The Magic of Natural Dyes

This post is in partnership with Sustain who makes naturally-dyed, organic wardrobe staples.

I’ve talked before about my love of natural dyeing and even though it’s not very common in the fashion industry, I’m so happy to see some slow fashion brands using this traditional method. In a previous post with Sustain I explained how natural dyeing works, but now that we’ve gone over the basics, I really want to talk about how and why I became enchanted with naturally-dyed clothing. I think there is something so special about natural dyes that you just can’t get with the synthetic alternatives.

The  magic of natural dyes

My Introduction to Natural Dyeing

It was the second year of my university program studying fashion design, I remember walking into a textile class early in the semester and being hit by a powerful mix of woody and plant smells, maybe something a little barnyard-y too? Around the room were large pots with fruit, peels, wood, and unidentifiable other things simmering inside. We took strips of cloth, dipping them into the pots or leaving them to simmer and started to learn about natural dyes.

What first stuck with me was the history – this is how clothes have been dyed for thousands of years! Humans have always used clothing not just for practical reasons but for self-expression and this is evidenced by embellished garments found by archaeologists, even the world’s oldest woven garment has small, decorative pleats. Dyeing was not only practical but also a way to make garments more special for the wearer. Fabric and yarn dyed this traditional way made me feel connected to the women throughout history who would have used these methods and worn clothes in these colours.

Natural dye swatches
Some of my swatches from school

What really made me fall in love with natural dyeing though was the unexpected nature of it – it’s a bit of an adventure with lots of experimentation and you’re never totally guaranteed what the result will be. Small things like the water used or even what part of the year the dye material was picked can have an impact on your final colour. The advantage of synthetic dyes in fashion is you get perfect consistency but I prefer the unique variations you can get with natural dyes. I have a lovely pj set from Sustain and mine is actually more green than the one she has photographed on the website. Even though it’s the same process, variations can happen depending on the dye vat, making each garment special. Colour shifts can even happen later and over-time. To me it gives the garments a unique “living” quality and the colours have a richness that you can only get from natural dyes.

I also love that we can use plants, weeds, and even food waste as dyes instead of synthetic dyes which come from petroleum. It’s nice to know where the dyes came from, unlike most clothing where we don’t really know what they have been dyed with or what the impact is to us and the environment.

This introduction to natural dyes played a major role in starting my slow fashion journey and helping me realize that there are alternatives and different ways to produce clothing outside of the now “normal” mass-manufacturing, fast fashion industry.

Favourite Dyes

Top naturally dyed with madder root from Sustain
Top dyed with madder root

Madder is one of the first dyes I discovered. It’s grown around the world and the roots are used for a range of orange and red dyes. It’s a great dye for both colour-fastness and depth of colour. I previously assumed all natural dyes were light and pale (and many can be) but the first time I saw madder-dyed fabric I was shocked that such a bright, beautiful red could be achieved from a plant.

In terms of sustainability, I love dyes that utilise food waste – it can be used for another purpose before being thrown away! I’ve personally used yellow onion skins for lovely golden yellow shades and red onion skins can also be used. Avocado pits and skins are also used as dyes and are a great way to utilize food scraps – would you ever assume that the dark green avocado skins and brown pits would give you a soft pink dye?

Another surprising food waste dye is pomegranate peels, which instead of the assumed pinks and reds actually produce shades of yellows and browns. You can see my pomegranate-dyed tank from Sustain here.

Scarf dyed with indigo
Ayurvedically-dyed indigo scarf

Finally we have to talk about indigo, which has such a beautiful process and a rich history of being used around the world. Even though most people know of indigo dye thanks to denim, the process of naturally-dyeing with indigo is really interesting. Indigo actually isn’t soluble in water, so it requires a reduced vat where the oxygen has been lowered (there are various ways to do this, some more sustainable than others – Sustain for example uses a natural sugar method). When the blue indigo is in the reduced vat it becomes a beautiful green. Fabric added to the vat also turns green, however when it’s removed and makes contact with the air the oxygen changes the indigo back to it’s original insoluble state and you see the fabric magically change from green to blue. This reaction is also what binds the indigo to the fabric for long-lasting colour. Unlike other dyes where leaving it in the dye bath deepens the colour, the blue of indigo is darkened with each dip into the dye vat – allowing this process to happen over and over.

You can see some of the colour changing in this video

Traditional Techniques

Ayurvedically-dyed shorts from Sustain
Ayurvedically-dyed shorts

There are so many incredible dyeing and surface design techniques used around the world that I would need many posts to cover them (but I hope to talk about more traditional techniques in the future!) however one that Sustain incorporates in some of their pieces is Ayurvedic dyeing. This is a process where plants and herbs with known benefits and medical properties (often related to the skin) are used to dye with. Part of the process includes keeping temperatures low to preserve these plant properties. Sustain partners with a company in India who uses these traditional Ayurvedic techniques with beneficial plant combinations like acacia, neem, turmeric, asparagus, cinnamon, geranium, holy basil, Thai ginger, and many more.

Especially if you have very sensitive skin and have had issues with clothing or dyes, these Ayurvedic dyes or undyed, organic clothing are great to look into.

I hope this post has given you a little look into the beautiful world of natural dyes. While synthetic dyes play an major role in the fashion industry, I love that within the slow fashion movement, natural dyes are still being utilized and traditional techniques are being preserved.

A huge thank you to Sustain for sponsoring this post and allowing me to share some of my love and excitement about natural dyes – they will always play an important role in my slow fashion journey.

Check out Sustain’s lovely naturally dyed (and undyed) pieces here.


Eco-Friendly Date Ideas

“Green” Date Ideas 💚

In celebration of Valentines Day, here are some eco-friendly ways to spend time with your special someone. Personally I much prefer spending time together than giving gifts, and not only are these great lower-impact dates but they also can be very affordable!

Huge thank you to the My Green Closet community for helping with this and sharing some of their date ideas 💕

1. Take a Walk Together

This was the most popular idea and I also love going on walks.

Johanna suggests a “walk in the forest or nature and a picnic” – I think it’s so romantic to have a picnic in a lovely location. Lisa also adds you can walk to a destination you both enjoy, “we will take walks with the end goal of getting ice cream or hot cocoa (bring your reusable mugs or any other reusable items for use of course–maybe even purchase a reusable travel mug or ice cream bowl for your sweetheart to take on the walking date if they don’t have one)” or you can “walk to the library to pick up movies to watch together”. For another nature walk, Jess suggests “how about visiting a local park or nature conversation center?”

Eco-Friendly Date Ideas

2. Go Treasure Hunting

My husband and I really enjoy wandering through antique stores and flea markets. Sometimes we have something we’re looking for but we also just enjoy wandering and looking at all the old and interesting things.

3. Enjoy a Lower-Impact Dinner

Going out for dinner is a classic date night (and definitely my go-to) but you can make it greener by choosing organic, plant-based, or local “farm-to-table” restaurants.

