Category: sustainable textiles

#MeMadeMay15 Roundup: How Many Times Have You Failed Today?

My #MeMadeMay15 takeaway – I need to ‘fail’ more!

Let me explain with a story I heard recently about Spanx founder, Sara Blakely.

Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline Studios in organic cotton sweatshirt jersey and Alexandra peg trousers by Named Clothing in organic cotton denim.
Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline Studios in organic cotton sweatshirt jersey and Alexandra peg trousers by Named Clothing in organic cotton denim.

As a young girl, the father of Sara Blakely, the founder of famous shape wear brand, Spanx, would ask her, how many times she’d failed that day. He wasn’t interested in the things that’d gone well but in the things that hadn’t. It wasn’t that he wanted to dwell on negatives but rather that ‘failing’ is a sign that you tried something and if you don’t try and fail and learn from your mistakes, you can’t grow and improve at what you’re doing. Sara credits this habit of acknowledging and analysing the ‘failures’ over the ‘successes’ for what made her persist and achieve the success she has with Spanx. She pushed through many failed attempts until she had a product that worked. This concept resonates with me and my attitude towards my sewing.

My #MMM15 challenge this year was to only post garments made with organic fabrics. I can remember a time in Germany when you could only buy beige, cream or brown coloured organic fabrics and the choice was really limited. Now you can buy a vast array of colours and types of fabric, the choice is growing all the time. I was curious to see if I could make everything I wanted to make using organic fabrics.

I’m satisfied with the quality and variety of organic fabrics I’ve got and the range of garments I’ve made but I’ve played it safe with styles. I latched onto the Linden sweatshirt pattern for instance because the pattern is easy to make and conveniently fast to squeeze into my limited sewing time. But as much as I like the pattern, I ended up remaking it countless times rather than moving on and challenging myself to make something more technical – trying something different. Overall my makes from #MMM15 were ‘safe’ style-wise but I want to shake things up and make more exciting stuff.

So my take away from this year’s #MMM15 is to make and fail more. I need to give myself more space to mess up. I often worry whether styles are age appropriate for me and if they show my old gnarly knees etc, LOL but I need to get out of my head and onto my sewing machine more and experiment. As well as admit I’ve been sewing for years now and it’s time I pushed myself to use more difficult sewing techniques. I’ve got many failed garments that I haven’t shared because they disappointed me. I wanted to discard and forget about them but I need to accept them as learning experiences and learn to embrace them instead.

So my new post-#MMM15 pledge is: ‘FAIL MORE!’.

How about you? How many times have you ‘failed’ today? How are you pushing yourself out of your comfort zone? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Happy ‘failing’,

Christine

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Friday’s Fabric Focus: Can We Really Trust Organic Fabrics?

Organic GOTS certified cotton
Organic GOTS certified cotton

I’m a fabric-aholic! Self confessed and unashamed.

I started this blog as a way to share this addiction to sewing and fabrics, but particularly my love of fabrics.

Fabric Love

There’s something about textiles that I find irresistible and I’ve built up quite a sizeable fabric collection over the years. I began acquiring bits and pieces of cloth, here and there, long before I started sewing.

I’m coveting batiks from Singapore and Malaysia; silk from Thailand; cotton wax prints from Namibia, Africa; denim from Japan; silk from Italy; Breton striped jersey from Brittany, France; boiled wool from Austria; lace from Switzerland; Welsh woven wool; German jersey – the list goes on and on! I even have ostrich leather given to me by a German ostrich farmer!

I’m as curious as Curious George and like my little terrier dog, have a nose for sniffing out fabric manufacturers wherever I go!

yoda 11

Switch to Sustainable Textiles

Since moving to Germany and having children, I’ve got more interested in sustainable fabrics particularly those made in Europe. I studied sustainability in Sweden a few years ago which added fuel to my organic-textiles-choosing fire, but sustainable textiles aren’t always easy to find on the high street and tend to be pricier than non-organics.  Frustrated with the lack of choice, I started going to international fashion fabric trade fairs to dig deeper.

Findings

What I found has raised more questions than it’s answered. The organic textile world isn’t as clear-cut as we’d like to think it is. Yes there are a wide selection of organic and sustainable fabrics are on offer and the variety and number is expanding every season and now also includes additionals such as buttons and thread.

mfs

All encouraging signs, but it starts to get murky when we try to define what we mean by ‘organic or sustainable’ textiles and clothing in the fashion industry.

What’s in a Label?

The problem is we don’t have a global brand, global label or global governing body that can certify that a fabric or piece of clothing is organic. Fabrics and fashion are produced all over the world, across many different countries, making it almost impossible to have transparency in every step of the production process.

