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that time i made polyester shorts and liked it

Megan Nielsen Harper shorts in linen look polyester and Briar tee in Linen knit

This pair of Harper shorts is made from a linen look polyester. Which i bought by accident thinking it was linen – until I tried to press it, and found that it didn’t conform and somehow never wrinkled even when i left it in a half finished messy pile in my sewing room…. if those aren’t some magical polyester warning signs i don’t know what is!

The lesson here is to read the label properly – on closer inspection of the receipt the fabric was “linen look”. Nice work meg, you’re a genius.

Megan Nielsen Harper shorts in linen look polyester and Briar tee in Linen knit
Megan Nielsen Harper shorts in linen look polyester and Briar tee in Linen knit
Megan Nielsen Harper shorts in linen look polyester and Briar tee in Linen knit

Oddly, i hate polyester and all synthetic fibres. I hate it on principal probably because i’m a nut. I don’t like the way they are made, or the fact that they don’t biodegrade. I don’t like that they don’t breath and make me perspire, and since i love pressing garments to within an inch of their life, i don’t like that synthetics rarely press well. I favour natural fibres, and basically avoid synthetics as much as possible.

And yet, as i say that, i find myself contradicting myself – because I really really love these shorts. Like really love them. Because: NO WRINKLES! I never have to iron them, and that is so much more of a win than i ever realised. The colour has stayed true and hasn’t faded, and the fabric hasn’t stretched out at all (which seems to always happen to me with linen?).

So then the question becomes – do the benefits of synthetic fibres outweigh the negatives? I feel like it’s hard for me to argue that synthetic fabrics are cheap and nasty, when here i am enjoying a garment made from polyester that has lasted well and doesn’t look like it lacks quality at all. Dare I say, they have been my favourite shorts this year. Uh oh.

Megan Nielsen Harper shorts in linen look polyester and Briar tee in Linen knit

So what do you think? Are you a poly lover or hater? Or does it even really matter all if you love what you made?

[Make this look]

Tee: Megan Nielsen Briar // Get the pattern + linen knit from Potter Textiles
Shorts: Megan Nielsen Harper // Get the pattern + similar fabric
Shoes: Converse All Stars

About Author

Meg is the Founder and Creative Director of Megan Nielsen Patterns, and is constantly dreaming up ideas for new sewing patterns and ways to make your sewing journey more enjoyable! She gets really excited about design details and is always trying to add way too many variations to our patterns.

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grammymurry
grammymurry
5 years ago

Today’s polyester is so much nicer than that of the past (I am 70 so remember the first polyester fabric). I, too, was avoiding it, but seeing beautiful garments by some exceptional sewists has convinced me to try and I have been pleasantly surprised. I think quality is one key and what you are making the garment for is the second. If you want a cool sundress, stick with the pure linen, but some shorts or even specific travel items, the “Looks like linen” will probably be best! I think your shorts look great!!

Hilary
Hilary
5 years ago

Hi Megan

This is so timely! I have spent the last few weeks looking into the benefits, or otherwise, of synthetics and natural fibres. So many pros and cons!

There is so much to be taken into account:
– Are the origins of the fabric sustainable?
Plant-based, oil-based, animal-based? Not so straightforward as it brings into play the whole huge “Is farming of livestock sustainable and ethical?” question. With veganism on the rise because of the effect meat-production has on our planet, where does that leave our fashion industry?

– Is the production of the fabric environmentally safe and ethical?
Almost all raw materials undergo processing using chemicals which affect workers and the environment. Some are worse than others. The jeans industry, for example, is horrendous.

– Is recycling the way forward?
Yes, and no. Fleece jackets, made from recycled plastic bottles = yay! Fibres from said jackets coming out in the wash and being found in vast amounts in our oceans, entering our food chain = oops, who saw that coming? Fish eat them, feel full, get ill, die.
We need to stop using so much plastic (discarded fleeces or bottles) anyway. There’s only so much space for landfill.

I think every time we make an item of clothing we should consider what impact it has. The unbridled, unsustainable consumerism that is the fashion industry has to have a major re-think. Making clothing that suits us, of good quality fabric, that lasts longer, and we wear for longer seems like the way forwards. And really do we want to be slaves to fashion? Wouldn’t we all rather be stylist than fashionable?

Phew, I feel better getting that off my chest! And yes, you look great in your new shorts!

Meg White
5 years ago
Reply to  Hilary

Very interesting insights. I’d heard about the huge problem of synthetic fibers from our laundry going into the water stream. Are fleece fabrics the biggest culprits? Or are all synthetics equally damaging? I worry about this a great deal and would like to be more educated about specific impacts. Are there any articles or other resources you would recommend? Thanks!