For Lauren’s date they’re going to a restaurant “that has an organic food and wine menu, and they don’t use plastic either, and they support local growers 😊”. Kylee suggests “Supporting a really lovely local restaurant that uses season and local ingredients” and as another alternative Jailyn had the idea of “instead of going out for an overpriced meal, donate two dinners to a homeless shelter and have a quiet, romantic dinner at home.”

I also love trying a new plant-based recipe and cooking it at home together.

Eco-Friendly Date Ideas

4. Give Back

A wonderful, fulfilling way to spend time together is giving back to your community. You could volunteer for an organization you support, or maybe join a local park or beach clean-up.

5. Learn Something New

If there’s a topic you’re both interested in, you could attend a talk, tour, or take a course. Kylee also suggests checking out an exhibit at “an art gallery or museum” or “watching an eco-centric documentary over a home-cooked “guilty pleasure” meal”.

Eco-Friendly Date Ideas

6. Play a Game

Playing a card or board games can be a great at-home date, or see if there’s a local board game cafe you can go to and try some new games.

Games are pretty easy to find secondhand or borrow from friends!

7. Listen to some Live Music

Head to a local venue, (ideally with local beers on tap!) and check out a new or favourite band/musician. If you prefer a chill night or dancing until your feet hurt, there’s probably a show for you.

Stephanie also suggests “seeing local bands in eco-friendly pubs or restaurants” and it’s a wonderful way to support artists as well!

8. Sleep under the Stars

Definitely for the warmer months, but I love an unplugged camping night. Pack up some snacks, blankets and a tent and head to a local campground, or camp in your own backyard!

Eco-Friendly Date Ideas

Thanks to everyone who contributed their ideas to this post and if you have any other eco-friendly date ideas please share them in the comments!


Tidying Up Responsibly

After Marie Kondo’s hit Netflix show Tidying Up launched this year, people around the world have been asking themselves if their stuff “sparks joy” and decluttering the items that don’t. While I love that the show has inspired people to think about their stuff and what they actually need and love, and personally I’ve experienced so many benefits of decluttering and being more mindful of my possessions, I think there’s a missing element of how to get rid of all the stuff in a responsible way.

Often people’s first response is to trash it as it’s the easiest and fastest way to get rid of things, but obviously this creates a ton of unnecessary waste. Thrift stores have seen an uptick in donations which might seem like a great thing (if you’re an avid thrifter get out there and enjoy it!), but actually comes with a series of issues as thrift stores and charity shops already get way more donations than they can sell.

Donating isn’t always “Good”

I’d like to clarify this because I don’t want to give the wrong impression – donating your unused stuff instead of throwing it away is definitely the way to go, but let’s look at ways you can do this more responsibly. People often feel that by donating their clothes and home goods to thrift stores they are doing something altruistic and helping others when this might not be the result.

The reality is thrift stores get piles of cheap, fast fashion clothing which no one wants to buy. If you can get a $5 top brand new, are you likely to buy the same top for $3 used? Also with cheap clothing often comes quality issues. A lot of donated clothing doesn’t even make it onto the floor and ultimately only about 25% of donated items actually get sold.

So what happens to the other 75%? They might be turned into rags, some end up in the landfill, but most clothes seem to get shipped to other countries. Africa has become a huge market for used clothing and some countries are fighting back, claiming that it’s damaging their local apparel economy. A few countries including Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda have attempted to ban used clothing imports to try and grow their own textile industry however the US hit back hard, threatening to impose tariffs. As a result Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda backed down from their ban. Rwanda however is moving forward and plans for a total ban by the end of 2019.

Another issue with this system is we are essentially selling our garbage to someone else. Clothing is packaged and sold in large bales, then the purchaser goes through and sorts out what they can sell, but what about the rest? I couldn’t find detailed information about what happens to it but I assume it most likely ends up in a landfill.

How can you donate better?

Make sure everything is clean and in good condition. If you wouldn’t wear/use it, it’s better to recycle and not donate it. Sorting out unusable items at donation centres requires time, resources, and energy and it might just end up in the trash anyway, so only donate good quality, good condition, saleable items.

Check with shelters, charities, and other local organisations who might want your stuff. It’s really important to contact them first though as most of these organisations only need specific items. Don’t just drop stuff off and make them then deal with things they can’t use as this ends up costing the charity time and sometimes money.

Do some research into any charities, thrift shops, and organizations you’re donating to. Do you support their causes? Organizations should be transparent about what they do with donations – are they given to local charities, sold, etc and what happens to items they can’t use/sell? It’s especially important to look into the charities with clothing donation bins as some of these have been found to be fakes.

Consider selling instead

Selling your clothes and household goods can actually be a great way to ensure the item goes to someone who will use it. You can use local buy/sell sites or groups, sell through consignment stores, or through online marketplaces.

This can be a great way to make some money back or you can donate the money you made instead. Donating funds to support your favourite organizations can be a lot more helpful than donating stuff as it gives them the flexibility to do/buy exactly what they need.

How else can you get rid of your stuff?

See if any friends or family members want your things. An easy way to do this is post what you’re getting rid of on social media and see if there are any takers. This way you know it’s going to someone who will use it. You can also see if there are any local Freecycle groups where you can give away stuff.

If you’re really into tidying up you might not want to bring anything new into your closet but if you’re getting rid of clothes and possibly also looking to add some pieces to your wardrobe, a clothing swap can be a really fun and sustainable way to update your closet. Invite friends to bring clothes they no longer want and make an event of it! Although be sure to also have a plan for any leftovers.

If you’re crafty you can also look into some upcycle projects. Pinterest, youtube, and blogs have endless project ideas – just make sure it’s something you will actually use/wear.


Anything that is broken, in poor condition, used up, or unsalable should be recycled instead of donated. Depending on the product and where you live there are different options:

  1. Check if the brand has a take-back program.
  2. Look into local recycling facilities and what they accept. If they don’t take certain items like textiles ask if they know places that do.
  3. Do a little research – if I ever have items I’m not sure about recycling, I always do a quick search “How to recycle _______”, sometimes you get some good tips or find organizations that will take the item for recycling.
  4. Check out TerraCycle as they recycle many items that recycling facilities won’t take.

After the Tidy Up

Something else very important with the whole decluttering process is making sure you don’t just re-accumulate the stuff.

First, enjoy your new space! Hopefully you will get some of the wonderful benefits of a tidier home and closet – less stress, easier to find things, only having items that you use and enjoy, etc. Recognizing and remembering the benefits you experienced will help with maintaining that space.

Consider your shopping habits or how you got all the stuff that doesn’t “spark joy” in the first place. Do you shop for fun or stress relief? Easily get tempted by sales? Make a lot of impulse purchases? Changing shopping habits can be very difficult but trying to find your routines and triggers can really help with making those changes.

Try implementing rules for new purchases. Some people find this really helpful to change their shopping habits. The “One In One Out” rule is pretty popular – so in order to bring something new in you have to be willing to let go of something else. Other people will wait a certain time, like a week, after seeing something they want before they can buy it – this helps you to think and make sure it’s something you really want. I’ve also seen people impose a strict budget which not only helps you save money but also means you really have to think about what you do buy.