GOTS and CERES certified organic cotton
GOTS and CERES certified organic cotton

For instance, I was browsing the site of my go-to online sustainable fabric supplier today – Lebenskleidung, winners of the Global Source Awards 2013 for best sustainable fabrics supplier to the fashion industry. When checking out their ‘made in Germany’ linen, I noticed that the linen plant was actually grown in northern Europe and only the cloth was woven and finished in Germany. Just like all ‘Italian-made silk’ starts life as raw imported Chinese silk that’s dyed and printed in Italy and finished with ‘Made in Italy’ labels. Don’t worry, it’s all legit and above-board. I’m telling you this, not to discredit either, just to illustrate it’s not always as clear-cut as it first appears.

What does ‘Organic’ or ‘Sustainable’ Mean?

Here lies the problem – it can mean all sorts of things. It can mean the plant was grown organically, or it can refer to the production or the social conditions of the workers or all of these things at once but it can’t be assumed that a textile or garment labeled as sustainable or organic was necessarily produced in an organic or sustainable way for its entire life cycle – that global label unfortunately doesn’t exist at the moment.

A couple of years ago, German Federal Development Minister Gerd Mueller announced he was going to initiate a global organic textile label, unaware of the complexity and inter-relatedness of the fashion industry and the almost impossibility of the task.

At last count, there were roughly a dozen labels developed and managed independently, each one dealing with a different part of the value added chain. And all of them work well, unfortunately not together.

Until a global sustainable textile label can be created, the hope for the future is that these existing different sustainable labels can unite forces and work together to improve the standards and the overall sustainability of the fashion industry and organic-ness of our textiles.

Friday’s Fabric Focus

I’ve started Friday’s Fabric Focus to discuss the different organic textile labels as well as to feature fabrics and fabric sources I find locally in Europe.

Now let me know what you think

Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you sew with organic fabrics or buy organic clothes? Which organic labels are you familiar with? Please let me know in the comments below.

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Sustainable Textiles – Revealed: The Shocking Toxic Truth about Children’s Clothing.

I’m kicking off my new ‘Sustainable Textiles’ blog series with shocking breaking news from Europe.

Recent testing by the Greenpeace Detox campaign of children’s and teen’s clothing and footwear from German, Austrian and Swiss supermarkets and other retailers, revealed numerous products containing dangerous levels of toxic chemicals, potentially harmful to our children’s health.

Aldi rainboots
These boots contain toxins that may hinder my children from having children!

Among the worst offending products were plastic items such as these boots above that I bought for my daughters from Aldi. I can’t tell you how disappointed, sickened and just plain upset this makes me.

I’m careful when I buy for my children and often go out of my way to get organic products, but with two children to clothe and a limited budget, price is a major factor.

The word on the street in southern Germany is that Aldi products are good quality and good value for money and many textile products they sell carry the ‘confidence in textiles’ label (I’ll be covering textile labels in my next post). It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. When my kids needed rain boots for Kindergarten, I was seduced by Aldi’s bargain prices and snaffled up a pair each for my girls. To then find out, these boots may be harming my children’s health is alarming.

Is it too much to ask that kid’s products are produced free from harmful chemicals regardless of how much they cost? Should cheap clothing carry health warning labels like cigarettes? ‘Warning: Wearing these plastic clogs may make you or the people who made them infertile’ for instance! You could almost laugh at that if there wasn’t a sad element of truth to it!

Don’t be fooled by price though, you don’t necessarily get what you pay for when it comes to nasty chemicals in your textiles. Greenpeace has shown that not only discount retailers are selling toxic products, luxury high-end branded textile goods have also been outed in their ongoing fashion Detox campaign.

Fortunately, a leader has emerged in Germany from this summer’s Greenpeace investigation. Tchibo has stepped forward in a landmark move, to lead the discount retail sector in detoxification of its products and set a new standard for the big retail stores.

‘The company is taking responsibility for the entire life-cycle of its products, working to minimise its environmental impact from the materials to the factory floor, from the products themselves to what happens to them after they are thrown away.’ (Greenpeace.org)

Let’s hope more companies follow suit! I don’t want to think I stretched my body out of all proportion and pushed for seven hours without pain relief TWICE, to have the enjoyment and health of future generations of my genes derailed by irresponsible clothing manufacturers out to make a quick buck! We all deserve better than that, don’t we?

I’m interested to hear from you. What most influences you when you buy textiles or clothing? Price, quality, labels, brands? How does this news affect you? Let me know in the comments below.

In my next post, I’ll be looking at organic textile labelling and subscribers to my newsletter will receive news of upcoming organic fashion events.

If you want to receive updates (they’re free!) and more info about sustainable textiles, sign up for the YoSaMi newsletter.

Now that’s off my chest, I’ll get back to some relaxing sewing!

Enjoy the rest of the week,

Christine

Update: Want to know if your bought textiles contain toxins? Check out www.reach-Info.de and expect an answer within 45 days.

Also to find retailers of organic, fair and transparently produced textile goods, enter your postcode in this online database: www.getchanged.net

 

 

 

 

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