Top tips for ticking clothes mending off your to do list
Since I’ve been teaching people to mend their clothes the more of my own clothes I have to mend. Karen, a regular workshop attendee, asked if we ever give up on an item of clothing. No is the answer and I think that is why my mending pile seems to be larger than ever. I did mend my clothes before I taught the workshops but I might give up more quickly on an item that wasn’t a quick fix. We have been running the workshops for four years and I rarely give up on an item of clothing. Choosing to repair, refresh and upcycle them into something else. Here are my top tips on how to find time to mend your clothes.
1. Keep the clothes visible
Where do you keep your clothes that need to be repaired? I find if I put them in the wardrobe or drawers they never seemed to get fixed. I place mine in a small basket close to my wardrobe reminding me to mend them.
2. Mending kit
Keep a small sewing or mending kit to hand. You don’t need much equipment, a variety of needles, a few threads, yarns and patches of fabric. The most important thing is a sharp pair of scissors that you only use for fabrics and threads. Read our blog on how to build a repair kit.
3. Our free online mend-a-long
Time is definitely an issue when it comes to clothes mending. We’ve been running a monthly mend-a-long online for the past couple of years to encourage people to mend their clothes. An hour once a month when a group of us get together to chat as we mend. It isn’t a formal teaching session but all clothes mending and upcycling questions are welcome. We learn of techniques we might not have thought of from people who join us from all over the UK and sometimes the US. Scroll down for joining details, everyone is welcome.
We are thrilled to announce that we have received £500 of funding for our online mend-a-long project through Localgiving Magic Little Grants Fund which is supported by Players of People’s Postcode Lottery – It means we are able to keep running this online-mend-along for free for a year, thank you to everyone who plays the People’s Postcode Lottery! We meet on the first Monday of the month (unless there is a bank holiday and we are taking a break in August).
I understand that it isn’t always quick and easy to fit clothes mending into your week. But sometimes it can be the smallest mends that prevent us from wearing our clothes. Whether that is a lost button or a small hole. Join us for a collective mending session and be amazed how much you can get repaired in an hour.
Today is World Ocean Day, the day where people around the world celebrate the oceans and seas that connects us all. As humans we have over polluted and over heated our seas for the past 100 years, if not more. At Fast Fashion Therapy, we have chosen to focus on the microplastic fibres that shred from our clothes into the ocean, causing damaging effects.
The main textile fibre to create micro plastics is Polyester. It might be known by other names in your clothes label. These are brand names from textile companies who have adapted the basic fibre. The general term is Polyester, which is a man-made synthetic Polymer.
Polyester is in 60% of our clothes in the UK and makes up 51% of all the fibres produced globally. It doesn’t require as much water to produce as Cotton but overall it has a more negative effect on our planet.
A polyester shirt has more than double the carbon footprint of a cotton shirt
Plastic fibres have been in mass production since the middle of the 20th Century and increasing in use ever since. During 2019’s Fashion Question Time, Laura Balmond, Project Manager for Make Fashion Circular (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) stated ‘[In 2018] there were 100m tonnes of fibres that were produced for all textiles. Over 60% of those are plastic based so it is difficult to swap out like for like. Where would we find 60 billion tonnes of natural fibres from as soon as you needed them?’. It isn’t as simple as immediately swapping the global fibre production to a more sustainable source.
UK charity, WRAP, are funding projects to find new innovations in plastics recycling, including Polyester textiles. They are looking for a ‘state of the art’ solution to this growing problem. Currently, only 1% of textiles are recycled into new clothing, mostly because there isn’t the technology or the logistics to manage this. There is also the problem that once plastic (inc Polyester) has been recycled it is difficult to recycle it again as it becomes a much weaker substrate.
How to reduce Microplastic fibre waste
We don’t have to wait for this new technology, we can make a change now:
Buy less new products, swapping to second hand clothes. Microplastic fibre waste will still be excreted from our clothes when we wash them but virgin materials are not required to create new clothes. Producing new clothes from Polyester causes negative environmental factors such as heat, chemicals and the use of non-replaceable fossil fuels.
When washing fabrics that contain Polyester or other forms of plastic fibres use a Guppy Friend Bag. Or a similar brand. It helps prevent microplastics from reaching our oceans.
Reduce the number of times clothes are washed. It isn’t necessary to wash clothes after every wear. Air the clothes by an open window or outside. Spot clean any stains.
Repair damaged clothes rather than buying new. Need help? We host weekly workshops in London or join us for an online mend-a-long once a month. We have lots of ‘how to videos’ to help you too.
Our clothes mending workshops were super busy in April. Both in person at The Create Place and online via Zoom. It is really encouraging that so many of you want to mend your clothes, saving them from landfill to be worn again. We really appreciate the enthusiasm you bring to our workshops, chatting and helping each other with tips on clothes mending and how to live a bit more sustainably. Thanks to everyone who joins in to create this friendly and welcoming community. We are looking forward to being back in Bethnal Green and Brixton this month after a break for the Easter holidays. Please scroll down for workshop booking details.
Join us for a workshop
The Create Place We are back on the 9th and 23rd May this month. We are already full for the 9th May but we have lots of places for the 23rd if you want to book your place. Either book via Eventbrite or send us an email to email@example.com to book your place.
The Remakery We are back in Brixton on the 16th May. Bring along a couple of items of clothing to repair and we will help get you started. If there are any particular materials you need, please let us know in advance. We only have a couple of sewing machines so please bring along some hand sewing repairs too. Book via Eventbrite, £3.50
Online via Zoom We welcome new attendees to our group of regulars who log in from around the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. It is an opportunity to get through our clothes repairs whilst we chat and share tips, it isn’t a formal teaching session but please ask questions. Join us on 6th June. As a subscriber to this newsletter you will automatically receive joining details.
We have been keeping a basic list of all the clothes that everyone has been bringing with them to our workshops. The idea is that we can compile a basic audit of the number and type of garments that people repair. An audit of the amount garments that we have all saved from landfill. We will share the half year results before the summer.
This year, Fashion Revolution is calling on global citizens to rise up together for a regenerative, restorative and revolutionary new fashion system. Throughout Fashion Revolution Week, the groundwork will be laid down for new laws on living wages for the people that make our clothes, brands will be encouraged to shift their focus away from endless growth, and consumers will be inspired to scrutinise the real value of what we buy.
Fashion Revolution Week
How to avoid overconsumption
As a consumer, we have the power to change the fashion system. Shopping can be overwhelming, trying to figure out which brands pay living wages, who are trying to greenwash us, which ones are championing organic and recycled material?
There is a simple answer to this and that is to buy less, value what we have and the new clothes we buy. Fashion Revolution are asking brands to ‘shift their focus away from endless growth’. We can support this cause buy reducing the growth of our wardrobes. Below we share our tips on how to make a difference all year round.
Mend more, buy less
We teach people to repair, refresh and refashion their clothes. Mending clothes means we get to wear the garment for that bit longer. It could be a favourite pair of jeans that has holes from being worn so much. Or a dress that never did fit quite right and needs altering. Maybe even a coat that hasn’t been worn simply because the button fell off. The process of mending is rewarding, taking time over a piece of clothing, feeling the cloth and remembering the times we wore it. As we repair, we understand the construction of the clothes and all the hard work that goes into making them. Helping us to value them more.
Slow down and think about what we are buying. It is not the end of the world if we buy something new if it has been a very thought out decision and we have thought of other options beforehand.
We love fashion, it is in our name! Keeping and wearing our clothes for longer hasn’t stopped us enjoying the shopping experience. Expressing our identity through the clothes we wear, buying second hand is more fun than buying new. The UK’s highstreets are full of charity shops selling clothes in every shape, colour and size. Discovering areas of towns and cities that have the best selection. Buying from charity shops is a double win as we are preventing the clothes from reaching landfill and the charity benefits from the sale. Swishing (clothes swapping) events, buying vintage and using the many second hand clothes apps are also a fun way to shop. Jen Gale started Sustainable (ish) to encourage us all to make ethical choices and not feel bad when we are not able to. This was a result of a year of not buying anything new in 2014, which Jen has pledged to repeat this year. Find out how she gets on, plus lots of other great tips on her podcast.
A word of warning here. A fashion brand may talk the talk and at first glimpse sound like they are sustainable but there is more to investigate. For example, H&M have their Conscious range. This is a tiny percentage of their overall sales, the rest of which do not follow the same sustainable credentials. The fast fashion system started around the industrial revolution in the 19th Century, increasing over the decades, especially after World War II. This has resulted in a complex supply chain, where often the fashion buyers and product developers don’t know the full journey of their stock from fibre to shop floor. How can they ensure staff are paid a living wage and treated fairly and harmful chemicals are not released if they don’t know where the fibre is produced or where the fabric is woven?
We need to ask our favourite brands this simple question. If we keep asking them then they need to ask their supplier. Usually brands don’t own their own factories. They commission factories, often through an agent, to make the garments for them. The agents or factories can then give some of the work to another factory without the brand knowing. So they can’t always answer this question. We can go deeper and ask who made my fabric? They might know the factory that constructed the garment, but do they know where the fibres were created, who dyed the yarn, wove or knitted the fabric, printed the fabric? ‘Who made my fabric?’ is another important question to ask.
Online clothing sales grew by £2.7 billion in the U.K. during the pandemic, with physical stores closed total sales still fell by £9.6 billion. This shift in behaviour when buying clothes is expected to continue as more than a third of people say they would carry on with these new buying habits. It is now expected that online clothing sales in the U.K. will overtake in-store purchases this year, previously this was expected to happen in 2025.
It is common for people to order many items online, try them on and then return what they don’t like as many people expect these clothes to be put back into stock for someone else to buy them. This isn’t always true, it is cheaper to throw the clothes away than to repackage and resell them. Luxury and fast fashion brands have also been reported to burn brand new clothes that haven’t been sold to avoid their distinctive designs being sold cheap elsewhere. A report released in 2017 found that 73% of clothing that is thrown away by consumers goes to waste, with 57% ending up in landfill and 25% of this being incinerated.
However, there has been some signs of positive change recently. Since 2020, France has been bringing in new Anti-Waste laws to encourage a shift to the circular economy, one of these means that is now illegal for new unsold clothing and textile items to be burnt or sent to landfill. This law has already changed the way luxury goods companies manage their stock and production. This action is proof of the power that governments have to change the fashion industry and shows the importance of campaigning to pressure governments in other countries to act as well.
Fashion is fun and an important way for us to express our identity. It provides a living for millions of people across the globe. But buying clothes should not at the detriment to the people who make them or the Earth’s resources. Considering all of these aspects when buying new clothes is overwhelming. But it really is as simple as buy less, value what you buy by wearing the garment more. When it needs a bit of TLC, we can help you out.
About Fashion Revolution Week: This is the ninth year in which the charity ask us to challenge our favourite fashion brands with the question #whomademyclothes? Fashion Revolution was established in 2013 a year after the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1138 garment workers in Bangladesh. Since then charity have been campaigning globally against the human and environmental consequences of the fashion industry. Encouraging brands to change their practices to a more transparent and circular model.
Thanks to everyone who has joined us for clothes mending workshops over the past few weeks. It has been great to see so many of you online and in person getting those clothes repaired and preventing them from being thrown away. We joined the University of Birmingham to host a workshop as part of their project ‘The Air We Breathe’. Thanks if you came along. Everyone did a brilliant job with their visible darning and patching. The exhibition ‘explores air pollution through the lens of University of Birmingham research’. The exhibition is on until 30th June and we recommend a visit.
Join us for a workshop
We are fully booked at The Create Place this coming Monday. We have lots of spaces available for 11 and 18th April, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to book a place. The next online meet up will be Monday 4 April, book via Eventbrite. There is no workshop at The Remakery in April as it is the Easter holidays. We will be back there on the 16th May, book via Eventbrite.
We are honoured to be included as part of The Cinema of Ideas programme focusing on protest in the garment industry. The line up includes films, a discussion and a darning workshop hosted by us! It is all online. Our workshop and the panel discussion are on specific days. The films; you have two weeks to watch at your leisure. All of this for only £5 ticket.
We are delighted to have Fast Fashion Therapy join us for a darning workshop. Learn how to prolong the life of your clothes by mending holes and fixing seams and save them ending up in a landfill. Darning kits provided by Fast Fashion Therapy are available on their website so you can mend-along with this workshop. Please purchase your darning kit a week in advance so it can be delivered to your home in time for the workshop: https://etsy.me/32QfqRQ
Live Panel Discussion – How to Support Garment Workers 7pm, Monday 21 February
We are delighted to be joined by journalist Amber Sunner, writer Gracie Beswick and Ruth Ogier from charity War on Want for a live conversation on how to support garment workers around the world on an international and local level.
About the speakers
War on Want is an organisation dedicated to supporting Garment workers around the world fight for their rights.
Amber Sunner is a freelance journalist who has researched and interviewed garment workers in Leicester, publishing an article in October 2020 exposing the exploitative treatment of workers in BooHoo factories.
Gracie Beswick is a filmmaker and writer dedicated to sharing and promoting sustainable and ethical fashion, with an emphasis on small individual changes that can make a big difference.
Made in Bangladesh, streaming 19 February – 5 March
Rubaiyat Hossain’s 2019 drama follows garment worker Shimu as she fights to start a union in her unsafe and exploitative factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The Pajama Game, streaming 21 February – 27 February
The Pajama Game is a classic Hollywood musical starring Doris Day as a union grievance officer who juggles her loyalties to her union and her growing affection for her new manager.
The films will be accompanied by Knitwear Workers Protest March, an archival newsreel from the Media Archive for Central England that highlights Britain’s history of textile production and union action! As the demand for cheap instant clothes has been accelerated by the pandemic, this selection of films is as timely as ever, showing who really pays the price when your t-shirt costs next to nothing.
‘Garment-mending workshops are opening up across the country, promoting a more responsible attitude to fashion and a space to unwind. Fleur Britten and her holey sweater drop in’ Stella Magazine, The Sunday Telegraph, 23 January 2022
We are thrilled to be included in Stella Magazine’s article on mending circles. Thanks to Fleur Britten for getting in touch and including Fast Fashion Therapy. It is encouraging to see so many clothes mending groups popping up all over the country.
‘People share ideas on the local area, their favourite charity shops and fashion’s lack of sustainability. People arrive with no sewing skills, but leave with their clothes fixed and always happy. It’s addictive.’
Sarah Richards, Fast Fashion Therapy, Stella Magazine
Want to find out more? Come along to one of our London workshops on Monday evenings or join us online if you live further way.
Something as small as a lost button can prevent us from wearing our clothes. By learning how to repair or rework our clothes we can prevent that item from adding to the 336,000 tonnes of clothing that end up in UK landfill or incineration each year (Wrap Textiles 2030).
Our clothes can take as long as 200 years to decompose…so our planet is getting polluted by more and more unnatural material all the time.
The majority of the clothes people bring to our workshops are items that they cherish. It might be a pair of jeans that fit perfectly, a Kaftan that was owned by a grandmother, a dress that brings back a lot of fun memories on the events it was worn to. People leave our workshops happy that their favourite item of clothing can be worn again to create new memories.
3. Learn a new skill
You don’t need to be an expert dressmaker or tailor to fix clothes. At least 85% of our workshop attendees have never used a sewing machine before or not since they were at school. Bring along an item of clothing you want to fix and we will show you the techniques you need to repair it. Build up your sewing skills with each item of clothing that is repaired. Materials and equipment is provided.
4. Practice mindfulness
Often participants will talk of how calming simply sitting as a group and hand stitching their damaged clothing can be. As our repair and upcycling workshops are often aimed at beginner sewers, we place a focus on the doing rather than perfection. The practical task of clothes mending and sewing can offer respite from the scale of a problem for a short moment in time. Darning, for example, takes concentration to weave the yarn to build up the hole. Read our article in Pebble Magazine on why mending your clothes is good for the soul.
5. Save money
Fast fashion is notoriously inexpensive to buy but it often doesn’t last very long as cheap fabrics and techniques are used to make them. There is no judgement at our workshops on where your clothes are from. We are happy to help you repair the item of clothing to prevent it from adding to the landfill issue. By mending an item of clothing that you can wear again, it reduces the need to buy something new to replace it. Our workshops are free or offered at an affordable rate.
Join one of our workshops
We host regular workshops in London on a Monday evening. If you are not based in London, we also offer a free online mend-a-long via Zoom. It isn’t a teaching session but we can give you advice on how to mend your clothes and send you videos of any techniques required. Find our list of ‘How To’ videos here.
Find the list of our workshops on our Event Calendar, including more non-London based workshops coming this year. Or sign up to our newsletter to keep updated on how to join us for some Fast Fashion Therapy.
Today is Christmas jumper day, wear a festive jumper and donate money to Save the Children. Fantastic! If you have taken part, please wear your Christmas jumper more than once. It was estimated that 12 million Christmas jumpers were bought in 2019 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.’
Sarah Divall, Hubub
Last month we wrote about the ‘30 wear rule‘ when buying a new item of clothing. Why should a Christmas jumper be any different? Here are our top tips on how to get the most out of your Christmas jumper and prevent it from becoming textile waste.
1. Start wearing your jumper early
I visited my family in Scotland in October, where they have more reason to wear jumpers for longer. It was Halloween but my niece Libby was wearing the above red sweatshirt adorned with snowflakes and an image of a cute black cat and the words ‘Meowy Christmas’. Do you know what, it looked fantastic! The black cat ticked the Halloween box and it was genuinely a warm and item of clothing that she loves and will wear throughout the winter.
2. Worn it before? So What?
My husband went out this evening for his annual Christmas curry club wearing a Christmas Jumper he has owned for 7 years and it is still going. Do you think anyone really remembers if you have worn it before? And if they do, then explain it is your favourite and you are saving another piece of clothing from reaching landfill.
3. Upcycle your Christmas jumper
If tip 2 isn’t quite for you and you want to update your Christmas jumper each year, then add a few embellishments. We love this tip from our friends at the Ealing Repair Cafe. Maria added a Christmas hat to her daughter’s non-Christmas jumper. Add some pompoms, ribbon, sequins. Any small change will make your jumper feel like it is all new again. Of course you can create a Christmas jumper from a plain jumper. As we did at our workshop with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine back in 2019.
4. Take the Christmas out of your jumper
I’ve seen some really over the top Christmas jumpers, which might be difficult to update to an all-season jumper. In this case, I refer you to points 1 and 2. If your jumper is a bit more subtle, then hide the Christmas references. Eleanor updated this semi-plain sweatshirt by cutting strips of a lightweight fabric. Thread a needle with a double a length of sewing thread approximately 45cm. Knot the end. Fold over the fabric at approximately 5cm folds. Sew through the centre of all the layers. Continue with more lengths of fabric, changing the colours if you wish. Pull together and secure with a couple of back stitches and a knot. Repeat until you have enough ruching to cover the message on your jumper. Alternatively, use the Boro and Sashiko technique to patch over the festivity on your jumper.
5. Swap with a friend
OK, you’ve worn your jumper for 7 years and fancy a change. Find a friend the same clothes size as you and swap your jumpers. Host a Christmas jumper swap with a group of friends or colleagues. Best to do it soon whilst everyone remembers where their jumper is and can wear it over the holidays.
Maybe you haven’t bought a Christmas jumper yet and still thinking about getting into the popular craze. I spotted the jumpers at the top of this post in the window of my local charity shop and they had lots more inside. Buy from a charity shop-wear-donate-repeat. Use it like a form of rental and the money all goes to charity.
Join us on the 20th December at The Remakery in South London. Bring along a plain jumper to update into a Christmas jumper and we will provide some festive trims. Bringing your regular clothes mending is fine too. Book via Eventbrite.
Those of you have attended our workshops or follow us on social media know that our ethos all year round is to mend our clothes and choose second hand to avoid buying new. With all the noise around Black Friday it is difficult to avoid all the seemingly good discounts. I’ll admit to making the most of the discount off my favourite natural beauty brand but I wrote a list before I went shopping so as not to get tempted by discounts and buy only what I needed.
When buying new clothes a good tip is to question yourself ‘will I wear it 30 times?’ A philosophy created by Livia Firth, founder of Eco-Age to help reduce the number of clothes bought and not worn. We like this explanation on Cariki’s blog. It is also helpful to ask yourself ‘can I buy it second hand?’ or if it is an item of clothing that needs replacing, ‘can I mend it?‘.
When shopping for new clothes it is useful to have a check list of the values that are most important to you. For example buying clothes made from organic fabrics and ensuring the brands pay their factory workers a fair wage. I wrote the above list about 8 years ago when I started understanding more about sustainable fashion. I realise now that this list is idealistic but it has resulted in me buying less, choosing second hand clothes, mending and upcycling clothes or making my own from pre-loved fabrics.
FASH Forward is a new online sustainable fashion magazine. Lots of tips from how to wash clothes to mending shoes and wear to buy sustainable sportswear. We are definitely going to visit the packaging exhibition at the Design Museum thanks to FASH Foward’s recommendation. Read the Winter Issue here. Thanks to Ailís for including us in her excellent magazine.
I like to remember that Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving in the US, as it was a day that retailers are supposed to be in the black, or credit. It is a holiday in the US and people start their Christmas shopping. In the UK we seemed to have inherited the buying frenzy without the day of thanks. I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving with my American friend for the past 10 years to make her feel more at home. It is an enjoyable day with our families eating a delicious dinner without the commercialism of gifts. At the end of the meal we take turns in sharing what we have thanks for. This year I gave thanks that The Create Place introduced Eleanor and I and for the support from our workshop attendees and followers. Thank you!