Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Diversifying clothing materials Part 1

I don't know about you but when comparing the quality of an item I bought 5 years ago and a similar item from the same firm this year, I have noticed that clothes are getting thinner. From the manufacturers point of view this

  • reduces the amount of resources
  • increases profit per item
  • the cloth wears out quicker
  • the customer will purchase a new one quicker

The washing powders currently used and conditioners and our habit of washing, showering etc wear clothes out , creating holes, tears and generally wearing them out as quickly as possible.

If you look at the make up of the resources used for your clothing you will find that 100% cotton garments have a reduced amount of cotton now and jumpers for sale are in fact no longer made of 100% wool in general but contain either cotton or acrylic. That explains why when the temperature dips and we reach for a sweater we can still be cold.

Looking at the resources for clothes and material we can source their origins either from :

  • plants
  • animals
  • handmade materials
We have grown from a perspective of choosing our clothes for durability, warmth and quality to other criteria such as fashion, ease of washing, colour etc. To effect a change the first change we can make is one of attitude and being more choosy in the way we look at garments.

Most people had the skills to either make, mend or amend their clothes thus fewer clothes were necessary in their working wardrobe and every inch of painstakingly produced fabric was used, repaired and reused. What however are the real costs associated with these items.

As an example I will take socks. You can buy 5 pairs of socks for lets say £10. You will lose a few in the wash so they no longer match and as soon as a hole appears you throw them out. In comparison making woollen socks by knitting them yourself ;

  • requires you to have a skill
  • costs about £15 per pair
  • takes many many hours knitting time
  • requires special washing so as not to shrink them
  • can be darned and repaired
  • wool keeps your feet warm and absorbs liquid
  • wool is a breathable material
  • wool is a renewable material

The result is that you will only go through a certain  number of handknitted socks per year compared to cotton/acrylic ones, will have fewer going through the wash, resulting in a greater appreciation of material and skill.

For years we have avoided clothes with a 'dry cleaning only' label. Not only because of the costs associated with this item of clothing and the savings that could be made but the idea of having them washed in silicone and the impact of residual chemicals that would interact with our skins and own body chemistry was unknown. You buy a suit that you have drycleaned every month at a cost of £20 each time and the suit ends up costing an additional £240 per year to maintain.

The sustainable wardrobe therefore contains no items that require dry cleaning only.

Questions to ponder:

  • How many did you find.?
  • What attracted you to this item of clothing?


Moonwaves said...

I've noticed the same thing. Marks and Spencer used to be my one-stop shop for underwear but I've just about given up on the socks from there now. I do still buy the basic black knickers there but the quality definitely isn't what it used to be. As I could easily see for myself a few years ago when I happened to wash a brand new pair along with a two or three year old pair. The old ones had long since faded to a more grey than black colour but the material was still going strong and far more durable and less lightweight than the newer ones.

I not only stopped buying dry clean only clothes years ago, too, but I also washed all the ones I already had in the machine. If they didn't survive, they got culled from my wardrobe entirely. It's amazing how many things marked as dry clean only that are perfectly fine to be washed in the machine though.

Do you use a particular pattern for socks, by the way? I finally got around to learning how to knit in the round a couple of years ago but haven't managed to make it as far as actually doing a pair of socks yet (once people saw the wrist warmers I made I kept getting inundated with requests for them!)

Anne said...

For socks I would recommend becoming a member of ravelry an online community of knitters and people doing crochet where you can access any pattern you like. I knit socks toe up but it can be cuff down too whatever you fancy. The body is quite symmetrical so the circumference of wrist is the same as ankle and circumference of hand ( fist shape) is the same as the length of your foot sole.