Damaged clothing can and should be donated for repurpose or recycling, but repairing our clothes is often an even better alternative to the textile bin. The longer we can extend the life of our wearable garments, the more we reduce our environmental impacts. Sometimes, a simple DIY repair is all it takes.
Fast fashion has dramatically shifted our relationship with clothing. The cheap, low quality and disposable clothing we have become accustomed to has made us far less likely to attempt repairs.
Cost: Low price tags make it easier and more cost effective to purchase something new than have an item repaired
Skill: Fewer people have the knowledge or ability to repair clothing themselves
Meaning: We have less of an emotional attachment to the clothes we own because they are viewed as disposable
If you have ever made or repaired your own clothing, or purchased clothes with meaning (ie. a vintage garment or ethically made piece), you are more likely to appreciate how much work goes into each garment and more inclined to patch something or remove a stain rather than throw it away. A little love and effort does make our clothing last longer.
Give the dryer a break: Tumble dryers cause tiny tears which diminish the longevity of clothing and are the main cause of fabric wear. After 20 cycles of washing and drying, fabrics can lose 50% of their tensile strength. Dryers also shrink, stretch and fade our fabrics. You will conserve energy too!
Wash in cold water and wash less: Save water and maintain the quality of your clothing by washing in cold water. You can also reduce how often you wash your clothes. There’s no need to wash after every wear, only when necessary (eg. odour or stains).
Good maintenance: Try to stay on top of little repairs and perform preventative maintenance. Catch holes when they are small, snip small pills off of sweaters, treat stains immediately or reinforce buttons before they fall off.
Grab a needle: Learning to make small repairs will save you a ton of money! Even paying a tailor will save you money if it means you don’t have to buy replacement pieces. Some beneficial skills to learn are stitching a hem, sewing buttons, and stitching/patching up small holes.
Creative hacks and DIY instructions for fixing common damages can be found with a quick Google or Youtube search. Some examples include learning the basics of mending a seam, patching a hole, darning a hole, sewing on a missing button, fixing a fallen hem or mending a broken zipper.
You can also learn tips and techniques for preventing damage including waterproofing certain fabrics and how to properly care for your clothes in the first place so they don’t require repair.
In addition to online tutorials, consider participating in a local repair café to acquire some basics or taking a course at a community sewing hub to learn your way around a sewing machine. If you live in the City of Toronto, they offer Sewing Repair Hubs, as part of their Community Reduce & Reuse Programs. Check with your local municipality to see if they offer something similar.
Visible mending is a way to turn holes in sweaters and rips in pants into beautiful and colourful stitching embellishments or sew in patches. You can easily find on-trend ideas for visible mending on Pinterest.
If DIY’ing is really not for you, support local tailors and shoe repair businesses before you toss those clothes in the trash.
*Image source: Pratt Institute