The woman who grew jeans herself

Dec 4, 2023 | News

The search for the perfect pair is a difficult one for many people. One woman made the search for the perfect pair of jeans even more difficult by attempting to grow a pair from nothing.

In the UK, around 70 million pairs of jeans are sold each year. Justine Aldersey Williams owns the one pair that was home-grown, home-dyed, and home-spun in the UK.

Aldersey Williams, a textile designer who teaches botanical dyeing at , her studio in Hoylake on Wirral, set herself the challenge to grow her own jeans by 2022, after becoming passionate about environmental impact of fashion industry.

The project was a part of the Homegrown Homespun pilot project for regenerative fashion, a collaboration between the social enterprise Community Clothing founded by Great British Sewing Bee Judge Patrick Grant, North West England Fibreshed (which Aldersey-Williams also founded), and the arts commissioning organization The Super Slow Way. The goal is to reintroduce indigenous textile crops in order to help people avoid harmful substitutes.

According to the UN, cotton, which is used to make denim jeans, uses so much water that it has become one of most harmful industries for the environment. One pair of jeans can require up to 10,000 litres. Not to mention that they are often transported thousands of miles before being sold.

Growing jeans was not an easy task. She grew flax and indigo herself on her allotment, but didn’t know how she could 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 local weaver Kirsty Jane Leadbetter from The Liverpool Weaving Company to weave the fabric, and denim designer Mohsin Sajid to sew 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 trying to grow your fabric. Aldersey Williams, who teaches an online course on growing, spinning, and weaving a piece cloth, says it is an emotional experience.

“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.”

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