Sewing up a storm and 2nd-hand clothes the new norm for slow fashion mom

For the past three years she has not bought a stitch of new clothing for her family of six. Instead, a St. Adolphe, Man., mom has been making her family's clothes in an effort to reduce their impact on the Earth.

Winnipeg Sews founder Katherine Magne hosts jean-making workshops to help people get more sustainable clothes

Katherine Magne runs sewing workshops through Winnipeg Sews. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

For the past three years she has not bought a stitch of new clothing for her family of six. Instead, a St. Adolphe, Man., mom has put her needles and threads to work in an effort to reduce their impact on the Earth.

"I think, in the long run, sewing is more about a movement," Katherine Magne told CBC Information Radio host Marcy Markusa on Monday morning. "It's kind of like camping. It still costs money to camp; it's an investment of a different kind."

Magne now runs Winnipeg Sews workshops, where she teaches small groups how to sew jeans and other clothing. 

The workshops followed an awakening she had a few years ago. She wanted to become a more mindful consumer and set off on a slow fashion journey.

Slow fashion is a movement that encourages people to create their own or buy second-hand rather than brand new clothes, and to reflect on the production, quality and overall sustainability of the garment industry to make more informed and ethical clothing choices. 

For Magne, that meant putting the sewing skills she already had to work, starting with making clothes for herself, kids and husband. She went a little sew happy at first.

"I made way too much at the beginning and now I have really nailed the construction of the clothing to make it really durable. I really don't need to make as much anymore," she said.

"I sew every day mainly because I like to sew and it's a calming process for me, so that's mainly why I sew so much now even though I don't have to."

High-quality garb

She used cheaper materials at first but eventually found higher-quality fabric sellers online and made the switch to stitching with slightly more valuable threads.

One of Magne's workshop students learns to make jeans. (Submitted by Katherine Magne)

"When you're using low-cost material, it's really not going to hold up as well, so it's similar to just buying it at the mall, and then you're just creating waste anyway."

In the lead up to season changes, Magne goes to everyone in her family and asks what articles of clothing they think they need.

"They're very good at self-regulating what they need versus what they want," she said.

Her kids still like brand name clothes, so Magne supplements the homemade threads in their wardrobe with cool thrift store finds.

Sewing pays off

Magne doesn't think she has necessarily saved that much money, if any, but the effort she's put into sewing has paid off in other ways.

"I don't know how much of a difference I've made in society, but in my life, and my friends and the people that surround me, I've made a really big difference," Magne said.

And the people who continue to attend her jean-making workshops are walking away with more than just a new pair of pants.

"One girl had never sewn anything other than zig-zagged an edge, and she walked out with an almost completed pair of jeans," she said. "Touching those people and teaching them a skill is really empowering, so that's really lighting me up."

Magne is hosting one of her jean-making workshops Tuesday in Winnipeg, along with two more on Aug. 12 and 18.

Katherine Magne sports threads she made herself. (Submitted by Katherine Magne)

With files from Janice Grant


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