15 of the best sustainable sewing projects

Fashion doesn’t have to cost the earth. Here are some ways you can keep your me-made wardrobe both budget - and eco-friendly

Stitched projects shot in the studio

2020 has been the year of sustainable sewing. From The Great British Sewing Bee to a huge global surge in refashioning clothing, makers everywhere are looking for ways to sew responsibly.

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This year, many of us have had time to rethink our values and prioritise what’s important. Whether it’s continuing to support smaller businesses or committing to be more proactive in creating a better world, the momentum for change is only getting stronger.

And it’s this sentiment that has led members of the fashion community in their pursuit of sustainability. As awareness grows of the wastefulness, poor working conditions and environmental impact of some sectors of the fashion industry, the time has come to  make change, and sewing our own clothes is a great first step.

Designers, bloggers, influencers and shoppers alike have been making efforts to be more green. Buying clothes from ethically responsible companies such as Gudrun Sjödén, is one way to help. Gudrun focuses on using sustainable materials and weaving techniques to make clothes that will last, challenging the perception that fashion is always fast and wasteful.

Alternatively, you could play your part by creating your own clothes – or repurposing what you already have – to avoid creating excess waste. If you enjoy sewing, there’s a myriad of ways to keep your me-made wardrobe eco-friendly and stylish at the same time.

Read on for some inspiration on how our best sustainable sewing tips.

Sustainable shopping

There’s nothing wrong with investing in new items of clothing every now and then, provided they’re of good quality and made responsibly.

No one understands this like Gudrun Sjödén. As a fashion designer seeking to redefine the values of the industry, sustainability runs through every fibre of her clothing. Just take the new winter collection, for example. From organic cotton and wool to hardwearing linen, each piece is lovingly woven in natural fabrics that are built to last.

Paying homage to some of her favourite female icons from around the world, her latest creation is full of unique pieces, such as the Edith cardigan. It’s named after the legendarily stylish French singer-songwriter, Edith Piaf, emulating her unique flair with its knitted jacquard style and beautiful wooden buttons. Made from lamb’s wool and specially created recycled yarn, it also champions Gudrun’s own environmental values.

Explore the range here.

Upcycling – the trend that will never get old 

Why buy fabric when you can use pre-loved garments you already have at home? If you’re a keen sewist, or you’re new to dressmaking and looking for ideas for where to begin, upcycling is the perfect way to create sustainable fashion you won’t see all over the high-street.

Below is a list of great sewing projects you can easily do at home. Not only will you have the satisfaction of knowing your hard work has gone into what you’re wearing, but you’ll also be making firm changes to reduce waste and opt for a more eco-friendly life.

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1. Turn a pair of jeans into a skirt

This simple project will see you turn an old pair of jeans into a gorgeous skirt. Since you won’t need to buy any new fabric, it’s ideal for keeping your crafting eco-friendly. If you have any old t-shirts or other items lying around, you could always add some fabric shapes to embellish your skirt.

Give it a go

2. Fashion a shirt into a cami top

The beauty of this project is that it offers endless opportunities – once you’ve finished one top, you can experiment with other styles such as a cross-over back, a halter neck or tie straps. It’s a great way to give old, neglected shirts a new lease of life.

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LEM embroidery

3. Decorate with floral embroidery

Give your wardrobe staples a makeover with a colourful explosion of three-dimensional stitching. Transform plain garments into bold statement pieces with our free embroidery pattern by Rachel Dobbins. This design works exceptionally well on denim jackets.

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4. Turn your old pjs into cosy accessories

We’re all guilty of hanging onto our favourite pair of pyjamas well past their lifespan. Now, you can turn them into a stylish infinity scarf.  Easy to make and totally fuss-free, check out this tutorial now.

Find out how

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5. How to make t-shirt yarn

Put your old t-shirts to good use by turning them into a chunky yarn. Not only is this a far more sustainable option than buying new yarn to craft with, but your wallet will also thank you. Once you’ve mastered this technique, you’ll be rich in yarn for years to come!

Learn how

6. Naturally dye your fabrics

This guide shows you how to dye fabric, using only natural products you’ll already have in your kitchen. As most shop-bought dyes are not eco-friendly, it’s valuable to know how to make your own.

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melissa stevens mot models in sewing projects

7. All about the details

If you’re looking for a subtle way to revamp your old clothes, this guide is made for you. Take a look to find out how to embroider Lana Red’s ‘pocket cats’ onto clothes – the perfect antidote to boring old cardigans.

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8. Cross stitch designs

Lockdown saw many of us take up new crafts like cross stitching. So why not take it further and turn your designs into fun and stylish patches to wear on your favourite clothes and accessories?

See guide

stitch projects shot on model in the studio
stitch projects shot on model in the studio

9. Spaghetti straps

We all have an old top that we used to love, but just doesn’t look quite as good as it used to. Breathe new life into it by altering the straps to an on-trend spaghetti style. Go on, you’ve got nothing to lose!

Find out how

10. Zero waste dressmaking

The idea behind this concept is to minimise the amount of material wasted, when using fabric to make a dress. All you need to do is follow this template, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a sustainable sewer.

Learn how

Why stop at clothes?

The principal of sustainable fashion doesn’t end with the clothes in our wardrobes. Raid your wardrobe for pre-loved garments and you’ll often discover material used in your old clothes that can enjoy a longer lifespan if you cut it up and refashion it. Try these ideas for how to re-purpose unwanted items.

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1. The t-shirt teddy

A t-shirt teddy is a great gift for the little ones in your life. Soft, sustainable and full of character, you won’t find anything more adorable than these cute little bears. Plus, they can easily be made in an evening, so they’re ideal if you’re looking for a quick craft project.

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2. Put your fabric scraps to good use

If you’re a keen sewer, you’ll have plenty of pesky pieces of scrap fabric that are just too pretty to throw away, but too small to use to make anything with. Follow this step-by-step guide and turn them into a handy storage case.

Learn how

3. Sew your own heat packs

These mini fabric pocket heat packs will be much-appreciated in the colder months and are another great way to use up any scraps of fabric. Easy to make and beautifully functional, you won’t regret making these once the temperature starts to drop.

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4. Plant pot covers

Plant pot covers are a thoughtful gift for the green-fingered friend in your life. This tutorial is easy to follow and relies on materials you’ll probably already have in your house – using old denim makes for a particularly chic present.

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5. Patchwork denim quilt

Made using repurposed denim, this quilt has a real 70s vibe and would make the perfect addition to any room. You could even use it as a picnic blanket in warmer weather.

Learn more

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