How Can We Choose Sustainable Fabrics for Our Makes?

How Can We Choose Sustainable Fabrics for Our Makes?

Following on from our recent Guide to Choosing Sustainable Fabric, we wanted to take this one step further and explore what that means for our makes and how we can choose more sustainable fabrics to make the patterns we love. Later on, we will also talk about the ideal capsule wardrobe pieces with some recommended patterns and fabrics you can use for garments to wear time and time again.


Why Do We Need Sustainability in Textiles?

But before we start on how we can do better with our fabric choices, it’s important to think why we have to do better. Here are some scary stats about the clothing industry. 

  • At the moment 80 billion garments are made every year.
  • On average, each of these garments will only be worn 7 times.
  • We buy FIVE times more clothing than our Grandparents did.
  • The average life span of clothing is just 2.2 years.
  • In the UK alone, we create 206.456 TONNES of textile waste a year.


So how can we do better? Well, as makers of clothes, there is evidence that we keep them longer and wear the garments more often, because having spent a long time making them, we are more invested in them from the outset. And we know from all the lovely makes you post on social that this is true.

However, there is definitely more we can do from the type of fabrics we choose to the type of garment we make and last but not least, the way we look after the finished garment. 

How Can We Wash our Clothes More Sustainably?


  • Wash clothes less frequently: just a few more facts for you; the average household does 400 loads of washing a year, which uses 13,500 gallons of water. So, if we simply wore our clothing for longer before washing, it would have a positive impact on the environment. Let’s face it, we’re not talking about undies here, yet if we are working from home more, that should surely mean less dirt on your clothes?
  • Reduce the temperature: just reducing the temperature of the washes would have an impact as most of the energy used by washing machines is heating the water. According to the Energy Saving Trust washing clothes at 30 degrees uses around 40% less electricity over a year than washing at higher temperatures. Oh, and it will also save you money, so a win for your pocket and the environment.

  • Avoid dry cleaning and tumble dryers: It goes without saying that we should avoid dry cleaners which use harsh chemicals and the tumble dryer which uses a lot of energy - as many mothers have said, line-drying clothing will change our lives, reduces creasing and gives them a lovely fresh smell. Invest in a clothes horse if you don’t have outdoor space.


How to Prolong the Life of your Clothes

We also need to look at how to care for our clothes to keep them looking lovely. 

  • Denim care: wash all your denim inside out to minimise fading
  • Invest in a De-Bobbler or lint remover to keep your wool jumpers looking perky.
  • Keep moths away with cedar wood hangers and lavender draw liners.
  • Sunshine: Don’t store your clothing near a window, the sun will bleach them just like it bleaches curtains and blinds.
  • Perfume and hairspray: put it on before getting dressed, the alcohol in them can stain fabric.
  • Buttons and Zips: before throwing clothes in the washing machine, do the buttons up on shirts and the same for zips so they won’t catch on anything else.
  • Hangers: don’t hang t-shirts on a hanger as it will stretch both the shoulders and the body. 
  • Stains: it seems obvious, but do spot clean stains quickly.


Make Do and Mend

Now this is the horrible truth that we aren’t ready for either, but needs to be said: the most sustainable thing we as dressmakers can do is to mend and alter clothes which could still be great with just a bit more time spent. By mending clothing, you could expand its life by 9 months, which could reduce the impact on the environment by 20 - 30%. Time to spend an evening darning, altering and mending, everyone. (We are with you on this, we don’t love this advice either.)


What Fabrics to Look For


As we have mentioned in our previous blog, choosing a fabric that is entirely sustainable and good for the environment can be highly confusing with conflicting advice and so much to bear in mind. Here are a few fact-checked tips for choosing more sustainable fabrics.

  • GOTS textile standard: Look out for fabric with the GOTS label (GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD); not only does that certify that the fibre is organic, but also that it meets certain ecological and social criteria going through the process from raw material all the way to manufacture.
  • OEKO-TEX 100: also look for fabrics which meet the OEKO-TEX 100 standard which provides certification that a fabric is free from 100 harmful chemicals and is therefore safe to wear next to the skin.
  • REACH standard: the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction) of chemicals aims to protect our health and the environment from harmful chemical substances. Fabrics Galore is already working with fabric suppliers which are REACH compliant. 
  • Polyester alternatives: although the pattern may suggest polyester, which is not biodegradable, could you use an alternative? What about using Lyocell, which has a similar drape to polyester and is soft but is made from wood pulp. To make sure it is the most sustainable option look for the TENCEL™ trade mark as this company has guaranteed to recycle the chemicals used in the process and to make sure the wood pulp comes from sustainable sources.
  • Cotton gets a fairly bad write up on our pros and cons list but one thing is certain, it can withstand being washed and worn over and over, so along with linen, cotton is a sensible option if you are going to wear it more than 7 times….try organic cotton or bamboo as an alternative.
  • Recycle and Re-Use: but the simplest and most sustainable option is to change something you already have; could an old top possibly become the lining of your next project?