Hilary
Hilary
5 years ago
Reply to  Meg White

Hi Meg, yes, all the sources I have looked at say that fleece fabrics seem to shed the most, however they are by no means the only culprits. I have launched my blog only just today [yay, excited face :) , please visit!] and will be adding some sources over the next few weeks. In the meantime wikipedia has some good information. Try searching: ‘microplastics’ and ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’. It’s also worth looking at the jeans industry. They may be natural fibre, but they are far from squeaky clean. Hope that helps!

Hilary
Hilary
5 years ago
Reply to  Hilary

Almost forgot! hemtohem.co.uk

Meg White
5 years ago
Reply to  Hilary

Thank you so much! I’m excited to follow your blog. Environmentalism has been a huge inspiration to me to change almost everything about my life in the last decade. There’s always more to learn and more aspects to improve. The DYI movement can be really empowering to help us all live those values.

Lynsey
Lynsey
5 years ago

I think your shorts are fab, I try not to buy a huge amount of polyester for the same reasons as you but buying it sometimes is ok and not something to feel bad about. Sometimes it is just better for certain items and if your getting heaps of wear out of them then that’s the main thing.

Hilary
Hilary
5 years ago
Reply to  Lynsey

Oh yes Lyndsey, I so agree! Less in our wardrobes, but we wear everything more.

PsychicKathleen
PsychicKathleen
5 years ago

I feel the same as you Lyndsey – I avoid polyester as much as possible and have never (deliberately!) bought it. I remember when it first came out (late ’60’s early ’70’s) and everyone then was jumping on it – no iron, wash and dry like a charm, inexpensive, colourfast. What was not to like? Well it was horrible to wear (stinky), it wouldn’t drape. After a while if felt like you were wearing a plastic bag. Now I’ve noticed a huge resurgence in polyester (especially in RTW) because it’s inexpensive. Having said that your shorts like great and I’m sure will wear like iron.

ShowandTellMeg
5 years ago

I’m usually right there with you on synthetic fibers (I live in Florida, so the none breathability of most Poly’s and blends make them a misery here all year), but I also confess that I love linen look fabric. I made a muslin of a skirt using a linen look I got at a thrift store and I ended up loving it so much its still in weekly or biweekly rotation a year later. Its comfy and bouncy like linen, but doesn’t look like a wrinkled mess after your car ride to work. I now have used linen look on a few other skirts as well and love them too. I also have a weakness for polychiffon skirts – they just make such adorable prints in polychiffon and its so cheap! So while I hate polyester in theory, my true feeings vary by what I’m making. I think anything shorter (though I would hesitate on shorts here because of the heat and humidity) works OK for me. I do avoid it for tops simply because I haver thin hair and it makes my hair super static filled all day without fail. Anyway, I guest its just like other fabrics – they all have their place and proper application,but you want to be discerning with how you use it :)

Meg White
5 years ago

This is an interesting topic. My gut reaction is to avoid poly because of environmental concerns. However, I also really like to make use of existing things that would otherwise go to waste. I do have a poly section of my stash, all free or thrifted. Your shorts are really adorable.

Blogless Anna
5 years ago

I’m a natural fibres girl 99% of the time… but I can be swayed to dabble in a blend with synthetic fibres on rare occasions. Does this mean I’m not perfect?

Charlotte Elliott
5 years ago

Have you tried the RK Brussels Washer Linen? Its 55%linen and 45% rayon so you get the wonderful linen texture but less wrinkles because of the rayon. A win win in my book. I try to avoid polyester too.

Katja Eitel
Katja Eitel
5 years ago

I stayed away from synthetic fibres as far as possible, but sadly I find it hard to source good fabrics over here and so I had to give in at some point… to me it seems even though a fabric might be made out of synthetic fibres there’s a huge range of differences in quality, I’ve come across horrible fabrics and also really lovely ones.
Still I’m looking out for natural fibre 99% of the time but chances are I’m not perfect in this (even though staying away from polyester keeps my stash in check ;-) )

Fadanista
5 years ago

Such a thought provoking post. I never knowingly buy polyester, but all the fabric I am drawn to tends to be polyester – the designs are always the best. However, I stick to my principles. In addition to all the issues already elucidated, polyester never stops leaching toxins and, given that skin is our largest organ, I would rather not expose my skin to these. Polyester clothes also continually produce toxic lint, which infiltrates our waterways via the washing machine. Polyester is one of the reasons I completely stopped buying RTW and making everything myself, including underwear. However, the odd bit of lycra does sneak into my makes, but never more than 5%, which does mean that I do compromise occasionally :)

sdbev
5 years ago

I prefer blends — best of both worlds. Although I agree with the other poster who say modern polys are so much nicer than they used to be.

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