Whether you find rules work for you or not, something that’s always helpful when faced with a new purchase is to ask yourself these questions before buying.

Do you have any other tips for tidying up and getting rid of stuff responsibly?

Read some more Marie Kondo/Tidying Up Posts from other conscious bloggers:

Sustainable Activewear Brands

Activewear can have a larger environmental impact than our every day clothing due to all the synthetics used as well as the fact that we’re harder on sportswear so it can get worn out quicker. It’s especially important to look for durable, sustainable, and ethical activewear, which I have collected for you!

We have sustainable leggings and sportswear brands based in USA, Canada, Europe, UK and Australia.

Let’s get those muscles moving 💪

Please note: this post contains some affiliate links
Wearing Tripulse pocket leggings and Wolven sports bra


This Swedish brand is taking an innovative approach to functional activewear and sustainability – their products are made from Tencel and instead of regular spandex/elastane they use Roica V550 which is biodegradable and certified cradle-to-cradle. They also have good transparency and certifications for their manufacturing and supply chain.

Watch my review of their pocket leggings.

Size range: XS – XXXL

Values: sustainable materials, Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified fabrics, made in a GOTS certified factory in Portugal

Ordering: based in Sweden, ships international

Image credit: Wolven


A swim and yoga/active brand with bright prints and colours. Wolven is great for unique kaleidoscope prints and soft recycled fabrics. Their collection is made in China and LA (read more about their manufacturing) from OEKO-TEX certified recycled PET and modal.

Watch my review of their racerback bra.

Size range: XS – XL

Values: recycled materials, Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified fabrics, carbon neutral, gives back

Availability: based in USA, ships internationally

Eco activewear - Girlfriend Collective
Image credit: Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective

Known for their solid colour sets, Girlfriend Collective has a collections of bras, leggings, and shorts made from recycled PET (plastic bottles). Their fabrics are made in Taiwan and they manufacture in Vietnam in an SA8000 certified factory.

They’re also have the most inclusive size range I’ve found from XXS-6X!

Size range: XXS – 6X

Values: recycled materials, Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified fabrics, SA8000 certified factory

Availability: based in USA, also ships to UK, Australia, and Canada

Image credit: Miakoda


A NYC based and locally made loungewear brand, Miakoda has a selection of pieces great for yoga, working out, or just as comfy day-wear. I especially love my leggings from them, the fabric is super soft and the cut is really comfortable. All their pieces are made with plant-based fabrics using blends of bamboo, organic cotton, lyocell and soy.

Watch my review of their leggings.

Size range: XS – 4X

Values: sustainable materials, low waste, vegan brand, made in NYC

Availability: based in USA, ships international

Image credit: Organic Basics

Organic Basics

While not solely an active brand Organic Basics has a great selection of yoga and workout basics. Their active line is made from recycled materials and features a silver treatment to reduce odor.

Size range: XS – XL

Values: sustainable materials, certified factories (various certifications)

Availability: based in Denmark, ships international – they have both an EU site and US site

Image credit: Miakoda


One of our family’s favourite brands, Tentree also has an active line including sports bras, leggings, shorts, joggers, and tops made from recycled materials. Their name represents their commitment to planting 10 trees for every purchase and they have a variety of other sustainability initiatives as well.

Size range: XS – XXL

Values: sustainable materials, recycled materials, B Corp certified, public code of conduct for manufacturing, gives back

Availability: based in Canada, ships to North America, EU, UK, and some international

Eco activewear - People Tree
Image credit: People Tree

People Tree

Ethical fashion pioneer People Tree also has an active line! The have a pretty basic collection of leggings, tanks and tees, but everything is organic and fair trade certified.

Size range: 8 – 16 (UK)

Values: Soil Association & Fair Trade certified organic cotton, fair trade factories, transparent production

Availability: based in the UK, ships internationally

Eco activewear - PACT
Image credit: PACT


PACT has affordable prices and solid credentials – many (although not all) of their basics are made with GOTS certified organic cotton in Fair Trade USA certified factories. It does look like their yoga line might have been discontinued however they are still great for leggings, hoodies, tanks and other basics for working out.

Size range: XS – XXL

Values: GOTS certified organic cotton, made in Fair Trade certified factories

Availability: based in USA, also ships to Canada

Image credit: Groceries

Groceries Apparel

While not specifically an active brand, Groceries Apparel does have a nice selection of clothing which could also be great for yoga and exercise. They manufacture in California using a variety of sustainable materials, and even some natural dyes!

Size range: XS – XL

Values: sustainable materials, made in-house, made in USA

Availability: based in USA, ships internationally


Outdoor recreation apparel that is inclusive and sustainable. Alder believes in helping equip people to get outside and have fun, with clothing specially designed for hiking, camping, climbing and other outdoor activities. They uses sustainable and recycled materials

Size range: XS – 6X

Values: sustainable materials, recycled materials, factory transparency

Availability: based in Canada, ships to Canada and US


A yoga and exercise brand from Germany with a wide range of unique styles and cuts. I especially like their tops with built-in bras and they always have a great selection of colours and prints. Mandala uses a variety of eco fabrics from certified organic cotton, to Tencel Lyocell, to recycled polyester, made by people paid fair wages, under fair working conditions in their factories in Turkey and Shanghai.

Size range: XS – XL

Values: sustainable materials, fair manufacturing standards (non-certified)

Availability: based in Germany, ships international

Image credit: Nube


Small collection of leggings and crop tops featuring prints from artist collaborations. Nube’s pieces are made in Los Angeles from recycled PET.

Size range: XS – XL

Values: recycled materials, low impact dyeing, plastic-free packaging, made in USA

Availability: based in USA, only ship within USA

Image credit: Elle Evans

Elle Evans

Mainly know for their swimwear, Elle Evans also has a line of athletic leggings and tops. Everything is made to order from ECONYL® which is regenerated nylon often made from things like recycled fishing nets.

Size range: XXS – XXXL

Values: recycled materials, made in-house, made to order, low waste

Availability: based in Australia, ships internationally


London based, Asquith has a range of lounge and yoga wear made from bamboo, organic cotton, and Bambor® which is their own bamboo and organic cotton blend. They manufacture in a GOTS certified, family-run factory in Turkey.

Size range: XS – XXL

Values: sustainable materials, made in GOTS certified factory in Turkey

Availability: based in UK, ships internationally

Looking for running shoes? Check out my sustainable shoe roundup.

PS. Remember to also never use fabric softener with your athletic clothing!


Updated April 5, 2022

Why it’s SO Hard to Find Clothes that Fit

A few months ago I posted a video about measuring and sizes and it included a link to a survey. I wanted to get some insight into the mystery of clothing sizes and fit and have actual data on what sizes and shapes people are. By far the most common complaint I hear is that people have trouble finding clothing that fits, so I was hoping the survey might show me what common fit issues there are and maybe I could have some stats that would be helpful to show brands where improvements with sizing and fit could be made.

First, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who filled out the survey! You input has been incredibly helpful.

It’s taken me quite a while to wade through all the numbers and to be honest the scope and variables of this kind of data collection were a lot more complex than I initially anticipated. However I found it really interesting and also was quite surprised by what I learned.

Housekeeping and info about the survey

The survey received 955 complete responses, I was hoping for 1000 but still think it’s a decent sample size.

Since the survey was mostly filled out by my audience (although it was also shared on social media and through some other ethical bloggers). It’s important to acknowledge that there might be some bias with the results because I assume people who are following fashion bloggers for clothing and brand recommendations are more likely to follow someone who is a similar age, speaks the sample language, maybe are from similar parts of the world, or maybe even has a similar body type to them so they can see how clothes might look. These are all speculative and of course we follow people for different reasons but it’s just good to note that this isn’t a totally random sample of people.

Also I think it’s very important to point out that the data was all self-reported. Taking measurements in particular can be difficult and even though I provided some instructions there was no control over how people were measuring themselves and therefore likely some variation and inconsistency with that.

Some basic demographics

The vast majority of respondents were 18-44 with the bulk of that falling in the 25-34 age range.

The respondents are also mostly from North America and Europe:

While I really appreciate the men that filled out the survey there unfortunately weren’t enough to have a good set of data so I just focused on women’s sizes for this project.

So what did I find?

Let’s start off with a more simple one…

Height – Petite vs Tall Sizes

One thing I was interested in was height and what percent of people usually wear petite or tall sizes. This chart shows the height distribution of respondents (in cm – sorry everyone who prefers inches but I work a lot better with centimetres so had to convert everything) and what portion wear petite or tall sizes. Typically petite sizes are for those under 160 cm although some also go up to 162 while tall sizes generally start at around 171 cm. However these sizes are mainly for limb length, so for example if you are a average height but have long legs and a short torso or the opposite you might still wear tall or petite sizes and I think that’s why we see some overlap.

Something I found interesting is there are slightly more taller people than petite people however more people wear petite sizes than tall sizes. Maybe this has to do with availability or how clothes are designed, but I found it interesting because I assumed it would be the opposite – since it’s possible to hem regular clothes for petites but you can’t add fabric for taller people.

Measurements & Sizes

This is the data I was really interested in. With my background in fashion design and pattern-making I’ve always used a “standard size guide” for drafting patterns which as far as I understand is based on quite old measurements. I was really curious how closely these measurements matched real people and also how closely the respondents fit into clothing brand’s size charts.

Everyone was asked what letter size(s) they usually wear and these fit relatively close to the way stores typically order sizes, with medium being the highest and tapering down from there (a standard curve), although compared to the survey data stores would likely order more larges and fewer smalls.

Although as I’ll explain shortly this graph isn’t totally accurate and this is also where things really got interesting.

Looking at the measurements (participants measured their bust, waist and hip) there was so much variety in sizes and shapes that it was very difficult to find commonalities and overlap to draw conclusions from. I basically had pages of measurements that really just illustrated how diverse and unique women’s bodies are.

One thing I wanted to do was see how easily people fit into brand’s sizes, so I decided to average the size ranges of 10 popular brands (I used a mix of regular and sustainable/ethical brands) to get my average size ranges. This on its own was interesting to see the variations from brand to brand – they were relatively close for the S-L range but then getting into plus sizes the variations were so drastic it was basically impossible to find a good average.

I then looked at how everyone’s measurements fit into this average size range and assigned a letter size to the bust, waist and hip measurements.

Something that I found incredibly interesting is only 23% of people are the same letter size across their 3 measurements (ie. M bust, M waist, M hips) and this is a generous percent as I also included people who are at the edge of the size range above or below (for example someone who is M bust, M waist and L hips but close to the bottom of the L size range I still included in this %). So this means at least 77% of people don’t fit a single letter size! Most people should be wearing different sizes for tops and bottoms, although even with that, often people’s waist and hips, or waist and bust are different sizes, which can cause fit issues, nevermind buying a fitted dress that needs to fit all measurements. I’ll talk later about some things you can do though!

how to measure bust

This is also a good time to highlight the fact that these are a VERY simplified set of measurements, we’re not taking into account things like torso length, bust point, shoulder width, upper hip/lower hip, neck size, thigh size etc. Even with the most simple measurements we could possibly have, there already is a ton of diversity with women’s bodies. Letter sizes are also more simplified than number sizes, so if there is this much of a difference in letter sizes than it must be even greater with number sizes. I of course expected there to be a lot of different shapes and sizes but was surprised at how different everyone actually is even with such basic measurements.

Something else I found really interesting is 27% of people fit a totally different size than they say they wear, and this is a very conservative estimate because I only included people who were significantly different in size than they said. Some of this might have to do with brands having variations in sizing, for example if your favourite brand fits really small or large, or people wanting tighter or looser fits, but I was still surprised at how high the percent of people wearing the “wrong” size is. I also didn’t find commonalities of people saying they wore larger or smaller sizes, for example there’s women who wear an M but fit in a XS size range and women who wear an M but fit in a XL size range.

In hindsight I should have added another question for clarification – asking if people purposely size up or down for fits they like, because I don’t know if a lot of people are doing that on purpose or if a lot of people don’t know what sizes they should be wearing.

Common Fit issues

The one commonality I did manage to find is many women have wider hips than clothing brands account for. The waist-to-hip ratio needs to be larger for a lot of women’s sizes and this was echoed with the question about what common fit issues people had – the biggest issues were hips fitting too small and waist fitting too big. Thighs fitting too small was also very high and also relates to the waist-to-hip ratio issue.

Everything thing else was relatively close with people needing certain areas larger or smaller, so it would be difficult for brands to make changes. Although offering different inseam options could potentially be helpful.

Something else that really needs to be talked about, especially in the ethical fashion space, is inclusive sizing. Many conscious brands only have a S-L range, or if you’re lucky a XS-XXL range. Based on the data I also found there is an under-served market in ethical fashion of about 11% of people who need size XXL or larger and 7% of people who need size XXS or smaller.

What can we Learn?

To be honest, going into this I hoped to come out with a list of recommendations and things brands can do to better serve the fit needs and sizes of their customers, and ideally a better size chart that more closely reflected people’s measurements. However what I learned is that clothing brands essentially have an impossible task, women’s bodies are just so different! And this was from only looking at the very simplest of measurements – while people might fit the bust/waist/hip they could have have broader shoulders, larger cups, longer arms, etc. Basically clothing perfectly fits almost no one.

I compared the “standard size” many brands use for their samples (this size is supposed to be the “average customer” and is used to grade up or down other sizes from) to the data and not a single person exactly fit the base size! 4 people (out of 950) were pretty close but it still blew my mind that no one actually fit the measurements which entire brand’s sizes are based off. Across all the sizes less than 1% of people exactly fit the base size measurements and yet this is the sizing the vast majority of brands use.

