Folk fashion : amateur re-knitting as a strategy for sustainability
This research considers amateur fashion making – ʻfolk fashionʼ – as a strategy for
sustainability. Homemade clothes are often seen as sustainable, in comparison with the
environmental and social problems associated with mass-produced ʻfast fashionʼ. However, this
view is partly based on a simplistic and romantic view of the homemade, which has received
little critical examination.
The study specifically investigates the reworking of existing garments through the use of knitbased
skills, techniques and knowledge. This approach challenges the linear production consumption
model of the mainstream fashion industry. Because re-knitting techniques must be
adapted to suit the particularities of each individual garment, re-knitting provides an opportunity
for amateur knitters to engage with creative design.
The research employs a workshop methodology, which combines design research with creative
methods. A group of seven female amateur knitters were interviewed individually before taking
part in a series of workshop sessions. The project culminated in six of the participants re-knitting
items from their own wardrobes. The detailed data gathered from this group is supported by
comments from a wider community of knitters, primarily gathered via an informal participatory
The research finds that re-knitting can be seen as an effective strategy for sustainability. It not
only provides a means of extending product life, but more holistically offers an alternative
means of participating in fashion, and a way of addressing the relationship between fashion and
Beyond this central finding, four key insights emerge from the research. These are the metaphor
of fashion as common land; the nuanced understanding of the experience of wearing
homemade clothes in contemporary British culture; evidence of the ability of amateurs to design
for themselves and ways in which this can be supported; and the understanding of the factors
that should be considered when trying to develop a culture of reworking.