We designed this graphic last year before the start of the Covid Pandemic. We had been running two workshops a week and people brought along their clothes to repair. We did an audit to find out the most popular items of clothing to repair and the main issues they had. Jeans were one of the most popular items to repair. Many of them had worn away between the thighs and needed repairing. Usually the rest of the denim is perfectly fine. Mending the hole between the thighs brings the jeans back to life, ready to wear again!
With the hole being in between the thighs, I prefer to use a denim patch along with matching thread rather than making a feature of the mend. Not quite invisible mending but not as obvious as visible mending as the example in the how to video. The above photo is of my favourite jeans which have been patched several times. Rather than take off the original patching, I add layers to it and patch over the new holes. I’ve been asked if it makes the jeans uncomfortable to wear but I don’t notice the difference.
In the video above, Eleanor demonstrates how to patch using the Japanese Boro style technique. This technique can be used for all woven fabrics, not just denim. The below video is my husband (Craig) mending his jeans after I taught him this technique. He can sew on a button but usually leaves the clothes mending to me. This is the first time he has tried Boro style patching, I wanted to share the video to show you don’t have to be a sewing whiz to mend your own jeans. Hand sewing is great for mindfulness too!
Sewing needle (sharp ended to get through the denim)
Dressmaker pins to hold the patch in place or safety pins also work well
Tape measure or ruler to measure the patch
Thread – I use a blue to match the denim (not white shown in the photo)
Denim patching kits available on our Etsy shop – COMING SOON
We are running monthly virtual workshops teaching patching and darning. Join us to learn Boro style patching with the opportunity to practice and ask questions. Book via Eventbrite on the button below. The class takes place via Zoom, instructions and a patching kit (worth £10) is sent in advance of the workshop. Hope to see you there.
Me. Me. Me. So many times, and in so many different and confusing ways.
Greenwashing is described by Cambridge Dictionary as making ‘people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it actually is’. This could be through marketing campaigns that project the small, positive actions they’ve done far above the huge issues in their business model and supply chain or through just chucking out a few sustainable buzzwords and hoping they stick.
Approaching buying a new item of clothing whilst considering the sustainable, ethical and moral credentials of the company you are buying it from is not an easy task. Even fashion brands that consistently appear on sustainable bloggers Instagrams or blog posts or that are sold in specifically sustainable shops can, with a little digging, turn out to be a total letdown.
One brand that particularly got me was Matt & Nat, a vegan accessories brand based in Canada that regularly featured in beautifully-styled sustainable fashion photoshoots. I lusted after one of their backpacks for a good few years, considering them to be a sustainable alternative that was also genuinely attractive. On their own website they project their brand as better for the environment, stating that ‘in 2010, the UN reported that the best way to protect the environment is to adopt a vegan/vegetarian diet, given the harmful effects of factory farming’.
This vague reference to a UN report from ten years ago should have been my first red flag. The report did say that ‘a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from…the worst impacts of climate change’, and that the production of animal products ‘causes more damage than construction minerals such as sand, cement, plastics or metals’. So they are correct in saying that because all their products are made from vegan materials it is more sustainable, but compared to what, the absolute most damaging thing? That doesn’t seem like a good bar to judge it against if we’re looking for genuine change.
Matt & Nat make most of their products from PU (polyurethane) and PVC (polyvinylchloride), both of these are plastics with PVC being one of the most environmentally-damaging ones. The chemicals used in producing PVC have been found to cause life-altering side effects in those working with them, such as cancer and birth defects, leading to campaigns from Greenpeace asking for its production to be stopped entirely. Alongside this, other than ‘diligently visiting’, they are vague about the details of what they expect from the factories they work with, and only one of these factories operates by SA8000 standard, which means it is committed to providing a living wage for workers, no discrimination and a safe workplace.
Picking on one brand seems almost unfair when so many use the same techniques. Boohoo came into the spotlight over lockdown for its suppliers’ treatment of its workers in factories in Leicester, with many being asked to carry on working when sick with COVID-19, whilst also selling t-shirts with social distancing slogans on. Missguided, owned by the same parent company, chose lockdown as the perfect time to release a documentary on Channel 4 showing the ‘boss babe’ culture of their head offices. No mention of the poor treatment of female garment workers in their supply chain came up, and it’s striking that quite a classic dynamic within fashion companies, of a male CEO earning lots more than all the female workers who do the majority of the work in the business, was spun to be a tale of female empowerment. This branding strategy moves away from greenwashing and more into ‘woke-washing’, a term used to describe when businesses use ethical and progressive values in their advertising to conceal the bad practices of their companies.
