I finished reading Elizabeth Cline’s Overdressed. Besides the issues of pricing goods and the use of cheap labor that I talked about in this post, there’s a good discussion of the environmental impact of all these garments.
Americans through away 12.7 Million tons of textiles per year. Wait, read that again. Twelve point seven million tons. That’s 68 pounds per PERSON each year. Of that, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that only 1.6M could even be recycled or reused. This is because many of the blended fabrics being used to make clothing are not recyclable because we simply don’t have the technology to separate the fibers back to their original state. So the poly-viscose blend must stay blended, and likewise for the wool-nylon-acetate blend, and so on. Also, many of the fabrics are so thin and cheaply made that they don’t wear well, so re-using them by “refashioning” or “upcycling” the items into different garments isn’t possible because there aren’t enough good pieces to work with. (p.122, 125)
We often think that by taking our unwanted garments to Goodwill or the thrift shop that we are saving them from the landfill and can head to the nearest H&M or Forever 21, Old Navy, WalMart, Target, etc. to fill our closets with the latest trends guilt-free. However, tons (literally!) of these garments languish in the resale shops for a month and then are moved out of the store, sold to salvage brokers who sort them again, determining which will head to the landfills and which will be compacted into huge cubes and shipped off to other countries, often in Africa, where the garments are sold for a few dollars. As this secondary market becomes inundated with cheap clothing from around the world, where will these cast-offs be sent? The Salvation Army on Quincy Street in New York, which serves as a distribution center for 8 Salvation Army locations in Brooklyn and Queens bundles 18 TONS of unsold clothing into 36 bales for the salvage brokers every THREE days. (p. 126)
In addition to the environmental impact at a garment’s end of life cycle, there are pollution and other concerns during production. Front Royal, Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was home to Avtex Fibers, a factory that at one point was the world’s largest rayon producer. Avtex Fibers manufactured rayon, polyester and polypropylene fibers for almost half a century, beginning in 1940. The EPA put the plant on their Superfund program’s National Priorities List in 1986, and Avtex continued to operate until 1989 when they declared bankruptcy. For the Avtex site alone,
The total cost of Superfund cleanup, demolition and restoration, including FMC’s contribution, is projected to be $150 million.
source: EPA Superfund website
And it’s not only the synthetics and blends that cause environmental damage. Twenty-two billion pounds of weed killer is used in cotton crops annually just in the United States. (Overdressed, p. 125) Many fibers are also bleached, dyed, given special coatings and so on, each with its own run off. While the United States has implemented stricter regulations and also developed technological methods to reduce the environmental impact of creating these items, textile production has largely moved overseas to countries with fewer regulations for both environmental concerns and employee work conditions.
Some US companies do monitor overseas factories with audits and/or prescreening. However, factory managers often know when audits will occur. According to Overdressed, as many as 75% of WalMart audits are announced in advance. (p.148) Other companies, such as Nike, make unannounced visits.
However, there are still instances where the US companies simply do not know where their garments are being produced. This seems absurd – how can they not know where their products are made? Factories that pass the companies’ evaluations will sometimes subcontract work to other factories without the knowledge of the company. These subcontractors often don’t follow the same environmental or labor standards.
People used to look for quality clothing that would last. Garments were mended as needed to make them last longer. Today’s fast fashions come with lesser quality fabrics and speedy sewing designed to get the clothing to market quickly. If the seam pops or the hem comes unstitched in the second wearing, the garment is likely to be discarded without thought – after all, it was cheap, who cares?
Those who can sew likely know the true value of quality clothing. If you sew for yourself, you can create pieces that fit your unique body. You aren’t stuck with the boxy trends pushed by retailers one week and body hugging slinky tops the next. Check out Elizabeth Cline’s book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, and you’ll find yourself even more inspired to get sewing.
A quick pattern review for you today. :)
When I went to cut this pattern out, I realized it needs 2 cuts of the front piece for the crossover. However, there wasn’t enough of the fabric I wanted to use to cut two. Instead of making a mock crossover and attaching the binding of the top layer to the mock bottom layer, I opted to eliminate the neck binding and just use the extended front shoulder on both the left and right.