I tried to come up with a new size guide based on averages of the measurements I collected, and even that would still only fit a few people in each size properly – there is just too much variation to create proportions that fit most people.

After discovering this I was actually surprised to see over 25% say it was very easy or fairly easy to find clothing that fits. Although this is pretty close to the 23% of people who fit 1 size across their measurements and it still shows that about 75% of people have issues finding clothing that fits.

How easy people said it is to find clothing, 1 = Very Easy, 5 = Very Difficult

So what can brands do?

  • Utilize stretch in fabrics to fit a wider range of people – quality spandex/elastane is important so things don’t lose shape over time!
  • Focus on a niche market and designing for a specific body type instead of for everyone – use customer feedback and different fit models to develop fits.
  • Offer custom sizing or alterations.
  • Possibly try a larger waist-to-hip ratio as this seems to be a common fit issue people have.

However we also have to recognize that things like custom sizing cost a lot more and targeting a niche market really limits your audience so unfortunately this can be very difficult for small brands.

I would also recommend brands use a medium size as their base/sample size to grade from since that is the most common size.

Is it too much to expect clothing to fit off the rack?

I hate to say it, but yes.

We’re so different and yet we expect brands to make clothing for all of us. It’s also important to point out that this is a relatively new expectation, historically it was normal for everyone to get their clothing tailored, custom made, or do alterations themselves, but with the rise of fast fashion tailoring has been dying. With clothing that is so cheap and abundant we care less about how it fits and don’t want to spend extra money to get it tailored to our body. There also has been a huge rise in knit clothing and spandex because it allows clothing to fit a larger variety of people.

What can we as customers do?

  • Know your measurements and always compare your measurements to a brand’s size chart, don’t just go off what size you usually wear. (Also make sure you know how to properly measure yourself)
  • Fit your largest parts first! Since we learned most people wear different sizes based on their bust, waist and hip measurements it’s best to go with the larger size and have it taken in to fit the smaller areas.
    • Although this depends on the garment you’re thinking of buying – pay attention to what areas are most fitted, for example if you’re buying a dress with a fitted bodice and flared skirt the hip measurement doesn’t matter as much but you want to fit the bust and waist measurements.
  • Check if the garment is a knit (like jersey which naturally has some stretch) or a woven which has no stretch, or if there is any spandex or elastane. This will affect how the garment fits and will give you more flexibility with determining the size you need.
  • Find a tailor or learn to do alternations yourself. My biggest lesson from this project is how important tailoring and alternations can be for a good fit.


With all the variations in size and shapes it actually feels like a miracle that someone can walk into a store and find a piece that fits perfectly (although I’m pretty sure that miracle’s name is Spandex).

It’s easy to blame the clothing industry for not making clothes that fit, but after combing through all these measurements it seems basically impossible to create clothes that will even fit the majority of people. Fitting about 1/4 of people mostly well doesn’t actually seem so bad when you look at all the variation in our bodies.

I do think though that if we understand our shapes, proportions, and fits we like, then we can get better at finding the kind of cuts that fit and also know how we can alter things ourselves or with a tailor to get that “fits like a glove” garment.

If clothes off the rack don’t fit, we should never blame our bodies. I sadly hear this all the time – instead of “these pants are too small”, people often say (or think), “my butt is too big”. We shouldn’t be criticising ourselves when clothes don’t fit, it’s an issue with the clothes not you! This project really showed me how incredibly unique everyone is, of the 950+ participants the vast majority of people have completely individual measurements and at the very most share measurements with 1 or maybe 2 other people. I think that’s pretty incredible. We love to compare ourselves to others but I actually think it’s really freeing and empowering that everyone’s body is uniquely theirs!

I’m leaving this project with 4 main takeaways:

  • Why don’t see more of this incredible diversity of bodies in media and product photography?! This need to change, seeing clothing on one body type helps almost no one.
  • There’s definitely some frustration from the designer/pattern-maker side of me at how incredibly difficult it is to design and make clothes that fit well. The only real solution is custom sizing but that unfortunately isn’t realistic for most brands and customers.
  • This project really highlighted for me how terrible it is that we’re taught to view the things that make our body unique as “flaws” which should be hidden and to wear “flattering” clothes to try and create the illusion that our bodies are different.
  • It’s amazing how unique we all are and horrible how critical I and so many other people can be of their bodies. Nothing is “wrong”, “weird” or “different” – everyone’s body is different! While it might make trying on clothes frustrating I think that uniqueness is something we should celebrate 💕

I’d also love to hear what you learned or took away from this!

30 Ideas for a Greener New Year

posted in Lifestyle 8

Heading into a new year I always think it’s great to have a mix of goals/resolutions including personal, career, relationship, and also things you can do to reduce your impact. So here are some ideas of things you might want to try this new year. Also check out last year’s post for more ideas!

Eco Resolution Ideas

  1. Switch to cloth napkins
  2. Start a compost or find somewhere you can compost
  3. Ditch the dryer sheets and fabric softener
  4. Make a habit of bringing reusable containers when you eat out for any leftovers
  5. Stop your junk mail delivery
  6. Plant pollinator friendly flowers in your garden on your balcony
  7. Grow your own veggies and herbs
  8. Ask for no receipt when shopping
  9. Save paper by borrowing books from the library, getting them used, or listening to audio books
  10. Turn off computers and other electronics when not in use
  11. Support local farmers and makers by shopping from local markets
  12. Shop your closet before buying new clothes
  13. Save plastic bottles by making your own salad dressings
  14. Used waxed cloth wraps instead of plastic wrap
  15. Get your bills sent electronically
  16. Keep some reusable cutlery in your bag to avoid the plastic ones
  17. Learn to mend your clothes or how about learning to sew your own clothes?
  18. Get digital copies of newspapers and magazines you read
  19. Shop less “just for fun” and replace shopping with other activities
  20. Borrow and lend tools or other equipment that isn’t used often with friends and neighbours – there are even community groups on Facebook for doing this!
  21. Keep lights off during the day and use the natural sunlight
  22. Learn to can, pickle, or freeze foods
  23. Turn down your hot water tank a little bit
  24. Install a low-flow shower head
  25. Get some indoor plants which are good at air purification.
  26. Save water by watering your plants with the water used to boil veggies or pasta (when it’s cool!)
  27. Try to repair or get secondhand electronics first
  28. Shop with a list to help prevent impulse purchases
  29. Wear sweaters and use blankets in the winter and turn your heat down a bit
  30. Share some of the sustainable things you’re doing to help and inspire others!

I’d love to hear what your conscious resolutions are for the new year!

My lovely friend Kaméa Chayne from the Green Dreamer Podcast makes beautiful (and sustainable!) planners where you can not only keep track of your days but it also promotes self-care and conscious living, plus has space and prompts for goal setting and reflection.

Check out last year’s post for 30 more resolution ideas!

What are your resolutions?

