The wonder of textiles

When I was in primary school, polyester was new and rare in garments.  Most of the stuff we wore was made of natural fibres, with all the care conditions that accompanied them.  The manner of laundering was important because you could wreck something if you washed it wrong, and longevity was required and expected!

Garments were made for growth and to be handed down to younger siblings.  Most clothing was hand sewn, knitted, or made some other way.  Mass produced items were for the better off, who could afford it.  You were considered lucky if you could sew or knit, especially for things like school uniforms where it was much cheaper to be able to acquire the materials and make your own.

Thanks to Australian international trade relationships established in the latter part of the 20th century, it is now much cheaper to buy stuff than to make it yourself.    This situation has killed off many of the textile based industries that once were strong in our country.  Cheaper off shore labour has massively changed or eliminated our Australian textile industries, including fashion fabrics, carpets, furnishing fabrics, and so on.

Why spend a few hours making a beautiful garment, when you can buy it for $15-20 at a multinational chain and wear it once and throw it away at that price?

It’s a reasonable question, and not one to be too judgmental about.  Today’s families, for example are incredibly time poor, and to afford housing and the costs involved in raising a family, where usually both parents need to work, and having a home-based parent to acquire and use the skills of producing home made textile items, is most likely simply not an option!

But what I do know and find very intriguing is this:

  • our throw away attitude to clothing, (along with many other items), is not environmentally sustainable, and awareness of this is growing
  • social changes conscious of reducing our environmental footprint are growing: such as  the slow food movement; the trend away from huge multinational shopping centres towards smaller community based shopping strips or centres with specialty stores, butcher, baker, greengrocer, etc.  (Admittedly, this is not an issue anywhere uppermost in the minds of of 2nd and 3rd world countries who are nowhere near to being presented with the excess of consumer goods that we have in front of us!)
  • in my immediate circle I have folks who are conscious of all the above in the most embarassing/challenging way, and are passionate to find a better way to lead with!

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