The fabric is a Fresh Produce french terry knit that I dyed bubblegum pink last summer. It came as a white-on-white print and dyed wonderfully.
I normally make a size 146 for my daughter and did that in this top. It seems this pattern runs a little small. The sleeves are just barely long enough. I omitted the elastic gathering at the sides because I didn’t want it to be any shorter in the body. With the current sizing, this top will only get a handful of wearings before it is retired. Good thing Spring is supposed to come in a couple months!
All the pieces lined up easily, and making the change to use one piece in the front was simple enough. It’s a pattern worth making again, just in a bigger size. I’m leaning towards making the front so it only looks like two layers. My daughter’s school is pretty warm and she really doesn’t need the extra layer.
Size – It seems to run a little small.
Design – Good, everything matched up where it was supposed to.
Make it again? – Yes, but size up.
When the previews for the Spring 2013 issue of Ottobre first popped up, I heard some complaints of the lack of patterns in the bigger sizes. Ottobre patterns have a huge range, from 50 to 170 cm, which is approximately equivalent to sizing for a newborn through a 15 year old. Since each issue typically includes 40 patterns, this means attempting to provide a variety of patterns for 21 sizes with 40 patterns. Quite a task!
Due to the way patterns are typically made, it’s common to see the largest number of choices in the middle sizes. This issue is no exception, with the most options being in size 116. However, I was surprised to discover that there were almost as many patterns in sizes 134, 140 and 146. Check the bottom of this post for a quick size summary!
Let’s start at the beginning with cute clothing for wee ones.
In the smaller sizes, there is a cute voile blouse and pants for girls. There’s a bodysuit, romper and cute hooded bunting that will work for boys or girls. The bodysuit pattern includes a ruffle that can be omitted for boys. The tiger sweatshirt and sweatpants is designed for boys, but leaving off the tiger embellishments lets it work for girls as well. There’s also a dinosaur bunting and girl’s jacket.
For toddlers and preschoolers, there’s a long sleeve t-shirt, overalls, and lined jacket that are suitable for boys or girls. There’s a cute dress done in gingham with a jumper made using many of the pattern pieces from the dress.
For school-aged children, there are several patterns that span from size 92 to 146cm. These include a tank top, boxer briefs, leggings, tunic top and a pair of casual pants. At the lower end of the sizing, from 92cm to 128 cm, there’s a long sleeve t-shirt, leggings, and a Batman style sweatshirt. Sizes 104-146 include a long sleeve t-shirt with a mock v-neck, a girl’s tank top and bloomers and shirt dress. For fun play, there’s a chef’s jacket and hat and apron in sizes 104-146 cm.
For girls in sizes 110-146 cm there’s a girl’s blouse, a button closure trenchcoat and a pair of casual pants. For boys in sizes 134 to 170 cm, there’s a hoodie, long sleeve t-shirt, baseball style jacket and corduroy pants. The hoodie could easily work for girls as well.
The leggings pattern that’s made for sizes 92 through 170 is shown for both boys and girls, though, at least here in the Midwestern US, it’s not something boys would typically wear. There are also patterns for a tunic top, hooded jacket and pants with cargo side pockets, all for girls in sizes 134 – 170cm.
I see some good possibilities for both my first grade son and my third grade daughter in this issue. You can see the whole issue (and buy it if you’re not already a subscriber!) on the Ottobre website.
Ottobre Spring 2013 by the numbers
Patterns in this issue: 40
Patterns for boys: 24
Patterns for girls: 33
Some patterns will work for both boys and girls, either as is or with some modification, usually by leaving out an embellishment.
If you are sewing for little girls in size 116, you have 19 options in this issue. There are 18 options for girls in sizes 110, 134, 140, and 146.
You’ll find 13 patterns for little boys in size 116, and twelve patterns for boys in sizes 92, 104, 110, 134, 140 and 146.