Winter Capsule Wardrobe

Since moving back to Canada I’ve had to re-think my capsule wardrobes a bit with the new climate. The biggest difference from where I was living in Germany is that winters here are a lot longer and colder. Into November we were already very much in winter so I decided it was time to switch my wardrobe at the beginning of December. Project 333, which I started my capsule with, breaks the seasons into 3 months each but in a very cold climate I think it needs to be adapted it to at least 4, maybe even 5 months for winter.

My goal for this capsule was to have good layering options. We live in an apartment building which can actually be quite warm (we get a lot of heat from the neighbouring units and direct sunlight) so depending on the day a t-shirt might be fine inside but then I have to layer up to go out or into the evening. I didn’t include any under-layers in the capsule since they’re not really part of outfits but I still need them, so if I’m going to be outside a while I’ll layer leggings or a fitted tank or tee under my outfit for extra warmth and I made sure the pieces I chose can work layered over.

Winter Capsule Wardrobe

The Pieces in my Winter Capsule Wardrobe:

(please note: this list contains some affiliate links)
  1. Cropped Ikat tank – Matter Prints
  2. Velvet bodysuit – Underprotection (read a brand review)
  3. Grey linen tee – secondhand
  4. Navy tee – Lanius
  5. Grey knit top – People Tree
  6. Black top – Boody
  7. Striped oversized shirt – secondhand
  8. Long shirt – ArmedAngels
  9. Red knit top – old
  10. Blue cropped sweater – DIY/handknit
  11. Icelandic sweater – secondhand
  12. Grey/brown sweater – Izzy Lane
  13. Rust cardigan – Eileen Fisher
  14. Beige cardigan – old
  15. Plaid draped shirt – secondhand
  16. Check tunic – People Tree
  17. Grey tee dress – Kowtow
  18. Black dress – People Tree
  19. Draped wool dress – secondhand
  20. Striped knit skirt  – secondhand from thredUP
  21. Linen skirt – NotPerfectLinen (read more about my love of linen)
  22. Cropped wool pants – secondhand
  23. Ikat pants – Matter Prints
  24. Dark jeans – Mud Jeans
  25. Black pants – People Tree
  26. Plaid coat – secondhand from thredUP
  27. Fair Isle mittens  – market/handknit
  28. Navy hat (touque) – Sitka
  29. Paisley scarf – secondhand
  30. Colourblock knit scarf – DIY/handknit
  31. Beige purse – Angela & Roi 
  32. Backpack – Matt & Nat (please read why I no longer support Matt & Nat)

Winter Capsule Wardrobe items

Even though I’ve been doing capsule wardrobes for years now, I always try to learn from them so I can improve the next one. Especially with any big life changes, like moving to a different climate, it’s important to assess your capsule and learn what works and doesn’t work, because something that worked well before might not any longer. I think I have a pretty good selection of items but I’m also going to be flexible if I feel the need to swap or adapt the capsule to work better for Canadian winters.

Since it’s the holidays also be sure to check out my green gift guide! 

Giving Quality Over Quantity

Our consumerist society is amplified during the holidays and unfortunately it seems like consumption has become the focus of the season. Events require new outfits, festive-ness is measured by how many decorations you have, it seems like parties have to feature a Pinterest-worthy spread, and marketing tells us the bigger the pile of presents the more happiness there will be. 🤔 I’m not here for it.
Now maybe you think I’m a Grinch but I actually really love the holidays! I just think we need to refocus a bit.

One shift that is incredibly important is moving from gift giving focused around quantity to quality. This is not only a lot more sustainable (we really don’t need more gifts ending up in the landfill in a few months) but I’ll bet it also helps with that holiday shopping stress.

Holiday spending is expected to increase this year and consumers surveyed in the US say they’re planning to spend an average of $1,250 each on gifts. Imagine the impact if even just a portion of this spending was shifted to high-quality, consciously made products that will last years or a lifetime, instead of disposable, cheap plastic goods with questionable origins.

This holiday season let’s try to focus on giving quality over quantity!

(this post is kindly sponsored by BuyMeOnce)

One store making it easier to buy better is BuyMeOnce. I’m exited to be partnering with them on this post because I not only think they have a great selection of gifts but I love their mission to “find the longest lasting products” and not only that, they also prioritise ethical manufacturing and sustainability in their selections.

All of the products they recommend have been thoroughly researched. They start by asking these questions:

  1. Do the materials and craftsmanship make this product more durable than its competitors?
  2. Do customer and independent reviews confirm the product’s durability?
  3. Is the product made ethically, and, if possible, out of sustainable materials?
  4. Does the company offer aftercare?
  5. Is the product’s design timeless?

If it passes, they then test it out themselves and sometimes they’ll also bring in experts to weigh in. A lot of their listed products also come with lifetime guarantees so even if something does happen it can be repaired or replaced.


Ideas for quality, long-lasting gifts

For the music lover

Tech is a tricky area to shop consciously – there are always new or improved versions coming out and it’s an industry notorious for planned obsolescence, which is when companies deliberately design products to wear out, become outdated in a few years, or products are designed to prevent repairs. So I was pretty surprised to see BuyMeOnce carrying a speaker. This Minirig 2 portable Bluetooth speaker is made in the UK which is really rare to see and is designed to be taken apart, so if something breaks it can easily be repaired, or if technology improves individual parts can be replaced instead of needing to buy a whole new speaker. Also, it can be coupled with a second speaker and/or subwoofer for improved sound that can fill a larger space.

This speaker has an incredible 80 hour battery life so it’s great for taking to the park, on roadtrips, camping, or travelling.

Silicone baking mats, zero waste


Know someone who loves to cook or bake?

Help them reduce waste and save time cleaning up sticky or burnt-on baking sheets by using silicone baking mats. These reusable mats come in 2 sizes and can also be cut to fit your trays or cookie sheets. They’re easy to use and a great zero waste replacement for foil or parchment paper. Plus the brand offers a lifetime guarantee.

I’ve ordered a set for us and am probably also going to get one for my parents so they can skip the aluminium foil. 🙂


Quality cast iron cookware can last generations and actually gets better with age as the seasoning builds up. I love cast iron because it’s super versatile, you can use it on the stove, in the oven, on a barbecue, or even on a campfire and you also don’t have to worry about potentially harmful Teflon coatings.

This Finex skillet not only is beautifully designed but it’s made in America, comes pre-seasoned, and the unique octagonal design allows for easy pouring. They also give you the choice to include a lid, and for extra quality assurance it has a lifetime guarantee.


On the go gifts

This laptop case can make a great gift for students or professionals.

It’s from Elvis & Kresse who have a line of bags made from durable, reclaimed materials such as decommissioned fire hoses, printing blankets (pictured), and leather off-cuts, and the bag is lined with reclaimed military-grade parachute silk. Designed to last, they also offer lifetime repairs on all their bags.