Realising you’ve been greenwashed or woke-washed and invested in a company you don’t agree with, shouldn’t be met with guilt. It reflects badly on them, not on you. Acknowledge the ways they attracted you to their brand, learn from it and look out for those techniques in the future.
Realistically, it’ll probably happen again, because different companies use different tricks to present themselves positively and certain companies will try their absolute hardest to hide the not-so-rose-tinted facts from you. Also, there’s a lot of other stuff going on in life and sometimes you just don’t have the time or money to wade through all the lies just to get a t-shirt. Websites and apps like Good On You can be so helpful for speeding this process up, it was there that I found out about the less pleasing sustainability credentials of Matt & Nat. The scoring system is really simple to understand and their research into different fashion brands is regularly updated and reviewed.
Our part in the fashion industry as ‘consumers’ can make it seem like the only way to change the industry is to consume differently but we have so much power in refusing to consume. Obviously at FFT, we are big fans of repair and reuse as a way of doing this and trying to ask ourselves whether we can avoid buying new by first, repairing something we already own or reusing something that someone else no longer needs is always a good place to start. But using our voice, even in the smallest way, can have a real impact too.
Over lockdown with many brands refusing to pay garment factories for orders and a lack of options in terms of protesting physically, many people took to social media to support campaigns led by Clean Clothes Campaign and Labour Behind the Label to place pressure on these brands to #PayUp. Although tagging a brand in an activist post or commenting on their posts when they try to show off their sustainable and ethical credentials can seem tiny, brands can’t ignore thousands of people doing it. And some of those brands listened to this action with Gap and Levis changing their minds and paying up.
In a past blog post, we reviewed Lauren Bravo’s How to Break Up with Fast Fashion where she used the emotions and complications that come with getting over your ex as an excellent analogy for getting over our addiction to fast fashion. With woke-washing becoming a trend this year in both fashion and online dating (green-washing pops up here a little bit too), that comparison seems even more apt. With dating, if someone presents a version of themselves in which they care about the social, political and environmental issues that you care about, that can be attractive and make you believe they’re a good person. When you get to know them a little longer and realise their actions don’t back these ideas up, our trust can be broken. Most people don’t give up on love entirely however, we learn from it and little by little, we work out how to pick out the good ones.
It is that time of the year when my jumpers and cardigans swap their under-the-bed storage home with my summer clothes. Moths like to eat dirty clothes so I washed my knitwear before I stored them away in an airtight bag. Bringing them back out into the Autumn light, I can see their are in need of refreshing and repair…
Refreshing & Washing
I prefer not to wash my knitwear too frequently. It can cause more pilling (bobbling) and shrinkage. Instead I gave them a refresh. The most effective way to refresh your clothes is to hang them outside in the fresh air. I live in a flat without a balcony so this is how I refresh my clothes:
Boil half a litre (1 pint) of water and let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, add 10 drops of tea tree essential oil and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. 30ml of witch hazel is also useful if available. Tea Tree oil is thought to work as a natural insect repellent, including moths. Lavender is a well known remedy to prevent moths and I also prefer the smell to Tea Tree, so this blend works better for me.
I added the solution to a rinsed out spray bottle that I had previously been an eco-friendly cleaning product. Any spray bottle will do but it is best not to use one that previously contained bleach just in case there is any residue as it will damage your clothes. I place my jumper over the ironing board, give it a generous spray then hold over a steam iron. Ensure the iron is on the wool setting, too hot and it will shrink your knits. I only pressed the iron very gently on the knitwear, more of a hover and using the steam to refresh (see video below). The jumper is still damp at this point so I placed flat over a clothes rack so the water didn’t weigh down and stretch the jumper.
When washing knitwear it is important to take notice of the care instructions in the label. I prefer to handwash my knits or if using a machine then I set it to the lowest spin cycle. A special wool detergent is recommended such as the one from Ecover.
Knitwear shouldn’t be dried on a hanger or a washing line / rack. The water in the knit construction will be heavy, causing it to stretch. It prefer to lay the knitwear flat on a concertina clothes airer with a towel underneath to catch the water.
De-Pilling or de-bobbling
Small bobbles seem to appear on jumpers out of nowhere. I am constantly de-bobbling! It is technically known as pilling and is caused by the friction of two pieces of fabric rubbing together. Under the arm is a common place or if you carry a bag regularly you will notice pilling where the bag is in contact with the jumper (or any type of fabric). Some fibres bobble more than others, I seem to always choose the bobbling type! The video above includes two ways of getting rid of the bobbles and the final refresh as described in the paragraph above.
