When you put on a shirt or a pair of pants do you ever think of where that material came from or how that item was made?
Clothing can be created out of many different materials. Some are animal based (leather, fur, silk, felt, wool), some are plant based (cotton, linen, bamboo) and others are manufactured artificially (nylon, polyester, lycra)
I have a series of four unit studies that cover how certain textiles are made. The units cover wool, cotton, flax (linen) and silk. Fashion History Through Textiles - buy them separately or save when you buy all four!
Download the unit studies from the Quite a Character Classroom.
How are clothes made
It is important that we are aware of how things get made. Some companies use sweatshops which create poor working conditions for the employees. Buying clothes from these companies supports the unethical use of sweatshops. Also clothing made from animal-derived materials may be made by companies that cause harm or suffering to animals.
Did you know during Canada's fur trade, the beaver was nearly wiped out because its hide was used to make top hats for wealthy Europeans?
Greenamerica.org has some great ideas for clothes shopping that helps eliminate support of the companies that are cruel and unethical.
Their tips include:
Checking the source of the fabric, item
Buy second-hand clothing or clothing made from recycled materials (I have some lovely warm mittens made from old sweaters)
Buy Fair Trade items so your money properly pays the person who made the item
Or, buy straight from the source. There are many artisan markets where people will sell the hand-made items.
(I got this shawl in Ecuador straight from the makers who gave us a lovely tour of their facility).
It is always important to talk to kids about some of these concerns. But, it isn't always easy to get that conversation started. Books are a great help for this.
Here's a good start. No Clean Clothes by Robert Munsch.
Read this funny tale about laundry. Then, have your child help you with laundry. Depending on their age you can have them help sort by colour, or you can show them labels that tell you what material it is made from. Not only is this a great start to teach them laundry skills but it can also get the conversation started when you encourage them to discover how that material becomes clothing.
"I don't like to produce things in a factory. It seems stressful. If I produce stuff, I have to work with a small team. I don't like working with a lot of people. I like the freedom of being creative."
The Pioneers were the ultimate makers of clothing. Check out the post The Simple Life to read more about making things from scratch.