I wanted to make something I really needed in my wardrobe and at the same time make it using some of the ridiculous amount of fabric scraps of varying sizes I have leftover from years of past projects (four boxes full to be precise). I was also really in the mood for a pattern that holds your hand with great instructions that you can follow to the letter and tick off the steps in manageable chunks.
Enter the Closet Case Patterns Kalle shirt! I’ve been a big fan of Heather Lou’s blog for years but (shockingly) I’ve yet to sew one of her patterns – until now! I knew Heather’s instructions would be shit hot good and I wasn’t disappointed.
I squeezed the pieces for view A out of bits of green and red linen. I just about had enough of each colour but I had to get creative and do some colour blocking as I didn’t have a big enough piece for the whole back pattern piece – but I really like the finished effect! And it feels good to make a dent in those boxes of fabric scraps (see musings about sewing, sustainability, and fabric). It’s also a good challenge of your creativity to restrict yourself to using up what you have already to make something. What will I make with the much smaller pile of even tinier bits of this green and red linen I now have?!
I really like the resulting shirt, and the only modification I made was to redraft the hem so that the dip is not as exaggerated. I find the collar is slightly too tight around the neck on me when buttoned up. So I’m going to try and make it a bit looser for the next one.
I was first drawn to the Kalle shirt pattern as recently I’ve seen a lot of people wearing shirts with this dipped hem style and the loose contemporary cut. As I was finishing the shirt this week I was thinking about how interesting the sewing world is, both as its own entity but also how it lives alongside the more ‘mainstream’ fashion industry. As I was thinking about this I was listening to some podcasts. Fittingly, an episode of BBC Woman’s Hour (if you don’t listen to this programme I highly recommend it!) came on which looked at the shift towards online retail over the last 15 years and the knock-on effect this has had on town centres in the UK and the people employed in the retail sector.
It kind of stopped me in my tracks as while I don’t support the environmental and social impact of fast fashion and the way it pushes us to over-consume, I also don’t want to see town centres turn into desolate ghost towns (or for people to lose their jobs).
I was really nostalgic listening to the older people they interviewed who were describing how their town centres had changed as their favourite shops have disappeared. It made me think of the social importance of ‘going into town’, ‘going up/down the street’, or ‘going round the shops’. I remember the first time I was allowed to go ‘down the street’ in my small hometown with my best friend as a child. Even though we were just going to Woolworths it felt like the biggest step into adulthood. I remembered going round the shops with my Granny in her town and how she knew everyone and would get all the news from people as we went round. I remember being a teenager in the pre-internet age and going round ‘the shops’ on a rare trip to Glasgow and how it felt so exhilarating as it was a way of exploring the world beyond your own immediate experience – stand out memories were hanging out in Borders books (RIP) and spending all the money I had in the world (£70) on a black duffle coat from Cult – I LOVED that coat.
But whereas big cities still have relatively buoyant shops, and some smaller towns have thriving small businesses, these tend to be in more affluent places. There are a huge chunk of medium-sized towns where the town centre has simply died as it can’t compete with the bigger shops in a nearby city and because of online shopping.
The programme didn’t actually talk about the environmental impact of the shift to online deliveries at all which I think was a big oversight. While online shopping has brought about lots of benefits to many people who might not have been physically able to get out to the shops easily before, I can’t help but think that generally speaking if you are going to consume fast fashion then it is better to do it in a physical shop where goods are delivered in bulk, rather than having thousands of individual van deliveries being made to each customer’s house – and back again when people send things back. Of course, online shopping is not just about clothing, we now get all sorts of things delivered from the internet (including fabric and patterns!) when just 15/20 years ago we would probably have got them from a bricks and mortar shop.
I don’t think the solution is about trying to go back to how town centres looked in the 1980s/1990s/2000s, but we can’t just leave town centres to rot either.
In Dumfries, Scotland – very near where I grew up – there is a really interesting initiative called the ‘The MidSteeple Quarter’ where residents are campaigning to buy-out abandoned properties in the town’s neglected town centre with the aim of turning them into a hub of social enterprises and small businesses. In Scotland many rural communities (such as the famous Isle of Eigg) have been left with no other option but to fundraise huge amounts of money to buy their way out of a feudal system of land ownership which is still a hugely controversial issue in Scotland. But while land reform issues tend to focus on remote areas, if the community group in Dumfries succeeds it would be the first community buy-out in Scotland of a high street!
I think this sounds so brilliant and it would help bring back more jobs to the town and simply improve community life by creating places where people can come together.
I’m imagining a near future where going into town/round the shops involved both visiting shops selling things people really need, but also other community initiatives that bring people together over activities that are not just about shopping. I’m imagining repair cafés, sewing cafés, places where you could go and learn pattern cutting…
Imagine if schemes for textile collection and re-distribution to locally-based sewing businesses were common features of high streets – maybe I would have somewhere to take some of those fabric scraps in my four boxes!