Loose or Pulled Threads
I bought this jumper in a charity shop, perfect condition except for a long piece of yarn hanging from the sleeve. It had probably got caught on a clothing tag whilst in the shop. Here is a quick video on how to pull through the yarn or thread to the underside of the jumper to prevent causing a hole.
We love darning at Fast Fashion Therapy. The mindfulness of the stitching and the sense of achievement when repairing a hole. One of my cardigans had a hole directly under the button. I removed the button first, repaired the hole by darning with a matching yarn. I chose a matching yarn rather than making a feature of this darn as it is only a small hole that will be covered by the button. I sewed the button back on and voila! My cardigan is ready to wear.
Overstitch is a simple and effective hand sewing technique. It is really useful when it comes to mending clothes. The stitch can prevent fraying, hold two pieces of fabric together or useful for patching.
It might be a bit dull being stuck inside on a rainy weekend but on the positive side we caught up with some of our clothes mending. Although we teach clothes mending techniques to others, our own pile of clothes mending seems to get bigger rather than smaller.
First up was a vintage leather bag that’s suede outer casing contained some very big holes and tears. I patched the holes with scrapes of faux suede left over from industry waste. I used a large over stitch with a thicker thread to create a decorative effect. I’m really pleased with the result and think the mend adds to the texture and design of the bag.
Next up is a favourite dress that I managed to get bleach on. I cut off the bottom and re-hemmed giving it a re-style. We have created a video on how to re-hem trousers, I used the same principle for the dress, although I did use a sewing machine to re-stitch rather than hand sewing.
Lastly, I took in the waistband on a pair of casual trousers. The fabric was quite fine so it was simple to do. I put on the trousers, pinned where I need to take them in and made sure it was even on both sides. Working from the outside I used a sewing machine to top stitch a line on the new seam I had created. I used a matching thread so the stitching is only visible from the outside. This only works to take in a waist a few cm on each side. Any more than that and it will distort the main body of the trousers.
If you are looking for specific clothes mending advice then please get in touch and we can arrange a 1:1 clothes mending session with you for a small fee. Or join one of our free zoom workshops.
With a round tummy area, I often have a problem that my shorts and trousers are too small around the waist. These shorts are not too bad when I am standing up but when I sit down the button flies off, even when I have sewn it on securely. With the hot weather we have been having I needed to make these shorts fit more comfortably. Here is what I did…
In a previous post, I cut the elastic off some worn out men’s boxer shorts. I still have quite a bit of the elastic left. I cut two pieces each measuring 6cm in length. Leaving the width as it is (it will fray if cut).
On the front of the shorts, the waistband had a stitched side seam. This was easy to unpick with some sharp scissors and an unpicker (seam ripper). I unpicked both sides.
I wasn’t able to unpick the waistband on the reverse as it was one piece of fabric. So I cut it with some sharp scissors down just past the line of stitching.
I inserted one piece of the elastic under the channel of the waistband and pinned in place. I repeated this with the other end of the waistband and made sure it lay flat before pinning. Using a zig zag stitch on my sewing machine I stitched down over the raw edge of the waistband side seam, incorporating the elastic. Zig zag stitch is useful for elastic and stretch fabric as it stretches with the elastic. I used a regular running stitch along the bottom edge of the waist band to re-fix the area I had cut.
I then repeated this for the other side of the waistband. So that I had two pieces of elastic inserted on each side of the waist of the shorts. If you don’t have a sewing machine you can replicated the zig zag stitch by hand. It is best to use a thimble as it is a lot of fabric to get through and will make your fingers sore otherwise.
My last job was to sew the button on. I had lost the original button, so I chose one from my spare button jar. Before I sewed the button on, I checked it fitted through the button hole and was large enough to hold the thick fabric of the waistband. Watch our video on how to sew on a button. If you need some odd buttons for your collection, we sell a pack on our Etsy shop.
I can now comfortably sit down in my shorts with the button safely in place and they are more comfortable to wear. An alternative way to fix a waistband is to change it completely. In this how to blog post I replace the waistband of some pyjama bottoms. The same technique can be used for any shorts, trousers or skirts.
We are very excited to be able to hit the charity shops again from this weekend. We often pick up haberdashery and sewing equipment for our workshops from charity shops. Helping to reduce waste and support these fantastic charities.
We shared a couple of our favourite shops with sustainable lifestyle magazine Pebble. Along with many other Pebble readers, creating an exhaustive list of the best charity shops in the UK.