How to Build a Sustainable Capsule Wardrobe


Now we know this sounds like no fun at all, but the most sustainable way to dress is by shopping in your own wardrobe, BUT before that even starts you need to have timeless and multi-purpose items in your wardrobe. To help we have come up with some handy hints to make sure you don’t waste your time on sewing projects that aren’t gonna last…


Before embarking on your next dressmaking project, ask yourself these questions:

  • How Often Will I Wear it? ask yourself - WILL I WEAR THIS THIRTY TIMES OR MORE……..?
  • Will it Be a Timeless Garment? If you are planning on making yourself a super trendy of the moment outfit for a special occasion, just think whether instead you could make a timeless classic - something that you can wear in numerous different ways to various different events?
  • Is it Trans-Seasonal? Look at the pattern and ask yourself is this piece going to be “trans-seasonal”, because let’s break it down. We live in Great Britain and realistically how many summer dresses do we need? Unless of course you can also wear it with a jumper and tights in Autumn.
  • Easy to Care for? Finally, is this going to be easy to look after? If so, you are more likely to wear it the 30 times. (But also, if it can be worn 30 times but you only wear it 15 times, can you pass it on to someone else?)


Your Capsule Wardrobe Patterns


With all that in mind, we thought we would take a look at some patterns and fabrics for those items of clothing we could wear 30 times or more to create a capsule wardrobe…

  1. The Sweatshirt 

What about this classic Linden sweatshirt pattern from The Foldline?

The Foldline Linden Sweatshirt Pattern

In recent years the sweatshirt has become a staple of all our wardrobes, perfect for layering so it can be used just as much in the winter as in the summer; it’s perfect trans- seasonal dressing. And there is nothing more classic than a Breton stripe sweatshirt.

Organic Cotton Jersey red breton stripe
Browse our organic cotton jersey collection


  1. A Basic Tee 

T shirt Patterns from Fibremood and The Foldline.

Capsule wardrobe T Shirt pattern    Capsule wardrobe T Shirt pattern the Foldline

Again, thinking of layering, you can’t go wrong with a t-shirt, perfect under the sweatshirt but also great for dressing down a special skirt to get those wears up. For us, a leopard print is a neutral so the perfect thing for a basic t-shirt, and a bamboo black t-shirt is a sustainable gold star.


Black T shirt fabric capsule wardrobe

Discover beautiful soft bamboo fabric

  1. A Skirt 

Capsule wardrobe skirt pattern

We were thinking maybe separates are the way to go for ranking up the wears because they allow for more combinations, and a great skirt is perfect for that. Especially this Tilly and the Buttons number it could so easily be dressed up or down. Perfect and smart in our dressmaking washed linen in French Navy.


Dressmaking washed linen in French Navy

Discover high quality linen fabrics


  1. The Summer Dress 

We know we said there was no need for lots of summer clothes when you live in the UK, but we do experience increasingly warm days, and a wrap dress can be dressed up or down. Look at the Elodie Wrap Dress pattern and Myosotosis dress pattern from The Foldline.

Wrap dress pattern    Summer dress pattern capsule wardrobe



  1. A Great Coat 

Capsule wardrobe coat pattern

Back to what we actually need the most here, a cosy coat and this one from Papercut looks perfect for wrapping up warm during the colder months. Try our herringbone wool below or any of our fabulous wools which come from a Yorkshire mill which can trace its wool fabrics back to individual sheep!

Herringbone wool fabric

Shop for Wonderful Wool Fabrics


  1. The Perfect Trouser
    Check out the Lander Pant pattern from The Foldline or the ultimate trousers pattern from Sew Over It


Trouser pattern capsule wardrobe    Ultimate trouser pattern

This might be the hardest to find, but the right pair of trousers could be the most hard-working part of your new 30 wear wardrobe. What about this gorgeous wool twill posh boy stripe in maroon and yellow?


Trouser fabric wool twill



Sustainability at Fabrics Galore


We as fabric suppliers also need to do our bit and we are actively seeking out more sustainable fabrics which meet both GOTS and OEKO-TEX 100 textile standards. In honour of Great Big Green Week we are also running a competition for the best up-cycling projects using a Fabrics Galore fabric. Email them to us or post them on social using the hashtag #WeUpcycleFG.
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Welcome to the Fabrics Galore London online store, packed full of beautiful fabrics to inspire your next dressmaking, patchwork quilting, craft or home furnishing sewing project. We stock a huge range of different materials alongside designer fabrics from Liberty, Cath Kidston, Orla Kiely, Laura Ashley, William Morris and Alexander Henry. We source the highest quality fabrics, so whether it be a cotton, linen, viscose, chambray, jersey or wool, we have you covered.Check out our dressmaking fabric for something with drape, fabulous Liberty cotton lawn prints, quilting fabrics for patchwork inspiration or the home furnishing section to pimp your pad. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get sewing!

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