Addressing fashion’s sustainability problem through PATTERN’s new initiative, StitchWorks

Photography by Ilya Lix

Sewing is an age-old tradition that has recently lost its place in the rising world of fast fashion. The current fashion norm encourages consumers to think of clothing as disposable — it’s become normalized to buy a new garment when it gets a hole, rather than trying to mend it. But, there’s been a recent movement to take back sewing, not only to minimize our impact on the planet and the people involved in clothing production, but to empower individuals to create. PATTERN’s new initiative, StitchWorks, puts the organization at the forefront of this cause by providing a space for local designers to create, while also offering sewing courses to the public.

Why do we need sustainability in the fashion industry?
The fashion industry is a wasteful and polluting industry that is harmful to both the planet and people. Fast fashion and consumerism are at an all time high in the global north, and that comes at a detrimental cost to the people who make our clothes, as well as our environment. Take these statistics for instance:

  • According to “Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products” by Stephen Leahy, it takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans.
  • One garbage truck of textiles is dumped into our landfills or burned every second (source).
  • A single drop of pesticide aldicarb, a commonly used pesticide in cotton production, can kill an adult. Child labourers are particularly vulnerable to pesticide poisoning (source).

The fashion industry is glamorous on the surface, but the reality is much less so. Learning to sew is just one way to combat the devastation the fashion industry causes.

What are the benefits of learning how to sew?
In addition to the environmental and sustainable reasons, there are many other benefits that come with learning how to sew, as listed below.

  1. Custom fit
    Creating pieces specifically designed for your body ensures you feel comfortable and confident in your clothes, which in turn results in you reaching for those pieces in your closet more often.
  2. Create unique pieces
    Whether you’re creating an entire outfit from scratch, or simply altering the buttons on a shirt, you’re able to reflect your personal style in your creations.
  3. Learn valuable skills for your toolbox
    With the rise of fast fashion and the notion of “disposable” clothing becoming ever more popular, many of us have lost the ability — or never even learned how — to sew.
  4. Cheaper than buying
    Sewing your own garments will most likely be cheaper than purchasing clothes from stores — especially those from higher-end, luxury brands. Plus, it may last longer than garments that are poorly made from fast fashion brands, which means less trips to the store and less money spent.
  5. Take better care of your clothes
    If you have a hand in making your own clothes, you’re more likely to take better care of them because you have a connection to the items you made. You understand the time and effort they took to produce, so you want to give it the respect and care they deserve.
  6. Combat the exploitation of factory workers
    The fashion industry is notorious for the poor working conditions its workers are faced with. Sewing your own garments ensures you’re not supporting the exploitation of the men and women suffering for our means.

How can StitchWorks help?
One way to reduce our fashion environmental footprint and extend the life of our clothes is by learning to sew. But, even more important than learning how to sew is learning how to sew sustainably. While this may seem redundant, it’s just as easy to contribute to textile waste from sewing as from shopping. From buying an abundance of material, to excess scrap fabric, to creating pieces that are unwearable, sewing can still negatively harm our environment. That’s why it’s important to learn how to sew effectively — and that’s where StitchWorks comes in.

The goal of StitchWorks is to support the sustainable fashion movement by providing sewing classes to the public, as well as a space for local designers to create their garments. StitchWorks is driven to overcome the notion that everyday sewing skills are dying off in the age of fast fashion and an increasing culture of consumerism. By completing the StitchWorks courses, you will be given the knowledge and tools necessary to sew in a sustainable manner to prolong the life of your clothes, as well as create new, wearable pieces for your wardrobe.

Learning how to sew is only one piece of the puzzle, but it’s a valuable step in combating the environmental and human rights injustices caused by the fashion industry. StitchWorks is bringing the sustainable fashion movement within Central Indiana’s reach — and you can be a part of the excitement. Learn more here and keep an eye out for our Open House coming in April!