Our friends at Ayoka charity shop in East London save us clothes that are damaged so the attendees of our workshops can practice their mending techniques.
We didn’t get chance to mention the Big C craft warehouse in Wymondham, close to Norwich. A warehouse full of second hand sewing equipment and craft accessories all neatly categorised in baskets.
What is your favourite charity shop? Join in one of our virtual mending sessions to share your tips. Sign up for our newsletter for more information.
Katy got in touch at the start of lockdown to invite us to take part in her podcast. A journalist student at the London College of Fashion, Katy has created Boro Magazine as part of her final major project. She tells us ‘I am producing a magazine which explores contemporary make do and mending, focusing on the importance of extending the life of old clothing and innovative textile craftsmanship.’
The magazine sounds right up our street and we were happy to take part in her podcast. Katy asked us how we encourage people to repair their clothes and also the focus we place on therapeutic mending. Her questions were well researched and we had a lively conversation about our workshops. Click the button below to listen to the podcast (30 mins long)
We have been hosting regular Zoom meet ups for our Fast Fashion Therapy friends who miss our regular workshops. During our first meet up the chat was dominated by questions on how to make a face mask. At that time the scientists were sitting on the fence as to whether home-made masks were effective against Covid-19. Our group felt that something is better than nothing and since then the UK Government recommend wearing them when social distancing isn’t possible to prevent the spread of the virus.
Luckily for us, friend of Fast Fashion Therapy, Karla was on the call. She had been busy making hundreds of masks for her daughter and colleagues who work at the Whittington hospital in London. Karla’s daughter wears a surgical grade mask during her shift but finds the home made face coverings useful on her journey to and from work.
We have cheated and not created our own make a mask video. There are so many great videos out there we thought we would share our favourites.
How to make a mask videos
This is Karla and her daughter, Dr Imogen Ptacek. Karla made a respirator Jesse Mask designed by The Fabric Patch.
Sarah made her mask from instructions by Leah Day, also recommended by Karla. However, when she ran out of elastic, she used this video by Tilly & The Buttons to create a mask that ties at the back instead of using elastic around the ears. Stitchless TV have video tutorials for both style of masks and recommend using a back stitch if you don’t have a sewing machine.
Sarah and Karla chose a cotton poplin from their fabric stash that could withstand washing at 60oC. We have read that fabrics need to be washed with soap at this temperature to help breakdown the proteins of the virus. (We don’t recommend washing clothes at this temperature and always follow the advice in the care label). Poly-cotton is also a good fabric choice for this project. We recommend the fabric not being too thick as the masks contain two layers plus pleats on one of the versions. The wearer needs to be able to breathe through all that fabric. Old shirts, pillow cases and bed sheets are ideal materials to use. T-shirts or jersey fabric could also be used if it is first fixed with non-woven interfacing (which works as an additional filter). We have seen some people on Instagram use denim but think it could be a bit thick to breathe through.
Many of the tutorials recommend using wire to give the mask a closer fit around the nose. Sarah used a pipe cleaner bought from her local hardware store. Stitchless TV use garden wire and Tilly and The Buttons use a straightened out paper clip. If you are going to use a wire, Sarah recommends sewing a channel where the wire can be removed (as Till’s instructions). After washing at 60 degrees, Sarah’s wire has lost it’s shape and is no longer useful.
The pleated style masks have a gap to insert a filter. If you are going to use a filter then it needs to be a fused material, such as a piece of kitchen towel, j-cloths and squares of chopped up hoover bags (the fabric variety, not paper). The filter should be thrown away securely after each wear.
Important to note
All the videos note that the masks are not suitable in a clinical setting. The UK Government recommend wearing the masks when social distancing is not possible, e.g. on public transport. They could possibly stop the wearer spreading the virus to someone else but they probably do not protect the wearer from catching the disease. The mask must be washed after each wear. Place the mask over your mouth and nose before leaving home. Do not touch your face or remove the mask whilst out and about. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face to remove the mask. Place the mask in a drawstring bag and wash them both on a hot soapy wash.
We have been taking part in Fashion Revolution Week. Encouraging the repair of clothes through four common problems that we see in our workshops: Sewing on a button, holes in knitwear, repairing a hem and tears on the inner thigh of trousers and jeans.
On Friday, the charity hosted the annual Fashion Question Time, which debates key issues within the fashion industry amongst MPs and industry experts.
Cary Somers, Co-Founder of Fashion Revolution, opens Fashion Question Time:
‘Our challenge this decade is to move beyond our currently destructive and western world view, which is tipping us into a climate catastrophe and a plastic pollution crisis, towards a fashion industry which integrates nature in a truly sustainable way. We need brands and retailers to move from competitiveness to collaboration. We need to move from the commodification of natural resources to working alongside nature with all of her diversity in a way that is respectful, renewable and regenerative. Look at our longer lasting value systems than profit. Prioritising instead the protection of our ecosystems and the well being of our workers and communities. We need to rebuild our connections with how our textiles and our clothing is made in the slow way, in balance with plants, animals, with the earth and with our oceans. Will we all be brave enough to embrace this opportunity and start to create the revolutionary change which the fashion industry so desperately needs to see’.
We have (virtually) attended many events this week to learn more about the change required in the fashion industry and our effects on the environment as consumers. Here are our five learnings from this inspiring week.
‘Up to 95% of a garment’s impact lies in the material choice alone’ (Amanda Johnston, The Sustainable Angle). ‘Two thirds of our clothes contain 100% of chemicals and yet these are not disclosed to the consumer. We are breathing, eating, drinking the fibres in our clothes, the majority of which are plastic and chemical.’ Peter Gorse of Golf Refugees, who believes fashion brands should use blockchain technology and full disclose all the processes used to make our clothes.
2. Consume Less
‘If we consume less it automatically reduces the number of plastics and chemicals in our clothes.’ Baronness Bennett of Manor Castle, Green Party (eb4Fash Rev). ‘How do our habits have an impact? for example, if consumers knew that ordering multiple sizes online get burnt when they return them, would they stop? How do the facts help the consumers draw the connection and build the gap?’ Kenya Hunt, Grazia Fashion Director (FQT).
Extending the life of the clothes already in our wardrobe through repairing. ‘Appreciating the craft of our clothes means we are less likely to throw it out.’ Dr Lisa Cameron MP (FQT)
4. Become an Activist
Lobby to the Government for transparency on what is in our clothes and regulating the actions of fashion brands. A tax on virgin plastics is due to be introduced in 2022 but this does not include textiles. ‘Less emphasis on the consumer, brands need to be incentivised to do the right thing’ Mary Creagh, former MP. Fashion Revolution have tools on their website to help us lobby our MPs and favourite brands.
5. Make a Start
It is better to do something imperfectly than nothing at all. Kenya Hunt talked of the problems surrounding creating a sustainable issue of a magazine which also receives funding through advertising from unsustainable brands but ‘we have to start somewhere!’. Whilst Dr Lisa Cameron discussed how from a psychologists point of view it is human nature to ‘do a bit of what we think is right and then lapse’. It takes a while to get to the point where this new habit is embedded. It is not always easy for businesses or consumers to change behaviours. This moment of pause in the fashion industry is an ideal time to start.
Orsola de Castro, Co-Founder of Fashion Revolution, summarises the debate: ‘The fundamental role we will all have to play post Covid-19 more than ever to avoid a humanitarian and environmental crisis. Our current situation is highlighting the worse and best in our society at the same time. The worst is that our system values profits over people and mindless growth over sustainable prosperity. This has never been so outrageously visible until now. The cancelled orders, the lost jobs and the total disregard for human suffering and safety. The best is in a few short months we are seeing that nature has responded almost immediately free from our onslaught. Pollution is down, fish are returning to the rivers and canals, the big cities are quiet with no cars or aeroplanes. We can all see the stars at night. We are also seeing an increase in human empathy. For me, most important, we are growing a generation of kids that have been somehow temporarily suspended from hero worshipping privileged celebrities and are getting to know the real heroes, the people. The doctors, the nurses, the carers, the public workers who save our lives and who make our lifestyles possible. We will have to look for balance after all this. let’s ensure this period of restrictions won’t be followed by one of hyper-excesses, of business as usual times ten. There are ways to make an adequate amount of product, providing dignified work for the people who make them while protecing and conserving our environment. We have to invest in them and implement them with rigour. The call for this Fashion Question Time couldn’t be more simple: Mass consumption, the end of an era? Remove the question mark. Mass consumption, the end of an era – full stop.’
Fashion revolution was established in 2013 a year after the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1138 garment workers in Bangladesh. Since then, the charity have been campaigning globally against the human and environmental consequenses of the fashion indsutry. Encouraging brands to change their practices to a more transparent and circular model and encouraging consumers to ask #whomademyclothes? This year the charity is also encouraging us to ask #whatsinmyclothes?
References: Events we have virtually watched this week