Simple, beautiful methods to mend your clothing

One of the easiest ways to be more zero waste is to simply buy less. From clothes to kitchen appliances, the less you buy, the less less waste you are creating. Even if the packaging of what you are buying is minimal – for example,  a pair of jeans – a lot of resources went into the production. From the water, fertilizers, and pesticides used to on cotton fields, to the diesel used to power the farm equipment and the trucks and ships that bring the cotton to the mill to be spun, the factory to be sewn, to be transported to your country, to your local store, to your home. A lot of resources and energy go into creating something as simple as a pair of jeans.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad if you’ve ever bought a pair of jeans. I promise. I’ve bought jeans. Lots of them. I’m simply saying that we can start to be more aware of the high cost of ‘fast fashion’ and seek alternatives.

One of these alternatives is to value the clothes that we already own more. There is a book that my children love called My Grandfather’s Coat. The book is a retelling of an old Yiddish folksong “I Had a Little Overcoat” (“Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl). In the book, a young man comes to America with ‘little more than nothing at all’. He meets a woman, and for their wedding, he sews himself an long coat. The years pass by and we see the couple’s life happily progress. The coat wears out and he turns it into a smart jacket, then into a snazzy vest, when the vest wears out he uses the cloth to sew a stylish tie to wear on his daughter’s wedding day, the tie eventually wears out, and he makes a toy for his great grandson from the remaining cloth. When the toy wears out, a little mouse gathers the scraps for a nest. Nothing is wasted. It’s a lovely book, and has an important lesson about how we can start to change our relationship with clothing.

When our clothing begins to show signs of wear, we can work to repair it rather than replace it. Many of us our at a generational disadvantage in this regard. A few generations ago, most people learned basic garment care at home as children. But with the emergence of fast fashion, these skills were often set aside and many people who grew up from the 1960s onwards didn’t learn how to mend clothing. Clothing became cheap, and, well, replaceable.

But, if we want to move away from fast fashion, we need to learn these skills we may be missing. Fortunately, basic mending is not difficult. Even more fortunately, it’s 2018. We have YouTube.

As an adult, I taught myself both to knit and sew. My primary tool: YouTube. In case you don’t already know it, YouTube is amazing for learning manual skills – it is like having an expert right on hand to show you exactly what to do! But, it does take some work to separate the wheat from the chaff on YouTube tutorials. Yikes. So, I did some digging for you and found the best videos to get you started on your mending journey. All of these tutorials are for hand-sewing – no machine required!

How to thread a needle and sew a basic stitch.
Super basic. You have to start somewhere! 

How to sew a button on. 
A common problem.

Mending a tear.

How to patch holes in jeans.

One trend I am particularly loving is visible mending. Visible mending is just what it sounds like – instead of subtly mending your clothes in a manner that doesn’t draw attention to the mend, visible mending is mending that celebrates the mend. The thread might be in a contrast color or sewn in a cool pattern. Patches will be bold and beautiful. Mend your clothes in a way that makes them more beautiful than they were to start with!

Try searching ‘visible mending’ in pinterest or #visiblemending on instagram for inspiration.

If visible mending makes your heart go ‘thump thump’ as it does mine, you must check out the work of Dottie Angel.

And just for fun:

Happy mending!

Have you had luck mending your clothing? Are there any traditional skills that you’re working on? Tell us in the comments!

Meredith Hanson lives on six acres of land in rural Minnesota with her husband, three kids, nine chickens, and six guinea fowl. She loves running through the woods, digging her fingers in the dirt, and making things with her hands. In 2018 she’ll be learning to live a more zero waste lifestyle, trying to feed her family on veggies grown in the backyard, and making rather than buying just about whatever she needs.

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