The judges comments were: Jane Milburn’s Sew It Again project engaged with the community, had a call to action and was transformative. It actually made a difference in the world.
I am a natural fibre champion and believe that dressing is an agricultural act, unless you prefer synthetic fibre clothing derived from petroleum, coal or gas.
My work has a clear connection to agriculture through its focus on natural-fibre clothing, which now only makes up 1/3 of apparel consumption (see table below). The other 2/3 of clothing are made of synthetic fibres, which 2011 research shows are shedding microplastic particles into the wastewater stream with every wash and these particles are entering the food chain.
This is the message I am now sharing at Textile Beat workshops and talks on slow fashion, natural fibres and dressing with conscience – consistent with my goal to travel the world inspiring creative upcycling of natural fibres.
Congratulations to the other award winners, photographed with Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bill Byrne, including overall winner the ABC’s Marty McCarthy
Nearly at the end of this crazybrave year dedicated to upcycling natural fibre clothing that already exists in the world. My aim? To model one way to dress with conscience in a society burdened by expanding resource use and dangerous climate change.
Melissa Breyer on the Treehugger website has put together some scary statistics on global fashion consumption habits and impacts along the clothing supply chain. Even though there are more than 7 billion people in the world, I believe small individual changes can ultimately make a big difference.
As I reflect on the people that made my Sew it Again upcycling year possible, today I thank the farmers who grow the natural fibres, the spinners who make the fabric, the designers and makers who magic it into clothing, the people who donate clothing then no longer want to charities and the volunteers who help run thrift shops – from where much of my clothing is sourced. Continue reading →
Thank you! We are at the pointy end of another year, and on a countdown of 365 days of the #sewitagain journey of discovery, learning, restyling existing clothing and daily posting.
No one achieves anything worthwhile on their own and I am deeply grateful to the many people who have helped me along the way.
Today, I thank the 7000+ people from around the world who have engaged with this eco-social project to shift thinking about how we choose and reuse clothing and textiles. My model includes empowering individuals to reimagine and recreate their own wardrobe collection by resewing at home.
As these Google Analytics screen captures show (right and below), two-thirds of those engaging with the project are in Australia – and the others involved mainly being in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and Germany. And people in my birth-country of New Zealand are also very engaged considering the relatively small population! Continue reading →
Global research shows synthetic clothing can shed microplastic fibres with every wash, and these fibres are then flushed into oceans to contaminate the food chain and the planet.
The research led by ecologist Mark Browne found clothing fibres to be abundant in habitats worldwide, and the problem is worsening. In his University of California Benign by Design presentation, Browne says ingested and inhaled fibers carry toxic materials and a third of the food we eat is contaminated with this material.
Environmental Science and Technology published the study in 2011 on Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Worldwide: sources and sinks: “Experiments sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines demonstrated that a single garment can produce >1900 fibers per wash. Continue reading →
Christmas is coming and we’re Into the final straight of the year for this 365-day Sew it Again project, demonstrating creative ways of reuse for thrift, well-being and ecological health.
Community, connection and care are the fabulous aspects of this time of year and I have always struggled with the push to consume more and more. Australians are tipped to spend $18 billion over the holiday season – that’s up to $800 for every woman, man and child in the nation.
My Christmas thing has always been hand-made decorations because they are useful, pretty and non-fattening offerings. I enjoyed being able to give one of these Christmas dragonflies, right, to my hairdresser yesterday and my friend Wendy Agar when she popped in for lunch today. Continue reading →
Australian cotton industry focus on continual improvement of environmental production and safety measures is the basis of a great Sue Neales yarn For cotton, the big noise is about sustainability in The Australian this weekend.
Sue quotes cotton grower Simon Corish from Goondiwindi saying “consumers worldwide now want to know that the cotton they wear and use has been grown by farmers who do things environmentally well, and the big retailers are responding to that and saying they will only source in the future cotton that has been sustainably produced”.
The Australian industry has made great strides in reducing water use by 40 per cent and chemical use by 95 per cent in recent years – as discussed in an earlier Sew it Again post – and Sue’s story reports industry has now signed on for a five-year improved sustainability plan. “It requires Australia’s cotton growers to track their own – as well as the industry’s – ongoing performance against 45 key criteria linked to water efficiency, reduced chemical use, carbon footprint, biodiversity, farm productivity and work-related safety.” Continue reading →
Greed before need is the headline on David Penberthy’s column in Western Australia’s Sunday Times newspaper today about the level of unnecessary consumption in our society.
This unnecessary consumption leads to 70,000 tonnes (70 million kgs) of cast-off clothing being shipped from Australia to developing nations each year and sparked this 365-day Sew it Again project, which is reusing and refashioning pre-loved clothing as an alternative to always buying new.
Penberthy was writing about phone upgrades and said many of us have convinced ourselves that luxuries are necessities.
“We have embraced a big-bang approach to shopping which is a world away from the gradual acquisition which marked more frugal and disciplined past generations … The basics for a young couple starting out are not defined by shelter, transport and utilities but have been extended to include a television which simply must be 40 inches across and web-ready, the latest phone for every member of the family, and three meals out a week because of the rapidly dying art of peeling a carrot or a spud.” Continue reading →
The casual crinkled look of linen is naturally beautiful. I have a crush on linen which I’ve written about before and believe it to be the most sustainable of all natural fibres. Just machine wash, shake and hang to dry and wear as is – and if you want a nice even crinkle, give it a short tumble-dry. I haven’t ironed linen for years – saving lots of energy and effort.
There is a sign (right) in one of Brisbane’s fabric stores (Spotlight) promoting the casual wrinkled look as being the way to wear linen these days. Hooray – hope it leads to more people wearing linen because based on the embodied energy information outlined below, linen is the most energy efficient fibre available. I’ve sourced this table from the O Ecotextiles website, which used an academic study done for the New Zealand Merino Wool Association as its original data.
“It’s time to stop giving our crap to the poor.” We think we are being kind and generous when we donate our unwanted clothing to charity – but are we just shifting our old stuff their way to help ourselves? When we give to people in need, we should give quality stuff – or cash.
In this thought-provoking post on We Are That Family, Kirsten wrote: ‘Just because our donation feels like we are helping, in reality, we could be hurting. Bales of used clothes are sold to African countries for resell and they end up flooding the market and often put local textile businesses and seamstresses out of business.”
Yesterday I wrote that Australia exports 70,000 tonne of used clothing each year (according to NACRO) mainly to UAE, Pakistan and Malaysia – that is 70,000,000 kg of cast-off clothing every year. Every pair of jeans (less than 1kg) takes 10,000 litres of water to grow the cotton fabric (according to WRAP UK). They are big numbers. Textile waste is a big issue and the more I read, the more I’m convinced that as a society, we need to change our ways. Continue reading →
Textile waste from the clothing industry comes in two forms – either pre-consumer waste generated during the design and marketing phase, or post-consumer waste in the form of second-hand clothing.
Post-consumer waste is the main focus of Sew it Again because the project grew out of my thrift shop ‘habit’ and instinctive sense of ‘rescuing’ natural fibres garments – and during this year I’m working my way through the accumulated surplus (five wardrobes +).
In Australia there are about 3000 opportunity shops run by various charitable groups which operate under the National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations (NACRO) umbrella and collect post-consumer waste to either redistribute to those in need or sell to raise funds to fulfil their missions. People who frequent thrift shops do so for many reasons – it may be from necessity, or from thrifty green values (like me), or collectors looking for something unique (that’s me too). Continue reading →