Eco-friendly clothing: links roundup

Over at A Little Bit of All Of It, it's eco-friendly clothing week! In honour of which, here is a round-up of various links and so on from me and elsewhere, on the subject of eco-friendly clothing.


Upcycling existing clothes that you no longer wear is an eco-friendly way of getting new clothes. I haven't up cycled anything for myself lately, but I have been upcycling a T-shirt of mine (no longer wearable into a T-shirt for Leon. A skirt I don't wear became a pair of baby trousers last summer; they're still being worn this summer, just as three-quarter length rather than full length. I also made a pair of smart trousers from some suit trousers recently, but haven't yet blogged it.

Not clothes, but I made toys from scraps from my scrap box earlier this year, too.

Making clothes from fabric

How eco-friendly it is to make your own clothes (if not upcycling) depends on how eco-friendly the source fabric is. Although you could argue that making your own makes you more likely to wear and appreciate the garment, rather than treating it as disposable; it may also last longer and you might be more likely to patch it.

Here's a few sources of eco-friendly fabric, or yarn:

  • Organic Cotton do eco-friendly (organic, also fair trade) cotton and other materials, and deliver very fast. I've used them personally and can recommend them.
  • The Hemp Shop do hemp fabric, which is organic. It's not fair trade but they do give their factory working conditions on that page.
  • There are several sorts of yarn which is recycled from other yarns or fabrics:
    • Recycled sari silk: can be a bit odd to knit with, though, and doesn't knit a smooth fabric.
    • Second Time Cotton: recycled from consumer cotton scraps. Nice to knit with, but sadly I can't find a UK stockist at the moment.
    • Full Circle worsted and bulky wool is also made from leftover bits of British wools. It's 100% wool, very snuggly, and nice to knit with. It's a bit scratchy but only in the way that wool is often a bit scratchy.

You can also knit multi-coloured things from your end-balls of yarn; blankets are another way to use up ends of balls.


Finally, if you're buying, start out with charity shops or Ebay second-hand clothes (as well as promoting reuse, this is also much cheaper!). If you're buying new, look for organic and fair trade, and be prepared (sadly) to spend a while at it, as it can be difficult to find both. Once you do, make your clothes last as long as possible by washing them only when they're actually dirty, protecting them when you're doing dirty chores (get an apron!), and patching them if possible.

Up-cycled baby T-shirt

I have a stack of old T-shirts in my fabric box waiting to be turned into baby shirts (ones that are no longer fit for adult use but have enough good fabric in them to be worth chopping up), and this week made my first attempt, with an old Belle and Sebastian shirt. Lots of pictures after the cut.

Pink Belle and Sebastian "Write About Love" T-shirt, adult size, a bit crumpled
The original grown-up size shirt

I got some ideas from this Makerland blog post (though in this case I didn't need to use her shoulder yoke trick), and used Burda Easy pattern 9614*. The smallest size was 3T, which as expected is way too big (better too big than too small, I thought, for a first effort). He will grow into it soon enough.

Dismantling the T-shirt properly (I took apart the seams rather than just hacking it, to maximise available fabric) and cutting the pieces took half an hour or so. I was able to use the existing hems for the back piece and the sleeves, but not for the front as I prioritised getting all of the T-shirt picture in. It is worth carefully unpicking the neck ribbing so you can reuse that, too.

Yellow tissue-paper pattern pieces for front and back of toddler T-shirt laid out on dismantled original adult T-shirt body
Front and back pattern pieces laid on fabric

Yellow tissue-paper pattern pieces for toddler T-shirt sleeves laid out on dismantled original adult T-shirt sleeves
Sleeve pattern pieces laid out

The actual construction was pretty easy (took about 1h20 all in, and I think I'd do it quicker next time). As jersey doesn't fray, I didn't bother finishing any of my seams properly on the inside, especially as I don't have an overlocker anyway. I did press as I went, though, which really does help it stay neat.

Body of toddler T-shirt, sleeves separately resting on it, with pair of scissors nearby
Body and sleeves both sewn, ready to set in sleeves

Close-up of neckband of pink toddler T-shirt, slightly puckered
Close-up of neckband

The neckband is a little puckered; I tried a bit too hard to stretch it as I sewed.

Cut-down pink Belle and Sebastian T-shirt, picture of girl writing with "Write About Love" caption.
Finished shirt!

And on my slightly grumpy model.

Slightly sombre baby looks at camera, wearing pink Belle and Sebastian T-shirt
Leon models his new (and rather large) T-shirt

(Note for my own reference: total time taken, from getting pattern out of the packet to finished T-shirt was 2h20 (done in several stages).)

For my next one, this post covers making a neckline that crosses over at the shoulders (a lot of baby shirts have this; it makes it easier to get their head through the shirt). I'm intending as well to cut the pattern down to 2T size myself, and make the long-sleeve version to have ready for next winter when he's outgrown his existing shirts.

* A irritated note in passing: nearly all the patterns, even ones for unisex clothes like T-shirts, have little girls on the front. Very very few little boys. Apparently one doesn't make clothes for boys? [sigh]