In 2015, I am going to set myself a simple but challenging goal, and I hoping a few of you will join me.
Make one outfit out of fabric sourced and made locally, that uses no synthetic dyes, and is sustainably farmed. Other than sourcing this fabric I will buy no new fabrics in 2015.
I don’t know about you, but I find the lack of information provided by fabric retailers (online and brick and mortar) really frustrating. It is very difficult to find certified organic fabrics in Australia so most of the time you are in the dark about what you are buying.
So I did some reading. I tried to find life cycle assessments of each raw fabric type, but after reading a few papers, realised that many of them are sponsored by a manufacturer or industry association, rendering their conclusions, shall we say, difficult to interpret. I found it particularly hard to find good information relevant to Australia, and so, I was left with a load of questions:
Then, I the listened to this Fibershed podcast featuring Rebecca Burgess. I loved her approach of focusing on buying local so you can get insight into the process. Rebecca used a 150 mile radius to source her the fibre, dyes and labour for a years worth of clothing. I got wondering, could you even finding any fabrics in that meet those goals in Australia? Let alone Western Australia?
The Ground Rules
Well, over the next year I am going to find out. I aim to make an outfit (a top and bottom, or a dress, or a bikini – who knows?) out of fabric that meets the following guidelines:
– the fibre must be farmed and processed wholly in southwest Western Australia (a generous 500km radius)
– all fibres must be natural
– any dyeing must also use local non synthetic materials
– all fabric and clothing made must be of quality construction so as to ensure the life of the clothing is long, and not need excessive ironing or washing.
In addition, I will not purchase any new fabric in 2015 that doesn’t meet this aim. All other sewing will be from the stash. Don’t worry, there is plenty of stash to be sewn!
Pretty stringent requirements, but to me, using secondhand fabric is far superior in terms of sustainability so any new fabric best be worth the resources used. Along the way, I hope to answer all those lingering questions, kicking it off in the new year with some insightful interviews.
This is all an adventure, one that you are welcome to actively join in. Do you think you could find a local fibre that meets these aims? Is there a fibreshed program in your area that you could link into? Or a spinning and weaving group? Do you want to learn more about how fabric is made? Do you want to learn a new skill like natural dyeing, weaving or spinning? You can modify the goals to suit you (particularly the no new fabrics bit!) as needed as long as the intent is still there.
Or just read along as I find out whether it can be done. Just one teensy tiny outfit and a whole year to do it. Couldn’t be that hard….you in?
I do like your thoughts. I can only think of wool as locally produced, and that would involve knitting, or felting, so I will read along with interest and enjoy being educated. I like using fabric from others’ stashes, opp shops and repurposed – and I have some stash that is looking for a new home 😉
Yes, Im unsure what the Victorian search would find! Hopefully a few people are interested as im moving back in 2016. How cool would it be to have an easy way to share stashes? Someone needs to create a stash swap site or something…
This is a great project and I’ll be following along with great interest! I bought my fabric for 2015 already and am going to try to sew from my stash exclusively this year. Bring on creativity!
An equally worthy aim!
Check this out http://www.trashisfortossers.com/2014/10/the-piece-project-part-one.html
And a stash swap site? Now that’s a great idea! I wonder how to go about this…Sydney Spoolettes have a fabric/pattern swap picnic on the cards & I’ve put aside quite a lot of stuff without any agonising at all; I think a lot of us would be into some barter/trade thang. Definitely something to look at.
Great article and definitely one of the many reasons I don’t buy RTW. I love it that sewists all swap, resell and gift their unwanted stashes, and I see lots of people struggling to find an easy way to do it. Ideas are percolating, thats for sure!
I will join you Nicki! just like we discussed. I will make at least one thing following your guidelines, my brain is buzzing with possibilities! I can’t promise to not buy any new fabric in 2015 though! I’m still keen to keep our beleaguered local fabric stores in business 🙂
Welcome on board! I will post again soon with a rough idea of how i plan to tackle the year in managable chunks. And i approve of you keeping those local stores in business, I will definitely need them in the future!
I love this idea! It will be a challenge for me too here in Florida. I’ll have to do some research. My goal for the year was to try and use mainly organic/ sustainable fabrics and dye them myself, but I usually source online though mostly all made in the US.
There seems to be a few Fibreshed groups popping up around the US, so you never know! That said, It would be great to have you in board even if your boundary is the US.
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Hi there, I’m a first time reader via Carolyn’s blog who will definitely be following along. This is a really thought provoking and challenging plan of yours which will be interesting to follow. It has been 54 weeks (and counting) since I last bought any RTW and it has completely changed my outlook (despite my being an environmental planner!). Not sure I’m ready for another challenge, but the fact that it scares me a little does tempt me! Can’t wait to see how you progress! Rachel
To be honest, it scares me too! For me, this project is all about learning so feel free to dabble a little if you want, and who know what a bit of dabbling may lead to. Where are you based? There has been chat about getting groups of people together to lighten the load.
That would be great! I was planning on researching to see if there were swaps here like the one mentioned in the comments above too – I could definitely donate resource to that! I’m based in Edinburgh, UK. Easy to get tweed within 2 hours of the city (which would be lovely of course, but not necessarily local at the scale of this location!). Not sure what’s available closer. Thanks for getting back to me. 🙂
Hi Nicki, I’ve given this a lot of thought and even read this book – http://www.summary.com/book-reviews/_/The-Travels-of-a-T-Shirt-in-the-Global-Economy/ to get a handle on the way cotton was produced. If I choose to make a cloth garment then presumably I would need to use locally produced thread to sew it up with? I might be finding wool and doing some felting, so I’m in, and I will do some research on how to source fabric from the south west.
