In France, the government began subsidising repairs to clothes this month (October 2023) in response to the climate emergency and its ranking as the 11th worst textile waste producer in Europe. Here in the UK we are the fourth worst in Europe. Not only do we not have such a scheme in the UK, there are various impediments to creating (an) economy in extending the life of fabric, re-using fabric, or even ensuring what is produced as new gets used.
#bagsforcommunity is a creative response and craftivist action. We are working at a local level with communities that have an independent high street. We are using fabric that is at risk of becoming waste to make patchwork totebags that celebrate and are infused with community spirit.
The average British consumer spends 980 pounds a year on new clothes – topped only by the average Austrian consumer who spends 1,080 pounds – and throws away around 3.1 kilograms of textiles every year. Of that amount, only 0.3 kilograms are recycled and 0.4 kilograms are reused, while 0.8 kilograms are incinerated and 1.7 kilograms are disposed of in landfills.Fashion United
The programme offers free drop-in events and workshops, working with partners to recruit volunteers and participants, and shape activities relevant to the selected locality and its community. In our workshops, we provide the materials, sewing machines, and a thoughtful and creative approach. We hope to inspire you to make a personally meaningful bag: we guide you from drawing (however basic or elaborate) a local place, and translating it into a patchwork pattern for yourself. Over a few sessions you will make at least one totebag with a personally meaningful design on one side and at least one stencilled patch celebrating your community. No sewing machine experience is needed. We take care of the technical and are beside you step-by-step. We respond to your level of experience and offer support to help you develop your skills.
Along the way we are having friendly conversations- with a particular emphasis on making, textile industry stuff, climate change and wellbeing. We are finding them pretty tightly interwoven in surprising ways: knowing how to do a thing, having the time to do it, or learn to do it, knowing where the materials come from, understanding how they are made, knowing if how it is made has helped or hurt people and planet, feeling there is choice, feeling proud of the choices made.
The aspiration is to see patchwork totebags celebrating various local high streets all around Devon and to make an impressive and, literally, calculated dent in how much fabric goes to landfill. We weigh every totebag made and credit its maker on our rolling tally of fabric reclaimed.
In our pilot activities we have now reclaimed the average amount of textiles thrown away by one UK resident each year: 3.1 kilos. How much can we reclaim by working together?
We are currently working in Crediton and Heavitree Exeter. In early 2024 we will be working in the North Devon PCN area. We welcome enquiries from potential partners in more places.
With Sustainable Crediton we are:
- holding monthly drop-in sessions from 10-1 on the first Saturday of each month at the Sustainabubble on Crediton Town Square.
- offering a rolling programme of 3-session workshops on a pay-what-you-can donation basis. Book online via our eventbrite page.
- Participants to date are helping co-create an exhibition of totebags: the exhibition will feature a number of totebags with personal stories of the places they represent and why their maker values them at Crediton Library in January 2024.
- making totebags available on a donation basis at the Sustainabubble. Proceeds support the Sustainable Crediton Textiles Group.
With Parklife Heavitree we are:
- piloting a workshop programme and
- recruiting initial participants and volunteers, with sessions on 6 and 13 November 2023 from 1-3pm. Book online via our eventbrite page
We look forward to working with more communities in 2024.