I won the pattern for the Holiday Shirt and Top by The Maker’s Atelier in a competition run by Sew Over 50 on Instagram. I was so pleased as I’d been eyeing it off for a while. It’s an actual pattern, beautifully presented, so it took a little while to wing its way to me, and then I went away on holidays, but I was determined to make it as soon as I got back, particularly after I saw my friend Hélène wearing hers.
There are two different styles for the same top – one with a hood and drawstring waist, and one with a collar, short sleeves and shorter body length.
I began with the hooded version and spent a short time trying to sort out the sizing as it looked quite large. I decided to go down one size as the top is clearly meant to be a bit oversized. I used a piece of fabric that I snaffled in the Fibres West garage sale for $1.
Clearly it’s new and it appears to have been a fitted sheet as it had elastic in the corners, but I don’t think it would be very nice to sleep on as it has the texture of quilting cotton. It was originally bought at Cronshaw’s in Bunbury, which I think closed down at least ten years ago. I decided that this would be perfect fabric for a toile.
Even though it was a toile I did my best to pattern match as I had a sneaky suspicion I would be wearing it. Also, I can’t bear to throw toiles away, which is even more reason to wear it. Pattern matching was good and bad as you can see. I could have done better with the hood, but most of the rest isn’t too bad.
The hood inside seams are finished off with tape and I used the tape from the bags given to us on our United Airlines flight. Not quite a perfect match, but good enough. Next time I will be lining the hood.
I’d worn this at home a couple of times and taken photos which I failed to get from my camera, so new photos were taken. I didn’t have the hood sitting properly, but you get the idea.
Pattern matching on the front and sides gets a tick.
I had noticed that the hood pulled the front up so before I left home for our holiday place, I added a couple of glass beads to the drawstring to try and counterbalance the weight of the hood. This worked a treat. I’m not sure I like the colour of the drawstring but it was all I could find and I refuse to buy something.
I deemed this top a success and was prepared to risk more precious fabric on it. I chose a beautiful cotton from Woven Stories Textiles but didn’t have enough for the hood, although I had enough to make the longer version.
I had to piece the sleeves though. I did consider making the short sleeves but thought they might look a bit frumpy on me. Although cuffed they may be ok. The long sleeves are very long and, although the line drawing doesn’t show it, the photo shows them cuffed, so that’s what I did but found it a bit unsatisfactory.
I originally made this top without the drawstring as I wanted to put in pockets. I didn’t like the way it sat so have inserted a piece of elastic in the back.
The pockets are a single layer of fabric to reduce bulk. Sewn to the back side seam with the front finished off for the opening. The pocket was then stitched down. I quite like this method of side seam pockets as (a) aforementioned bulk is reduced, and (b) there are no pockets flapping around inside.
I still feel that the front is a bit baggy so I’m plotting a workaround.
The only other thing I changed was the way the collar sits. When it sat open and flat it looked terrible on me, so I folded it up like a shirt collar and stitched it down. I’m much happier with this.
Now I come to the conundrum. There is a lot being said about the whole sustainability of sewing and I am keen to come up to snuff in this area, so I’ve given it a lot of thought. There is a view that new fabric buying should be a last resort and that we should be recycling, upcycling, and thrifting our fabric. I feel that my first make meets this requirement admirably. But what about the second make? This is new fabric bought from a shop (I don’t really buy much fabric online).
Thinking about this fabric got me thinking about the three pillars of corporate sustainability, or the triple bottom line, which is something not usually associated with a sewing blog, and how we, as a sewing community, bewail the closing of fabric stores, but how are they to stay in business if we don’t buy new fabric?
Sustainability is usually defined as meeting current needs without compromising the ability to meet future needs. There are three main pillars (although I have seen five); economic, environmental and social. Also referred to as people, planet and profits.
So, with these thoughts in mind, I began considering the purchase of my green fabric. As mentioned, I bought it from Liz at Woven Stories Textiles. Liz goes to India, has built relationships with artisans from various villages and tells them what her customers require. They then produce the fabric using techniques handed down through the generations. She treats them ethically and pays a fair price, so they can make a decent wage. There is a cost in all this, but we are getting unique, hand made fabric and so I consider it totally worth it. If, as a community, we stop supporting small traders like Liz, then not only will she go out of business, causing her financial hardship, but all those Indian families will suffer hardship as well, and traditions and techniques will be lost, perhaps forever. The upshot of all this is that I am determined to celebrate the new fabric I have in my stash, especially the fabric I buy from small traders, who I like to think rely on us. I believe that this is a far more sustainable approach than never buying new fabric, and I am going to repeat my sentence on sustainability to emphasise this: “Sustainability is usually defined as meeting current needs without compromising the ability to meet future needs.”
I have decided that I will take what is, in my opinion, a balanced view – I recycle, thrift, upcycle, use my stash whenever possible, and buy the occasional piece of new fabric, but I will be careful about what fabric I buy and use. I try to avoid polyester, but have long faced the fact that I am going to have to use fabric with elastin or lycra, the content of which I try to limit to under 10%, and I don’t put any fabric into landfill. In the main I try to support local businesses, especially local to me as I can develop relationships and ask questions. Having said that, I’m not averse to buying fabric when I’m travelling, but on my last trip I mostly confined myself to Fab Scrap, as that is a small business, whose mission is to be sustainable.
What are your thoughts/arguments/rationale? I would love to talk about this!
*If you want to do some reading around this topic you will find that most articles say the same thing and that real research is hard to find, but here are some links to get you going: