Clothes Maintenance 101: How to build a repair kit

Are you new to clothes mending but don’t have any sewing equipment? It is easy and inexpensive to pull together a few pieces ready to repair your clothes.

Basic clothes repair kit (from left to right)

  1. Sharp pair of scissors – only use for cutting fabric and thread. They will become blunt if used for cutting paper. Regular stationery scissors are OK as long as they are new or have recently been sharpened
  2. Threads – Black and white are essential, a neutral colour such as beige and grey are useful as is navy. Poly/cotton thread is the most versatile for all garments.
  3. Seam ripper or unpicker – a sharp tool which helps to unpick hems for alteration or to remove broken zips
  4. Darning mushroom or egg – Makes it easier to darn holes in jumpers, t-shirts and socks
  5. Set of needles – a variety of sizes is useful. Some with bigger ‘eyes’ or holes to for knitting yarn to feed through. Plus thinner smaller needles for finer fabrics
  6. Tape measure – for measuring the hemline of trousers and jeans for alteration
  7. Safety pins and dressmaking pins – for patching and alterations
  8. Darning yarn – to repair jumpers and socks
  9. Tailors chalk or a fabric marker – for alterations
  10. Spare buttons
Use an old tin or plastic box to keep your repair kit in one place

Where to buy equipment

Many pieces in our repair kits have been donated by friends of Fast Fashion Therapy. We prefer pre-used equipment as much as possible. Ask around, you might know someone who has more sewing equipment than they need. Charity shops are usually an excellent place to find sewing odds and ends but sadly not at the moment with all the shops closed. Ebay and Etsy are a good online alternative, especially for darning mushrooms. Or try your local haberdashery store and see if they have an online shop whilst we are practising social distancing.

Darning and Patching Kits

We are busy building darning and patching kits for sale, including instruction cards. We are waiting for some components to be delivered. Once they arrive we will list the kits on our new Etsy shop. More details soon!

Clothes Maintenance 101: How to sew on a button

Sometimes it is the small things that stop us from wearing our favourite clothes. In our series, Clothes Maintenance 101, we demonstrate common fixes helping to make our clothes wearable again.

Sewing on a button is a simple task. It doesn’t take very long if you know how and have a basic sewing repair kit. In this video Sarah runs through the variety of buttons available and how to fix them back onto a garment.

Where to buy spare buttons

Start collecting your own spare buttons in a disused jar. Some garments come with a small packet of spare buttons that can be added to the jar. Charity shops often have packs of random buttons for sale, but we appreciate they are accessible whilst we are social distancing. We have pulled together some of our collection for sale on our Etsy shop. A random mix of buttons apx 30 buttons with some designs having 6 of the same button included (e.g white shirt buttons).


apx 30 buttons for £4 (free postage) | Reused and recycled packaging

Interested in learning more? Sign up to our newsletter to find out about our regular workshops in and around London.

Swish & Style: Thanks for coming!

From December to March we have joined Swish & Style hosting mending workshops at their popular clothes swishing events. Organised by OLGA and supported by Wise up to Waste the weekly swishing events went from strength to strength. We helped people repair their favourite clothes preventing them from being sent to landfill. From patching a leather jacket, darning a favourite cardigan to enhancing jeans with patches and embroidery.

Thanks to everyone who came along to our workshops. We enjoyed chatting to you all from saving clothes to our favourite museum exhibitions. We are sad the events were cut short due to Covid-19 but we hope they will be back later in the year when the social distancing is all over. Keep your eye on Wise up to Waste’s website or sign up for our newsletter and we will let you know when we have more news.

A message from TRAID: It’s time to stop.

The whole world is doing it… no more commuting, gathering or shaking hands.

The list of things we have to stop seems bigger than the list of things we’re still allowed to do.

But look a bit deeper and you’ll see that we aren’t stopping because we are defeated – we’re stopping because we will not be beaten.

We’re stopping to protect the vulnerable in society. We’re stopping to save lives.

Your inaction, is the best possible action.

Many are talking about their fears right now and it is certainly right to be cautious. But today we want to talk about our hopes.

Because there is value in stopping, and it could look like this…


We learn to stop polluting

Researchers in New York are reporting a near 50% reduction in carbon monoxide compared to this time last year.

Perhaps this is a time where we can learn the value of reducing our emissions and our impact on the earth in the long term.


We learn to stop consuming

Forget about panic buying toilet rolls for a second and you can see that many of us are learning about what we really need – not focusing on the next big purchase.

Perhaps this is the time where we understand the value of what we consume and give our products and the people who make them the respect they deserve.


We learn to stop hating

‘Lands apart, sky shared’ 

A quote from an ancient poem written on a shipment of masks and thermometers that was sent from Japan to China.

Perhaps this is the time we realise that we share the same earth – and many of the same problems. Perhaps a common adversary will unite us.


It might sound idealistic 

…to talk too much of hope right now. 

But rest assured that we will be giving you practical ways that you can make the world a better, fairer place over the next weeks and months.

We’ll start with a short guide to the implications of the coronavirus on international trade and developing countries that will be with you next week.

Until then you can contact us any time by emailing hello@traidcraft.org – and if you feel compelled to support us in this difficult time, you can support us here.
 Thank you for everything you do.

A message from Fashion Revolution

At Fast Fashion Therapy, we were planning a range of workshops to support Fashion Revolution Week. We have course cancelled the events due to the Corona virus. Below is a poignant message from the founders of Fashion Revolution that we wanted to share…

Dear Fashion Revolutionaries,

It is impossible to disregard the profound effects that the coronavirus pandemic is having, and will have, on the global population, on our society, and the hardships we will all face over the coming months; nobody can continue with business as usual at this point in time. We know that crises like Corona Virus, Climate Change, and indeed most disasters disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations and minorities. At the same time, the vast majority of the people who make our clothes are themselves vulnerable, and lacking sick pay, paid leave, or adequate health care. When we use our voices to hold big corporations accountable, we are part of the change in shaping a fairer world. 

Since Fashion Revolution began after the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, we have used our collective voice to bring communities together, to offer support, share knowledge and to think creatively about finding solutions for challenging situations. In this new coronavirus world we are having to rethink everything, not least our own events scheduled to take place during Fashion Revolution Week April 20-26. 

Inevitably many of our physical events will be postponed. Our global teams will operate as best they can, but we will all stand united on the 24th of April, and throughout Fashion Revolution Week, to honour the victims of the Rana Plaza and all other disasters and injustices that keep happening in fashion supply chains. 

Where possible, Fashion Revolution will be moving many of our major events to online platforms. We will be postponing our Great Fashion Revolution Clothes Swap activation until a time when it is safe to gather together again. We will work with our country teams to ensure that local health guidelines and legislations are followed. But we are working hard at digitising, adapting our resources, and updating our content to respond to the present situation, so stay with us during Fashion Revolution Week and join us in our programme of webinars, discussions, virtual studio visits and news updates. 

This is not the ‘change’ we were hoping for, but nevertheless, as we sit this crisis out – so many of us in isolation –  we can also learn important things. The coronavirus pandemic will lead to a massive behavioural shift and an inevitable slowing down of consumption. As we always say, the most sustainable clothes are the ones already in our wardrobes so we can start, as so many of us already are, by looking after the clothes we have, sewing on buttons, repairing hems, darning holes. Repair is a Revolutionary Act, and the revolution starts with all of us, in our own wardrobes. 

We will continue to keep this extraordinary global community alive and connected. Together, we will be more present than ever before. We will push forward with our messaging for a fashion industry that conserves and restores the environment, and values people above growth and profit, and we will continue to inform our global community on the pressing topics facing the fashion industry as it struggles to become more sustainable. We can choose to spend the extra time on our hands scrutinising fashion brands, and asking for greater responsibility.

At Fashion Revolution, we say Be Curious, Find Out, Do Something. As we enter our seventh year of campaigning, we are very proud of our collective achievements: we certainly have made more people more curious, and so millions of citizens have taken it upon themselves to find out more.  Now is the time to Do Something. Bring your activism home. Turn it into daily actions: mend, repair, resell, learn a craft, fix a shoddy hemline that needs a stitch. Investigate your clothes: look at the labels, expose their details, research the brands. Take a closer look at a composition label that goes nowhere near telling you the full list of ingredients; a ‘Made In’ label that tells you nothing about where the fabric was made or the raw materials were sourced. 

As always, we want to hear from you. Keep us posted of your wardrobe activism. Tag us in your conversations and use our hashtags. We continue to ask #WhoMadeMyClothes to show our solidarity with the garment workers, and we are also asking #WhatsInMyClothes to help begin a wider conversation about the ingredients – the plastics, chemicals and polluting microfibres – that are not disclosed on our care labels. 

But most importantly, use your activism to help others. Use your voice, and help us to raise awareness of the most vulnerable people in the fashion industry – the garment workers without health care or sickpay,  whose living and working conditions will  be made even more acute by this pandemic.

Of course, we can all help out closer to home too. if you are a social media content whizz, consider helping a local business to support their communities; if you are a designer or maker, can you offer your help to your local coronavirus effort? If you have children off school, take the time to teach them the basics of sewing and mending. Wherever we can, we will use our voice and our skills to help others.
 We can use this crisis to pause: take stock, focus on our social conscience, reflect, and ensure that the drastic measures we are facing will lead us to be better prepared and more committed as we move to a more mindful, considerate future.

In gratitude,
Carry and Orsola

Culture Seeds 2020

We are very happy to say that we’ve been awarded a grant by the Mayor of London’s Culture Seeds programme! The programme aims to support grassroots community-led arts and cultural projects across the city. It means we’ll be able to provide even more of our clothing repair and up-cycling workshops over the next few months, whilst also expanding the range of our workshop programme and hosting more across South London. We couldn’t have got it without the support of everyone whose come to our workshops in the past so a big thank you to you too!

More information on Culture Seeds can be found here

London’s Wardrobe: Exclusive visit to the fashion archives & clothes mending workshop at the Museum of London

‘Make-Do And Mend’ is a well known saying but where does it come from? We visited the fashion archives at the Museum of London to find out more…

Beneath the hum of the traffic on London Wall, the fashion archives of the Museum of London sprawl in identical stacked rows. There are over twenty four thousand items all neatly packed in acid free boxes; Hundreds of pairs of gloves carefully placed in draws, umbrellas and parasols. The belt of Princess Margaret’s Dior dress as featured in the recent Dior exhibition at the V&A and a cravat worn by Charles Dickens.

Museum of London Fashion Archives

Turn a corner and we are amongst rows and racks of clothing each covered in a white protective jacket. They look like a line of soldiers with a paper label in place of a medal.

Museum of London Fashion Archives

So where did the phrase ‘Make-Do And Mend’ come from? It was part of a campaign launched by the British Government in 1942, during World War II when clothes were rationed and in short supply. The successful campaign encouraged British residents to preserve their clothes providing leaflets and lessons such as how to darn socks and jumpers or patching jacket elbows. This spawned a wave of ingenuity and instead of giving up on fashion, people came up with new ideas in which to show off their individuality.

However, the mending of clothes pre-dates World War II by many centuries. Hidden amongst the twenty four thousand items are evidence that ‘mending wasn’t only for times of austerity or for the non-elite, everyone did it’ says Dr Lucie Whitmore, Fashion Curator at the Museum of London. Eleanor is given a magnifying glass to inspect the mending on a riding jacket. Dated from the late 18th century, the item is rare as it is a woman’s jacket. Usually sportswear items from this era are menswear. Intricate tiny stitches cover a worn section of the silk cuff and add to the elegance of the jacket.

Women’s riding jacket from 1750-1800, Museum of London

At Fast Fashion Therapy, we encourage the mending of clothes preventing them from being thrown away. But in 2020, we have very different reasons for prolonging the life of clothes. Rather than being scarce, there are more clothes being produced than ever before. In fact, by 2030 global clothing consumption is expected to rise to 102 million tonnes according to Lauren Bravo’s book How to Break Up with Fast Fashion. Mark Sumner, Lecturer of Sustainability at Leeds University estimates ’30 to 40 billion pounds worth of clothing are wasted in the UK’ (Speaking at last year’s Fashion Revolution Question Time at the V&A).

We are working with the Museum of London to host a mending workshop. During the morning, attendees are given exclusive access to the museum’s fashion archives. Dr Lucie Whitmore has hand picked items from the archive to demonstrate mending across three centuries. During the afternoon, we will take inspiration from the items shown and teach you how to mend your own clothes using similar techniques. Learn how to darn a favourite jumper, t-shirt or shirt. Patch your best jeans, a dress or trousers. Bring along an item of clothing you would like to repair (using hand sewing techniques) or we will have samples for you to practice on.

“If the most sustainable item of clothing is the one we already own, then appreciating and wearing those clothes is one of the most powerful differences we can make.”

Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion

It is clear from visiting the Museum of London’s Fashion archives that our ancestors cared for their clothes, treating them with the respect they deserved. We hope you will join us at our clothes mending workshop to mend and appreciate your own clothes.

WORKSHOP DETAILS: London’s wardrobe: repair and refashion with Fast Fashion Therapy

Dress from 1948, mended with patches

Join the Curator of Fashion at The Museum of London along with Fast Fashion Therapy for a day of repairing and refashioning some of your key wardrobe pieces. We will start the day with an exclusive behind the scenes visit to the museum’s Dress and Textile Store. Here, our curators will select key pieces from our collection to show you three centuries of mended clothing, and tell you some of the fascinating stories behind the objects. After, we will teach some basic techniques to help you start repairing and keep your clothes lasting longer. This hands on workshop will take you through simple darning techniques for fixing holes in knitwear and visible mending such as patching inspired by the Japanese art of ‘Boro’. All materials and kit will be provided for you to learn the techniques of darning and Boro patching. Feel free to bring one damaged item of clothing to repair in the workshop, but this is not essential.

15th February 2020, 11am to 4pm. Cost £65

Click here to book via the Museum of London’s website

Book Review: How to Break Up with Fast Fashion by Lauren Bravo

Eleanor’s Thoughts

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’

Margaret Mead

This is one of my favourite motivational quotes. It’s one I kept coming back to as I was researching sustainable fashion at university, and one I think of when I’m sat trying to work on my own in my little bedroom feeling like this whole pursuit is too overwhelming.

When Lauren Bravo used it in the closing chapter of her book How to Break Up with Fast FashionI knew this book was one that really reflected how I feel about our personal potential to create a sustainable fashion industry. Trying to enact any kind of positive change in this vast and complex industry can feel pretty impossible at times, and many people will tell you it is. The internet may have made buying fast fashion even easier and quicker, but it’s also the thing that can help make finding sustainable fashion comrades in the area you live and all over the world far simpler. Community and collaboration drive this movement.

The stats that Lauren introduces the book with are a daunting read, and even as I begin to feel that I’m aware of many of them, there’s another one that shocks me. The fact that out of ’71 leading retailers in the UK, 77 per cent believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery (forced labour) occurring at some stage in their supply chains’ is a figure that’s hard to forget. Lauren discusses these heavy ideas with clarity and compassion, whilst moving on to discuss the conflicting emotions that can come through quitting fast fashion with playfulness and honesty that makes this challenging topic engaging, and actually easy to read. As someone who has just spent the last year of their life going through a break-up with a real-life human being, the swaying from anger to adoration to reflection to acceptance is very easy to empathise with. Not all the things we love are good for us and in this case, they’re not good for the people making our clothes or the planet.

Personal anecdotes are used to bring a balance of perspective to the large-scale problems tackled in the book. Percentage of Lauren’s clothes currently covered in food stains? Forty. One of the best techniques for replacing that ‘treat’ that fashion can be in your life? Lots of baths (not a euphemism apparently).

An outfit should always have at least 20 per cent space for pasta.

Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion

Whilst at the same time the ‘Where is the humanity?’ chapter discusses the many ways in which garment workers’ human rights have been disregarded unflinchingly. The death of 1,138 people in the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 is a disaster that many were aware of at the time, but other building collapses and fires are simply forgotten. Lauren discusses in this book how the sustainability movement can often be too focused on a middle-class white women’s perspective which can bring with it accusations of a white saviour complex or companies who ‘greenwash’ purely for profit. It’s a complex issue which Lauren discusses much better than I could do here, and it’s clear that this perspective needs to change to reflect the experience and concerns of all parts of society for the movement to continue to grow.

But when considering our next fashion purchase, recognising that every item of clothing is handmade and that those hands have often been exposed to harsh working conditions is a simple way to respect the human rights of the garment workers.

‘We can only do the best we can do. But we can probably do better than we are.’

Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion

This quote repeated often throughout the book is something to remember in those conflicted moments in our shopping future. It’s going to be hard to avoid buying from a fast fashion shop ever again, their whole business model relies on making it easy, quick and cheap. With every time you have to compromise, there can be another moment where you take one step forward, whether it’s fixing your jumper, going to a ‘clothes swap’ or just not washing your clothing as much as you used to. Dressing in protest does not have to be reflected in the style of clothes you wear, as Lauren discusses, a radical act can be as simple as re-wearing the clothes we already own.

Sarah’s Thoughts

I love fashion. I have done since I was young. From dressing up Sindy dolls in my own creations to working in the fashion industry. My first job after fashion college was as an Assistant Buyer for a large high street retailer. A regular task was to trawl the length and breadth of Oxford Street to ‘comp shop’. Basically playing detective on what your competitors have in their store: price, colours, fibre content, where it is made and most importantly what did they have that we didn’t. I was literally shopping for a living.

I soon fell out of love with shopping for work and for myself. So when I was asked to review a book written by a woman who’s hobby was shopping on ASOS, I didn’t think it would be for me. My mind changed the minute I turned the last page on the first chapter. I haven’t stopped quoting lines from the book and telling friends and our workshop participants about it.

Lauren approaches a wide range of complex subjects with humour, and yet makes us aware that the fashion industry and our relationship to clothes is complicated. For example, during our workshops we are often asked if cotton is more sustainable than polyester but it isn’t as simple as yes or no. Neither is trying to explain that stopping buying clothes altogether puts jobs within the global fashion supply chain at risk. This quote sums up the conundrum:

‘’Between balancing environmental impact and human rights, spending more but buying less but still keeping garment workers in (fairly paid) jobs, the whole business of ethical shopping can start to feel a bit like that puzzle where you have to get a wolf, a chicken and a bag of corn across a river.’

Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion

I’ve had many discussions with friends trying to explain that just because a certain brand is expensive doesn’t make it more sustainable than a cheaper one. I’ve ear-marked this page of the book to bring out in the pub when the discussion arises again:

‘The price you pay for the garment is not always reflective of the quality of the garment, and definitely not reflective of the sustainability of the garment.’

Dr Sumner, Lecturer in Fashion and Sustainability, Leeds University

Despite my protests, I’ll admit I have three items of clothing from too-expensive-for-my-budget brands that I bought in the sale and I have never worn. My usual excuse of ‘I’ll slim into them’ but three to five years later I still haven’t. I teach people to repair and upcycle their clothes and yet it took for me to read this book to remember those unloved purchases hanging in my wardrobe. I’m now on the lookout for second-hand pieces of fabric that I can use to make the clothes bigger and finally wear them!

‘We need to stop shopping as though clothes are toothpaste, but equally we need to stop using the phrase ‘investment buy’ as a blanket excuse to spaff money we don’t have, on clothes we don’t need. We need to establish what ‘value’ means to us.’

Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion

As a UK size 16, sustainable fashion brands do not cater to my size. I’ve managed to buy a few pieces such as organic cotton T-shirts and a swimming costume made from fishing nets found on the ocean floor. The author criticises the sustainable fashion companies for often only catering up to size 14 and I appreciated the author for her honesty. It isn’t easy to criticise companies that are improving the practices of the fashion industry. We want sustainable fashion to be mainstream and that means catering for all sizes.

Photo: Victoria Briggs

I paid particular attention to Lauren’s advocacy of vintage and second-hand clothing. A more affordable alternative to buying new sustainable fashion, and one I am a big fan of. There are several chapters full of practical tips on how to shop at vintage fairs and charity shops. Even discussing what to do about that smell associated with second-hand clothes.

‘’The best solution is to keep our clothes in action, whether that’s by us or by a brand-new owner.’

Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion

Of course, I am biased and particularly enjoyed the philosophy and practical tips on how to care for our clothes, mend them and love them. Again, I’m guilty of teaching people to mend their clothes and yet my own mending pile never seems to get smaller.

‘…If fast fashion is the devil then home sewing is the saintly alternative…
Remember the golden rule of wardrobe maintenance: a disaster is just a craft project you haven’t met yet.’

Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion

I really enjoyed reading How to Break Up with Fashion Fashion. It was engaging, funny and enlightening. Most of all the book reminded me that I can do more to improve my carbon footprint when it comes to fashion. I will make more of an effort to love the clothes I own, alter them, look after them and most of all enjoy wearing them.

“If the most sustainable item of clothing is the one we already own, then appreciating and wearing those clothes is one of the most powerful differences we can make.”

Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion

How to Break up With Fast Fashion Book Launch at Foyles, London. Lauren Bravo in conversation with Katherine Oremrod.

Lauren Bravo’s Top Tips on How to Break Up with Fast Fashion

  1. Unsubscribe from all of your fashion related mailing lists
  2. Edit your social media feeds – swap accounts that make you want to shop to those who are into slow fashion
  3. Turn to your own wardrobe. Get it all out on the bed and confront yourself with the volume you own
  4. Take each piece and ask yourself why did I buy it? Why did I think I want it? Why haven’t I worn it?

‘Learn from this future you! You can learn from past you mistakes. Make clothes work harder for us. It is not sustainable behaviour to buy, wear once and resell. Hopping off that trend treadmill stopped me wearing things that didn’t suit me.’

Lauren Bravo speaking at Foyles Bookshop, London Jan 2020

Upcycle a Christmas Jumper

It is estimated that 12 million Christmas jumpers will be bought this festive season despite 65 million lurking in the back of the wardrobe according to charity Hubbub. Speaking in The Daily Telegraph, the Charity’s project co-ordinator Sarah Divall suggests customers ‘swap, buy second-hand or re-wear and remember a jumper is for life not, just for Christmas.’

These facts inspired us to create two upcycling workshops to combat this example of fast fashion, textile and plastic waste (up to 75% of Christmas jumpers contain acrylic, a form of plastic)

Upcycle a Plain Jumper Into a Christmas Jumper

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine asked us to help their staff and students create festive jumpers from plain knitwear already in their wardrobes as part of their Sustainable Christmas Fair. We were really impressed with everyone’s creativity. Techniques such as couching, appliqué and embroidery were applied using festive trims and fabric remnants we picked up at Charity shops. There are plenty available this time of year.

Upcycle a Christmas Jumper to Wear All-Year

We launched our December workshops at Buy a Gift’s Zero Waste Christmas market. Alternatively we took a Christmas jumper, added embellishments to create a jumper we could wear all year round. Ruching scrap fabrics and appliqueing them over the Christmas motif. This effect can be used to cover any branding on sweatshirts and t-shirts.

We run a variety of fashion repair and upcycling workshops for up to 15 people. Please email us on hello@fastfashiontherapy.co.uk to book us for your sustainable fashion event or click on our event calendar for our upcoming workshops.