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A Minister for clothes?

By Gill Baker, Wangaratta Sustainability

Researching family history is fascinating, you learn so much about past lives, and understanding our past should  enable us to better handle our  future.

My granddaughter, Kim, loves to sew and design clothes, so I showed her the contents of her Great, Great Grandmother’s sewing box.  Kim was puzzled by a wooden object shaped like a mushroom, until I explained that it was used to stretch socks and other woollen articles over so that a patch could be worked by darning (is that word still in the dictionary?).

My Great Grandmother and her two sisters  lost their home during the bombing of London in WW2, and had squeezed into our small house, where they lived out their lives.  As a child I learned so much from them.  They all sewed, by hand of course, mending everything till it was no longer possible.  Anything that could be reused was. They would even grab a shovel if the ‘Rag and Bone’ man’s carthorse left a handy pile of manure in the road ‘for the roses’.  ( I discovered a Rag and Bone man amongst our ancestors. The bones went to a glue factory while the rags were rendered down and reused.)

This was just a few generations ago.  Now every second shop in the High Street sells clothes, as well as the racks of clothes in department  stores.  Many are bought and worn only until the fashion changes, and are then thrown away.   With luck the clothes will find a second life via the Op Shops,  however its worth considering that the synthetic fibres – polyester, nylon, acrylics and so on  from which so much of our cheaper clothing is made these days, are all made from oil.  Using fabrics made from cotton, wool and even hemp is environmentally more sound, but these also require use of precious resources, such as fertile soil and water, to grow and  manufacture.

There are other noteworthy factors from an ecological point of view, every  wash, or rainstorm over landfill, releases fibres and  chemicals used in dyes, some of dubious toxicity, into our soils, waterways and oceans, from whence they end up in the food chain.

Perhaps we should have a Minister for Clothes!