Sew It Forward on Fashion Revolution Day

by The Good Wardrobe 3 years ago
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A post by Zoe Robinson from The Good Wardrobe

I was fortunate enough to have studied textiles at school and I inherited some tips from my Mum, but as sewing is not passed down through the generations like it used to be we are losing these skills. The lust for fast-fashion over the past few decades has lead to a devaluing of clothes that are made to last. By the time a hem comes loose on a new dress it is no longer ‘on trend’ and we are already onto the next catwalk inspired frock. We have subsequently got out of the habit of mending.

These sewing skills or ‘tools’ enable us to make our own clothes, prolong the life of garments, and adapt our clothes to suit our own style and shape. We can also save money (no more costly repairs or buying new trousers because a button has fallen off your existing pair) and experience a huge sense of achievement from the finished result. Plus, when we know how to mend, knit or sew we have a better understanding of the skilled work that goes into making a garment so we may think twice before buying a jumper for £3 from the high street. In essence, we have more respect for the social and environmental impact of our wardrobes and can more easily understand the importance of Fairtrade premiums being paid to producers.

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Artist Sam Birch proudly showing off the Fairtrade Pants to Poverty briefs he embellished at The Good Wardrobe launch event

I want to see sewing and mending skills once again become a part of our weekly or monthly wardrobe maintenance, just like washing (at 30°) drying (on a line) and ironing (occasionally). But, I appreciate not everyone has access to a Mum who can sew or textiles classes at school. There are many excellent sewing workshops and cafes around but we don’t all have the money to attend and whilst there are some good online tutorials, I feel they can miss the human interaction and deeper level of knowledge-sharing which contributes to real learning. I was however convinced that there would be enough people out there, who are handy with a needle and thread, who want to pass on their skills – hence Sew It Forward was born.

Over the nearly 18 months we have run a series of Sew It Forward events where attendees can learn new skills from our team and other guests – those who learn skills pledge to pass them on. We welcome seasoned experts and sewing novices – even teaching someone how to sew on a button properly is valuable (many clothes end up in charity shops or even landfill because a fastening has fallen off and the owner has no idea how to fix it).

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Who made my clothes? Zoe wearing a mended 1960s dress from Oxfam, customised with hand-crocheted cherries made by a woman in a small village in Croatia

 

A few years ago my aunt taught me to knit as a Christmas gift – I love the idea that rather than buying one another often useless ‘stuff’ we can instead share our skills. Not only do we learn something incredibly valuable and both feel a sense of achievement (it can be just as rewarding sharing a skill as it is learning one) but spend time together in the process. I developed the Sew It Forward gift voucher which can be downloaded from The Good Wardrobe and given to someone with a promise to share your sewing skills.

Sew It Forward isn’t just about sharing sewing skills or even saving clothes from landfill; it’s also about style. If we know how to mend clothes or knit new ones we have the tools to keep our clothes looking good for longer; we can restore a garment with loose hems and missing buttons to its stylish former glory; and we can alter our clothes to fit our bodies (not attempt to alter our bodies to fit them). On top of all this, being creative and making stuff with our hands is proven to make us feel good (a bit like eating chocolate) and increase our wellbeing.

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The Good Wardrobe’s Sew It Forward gift voucher

How you can get involved:

1. Come along to the event at Designer Jumble at Westfield Stratford on 24th April.

2. Can’t make along? Then why not share skills with friends, family or colleagues on the 24th as way to mark Fashion Revolution Day. If you can’t sew, find someone who can and offer to swap skills – teach them how to cook your favourite meal in return for them showing you how to mend!

3. Download the Sew It Forward voucher from our website and give it to someone with the promise of passing on your skills. Pledge to share your skills and when you do, please tell us about it, take a photo and share it with us on Twitter or Instagram.

4. Follow us on twitter and Instagram – on Fashion Revolution Day we’ll be answering simple mending questions from our base at Designer Jumble.

5. Can’t get in touch on the day? Join The Good Wardrobe community – it’s free, only takes a few seconds and will allow you to start sharing your knowledge and skills by posting on the forum. You can for ask advice from others and offer your own top tips.

Just think, if you take that step and teach someone to sew, and they in turn pledge to Sew It Forward, you could be responsible for dozens of people learning new skills and thinking even more about who made their clothes. Over the collective lifetimes of all those people, that might equate to hundreds of garments being loved for longer (all because of you).

Photographer: Susanne Hakuba

A version of this was published on Startuk.org in May 2013 


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