Caitlyn Griffiths shares her journey of making clothes and the impact that can have on sustainability and body confidence.
How did you get into making your own clothes?
Becoming a DT teacher, you’ve got to cover loads of different subjects, so I do product design, textiles, food tech, and health and social care. Seeing as I already have a degree in making and I’ve worked in a professional kitchen for a year, I thought I would try to build my skills with textiles to be able to teach kids a little bit better.
And so I started going down this route of trying to build back my hand sewing skills and my sewing machine skills. I decided I was going to attempt to make a hoodie to start with. I took the hoodie and some old fabric and I made a pattern out of it. I took a look at all the pieces and started putting it all together. The finished product that I made, I absolutely loved.
Since then, I’ve ended up making another hoodie using some old materials. Then, I just went really ambitious and I decided to make a jacket out of some old jeans and some fabric I found on Etsy.
I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the process. I’m in the middle of making my own trousers now, so that’s an experience.
What advice would you give to people who want to start making their own clothes?
You could just get a little hand sewing kit and maybe start with tailoring first. Go to the charity shop and find a bit of clothing that you really like but doesn’t quite fit you. Maybe aim for something that’s too big and try to tailor it down. You could even start with something small like a sock.
Look at the item of clothing and see how it goes together. Then look up YouTube tutorials.
My biggest bit of advice is don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Try making something – it’s a very forgiving medium. Just unpick it and resew out, unpick it and resew it again. You’re going to learn loads more by doing it that way.
Get some free time and fabric, and just have a go.
How did you learn about sustainability?
I’ve always been into sustainability because I did Scouts when I was younger, so I was very ‘in with the earth’.
My grandma also got me into art and cooking – her entire garden was edible, so I remember literally being that little wildling in the garden; just grabbing stuff and eating it. I’ve always been very into nature.
I think I really started to think about sustainability in terms of making and creating things during my uni degree. I did the degree Artist, Designer, Maker, and it’s a lot more craft heavy as opposed to product design. You’d focus more on the materials used and the impact it has not only on the environment but also in relation to the space you’re in. I’m in Cardiff at the minute, so I’m looking a lot at Welsh designers and Welsh heritage.
It’s just about getting back to the earth and nature, and trying not to have that negative impact on the environment.
What’s the best way to teach people about sustainability?
Bringing awareness to it is key.
I’ve been teaching my year 8’s about fast fashion and about the impact that it has on the environment, as well as the ethical repercussions. We talk about slave labour camps and how much people are paying for an item of clothing. These kids are really taken aback and you can tell they’ve never heard about it before.
Beyond raising that awareness and having the baseline knowledge on the effect it has, we discuss the multiple better solutions than buying from fast fashion.
What are the benefits of making your own clothes?
Making your own clothing doesn’t just have to be the environment, you could do it for yourself. I’m going to treasure the clothes I’ve made forever. If we show people, kids especially, that making your own clothes can be so much more than just doing it for the environment, or just doing it for ethical reasons, it can have a big impact.
It’s a reflection of yourself and it can build your skills. That sense of individualism you can have from making your own clothing has blown up recently. Being able to show yourself off by the things that you wear is cool.
Making your own clothes means you can make it fit you the way you want it to fit you. It can really help, especially if you have body issues. A lot of the time, things that you buy from the shops aren’t going to fit you in the best way. Having that ability to tailor or make your own clothes can really have a big impact on your self esteem. Making it cool and accessible in that way can really help teach people more about sustainability.
The Future is in our Hands is a campaign run in collaboration with Bloedd Amgueddfa Cymru, a collective working alongside 16–25 year olds to experiment, create and innovate.