Fast fabric and Mend It May

A friend and I with a quilt I made from thrifted men’s dress shirts.

The convergence of Earth Day and #FashionRevolution last week prompted me to bring some slowly-growing ideas out of the closet and see what shape they’re in.  I’ve been thinking a lot about fast fabric.

Fast fashion was easy for me to avoid.  I hate the experience of going to the mall and the sameness of everything in the stores.  Part of the motivation for me to learn to sew in the first place was to make a wardrobe of clothes I really love.  But I fell hard to the lure of fast fabric, as if I’d never thought through my choices before.

Like a lot of new quilters, it didn’t take me long to acquire a stash of beautiful fabrics.  I bought with what I thought was care, but suddenly I had boxes full of folded cottons.  I bought, because once gone my favorite pattern might not come back.  Because browsing online was a nice break from a busy day.  Because all those fabrics have such wonderful potential as projects, as art works, as gestures of love.

But I know what those choices cost.  I work with environmental scientists, so I see the evidence of the damage we do to climate, water, soil, and ecosystems.  I see researchers vibrating with grief after seeing a loved coral reef bleached out of existence, a glacier divorced from the sea, or a village near a research site in Bangladesh flooded out by rising seas.  I hear the news about people who are trapped and oppressed in ways we can barely imagine, just to make me cheaper things.

Fast fashion and disposable lifestyles hurt a lot of people and damage our climate, water, and ecosystems.  But they aren’t good for me individually either.  Does acquiring rounds of stuff—no matter how pretty—lend my life meaning, or is it a cheap substitute for actually creating, for actually doing?  Does buying at the behest of multinational corporations who say it’s good for the economy get me the world I want, or does it just make me into a consumer instead of a citizen?

I want to make better choices.  I want to make beautiful things, meaningful things, that don’t come with a dark side.  I want a transparent, responsible supply chain.  Maybe you want those things too.  Let’s figure it out together.

As a meditation—and let’s face it, as a way to get some junk off my work table—I’m going to start with Mend It May, the brainchild of Jen Gale at Make and Mend Life.  I have a pile of clothes and other fabric projects that just need some patching or reworking to get them into joyful circulation again.  I even have a tattered vintage quilt top that’s done nothing so far but collect dust.  How about you?  Let’s make May the month to try some boro or finally get that shirt altered.  This will get me in the mood to respect my materials, to appreciate what I have, to make things last, to keep things out of the waste stream, and to get creatively jiggy with it.  Grab a needle and let’s rock the repair.


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