Welcome aboard Sue! Great background reading that one. I like the felting idea! I was thinking of organising a couple of wool site visits in Feb. thread may well be a sticking point. Knitting gets around it, but I also have a lot of thrifted thread which I think may be my fall back position. I think we have some really exciting options here in WA!
Ooh i have thrifted thread too. I always buy it in op shops. I’m around in feb after 9th so could come on visits if that suits?
Great, i will email out a little survey soon!
What an great idea! I am definitely intrigued and would love to make an outfit by the end of the year that meets the “locally produced” and “natural” criteria. Like Rachel, I wonder how local I can go. I think it should be easy enough to source wool textiles within a couple of hours (I live in the South West of England), and wool yarn itself perhaps even closer. But anything else? Linen, hemp? Would it be possible to find these? Time for some research, I think.
I think you will have a lot of fun finding out! I will pop you on the list as interested 🙂
Yes, please. I agree the research is going to be as fun as the making!
Also, do you have an instagram account? There is quite a bit of chatter over there 🙂
I don’t know how to sew but I found your article when searching for one outfit one year in Google and I wanted to tell you that you really inspired me. I started looking for companies within 150 miles who met the criteria of organic, sustainable, natural dye, and local source (or at least fair trade) and you know what? It was really hard! Although I found some “Eco” clothing shops (after researching I’m not too keen on bamboo-and most were bamboo that did not use natural dye and didn’t bother to list if they even used Eco-friendly dye) they weren’t very transparent and sadly the fabrics were not listed as locally harvested or even milled-bummer! So I searched for organic fabrics produced in my area thinking I could dye myself and take to a local seamstress but that didn’t yeald much for me either!!! I FINALLY found a company out of state (but only 114 miles away which met my criteria) that meets all my criteria-phewph! Their prices run from about 150-200 usd. All of this to say-you sewing ladies there is a void in the market for you to fill! Thanks for the challenge-I learned so much!
Thank you so much. I guess that is why we have a year to do it! That way we have time to work out how to get the raw materials into cloth if there is no local industry. I am curious to see if the cost issue crops up for everyone, although, I do think if you are not buying any other new clothes or fabric for the year then you may still come out on top. Thanks again for taking the time to do some investigating, I hope that you find a good sustainble option, even if it turns out not to be so local.
Oh, I like this idea! I weave, so I’ll use some of the woven fabric that I make in sewing an outfit for myself. I think I might add an additional challenge and include spinning the fiber. Spinning is on my short list of things to learn.
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That’s a fantastic initiative! I’m working on building a handmade wardrobe from scratch this year, and unfortunately don’t have the stash to partake in the full challenge, but it definitely has me thinking about locally sourced sewing fabric.
For any knitters who might want to give this a shot (and if you expand your radius), have a look at tonofwool.com (the only yarn I know of that is entirely grown and processed here). Many companies sell “100% Australian wool” that has actually been spun overseas, which is misleading IMO.
Definitely let me know if you make something that fits the theme! I am hopig a few knitters join in, but as a begineer knitter, I am not really in the knitting loop so feel free to spread the word. I am definitely knitting something as part of the challenge too so watch this space :).
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I’m in — from Columbia, South Carolina, USA! Thanks for giving me the impetus to do this! I’m thinking Alabama or North Carolina grown organic cotton… and then maybe something knitted out of the alpaca fiber from nearby alpaca farms. But I need to do some research first.
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As a family it is our goal to have an entirely handmade wardrobe from sustainable materials. Over the last three years we have been learning and refining our skills in spinning, knitting, sewing, felting, weaving and crocheting – the time has finally come to put our fingers to action. What a great project. It will be exciting to see “local” wardrobes from around the world!
I am so honoured to have such talented people jumping in, looking forward to learning more about your plans! Can I list you as an official participant?
Hi Cheryl, I am doing an update on everyone’s progress on this challenge. I would love to know what you have been up to and whether I can share something you’ve found out or worked on.
I’m going to be following along. Discovering Fibershed some time ago was wonderful learning experience and it’s great to see someone locally doing it! I’m in Perth too. I wish I blogged! Did you mention somewhere, that you will be organising meets?
Hi khatijah, are you on instagram? If not send me your email and I can send details of some meet ups!
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Hi – The Fibreshed idea makes such sense and I can’t believe I only came across it yesterday. I’m just getting back to blogging and sewing with new resolve in the textiles and sustainability department – and I am so inspired by everything about your blog. I am very keen to join in your One Year One Outfit campaign… I think I am at an advantage in that I am surrounded by sheep, spinners, knitters and natural dyers… but it will still be a personal challenge for me to go beyond just sewing… Thankyou for the inspiration – I feel like I’ve happened upon a like-minded community here!
How great that you found this!! Knowing all the skilled people around you is a great start! Welcome on board!
Ps do you mind if I link to your blog in the next update?
of course! I’ll have to get posting (only done 1 so far since a 3 year break!)… am off to the local ‘Wool and Willow’ show in town today -it’s a yearly show by local craftspeople… I also had a brainwave about the hearty stock of nettles in our wilderness garden – they’ll be ripe and ready to harvest and ret in August… how local is that? nettle fabric from my back garden!
So cool! We were hoping someone would do nettles!
Are you happy for me to link back to your blog too?
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Ok, I’m in! And blogged about it today. I’m fed up with the readily-available fabric choices, with their lack of transparency and responsibility. I may not make a whole outfit by the end of the year, but I pledge to refrain from buying any new fabric unless it’s (at minimum) sustainably grown and processed in the USA, for at least the rest of 2015. I’ll share what I find!
Woohoo! Welcome to the ride! I’m keen to ask Ginger Makes some more about her colour grown cotton top as I’m pretty sure it qualifies. Also fibreshed has lots of good links in the US, good luck!
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