The ‘Upcycling My Year’ challenge arose as a New Year’s resolution.
I want to start working towards having an entirely handmade wardrobe – everything, from underwear to evening wear, all handmade by me. Not allowing myself to buy clothing is a sure-fire way to ensure I upskill and really push myself, and my sewing machines, to max-creative potential (I’m just hoping I don’t need a coat or a bra this year!).
Creating a handmade wardrobe is a great way to assess what I really do ‘need’. Impulse purchases are so easy to make without actually thinking about the item we’re buying – do we really need it? Will we really wear it? Will this end up unloved and unused, adding to the 350,000 tonnes of clothing waste already produced each year? It’s harder to ‘impulse-make’ something. It takes time, planning (particularly planning around the BrawHem business) and careful use of fabric.
As well as upskilling and reducing waste, I want to step away from largely unethical high-street stores and ‘fast-fashion’. Many high-street stores use sweat-shop style factories, exploiting workers to create the things the UK public want, at the cheap prices they want them at. Take a look at this documentary by Brave New Films, although based around WalMart in America this kind of exploitation is happening behind the scenes of your favourite UK stores too (remember the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, where Primark clothes are made?).
And this is where the upcycling part comes in. Upcycling is a great way to reduce clothing and fabric waste – transforming something old into something new and wearable. But it also avoids the difficult territory of buying fabric. It is incredibly hard to find out where fabric comes from, ‘A factory in Thailand’ might be the best answer you can get. It would be irresponsible to step away from unethically produced clothing only to buy unethically produced fabric. This year I will be taking part in a FutureLearn course, How to Build a Sustainable Fashion Business, which covers finding sustainably made fabrics and ethical manufacturers. Although this may help in the future with commissions or special projects, upcycling will always remain at the heart of BrawHem – it’s what it’s all about – handmade, upcycled, vintage inspired.
So what started as a New Year’s resolution to create a handmade wardrobe has ended up as something much bigger, much more important. Here are the rules I’ve set myself:
- No buying clothes from high-street stores.
- I’m allowing myself to buy clothes from a charity shop, only if they’ll be drastically, structurally altered, or turned into something new entirely.
- Anything I can’t sew (I’m thinking knitted things – I can’t knit, at all) I will buy handmade from small businesses.
- No buying fabric from the roll. I will continue to source my fabric from pre-loved items – bedsheets, curtains, tablecloths, old clothes etc.
- If my other New Year’s resolution of getting healthy works as well, then perhaps I’ll have a lot of clothes that don’t fit. I’ll alter these clothes so they do fit.
- And I’m going to blog about it! I plan to publish ‘before and after’ posts, some easy no-sew upcycling ideas, recycling and donating tips, links to great organisations tackling clothing waste and unethical clothing production, and of course, my hilarious failed attempts at making something for the first time.