A product which I also featured in my green gift guide is Lüks Linen’s Peshtemal towels. Turkish towels are amazing for travel because they’re lightweight, compact, and dry quickly. I also love how versatile they are because they don’t look like a traditional towel you can wear them as a scarf, shawl, or sarong, and they can also be used at the beach, for a picnic, or as throw blanket. They’re incredibly practical for travelling, camping, spas/saunas, the gym, or just everyday home use.

Lüks Linen also offers a 20 year replace or repair guarantee on their products.


For little ones on the go there’s a wooden balance bike from Wishbone which has been designed to grow with your child. The frame and seat height are adjustable so they can use it from 18 months up to 5 years! The bike has also been designed to be 100% repairable so if any piece is damaged a replacement part can be purchased.

These bikes teach kids how to steer and balance and from personal experience are a great way to go on walks with kids and not have to carry them after 10 minutes. Plus the company also uses natural materials and non-toxic glues and finishes to keep children safe.

Everyday gifts

You might be thinking there’s no way jeans can have a lifetime guarantee, but these jeans from Blackhorse Lane Ateliers not only are designed to be good quality with features like hidden rivets and tacked stress-points but they come with free repairs for life! So if they get ripped or worn you can send them in to be patched and stitched up, how cool is that? Made in London from 100% organic cotton, selvedge raw denim these are the kind of jeans you can completely break in, mould to your body, and are sure to become the go-to pair.


A brand I was thrilled to discover is Swedish Stockings and I’m happy to see they are BuyMeOnce approved too! Stockings are unfortunately not going to last a lifetime, and because of this they create a lot of waste. Swedish Stockings however are tackling this by using recycled nylon and producing the stockings in zero waste and solar powered factories. If the tights do get damaged or wear out, they have a take-back program to recycle the stockings so they’re not contributing to more landfill waste.


Another gift idea, if you know someone who is also interested in shopping and living more consciously is the book A Life Less Throwaway by BuyMeOnce founder Tara Button. The book talks about why we tend to shop and over-spend, why products are no longer designed to last, how we can better take care of the things we have, how we can change consumerist habits, and how we can build a life around things that are meaningful and fulfilling instead of just accumulating more stuff.


There are so many ways to give quality gifts this holiday season, you can also give the gift of experiences and spending quality time together. Treat your friends or family to a nice dinner or activity they really enjoy.


This holiday season let’s take a step back, I don’t think we need to completely give up gift giving, but maybe consider if the piles of disposable presents are really necessary and if there’s a way to focus on quality over quantity gift giving.




Why You Should Stop Using Fabric Softeners & Dryer Sheets

posted in clothing care 63

Let’s cut right to it: you shouldn’t use fabric softeners. They’re bad for your clothes (especially athletic wear, which we’ll get into), your health, and the environment. It’s just not worth it!

Fabric softeners became popular in the mid-1900s because the dyes, detergents, and dryers were harsh on clothes, making them rough and scratchy. However, with better technology, fabrics, and laundry products, fabric softeners are no longer necessary, yet are still very commonly used and most people don’t think twice about it.

How fabric softeners and dryer sheets work

Fabric softeners typically come in 2 different forms: a liquid used in the washing machine or a coated sheet used in the dryer. They are designed to prevent static, help with wrinkles, add a scent, and make the materials feel softer. They do this by covering the fabric in a thin, lubricating film. This coating prevents static by making the garments slippery to reduce friction, and the softener adds a positive charge to neutralise the negative static charge. It also helps to separate the fibres, making things like towels fluffier. Additionally, they are typically scented and designed so the scent will remain in the fabric. Sounds nice, so what’s the problem?

Why are fabric softeners bad for your clothes?

You might have noticed on some tags, especially with performance clothing, they specifically say NOT to use fabric softeners. This is because the waxy coating can interfere with moisture-wicking and absorption properties. Athletic fabrics are designed to wick moisture from your skin to the outside of the fabric, where it can evaporate, but if you cover the fabric in a waxy coating it’s like plugging up a drinking straw and blocks the ability to move moisture. The coating also builds up over time, making it harder for water and detergent to permeate the fabric, so odours and stains are more difficult to get out and become sealed in.

I get questions about why workout clothes can still have a smell even after washing, and my first response is always to ask if the person uses fabric softeners or dryer sheets, which is almost always the problem.

Although the fabrics might feel extra soft and nice at first, this buildup of fatty film overtime makes fabrics less absorbent. This is especially a problem with towels, which obviously need to absorb a lot of moisture, as well as bed linens and underwear/base-layers which absorb sweat for comfort.

Fabric softeners can also stain your clothes. Liquid softeners can occasionally leave bluish or grey stain spots on garments, and overtime the waxy buildup can also cause yellowing on whites.

Finally, they can leave residue in your machines — which isn’t good for the machines — and also means you can get fabric softener residue on clothes even when you’re not using it in that load.

They’re also not particularly safe…

For you

One of the biggest issues with fabric softeners is that they contain “fragrance,” a substance or mix of substances — natural or synthetic — that imparts a scent. The ingredients of fragrance don’t have to be disclosed, and there’s the potential they can contain allergens and toxic ingredients such as carcinogens, neurotoxicants and reproductive toxins. Transparency is an issue with cleaning products in general. In some countries like Canada and the United States, the ingredients of cleaning products don’t have to be completely disclosed, so it’s not just what’s in the fragrance that is a mystery.

A major ingredient in a lot of fabric softeners is Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QACs or “quats”), which ease static but can cause skin and respiratory irritation. Studies of medical professionals who used cleaning products with quats, which are also anti-bacterial, found an increase in asthma in those who were regularly exposed to them. The widespread use of quats in household products is also linked to the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In addition, studies have found that liquid fabric softeners can actually make fabrics more flammable, which no one wants.

Some of the most popular fabric softeners, such as Bounce dryer sheets and liquid Downy fabric softener receive grade D from the Environmental Working Group because of toxic ingredients.

For the environment

QACs don’t easily biodegrade, especially in water, and can be toxic to aquatic organisms such as fish and algae. This is obviously extra worrisome, since as a laundry product they go directly into our water systems.

Fabric softeners can contain petroleum or palm-oil-derived ingredients. They also might not be cruelty-free or vegan — an ingredient found in some fabric softeners is dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride, which is derived from animal fat.

I also wonder if the coating and synthetic compounds in fabric softeners affect the biodegradability of clothing but haven’t been able to find any studies on it.

What are some fabric softener alternatives?

Air-dry your clothes — it helps reduce static. I also really encourage air-drying because it saves a lot of energy (and money) and really increases the longevity of your clothes. There’s less wear-and-tear, colour fading, and shrinkage from heat. Plus, dryers break down spandex/elastane faster, causing your clothes to become misshapen, and they cause microscopic damage to the fabric. Just look in the lint tray — those are all fibres that have been broken off or pulled from the fabric! Air-dried clothes will definitely feel less soft than using a dryer, especially if you’re used to fabric softeners, but you can try putting them in the dryer for just a few minutes to fluff them up if that’s a problem.

