Plastic Free Craft Campaign – In Conversation with Elly PlattKate Stuart
Elly Platt is a costume maker and vintage clothing enthusiast who lives in London. Elly started her sustainable and ethical fashion blog, Take It Up Wear It Out, to showcase stylish and creative alternatives to fast fashion. When she’s not refashioning or mending clothes, Elly is learning new craft skills in order to furnish her home without buying anything new. We asked her to share her thoughts on our #plasticfreecraft campaign.
“It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that sewing is a central part of my life. It’s been my job for over fifteen years, and it’s also a favorite hobby. I buy vintage haberdashery as well as having access to a treasure-trove of old fastenings and trimmings at work, but occasionally I have to buy something new, and I’ve noticed one material creeping in where it isn’t needed: plastic.
It’s obvious when I touch a piece of cheap ribbon or lace; that scratchy, bouncy feeling that tells me that no matter how much I wash it, steam it or manipulate it, it won’t behave the way I want it to. Polyester thread is great for stitching stretch fabrics, but it won’t dye if you want to alter the color of a garment after it’s been made up. Plastic remains stubbornly resistant to change, which is frustrating when you are working with fabric.
Haberdashery or notions like hooks and bars, press studs or buttons have traditionally been sold in a very low-waste way; stitched or fastened to pieces of card, or stored in containers in-store and decanted into paper bags. However, if your local haberdashery isn’t a well-staffed specialist shop but a rack or two in a department store, you might have noticed a rise in plastic packaging. Buttons and hooks and bars are sold in small quantities in a plastic box, sometimes enclosed in another plastic wrapping attached to a piece of card. Sure, the plastic box might be a handy place to keep fastenings if you are not using them all at once, but selling the fastenings stitched to a piece of card has exactly the same effect, plus it’s much easier to recycle once you’ve used them all.
Some haberdashery packaging seems to have been designed with the assumption that it might spend a long time on the shelf before being bought (which is a bit sad in itself). Spools of thread (on plastic bobbins) are wrapped in plastic so they don’t get dusty. Elastic, petersham and ribbon are sold pre-cut to lengths of a few metres and yes, you’ve guessed it, wrapped in plastic.
While pre-packaged, self-service haberdashery suits our current style of shopping, where ease and convenience are all-important, we are losing out in other ways. We might be creating waste by having to buy more than we need, and we are certainly contributing to the single-use plastics problem. If you have taken up sewing as an alternative to the excesses of wasteful fast fashion, it can be disheartening to realise that being a zero-waste stitcher is more difficult than it should be.
So what can we do? Firstly, if you have a local haberdashery shop, treasure it! You’ll benefit from the knowledge of the people who work there, and if you plan your projects carefully you should save money as you’ll be able to buy exactly what you need.
If you find yourself continually buying the same things, a bulk buy will save on packaging and will work out cheaper in the long run. If you can split the cost with other crafters, even better! Buying larger reels of thread for the colours you use all the time will also reduce the amount of plastic bobbins you will have to throw away. Pins and needles are often packaged plastic-free if you buy in larger quantities. It’s worth shopping around to see which brands sell the plastic-free options that work for you.
One of the great joys of sewing is being able to create exactly what you want without the restrictions of high street fashions, so we shouldn’t let limited haberdashery selections limit our imaginations either. It takes a little more planning than a quick trip to the shops, but there are plenty of online sellers who can provide you with an amazing range of vintage or handmade trims. Why settle for second best when you can finish off your bespoke garment with something unique?
It’s easy to underestimate our power as consumers, but we can contact brands and ask them to make the changes we want to see. With a backlash against single-use plastics dominating the eco agenda at the moment, brands will be aware that they need to start making changes or risk bad publicity from being called out on social media, or losing the customers who will shop for plastic-free products elsewhere. There is strength in numbers when working for positive change, so sign the petition and spread the word amongst your fellow makers, and let’s craft our way to a plastic-free future.”
All images kindly provided by Elly Platt. Buy your copy of No Serial Number Magazine here.