How many garments can you sew in 12 hours? Let’s find out!

Why take the 12 Hour Challenge? No, it’s not just for the fun of racing the clock. It’s because twelve straight hours of sewing is a typical workday for many people, and we want to know what it’s like. Participate in the 12 Hour Challenge and help shed light on the struggle of garment workers around the world.

Take Action! The official event days are November 12-14, 2015. Join in the movement on one of the three days, or pick your own time to take on the challenge.

The rules are simple…

Phase One:

Commit to sewing for at least 12 hours in one day. Take as few breaks as possible. (Perhaps 10-15 minutes every three to four hours.) See how many garments you can complete in that time. (We recommend cutting out the pattern pieces prior to the challenge day.) The goal here isn’t to produce beautiful, custom pieces, but to emulate the factory setting. So if your seams aren’t perfect, remember that most garment workers are paid by the piece–can you really afford the time to fix every little mistake?

By completing phase one, you’ll get a taste of what life is like in many factories for garment workers, who often work 10-12 hours in a typical day and as many as 18 hours/day in the peak season.* Six or seven days a week. And not in the comforts of home.

Imagine sewing for twelve hours with minimal access to clean drinking water, virtually no time for meal or bathroom breaks, in a building with no heating or air-conditioning, and with only one exit in case of an emergency–plus, being exposed to hazardous chemicals and sexual harassment from supervisors, and knowing that skipping work because of sickness will likely result in job loss. All that to earn less than a living wage.

We are so privileged. Let’s have compassion for those who lead lives that are drastically different from ours. Take the 12 Hour Challenge to gain a bit more appreciation for the men and women who produce our clothes. No matter how difficult we make the challenge, it will never come close to what many garment workers experience each day.

Don’t have enough fabric on hand to complete the challenge? Here’s an opportunity to take the 12 Hour Challenge even further by sourcing your fabric from a secondhand store. Reusing textiles is an excellent way to help break the cycle of waste in the fashion industry!

Ready for phase two?

*Data from

Phase Two:

Spread the word! We have two suggestions of what to do with the clothes you create and how to inform others about the injustices occurring in the garment industry.

Option 1 Host a gathering of friends, neighbors, or church members.  Give each guest one of the garments you created, and share what you learned through the challenge. Let them know how they can learn more about this injustice, and encourage them to take action by changing shopping habits. You could even show the documentary The True Cost.

Option 2 Give or send the garments as gifts with an enclosed postcard (we’ll make one available for download) explaining your purpose in making the garment and informing the recipient what he/she can do to help the cause.

Feeling especially courageous? Send one of the garments you create to the headquarters of a major fashion brand with a note expressing your concerns about the company’s supply chain. Though most clothing brands don’t directly employ the garment workers, the brands have the economic power to put pressure on factories to improve working conditions. Unfortunately, economic power is typically abused–companies withhold their business if the factory won’t produce an item at a low-enough price. This same principle can be applied in a positive manner if companies refuse to contract with factories who don’t meet a minimum standard for labor conditions.

Of course, you can choose to do something entirely different with the clothes. We’d love to hear your ideas!

With this challenge, efficiency is key. Here are some quick-to-create pattern ideas. For woven fabrics: circle skirt, shift dress, peasant top, infinity scarf, tie or bowtie. For knits: cowl neck dress or shirt, maxi skirt, infinity scarf, t-shirt, baby clothes. See the  ideas we put together on Pinterest!

For a professional touch, create your own iron-on labels by printing our 12 Hour Challenge label designs on iron-transfer paper.  Here’s a preview of what’s to come–choose from two different colors and four designs! (Download will be available in early November.)                                                                                                              Challenge Label 1

We’ve got 12 Hour Challenge postcards and gift tags for you, making it easy to spread the word in Phase Two! (Download will be available in early November.)

Additional resources:  (Coming soon!)