Making your own clothes will ALWAYS be much more ethical than buying something off from the High Street.
BUT I think sometimes it is easy to overlook the environmental impact of cotton and other fabrics, and yarn too.
Conventionally farmed cotton uses vast amounts of water (about 200 litres to make a t-shirt) and pesticides. And the farmers are often working in appalling conditions for significantly less than a living wage. And that’s before we even get to the sweat shops where the fabric is made, and the dyes that are added etc.
One easy way to ‘side-step’ all the issues behind contributing to the demand for conventionally farmed cotton is to source second-hand material. It might still have been conventionally made, but at least your purchase isn’t directly driving the demand for fabric made in this way.
So here’s my guide to where to find pre-loved fabric, haberdashery supplies and yarn!
Duvets and sheets are brilliant sources of large amounts of fabric! Sometimes if you are lucky, you will find some funky retro prints, but even plain bed sheets can be very useful to make plain garments that you can ‘bling’ up with some appliqué/ribbon etc.
Charity shops occasionally get donations of yarn, as well as things like buttons and zips, so it’s worth having a quick look everytime you wander past. Just be aware that some shops sell new wool too, so you don’t end up buying new wool by mistake! The other good source of wool from charity shops is hand-knitted woollens-I never seems to stumble across them that often, but if you do find one, and fancy having a go at rescuing and re-using the yarn, it strikes me as a pretty satisfying thing to do!
Whilst browsing the rails for hand-knitted woolies, also keep you eye out for real wool jumpers, as these can be felted and cut up to make things like hats and scarce, or felt brooches etc. Make sure the label says “hand wash only” and that it is more than 80% wool content, otherwise it probably won’t felt!
Nearly all charity shops have a great stash of knitting needles (and the odd crochet hook), but they tend not to keep them on display (some kind of H&S rule!). If you ask, they will usually scurry off out the back and come back with a box bulging with all different sizes of needles for you to rummage through.
And the last thing to keep your eyes peeled for is patterns and craft books!
Vintage Fairs and Flea Markets
These are great places to have a mooch around, and usually have stalls with gorgeous vintage fabric, haberdashery and things like vintage knitting needles.
My local vintage shop often has great little stashes of vintage and retro fabric, as well haberdashery and things like buttons.
Vintage Fabric Shops
The biggest online retailer of vintage and retro fabrics, is the wonderful Donna Flower. Her online shop has been such a success that she now has an actual bricks and mortar shop in Barnstaple!
There are lots of other vintage fabric shops too, so it’s worth doing a Google search and spending a pleasant hour or two with a cuppa browsing them!
There is lots of vintage fabric on E-bay-just do a search and start scrolling! Many of the online vintage fabric shops also sell through E-bay too.
It’s also worth checking out for yarn, and things like crochet and knitting needles.
As ever, with E-bay, just make sure you check the ‘Used’ box on the left hand side of the screen, to make sure you are only shown the pre-loved supplies.
Jumble Sales and Car Boots
I LOVE a good jumble sale. Whatever happened to them? They seem very few and far between nowadays. If you see on advertised near you, do try and go along for a good old rummage!
Car boots are also good places for picking up things like curtains, which can be a really good source of lots of fabric for not much money.
Join your local group, and keep your eyes peeled for people getting rid of old bedding and curtains.
If you have something specific you are looking for, then post a WANTED and see what the community can provide.
The Make Do and Mend-able Pre-Loved Craft Stuff Facebook Group
I started this group on Facebook a few months ago, as a resource for people to buy/sell/swap/gift pre-loved craft supplies. I figured that there must be a whole host of people with bulging craft stashes, that might appreciate a group where they can pass on any excess bits from their stash, as well as ask to see if anyone has something they are looking for.
Not for supplies (obv) but a g rest source of craft books-my local library must have a ‘crafty’ buyer, as the sewing and yarn sections are really well stocked with lots of the most current books.
Where are your favourite places to scout out gorgeous vintage fabrics, and haberdashery for all your dressmaking needs?
And do you struggle to sometimes find exactly the right bit of fabric secondhand for your dressmaking project? This is the problem I often have-I have a
vast reasonable stash of fabric picked up from various places, but never it seems, quite the right colour/fabric type for the thing I am wanting to make. I’ve decided that for #mmaw2015, I am going to explore the world of new (gasp!) but ethical fabrics and notions-stay tuned for my guide to these, coming up!