If you NEED to use a dryer, wool dryer balls can not only help soften your clothes but also cut down on drying time, which saves energy. I’ve also heard of people adding essential oils to their dryer balls for some scent, but make sure you don’t use too much and stain your clothes, and use oils that are okay with heat. The dryer balls can also help with static.

Don’t over-dry your clothes, because the dryness is what causes static, so taking clothes out when they’ve just dried will really help reduce static.

Synthetic fabrics tend to be the ones with major static issues, so keeping your natural and synthetic garments separate helps with static, as fluffy natural fibres rubbing against the synthetics builds up static charge. It’s also a great idea to wash your synthetics in a Guppyfriend Bag, which not only keeps them from rubbing against your other clothes but also catches the plastic microfibres they release into the water.

Another option I hear a lot about is adding a quarter or half cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle as a natural fabric softener (although be sure not to use with bleach). Again, I’ve never found the need for my clothes to be softer but if you’ve tried this I’d be interested in how it works!

As with any changes it takes some time to adjust, but everyone I know who has stopped using fabric softeners said they were just doing it out of habit or thought you were “supposed to,” and having stopped won’t ever go back.

Remove fabric softener from clothing

Can you remove fabric softener already in clothes?

I tried a few things on my secondhand leggings which were full of fabric softener:

  • I washed them a couple times but this didn’t do much.
  • I tried soaking them in water and castile soap for a few hours and this definitely made an impact, although I could still smell the fabric softener.
  • The most recent thing I’ve tried is soaking them in some vinegar and water. This also seemed to help a bit, but the smell is still faintly there.
  • I’ve also been hanging them up on a drying rack to air out as much as possible.

While I have gotten rid of most of the smell (and it doesn’t give me a headache anymore just wearing them) it’s difficult to say if I’m only removing the fragrance or the actual fabric softener coating. The leggings still have a slightly waxy feel to them but it’s hard to gauge if any progress has been made. Hopefully as I keep wearing and washing them I can get rid of more of the softener but I don’t know if they’ll ever be back to the way they were originally.

If you have any other tips or suggestions for removing fabric softener please leave them in the comments!

Updated Jan 19, 2022

naturally dyed shirts

Clothing Dyed with Plants?

(this post is kindly sponsored by Sustain)

I love natural dyeing, it not only is a beautiful process but it can be a lot safer for us and the environment. So I was thrilled when Kat from Sustain reached out to share her slow fashion brand that uses all natural dyes. It’s very hard to find brands even in the sustainable fashion world that naturally dye their fabrics. I think part of the reason is that customers and the industry are so used to synthetic dyes, some people don’t even know natural dyes are an option and there are misconceptions that they fade quickly, discolour, or won’t hold up (which we’ll get more into).

So how does natural dyeing work?

Dyes can be obtained from minerals, bugs, and plants – they can be extracted from roots, leaves, bark, wood, fruits, flowers, and fungi, even food waste like certain peels and pits can be used for dyeing. The dyes can come directly from the fresh plant or for more commercial dyeing they are typically in a dried, powdered, or extracted form.

Often fabrics are pre-treated with a mordant (which is French for “bite”) that helps the dye bind with the fabric and makes it more colourfast and long-lasting. Sometimes mordants are added to the dye bath and certain mordants can also be used to shift dyes to different colours. Sustain uses safer mordants like myrobalan (a medicinal Tibetan fruit), oak galls, alum, and soy milk, although it is important to know that some natural dyeing can use heavy metals so if you find naturally dyed products it’s often good to ask what has been used as a mordant.

The dye material is heated with water and steeped for a while to create a dye bath.

Then the mordanted fabric is added to the vat. It often needs to be stirred for even colour and given time to soak up the dye – typically the longer the fabric is left in the dye bath the deeper the colour will be. Dyes like indigo though are set when they oxidise so you have to repeatedly soak it in the bath and hang it up to deepen the colour.

After, the dyed fabric is rinsed to remove any excess dye, and dried. It might also go through other dyeing or printing processes, and then is ready to be cut into clothes!

naturally dyed pjs from Sustain

This pj set is dyed with a combination of chamomile, lavender, rose, myrobalan, and indigo. First they do the flower vat which creates a yellow colour and then the blue indigo vat which together results in a blue-ish green. The pjs initially were more blue but as I’ve worn and washed them they’ve shifted a bit more green which I think is really cool. Some natural dyes will change a bit over time and some are even ph sensitive – I definitely made a mistake using red cabbage (highly ph sensitive) as a dye once which you can see in this video. We’re so used to synthetic dyes that any slight variances in colour are unfortunately often seen as “flaws” – it’s not uncommon for entire shipments of styles to be sent back (aka trashed) if the colour isn’t an exact match. With natural dyeing though likely no dye bath will be identical, little things like the water used or when the plants were harvested can all impact the colour and I think those variances and changes are part of what makes the pieces special and unique. 😊

Something else I really love is Sustain is even conscious of their water use. For these pjs the leftover flower water is used in their garden where they grow dye plants like marigold, weld, madder root, and indigo, and they keep their indigo vat for months, just adding more dye and water as needed instead of starting from scratch every time.

Sustain dyes some of their products in-house but also carries garments made with an ayurvedic dyeing process which is part of an Indian tradition passed down through generations. The ayurvedic dyeing only mordants with tannins from the plants, uses the whole plants for dyeing, and at lower temperatures to preserve the beneficial properties of the plants.

The tank is made from organic cotton that has been dyed with pomegranate peels and rhubarb – both of which have antimicrobial properties.

But doesn’t it fade?

First thing to remember is all dyes fade overtime – one of the common reasons people replace items is because they’ve faded, how often do people complain that their black clothes aren’t true black anymore? It’s a misconception that naturally dyed clothes are not colourfast. You can see garments in museums from hundreds of years ago that still have their colour! While natural dyes can fade over time, different dyes will hold up better than others (indigo and madder for example are very long-lasting) and most synthetic dyes aren’t colourfast either.

Like with conventionally dyed clothes, there are some things you can do to preserve the colour:

  • wash in cold water
  • use a ph-neutral and eco-friendly detergent
  • avoid storing/hanging in direct sunlight

Natural dyes do typically have a softer quality to the colour – you won’t get a hot pink or neon orange, but they also seem to have a richness to them that I think you can’t really replicate with synthetics. Plus I find it is so cool knowing my clothes were dyed with plants, and also knowing there aren’t harmful chemicals like NPEs or azo compounds hiding in the fabric or being dumped into the water – I have a video more about toxic chemicals in clothing.

natural dyed pjs from Sustain

Additionally, all of Sustain’s garments are ethically made in LA and they ensure safe conditions and fair wages for the workers making and dyeing the textiles.

They have a beautiful selection of staples and basics in a range of naturally dyed colours, as well as a collection of undyed organic garments for those with very sensitive skin. They even have a ‘non-conformists’ line of one-of-a-kind pieces.

Thank you so much to Sustain by Kat for sponsoring this post! I love being able to share and talk about natural dyeing 😊

Read more about my favourite dyes and how I fell in love with natural dyeing. 

1 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 17