6 Ways to Build a Sustainable Handmade Wardrobe

Building a sustainable wardrobe is tricky enough, but what about a handmade wardrobe? Many people automatically think in terms of expenses when it comes to the term “sustainable” but in fact, all that term means is that we are preserving resources in a way that benefits the earth as well as humans. Changing your sewing habits and practices can completely revolutionize the way you think about making garments and the way you sew. As sewists, we are all about quality. Preserving the life of garments we have put so much love and work into is also something we take very seriously and that very mentality puts us already in a sustainable mindset. However in a world of commercialism, advertisements and seeking of the next best or popular trends can lead us to waste or never use resources that are at our fingertips when it comes to changing making habits. So if you are wanting to make your handmade wardrobe last longer or you just want to know how you can be more sustainable in your making practice read below for some great tips on how to begin!

6 Steps to Building a Sustainable Handmade Wardrobe

#1 | Be intentional about your making process

Being intentional involves changing your flow to better match the goals you have in creating your handmade wardrobe. You may not even have a goal when you think about creating your wardrobe, and if not nows the time to start. Maybe you’re wanting to build a capsule wardrobe, or self draft your patterns, or wanting better fitting garments. Perhaps you want to focus on using specific fabrics or price ranges, or limiting waste. Whatever your goal with your handmade closet, plan out your makes, choose your patterns and fabrics wisely and take your time. By doing this you’ll avoid thinking your wardrobe as disposable and instead view each piece as an opportunity

#2 | Muslin, Toile, and Alter When Needed

There’s nothing worse than spending a lot of time sewing a garment that just doesn’t fit. To avoid this, try sewing a muslin or toile of the garment first in muslin fabric or stash fabric you don’t mind experimenting with. A muslin or toile is a rough draft of the pattern you are making on plain or stash fabric that you normally would not wear as a final garment (though you can make a wearable muslin if your fabric is decent and the fit is ok). Depending on the fit you’ll know exactly what’s needed in terms of alterations and modifications before making the final look after making a muslin. Tracing patterns on tracing paper and grading, or merging, sizes are great ways to measure proper fit and preserve any paper patterns you may have.

Tip: use your muslin draft for scraps, pockets or other repurposings if the muslin did not fit

#3 | Use Quality Fabric and Notions

Buying quality fabrics and notions will make you more susceptible to being very careful and considerate when sewing with them. You’ll usually want to make a muslin first and also be more inclined to weigh pattern choices more carefully to preserve that precious fabric or those $30 buttons. The truth is the cheaper the fabric, the more inclined we are to throw it away because it holds little value. Increasing the quality of your sewing supplies and materials can be a game changer.

#4 | Choose patterns and fabric you know you’ll love and wear

Impulse buying of sewing patterns and fabric may lead you to later review your closet and see things that may be trendy but not actually needed or worn. Go through your closet and choose your favorite outfits. Try them on and decide why you think they’re your favorites. Then look for fabric and patterns similar to that style or genre. Doing this helps you avoid that feeling of regret when you sew up a pattern that really wasn’t your style in a fabric that fit you like a paper bag. Make sure that whatever you make YOU feel good in it.

#5 | Hand Wash / Air Dry Your Clothing

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Especially with natural fibers, handwashing clothing is proven to make garments last longer and reduce the amount of fibers that end up in the ocean. It also allows you to give personal gentle care to a garment thus prolonging the quality of the fabric and limiting pilling, thinning of fibers and shedding. Air drying can also increase the life of your garment simply by the fact that it isn’t being exposed to heat as much which can shorten the life of a garment as well. Not a fan of hanging clothes out to dry? Try using the low heat or air drying section on your clothes dryer!

#6 | Mend Your Garments

Perhaps the most underrated way to keep building a sustainable handmade wardrobe is mending and altering your clothing. Naturally when things don’t fit, we have a habit of wanting to automatically get rid of them, but consider instead ways that you can preserve the life of articles of clothing that no longer fit you or are damaged. Learning basic alteration skills and (visible)mending techniques can help you keep your handmade garments longer and in great condition. Some of my favorite mending books are Visible Mending by Arounna K and Mending Matters by Katrina Rodabaugh.


Did you enjoy these tips? Are you interested in building a long lasting handmade wardrobe? Let me know in the comments!

As always thanks for reading!

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9 thoughts on “6 Ways to Build a Sustainable Handmade Wardrobe

  1. As always, a very thoughtful article! I’m with you on all these points, although I still have a hard time mending my garments but, I’m getting better at it ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Really enjoyed this thoughtful article and I’ve been following you for about a year on your blog here. I’ve been on a similar journey – first switching my shopping to quality fabrics in 2nd hand shops and altering my finds, and now sewing the styles I feel best in with quality linens and cottons. I really love how they feel on me after they are not new anymore. I find I love the mending process – very meditative and challenging too.

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    1. Ah! We are on very similar journeys indeed! The mending process truly is both of those things too, meditative and challenging. I love the beauty of thinking of new ways to bring beauty and life into things. Whether it’s trhfited fabric, clothing or any item that needs mending โค๏ธ

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  3. I am excited to find your blog, as someone who has become very interested in sustainable clothing and hand sewing. I find I enjoy the process of hand sewing so much more than using a machine. I don’t really like the loud sounds of machine sewing and rushing to make sure everything is in place for the machine. I have done extensive mending and clothing modification by hand, including sashiko-inspired patching. During the early months of the pandemic I shortened old long skirts in my closet that no longer fit at the waist by cutting off the top and creating a new waist band. I started one shirt from an old flannel sheet but haven’t quite finished it. All the backstitching and felled seams took quite a while. Currently I am researching sustainable, compostable fabrics. I feel like linen (or hemp if available) with OEKO-Tex or GOTS certification is my best bet. Although I would be comfortable composting undyed linen or cotton. Starting to think about compostable thread options. I am excited to explore the rest of you blog.

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