Tag Archives: sustainability

MIY MARCH 20 – WEEK 3 – Refashion It

Wow, what a week! I went from being at work on Monday to setting up my home office on Tuesday to feeling like the apocalypse has now begun! The time has gone by in such a whirlwind and I have to say the love in the online sewing community has been phenomenal. Everyone is taking the time to make sure the small businesses we know and love are supported through these trying times, people are giving each other a platform to find new sewing friends and most importantly everyone is being so kind! In fact, the week has been so overwhelming I almost completely forgot about this weeks MIY March prompt. However in trueΒ Keep calm and carry on spirit I really wanted to write this blog and take a few minutes for myself to return to normality.

This week Portia Lawrie is guest hosting and asking us to think about refashioning. This is not something I have done a lot of as I tend to not really buy anything new and the old clothes I do have (from before I made my own) tend to be well worn and i love them the way they are. However, when I did a bit of an overhaul of my wardrobe last autumn I came across a couple of things that I loved for one reason or another but just did not wear them so I sat down and thought about how I could refashion them to get the most out of them.

The first was my Phoebe dress (pattern by Sew Over It). When this pattern first came out I fell immediately in love with it – it looked like the perfect staple for my work wardrobe. However after I made it up I just didn’t like the shape of it on me. The blouse had too much fabric in the front. So I cut it apart and added some elastic to the skirt waist – now it gets load of wear and I will use the fabric from the top for pocket linings or some other small project.

My Phoebe dress that just didn’t feel right…maybe too much fabric at the front?

…so I chopped the top off and added elastic to the waist to make a very well worn pencil skirt


The second item was a dress that was my absolute favourite during my uni days. I bought it from a small independent shop in Sheffield (circa 2006) and wore it on many a night out. Unfortunately, the dress is so short I cannot even imagine wearing it out of the house anymore. I decided to turn it into a tunic so I removed the shirring elastic from the waistline and gave it a really good press to get the fabric to lie flat again and now I have found a whole new love for this forgotten garment.

My favourite dress for a night out at uni and a photo of what I can only assume was a very serious reconstruction of grease lightning


The refashioned version of my dress minus the shirred waist makes for a lovely tunic, perfect for pairing with jeans and a cardi – oh how times have changed!


In fact, now I am working from home this look has become my uniform – weirdly it contained no memades at all other than this refashion. I don’t know if it is the old familiarity of the shop-bought items from my uni days that I find comforting in this difficult time or if I just really need to make some proper jeans!!

Have you refashioned anything? How did you find the process? was it a small tweak like mine to make an old item wearable again or a complete overhaul of a garment into something completely new?Β 





p.s. want to keep up with my latest makes? Head on over to my Instagram for all the latest makes and in-progress shots!

MIY MARCH 20 – WEEK 2 – Sharing and Caring

This month I’m taking part in MIY March. This is an annual challenge from Wendy Ward. It started out as a daily photo challenge on Instagram but this year Wendy is slowing things down and there are weekly prompts to get us all to slow down, think, write and read.

If you missed my blog post for week 1 you can catch up and read it here but now let’s get stuck straight in with week 2! The theme this week is sharing and caring and there are 4 key topics that we are addressing:

  • where to source materials
  • sewing tips
  • looking after our me mades
  • treasured textiles

So let’s dive straight in!

Where to source materials

This is one I’m still struggling with a little as I’d love to buy sustainably produced fabrics made with only those fibres that are least damaging to the environment, however the big barrier there is always price. Unfortunately, cheap fabrics often tend to be the most polluting and are produced with little care for the environment. Instead I often tend to aim for a halfway house of buying deadstock or end of line fabrics. These are fabrics that have been produced for fashion in high quantities to produce a particular range of garments and inevitably there is an overstock – they are then often sold on for home sewists to buy. These are slightly better environmentally as they were already in production and the fabric you are buying would otherwise be wasted. However, they are not without their problems – Kate from Time to Sew wrote a great blog about this which is worth a read.Β 

Another great source of fabrics is through fabric swaps – sometimes these can be hard to come by but if you can find one it can be a great way to both clear out your stash and find some new gems!

Sewing Tips

For me, the best tips are those that will help you create a garment that will last well and stand up to the tests of time.

The best tip I could give would be to discover your own personal style – once you have that sussed you can make clothes that you will want to wear over and over again and not just throw out with the next change in fashion. For me, this was easier said than done – the things I like to look at and sew are not necessarily what I like to wear and finding a good middle ground was tricky. I have to recommend the love to sew dream wardrobe worksheet though as I found this invaluable in defining my style and helping me to understand the colour, fabrics and silhouettes that I reach for every morning when getting dressed.

Looking after me mades

Once you have poured your heart into making a dream garment it is essential that you look after it if it is to last a long time. For me, the first step in looking after my makes comes when it is time to do the laundry. Washing clothes causes the fibres to deteriorate which is not only bad for the longevity of the clothes but can lead to water pollution as microfibres from the fabric are washed away with the dirty water. I make sure to really ask myself if my clothes really need washing every time I go to throw them in the laundry basket. If the answer is no I spritz a little freshening spray and hang them to air (my favourite is Soak flatter by the way).

If, despite my best efforts, my clothes end up damaged I do my best to prolong their life by repairing. Lately, I’ve become a little bit obsessed with visible mending – I love that it allows you to tell the story of your clothes and celebrate the fact that you have mended them rather than discard them at the first sign of wear. My favourite repair is my sashiko jeans but I’ve even got round to darning my socks!

