Note: This post is in no way sponsored by or affiliated with FABSCRAP. I’m just really excited about their services!
Through this blog, I hope to articulate that slow fashion – fashion that doesn’t exploit people or the planet – takes many shapes. One flavor (perhaps my favorite): repurposing existing material that would have otherwise been sent to a landfill or incinerator. When going this route, you have even less control over how the materials were created than if you were to purchase fabric by the yard, when you can at least look out for Lenzing or OEKO-TEX certified products. With repurposed materials, however, you aren’t increasing demand for new materials and are reducing (albeit infinitesimally) the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere through burning and decomposition. I’ve written about repurposing hand-me-down clothes but there are two main limitations to this:
- Size: much of the used clothing I’ve acquired are RTW smalls and mediums, which only offer ¼ – ½ yard pieces at best. You can of course mix and match fabrics to get more yardage, but it can be tricky to find fabrics with color, prints, and weights that work well together. I think that challenge is part of the fun, but it’s nice to have other options.
- Quality: there are certainly high-quality gems to be found at second-hand shops (and in the back of your friends’ closets!), but a hallmark of fast-fashion is lower quality materials. I’ve got loads of decent stuff to work through but not much of what one would call high-end.
Enter FABSCRAP. Based in NYC, FABSCRAP recycles waste from NYC’s esteemed fashion and interior design industries. Like most meaningful sustainability efforts, they don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach and instead employ multiple recycling methods:
- Small and proprietary scraps are shredded for use in insulation, carpet, and the like.
- Where technologies exist, fabrics with only one fiber type are put through fiber-to-fiber recycling systems.
- What’s left gets sold to savvy eco-conscious makers like me!
There are two FABSCRAP locations in NYC, which are open for shopping (only one is open and only by appointment these pandemic-ridden days), and an online store. In person, customers can pick through, choose specific items, and pay by the yard of fabric. The online store, however, primarily offers “Yard Packs” and “Scrap Packs”. With these, you don’t have a choice of print, color, or weave type but instead choose from warm, cool, neutral, or dark colors as well as natural or synthetic fiber types. For $24 you get 3-4 different natural fiber fabrics totaling 3 yards (so each is ¾ -1 yard) or for $4 you get the same in synthetic fibers.
By opting for the Natural Packs, I am purchasing high-end fabric for $8 a yard, a small fraction of the original retail cost. Muslin (for test-fitting garments) typically runs about $3 per yard, so $8 for high-end materials that are not contributing greenhouse gases or employing people in dangerous conditions? I’m fortunate enough to consider that a great deal. So what if I don’t know exactly what I’m getting? For me, that’s part of the fun!
With this purchase I’m trading control over print, fiber, and weave type for designer-fabrics at prices attractive to a still-learning maker like myself. There’s a trade-off when we buy fast fashion too: low costs, but poor quality goods and harmful production.
At this stage in my learning, I don’t mind the minimal control. As counterintuitive as it may be, I propose that scarcity inspires good design. Perhaps it’s a consequence of my novice status, but many of the design details I’m most proud of were a result of not having exactly what I thought I needed.
It’s also a good way to get my hands on new fabric types. It’s still a bit overwhelming to me how many combinations of fiber content and weave type there are. It has been wonderfully informative to touch, work with, and try to identify materials that my local fabric shop doesn’t carry and are too expensive to purchase online for the purposes of experimentation.
Lastly, I find the challenge empowering. Design is the process of navigating resources and needs. Poor design requires unlimited resources and meets few needs – that’s exactly the foundation fast fashion is built on. Good design, by contrast, requires minimal resources and meets the needs of the wearer and her environment.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see the first $48 I put towards two Yard Packs as a gamble. It was recommended to me by a fellow sustainable fashion advocate so I was intrigued, but I was half expecting outdated prints and drapeless cottons. My doubt disappeared as soon as my Dark and Warm Yard Packs arrived. Of the 6 pieces I received, I was lukewarm about one, glad to have two, and thrilled about three. Here’s what I received (in order of fondness):
Dark Yard Pack
- Solid black silk (1 yard): I’m not sure what the weave type is or if it’s 100%, but it’s definitely silk. Dreamy, soft silk that drapes like water. This was my absolute favorite of the haul and I honestly didn’t know a solid black fabric textile could be so beautiful. I think I’m going to have to give myself quite the pep talk before I have the confidence to cut into it. I think I’ll make a sleeveless blouse with a tie collar and vented back, appropriate for work and dressy skirts.
- Black eyelet with pink floral print (1 yard): It has a fairly stiff drape so I’m guessing it’s cotton, linen, or a blend of the two. I’m really excited about this one as well. I think I’ll make a shirt with a square neckline and elastic gathers along the neck or sleeves.
- Black corduroy (1 yard): I’m assuming this is cotton, as most corduroy is. Deep black, heavy but not stiff, I’m excited about this one too, but I don’t know what I think I’ll make. I initially thought high waisted shorts would be cute but I’m afraid I wouldn’t end up wanting to wear them in hot weather.
Solid Black Silk
Black Eyelet with Pink Floral Print
Warm Yard Pack
- Red Silk (1 ½ yards): Again, not sure what weave this is but it is much looser than the black silk mentioned above and far less opaque. I’m not totally decided on this one either but the shade of red is very reminiscent of the holidays so I think I’ll make a flowy top for SewFrosting.
- Coral cotton: I talked about using this in my last post.
- Floral (⅚ of a yard): I’m really not sure of the fiber content of this one. It feels like cotton to me, wrinkles like linen, and has a bit of shine. This was the one of the batch I was least interested in because the print seems so outdated. The more I look at it, and it’s subtle shine, the more it grows on me though. Not sure what I think I’ll make but I’ve been wanting to experiment with making a sun visor and maybe this would work for that.
I only learned of FABSCRAP within the past few months so I haven’t been to either physical location, but I’m eager to check them out as soon as non-essential travel is safe again. In the meantime, I might have to gamble on a couple more Yard Packs.