrier bag for the charity shop or dustbin.

So what can we do to make a difference?

Changing attitudes will take time but we must not give up. If we stand together and take responsibility for our actions, we will make a difference.  Your actions will inspire others to do the same.

Speak up to educators to start bringing back the needlework class and put some value on this skill. If the school teaching your children cannot do this then suggest some after school clubs in your community. Our children will at least benefit by having a skill they can hopefully pass on.

This is the first time in history we have stopped teaching our children to sew and have some small understanding of how clothes are made. It may seem a small thing to do but it is crucial if we want to have a society that can make do and mend. I have heard stories of young designers turning up to fashion colleges without ever knowing how to use a sewing machine. Is that not like buying a car without learning to drive?

My mother was a seamstress, my great-great-grandfather was a tailor, my great grandfather was an artist, my sister is a costume designer. It is in my blood to understand what creativity means and I have written a lot on this subject. Without the creatives in this world, we will breed a generation of closed thinkers and life will be very bland and un-imaginative without creative people. We must not devalue these skills.

My Mother Jean at her sewing Machine.

As a child, I remember my mother stringing wooden cotton reels together to make rattles. We also had jars of different coloured buttons. Zips were cut out from old garments and saved and clothes were taken in, taken out and up and down went the hems. Nothing was thrown out and we were always dressed well.  Sewing should never go out of fashion, we will always need to have clothes, the people who create them have a value that should be respected. They are also crucial to society when it comes to developing a waste not want not, attitude in our society.

If you are a Grandmother (or Grandfather) the next time you are tempted to buy a plastic toy or a new tee shirt for your little treasures, instead, why not sit down with your grandkids and cut all the zips and buttons out of their old clothes? Make some dolls clothes, collages, purses, there are hundreds of projects out there. What a valuable lesson that would be for them if you all sit down together and let them learn with you.

Our clothes portray our outer image, they say a lot about who we are. So, what has happened, why are we putting such a low value on our clothing?

As consumerism developed throughout the ’60s and ’70s, hand-made clothes created by our parents and grandparents did not have the same appeal to a revolutionary generation eager to embrace fast fashion. Oblivious to the environmental damage it was going to cause.

Be aware that problems cannot be solved overnight, there is still a long way to go to achieve the differences we need to put in place which will help to heal our planet. It is refreshing, however, to see what solutions are up for exploration.

If we can explore back to some of the skills our grandparents had and dismiss the negative thoughts thinking that they had little value, we can maybe move towards some positive action.  It is refreshing to read words like hand-woven, and handmade with sustainability back in the paragraphs of fashion blogs.

As fast-fashion chains search for solutions, they are faced with the worrying impact on their sales as consumers start to buy less and recycle. How will the big chains deal with a changing market? Larger fashion chains have already started to notice a growing demand for organic and more sustainable ranges. Will they try and change the mind-sets of a clever consumer who no longer wants the wool pulled over their eyes. Will this consumer be able to trust the origin of the fabric created for her garments? Do we want Organic clothing to become a new fashion exploited by the big chains for profit? Will that not be turning one problem into another problem?

As I seek out organic cotton in India, I am constantly warned about fabric suppliers mislabelling, even though it is marked certified organic cotton. How can we ever be 100% sure it is what it states on the label. I am sorry to say, that unless we own the farm and grow the crop ourselves, it remains extremely difficult to be 100% sure.

I believe the new and clever consumer will understand this and continue to seek out trustworthy suppliers. Even if you cannot have 100% organic products, is it not better to buy 50% organic cotton than none at all? Changing market demand has to be our target.

The move towards, natural, homemade, environmentally friendly products, has become a marketeer’s dream and an opportunity to push up prices. We have seen it in the supermarkets in reference to organically grown foods and sadly organic cotton clothing already has earned the reputation for being more expensive.

But what and how do we define expensive? The Movie, ‘The True Cost’ walks us through what a garment truly costs to produce so we can buy it for a knockdown price. The cost of your 2,99-tee shirt has a much larger cost on the welfare of the garment workers who produced it not to mention the links to the environmental damage of our planet. So Yes, Organic cotton clothing is expensive compared to a dress you buy off the market. But the cost of fast-fashion is five times higher in the longer term.

I overheard a consumer say she would never pay 50 dollars for a shirt, her friend replied “True, but I would pay that amount to keep a worker in employment and a farmer away from harmful toxins. A small price to pay if you think about it.

As we move towards finding the solution, I predict we are going to start searching for smaller manufacturers, and maybe producers and manufacturers closer to home. If we do not have the confidence or determination to seek out smaller outlets or even develop our sewing skills to create for ourselves, fast fashion will continue to dominate and the waste will keep on growing, and that will be devastating.

We would love to hear your feedback and thoughts on this issue. If you are designing clothes we would also love for you to make contact.

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