Everyday I think about how I can try to live more sustainably and slow my overall consumption of things. Recently I decided to sew my own clothes. The perks of this concept are:
- My clothes are hand tailored to my own unique body shape
- My clothes can be infinitely personalized!
- My consumption rate of clothing is drastically slowed
On top of that I wanted to make sure the material I used was 100% organic cotton, linen, or hemp. I decided my first piece of apparel would be a pair of comfy pants to wear around the house since I work at home most of the week.
Now, at the start of this whole thing I was pretty ignorant about what ‘organic’ meant when it came to fabrics, so I did my research. For several days I read up on articles regarding organic vs. non-organic cotton, where certain dyes come from, the differences between woven and knitted fabrics, etc. This helped me build a basic understanding of the type of fabric I wanted to use.
My requirements didn’t stop at the fabrics though! The fiber and fabric have to be manufactured by companies that pay fare wages, have safe working conditions, does not have forced labor and does not dump toxic waste into the local communities and environment. Also, the closer the companies are to me the better, to cut down on gas emissions from shipping.
What I Found Out
Phew! Are you tired thinking about all these different demands of mine? I certainly was at the time! Thankfully my persistence paid off and I found a couple great websites that hold the same basic beliefs as me:
Organic Cotton Plus is like an internet warehouse of natural and organic materials. They sell a wide variety of merchandise made by companies who strive to make great products and protect their workers and the environment. Check, check, and check!
Eco Butterfly is based in Peru and not only do they make beautiful fabrics, but their mission statement is on point. The best part about this website, though, is their page on organic cotton. They make a good case on why organic cotton is not only good for the body and the planet, but how it’s simply a wonderful fiber to work with! They also talk about color grown cotton, which is my new obsession and what my first pair of pants are made of!
Now, if you’ve taken a moment to look through both the companies’ websites, you might notice the prices are a bit higher than what you might find at, say, Joann Fabrics. I was able to make my pants using 1 yard of Colorgrown Hieroglyphics fabric + about 1/4 yard of a black stretchy cotton fabric (for the top waste band). You can only purchase by the yard, so I had to buy 2 yards of fabric in total, which, including shipping, cost me a total of $40. That’s about what you’d pay for a nice pair of jeans, so not ridiculous, but not cheap. I’m fine with that though because I want to slow my rate of consumption and having to budget is a great incentive to buy less stuff!
I chose the Colorgrown Hieroglyphics because it comes in two tones made from two different colors of cotton, meaning it’s not dyed at all! This is good news because toxic textile dyes are currently destroying entire river ecosystems across the world.
When ordering from any fabric store I recommend getting swatch samples first to make sure you know what you are buying. Also, having all those bits of fabric can provide inspiration for future projects!
One more thing to mention before I talk about my first home made piece of organic clothing: GOTS stands for Global Organic Textile Standard and is a strict “processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers”, as is written on their website’s home page. Basically if you see fabric or clothing for sale that is GOTS certified, you can rest easy knowing it probably meets all your wonderful sustainable requirements.
Making the pants!
I’m a self-taught seamstress. My mom got me started sometime in high school when she showed me the way around a sewing machine and from there I took off. I don’t remember what my first project was, but I’m certain it was some sort of Halloween costume. I would use combinations of sewing patterns to create fun outfits for myself and my siblings such as Dr. Horrible, Maleficent, and Snow White. In college I was an Arts major and in one of my classes we learned to hand sew and embroider. I thought it was a weird thing to teach at a university, but as it turns out hand sewing is a great skill to have because sometimes you just can’t use a machine!
Instead of using a pattern for my first pair of organic pants I browsed YouTube for any sewing ‘hacks’ that might make the process as simple as possible. I decided to go with a wide-leg style because it would be forgiving if I made any mistakes and sounded so comfy.
Jocy of Pinkchocolatebreak has made tons of great DIY sewing videos. She’s consistently clear in her directions and the projects are simple enough to not feel too intimidating to complete. I admire that she doesn’t use patterns because it allows her to be free in her designs and encourages me to be a fearless seamstress, too.
Following Jocy’s directions on palazzo pants, I used a pair of pajama bottoms I already owned to cut out the general shape from the new material. From there the rest of the project was easy-peasy and only took me two afternoons to sew together! My new pants are now my favorite piece of clothing I own because they’re super unique, crazy comfortable, made by me, and have a low ecological and social footprint.
Typically when I buy mass-produced clothing I’m more excited to see them at the store than after I bring them home. With my homemade organic pants, I get excited to wear them every single day!