Zero Waste, and Gratitude as an Action

I finished a skirt (New Look 6854) today — I’m pretty stoked with it:

New Look 6854. The t-shirt is from Threadless, "Edgar Allen Crow." What can I say, I like bad puns.

I’ve made this skirt before, but it fit too low on the hips so I didn’t realize how short it would be at the proper length. Then I decided anyone who has a problem with my knees can take a flying leap. I added belt loops, but not pockets since I had just barely enough of this fabric left to cut out the skirt.

This is what I had left over when I finished cutting out two skirts yesterday:

Itty bits and pieces

I’ve seen a number of Thanksgiving posts out in the blogosphere; a lot of people giving thanks for family and friends, home and food. I’m grateful for all these things and more; we have enough left over after providing for our needs to help others. However, sometimes I feel quite wasteful. Yesterday, I threw out two big bags of scraps — they all looked like the pile up there, they were tiny bits and pieces, yet I found myself thinking of people who make postage stamp quilts or items from strips of selvage. Then I had to forcibly remind myself that I hate quilting and if I pieced together selvage, I might actually LOSE my mind and my family deserves a woman with her mind more or less together.

But it did make me think of gratitude as an action, rather than an emotion. I’m grateful we have enough — so I donate to charity. The Hubs and I are grateful for his job — so we offer to pass around resumes for friends who are looking. I’m grateful for cotton farmers, weavers, exporters and sellers — so the least I can do is make sure I don’t waste the fruits of their labor. Cotton is called the “most toxic crop on the planet,” due to the pesticides and chemical processing necessary to grow the plants and turn them into fabric. While I’m not willing to do without my cotton fabric (thanks to allergies), and recycling secondhand clothes for fabric is prohibitively expensive in my area, I can and do try to use the fabric I have wisely.

Zero waste is a concept involving making clothing from a single piece of fabric. Clothing may be cut and sewn; it may have darts or tucks, but generally it will stay in one piece. It takes some pretty intense engineering to make clothing this way, and it isn’t feasible for more form-fitted garments, but it’s an interesting concept. Zero waste is an ideal. Minimal waste is a more attainable goal; to dispose only of those pieces that have no further use. I’m not going to suddenly take up postage-stamp quilting (that would require a personality transplant), but I’m trying to be increasingly mindful of how I use my resources — in sewing, as well as in other pursuits.

Posted on November 23, 2011, in sewing. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. You could always post the scraps on Freecycle and see if someone wants them—for stuffing dog beds or kids’ crafts or something. That being said, I have an overflowing scrap collection I’ve been meaning to use for stuffing that I need to get around to using—really, scraps are pretty minor, especially compared to the waste we used to chuck before we got curbside recycling.

    A lot of my early sewing projects were zero or minimal waste—tiered dance skirts, belledi dresses, pantaloons. It’s kinda hard to move from that to “regular” sewing and look at all the bits that are left that aren’t really good for much (hence my scrap hoarding). On the other hand, there are definite limitations to the clothes you can make from squares, rectangles, and the odd triangle…

  2. Oh, and the skirt looks great. Nothing wrong with a bit of knee in my book 😀

    • Thanks! I was just startled because I remembered it as knee-length and….no. It’s very definitely a mini skirt. I know I’m old because my “shortest acceptable length” for skirts is getting longer and longer. It used to be 15 inches, then 16 inches and now I’m at 17 inches.

  3. Zero waste clothing construction is an interesting concept–I’d never heard of it before. Seems like it would work for mumus and capes, but tough for anything more tailored than that.

    I’ve seen some punk seamstresses on Craftster do some great stuff by “upcycling” (is that the right word) stuff they find at Goodwill–like buying an old broomstick skirt (that has like–five yards of material in it) or an old piece of draper/table cloth–and making clothing out of that. Which is to say, it seems like re-using is the biggest bang for the buck in the reduce the waste department.

    I’ve got quilts from my G-ma that were made from worn out dresses her kids wore–and those dresses were chicken feed sacks before they were dresses. So the quilt is the third and final use. THAT is the kind of efficiency I wish I could do. But it’s a different time, now. I can vouch for the fact that chicken feed no longer comes in any kind of packaging you’d want a dress out of.

    • I’ve seen some people fuse the plastic chicken feed packages to make bags and things….so I guess it could still be useful, never tried it though.

      I live in an area where fabric is both more readily available and cheaper than used goods (weird, but true, and new items on sale are often less expensive as well). That makes me less than willing to spend precious spare time and extra cash on thrift stores. Also, cutting any clothing out of a square will almost invariably leave odd-shaped scraps. I’m trying to get better about keeping and using the smaller pieces.

      I guess it’s true what they say: you have to pick and choose your activism. In my case, I’m concerned both about the consequences of fast fashion and the waste I’m adding to the garbage. However, given a choice, I prefer to continue making clothes but being mindful of waste rather than not sewing in an attempt to avoid creating waste.

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