Ripped jeans patched up and mended using sashiko stitching

Ripped jeans patched up and mended using sashiko stitching

Socks fixed using a visible meding method - grey socks and bright pink darning

Socks fixed using a visible mending method – grey socks and bright pink darning

Treasured textiles

I’m not really one for sentimentality so I don’t really treasure textiles for that reason but those that have both function and beauty have a special place in my heart! In particular, this blanket I crocheted a few years ago. Unfortunately, some of the granny squares are starting to unravel so if anyone has any top tips for fixing that then I’m all ears!






p.s. want to keep up with my latest makes? Head on over to my Instagram for all the latest makes and in-progress shots!

MIY MARCH 20 – WEEK 1 – Getting to Know You (& your wardrobe)

This month im taking part in MIY March. This is an annual challenge from Wendy Ward. It started out as a daily photo challenge on Instagram but this year Wendy is slowing things down and there are weekly prompts to get us all to slow down, think, write and read.

Week 1 of MIY March is all about introductions so here’s a bit about me for those who don’t know me:
I’m Helen and I love to sew and create a handmade wardrobe that fits me well and makes me feel great! By day I’m a research scientist interested in sustainable agriculture (if you want to learn more about that then the best place to find me is on twitter @hmetcalfe1) but when I’m not at work you can usually find me sewing or knitting or hopefully when I am a bit better (I’ve been very sick the past few months) playing the saxophone in a big band or out running with my running group!

Helen is smiling at the camera with her hands hooked into her jeans pockets. She is wearing a black and white micro-striped Peak t-shirt

My black and white Peak tee by Wendy ward is one of my most worn memades!

To get us started on our MIY March journey Wendy had asked us some questions about our sewing and handmade wardrobe so here goes:

Why is sustainable sewing important to you?

As I said before, my day job focuses on the science of sustainable agriculture and so my mind is always wandering into the realm of sustainability. I’m always looking at numbers and figures related to how much we produce and the impact of that production on the environment. It is hard to ignore the undeniable fact that we are, as a global population, currently living way beyond our means. With this in mind I try to live every part of my life in a more sustainable way and this includes my clothes. By making my own clothes I can choose the colours, textiles, and prints that I love and get a perfect fit – all of this means I am much more likely to wear the garment time and time again, rather than wear it a few times and then move on to the next trend to come along.

Helen is stood looking towaard the camera with her hands in her pockets. She is wearing blue denim SOS pants, a blue ogden cami and a grey knee-length kinder cardigan

My SOS pants are a wardrobe staple – finally i found the perfect pair of skinny jeans! and they pair wonderfully with my favourite cardigan!

What are your main motivations for sewing and making?

I love clothes. I love finding beautiful fabrics and seeing them turn into 3D garments. I love the process of construction. I love the creative outlet whilst at the same time still having the guidance of a pattern to follow. I love having clothes that fit well. I love having clothes that make me feel great.Β 

Why are you taking part in MIY March?

I really like taking part in challenges like MIY March as it provides a fantastic opportunity to get to know lots of different sewers and learn about their motivations and creative process. I also enjoy the way it allows me to explore my own sewing and hopefully learn something new about my self along the way.


Share with us your most worn and least worn makes, it’s not a naming and shaming exercise, but a collective journey of discovery.

For me, my most worn makes are always the basics: my SOS pants, black pencil skirt, black/white stripe peak tee and grey kinder cardigan get a lot of wear as I can mix and match them with other things according to my mood. If I fancy something bright and colourful then these provide the perfect backdrop, otherwise if I am feeling in the need for a muted palette I can pair them together to suit my mood. At the moment, whilst ive been at home sick, I’ve been getting a lot of wear out of my me-made leggings and comfy jumpers too.

Helen is sat cross legged on the end of a double bed. She is wearing a black Rowan jumper and turquoise pegleg leggings

My Patterns for pirates pegleg leggings and my Rowan jumper by Wendy Ward have been wardrobe staples whilst i’ve been home sick – they are just so comfy!

At the other end of the spectrum, my least worn makes tend to be the brightest and loudest prints. When I first started sewing I picked out fun and vibrant fabrics, often quilting cottons, as I was drawn to the prints and colours and the idea that I could sew things unlike anything you could find on the highstreet. However, after a few garments like this I began to realise that this was not my style and most of these fabrics are not that comfortable to wear (comfort is very important to me!)

Do you think about the sustainability of your sewing or have certain makes that you wear over and over again? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.





p.s. want to keep up with my latest makes? Head on over to my Instagram for all the latest makes and in-progress shots!

KCBW6 Day 5: Something A Bit Different

It’s day 5 of knitting and crochet blog week!

Today we have been tasked to do something a bit different. This involves blogging in a different style to normal. Now, I usually blog about my makes and how they are progressing. sometimes I even have a finished project to share with you. So today I thought I would concentrate on the yarn itself rather than the project and in the spirit of trying something different IΒ have created an infographic!

I love infographics they are usually really simple visual ways of getting lots of information. In my real life as a PhD student I need to take on a lot of new information and so these are a really great way of condensing all of that information into bite-size chunks.

As my work is agriculture and environment focused I thought to myself what better way to combine these interests with yarn and crafting but to tell you about wool production and its merits in terms of sustainability.

So here it is, my infographic on sustainable wool! I’d love to know what you think!

sustainable wool infographic