I had the opportunity to visit the Kent State Museum of Fashion which had an intriguing exhibit on Sustainable Fashion:  Exploring the Paradox.

What is the paradox?  The fashion industry produces clothes which we consume, wash, wear out and discard.  Perhaps we consume more than we need or wear simply to update our “fashion.”  There can be a great deal of waste and impact on the environment throughout this process.

The exhibit explores several aspects of sustainability including:

  • fabrics
  • printing and dying
  • manufacturing/processing
  • recycling/upcycling fabric
  • fair trade

There is also an interesting display on the purchasing, washing and wearing habits of students.

I was struck by two dresses created by Australian Designer Holly McQuillan (shown in the video above.)  She created two fabric panels with the words “War” and “Peace”.  She then used a technique of zero waste to turn the panels into drapey dresses.  You can see other examples of zero waste on this post.

I have certainly been aware of upcycling.  I have enjoyed creating items from coffee sacks, such as these aprons.

I recently made a purse from an old wool coat that was too worn to donate.

My current fascination is converting old dresses into aprons.

I pride myself that some of my creations are using other people’s “waste” to create a functional item.  For example, my T Shirt Quilts are using something that might be thrown away or sitting in a closet and turning it into a comfortable throw.

However, my process creates scraps and I’ve become a bit obsessed about not throwing them away.  I take some of the cotton fabric and make headbands.

My daughter takes some of my cutting room scraps and uses them to create items for her shop.

From the T shirt scraps I have made yarn, knit it into rugs and woven rugs with my kids.  But soon our hands only have time to create so much.  What to do then?  I have grouped my cutting room trash into batches and listed them on Etsy.  I price them very minimally or at shipping alone and group them by types of fabrics.  Every one of those listings has sold.

I have also tried to establish relationships with creatives who need a particular fabric on a regular basis.  I recently sent 16 pounds of T Shirt bottoms and some fleece to HandiWorkinGirls who create a number of items from them.

So I may not be creating with zero waste, but I am trying to minimize the waste in my own manufacturing.  What are some of the ways to manage your waste?

  • upcycle waste into something new
  • sell your scraps on Etsy, Craigslist, Ebay
  • donate supplies to thrift shops, senior centers, schools
  • donate to the American Sewing Guild, who then sell it and donate profits to charities
  • donate to numerous charitable organizations, a few of which are discussed here

What about you?  How do you minimize and/or manage your waste?