For many people, the hunt for the perfect pair of jeans is a challenging one. But one woman made it even more complex after setting herself the challenge of growing a pair from scratch
Around 70m pairs of jeans are sold in the UK each year but Justine Aldersey-Williams owns the only pair that has been homegrown, home-dyed and homespun in the UK.
Aldersey-Williams, a textile artist who teaches botanical fabric dyeing at The Wild Dyery – her studio in Hoylake, Wirral – set herself the challenge of growing her own jeans in 2022 after becoming passionate about the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
The project was part of the Homegrown Homespun regenerative fashion pilot project, a collaboration with Great British Sewing Bee judge Patrick Grant’s social enterprise Community Clothing, North West England Fibreshed, which Aldersey-Williams founded, and the arts commissioning organisation The Super Slow Way. The aim is to reintroduce native textile crops to help people avoid harmful alternatives.
Cotton, which is usually used to make denim for jeans, requires so much water to produce that cotton production has become one of the most harmful industries to the environment, according to the UN. It can take 10,000 litres of water to make one pair of jeans. Not to mention the fact that they often have to be transported thousands of miles to their place of sale.
“We have forgotten that we have these native textile plants in this country and that we used to have the skills to make our own clothes from homegrown fabric,” Aldersey-Williams said.
Growing her jeans was not easy. She grew her own flax and indigo on her allotment but she didn’t know how to spin or weave.
“I spent nine months learning to spin before even touching my own crop because it was too precious and I was terrified to ruin it,” she said. “After that it took me about nine weeks to spin my own.”
The process changed her, she reflected. “Handspinning linen is really hard. I needed resilience, determination, discipline and patience to complete it. I had to surrender myself to this plant.”
After this, she enlisted the help of local weaver Kirsty Jean Leadbetter of The Liverpool Weaving Company, who weaved the fabric and denim designer Mohsin Sajid, who sewed the jeans.
Does she have any tips for people who want to develop a better relationship with their clothes? “Remember that your purchases are a vote, so always check the label and see what items are made of. Try to avoid polyester or other synthetic fabrics as they are the most harmful.”
She also suggests attempting to grow your own fabric. It is often an emotional experience, says Aldersey-Williams, who runs an online course in growing, spinning and weaving a piece of cloth.
“The manual labour and the toil involved in making them has really taught me to have a much deeper respect for my clothes. Every item is sacred.”
Main image: Raw Photography
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