As it is Oxfam’s #secondhandseptember this month, we’ll be sharing some of our favourite second hand clothing that we’ve collected over the years! We treat buying second hand and repairing our clothes as a year round obsession but if you’re new to the world of second hand, this month is a great place to start! Every September Oxfam asks people to make a pledge to only buy second hand for the month to help reduce the number of clothes going to landfill and raise awareness around the need for more sustainability in the fashion industry. You can do this either buy shopping in charity shops, using resale apps and sites or taking part in a clothing swap.
Eleanor: I got into buying second hand when I was a teenager as vintage clothes were coming back into fashion and the high street in my hometown pretty much only had charity shops to choose from. Skip forward ten years and I’ve ended up in Streatham, which apparently has the most charity shops on a high street in Europe (I haven’t fact checked that but there are a lot!). So buying second hand has become second nature. A little about my second hand outfit – the blue floral kimono I inherited from my Nanna (with some patching and darning to keep it together), the patterned velvet top was a Depop purchase, the black Levi skirt was bought in a vintage shop in Brighton, the gold necklace as also inherited and my Puma trainers were another Depop purchase!
Sarah: This top started life as a large scarf. I saw it in a charity shop on the south coast. I’m really into 1980’s prints at the moment and was drawn to it’s graphic style and bright colours. I’m not a scarf person so I turned it into a top. There was plenty of fabric and I kept the frayed hem of the scarf for the hem of my top. I used a pattern I found in a charity shop. Charity shops are a great source of second hand sewing equipment and haberdashery.
What are you wearing this SecondhandSeptember?
Second Hand Clothing Mountain
Find out why we are supporting Oxfam’s Secondhand September – our blog post tries to explain why we have a mountain of clothes and tips on how to reduce textile waste.
Congratulations to Fashion Revolution on another successful Fashion Revolution Week! The week kicked off with a thought provoking Fashion Question Time that focused on Rights, Relationships and Revolution. Particularly the link between climate and racial injustice. Thanks to everyone for commenting on our social media posts and joining our mend-a-longs. This is what we learnt…
1. Environmental and human rights need to be top of the agenda for business
Respecting nature and the rights of workers should be a moral obligation, it is also the only way that industry can continue to be viable into the future. There is a necessity to work with nature to create new methods of production, to build workplaces that are safe for and respectful of their workers and to strive towards a circular economy.
2. What’s in my clothes?
A shocking number of chemicals are used in our clothing, with around 800 of them known to interfere with hormones in both males and females. Since 1996 the EU has recognised these chemicals as hazards but she again highlighted how the interconnectedness of government and business meant it had been hard to get them banned. We asked Playtex and M&S #whomademyclothes and #whatsinmyclothes ? Playtex sent us a link to their sustainability credentials. We followed up asking why it is difficult to find this information on their e-commerce sites and why they haven’t taken part in the Fashion Revolution transparency index.
3. We have consumer power
Earlier this week there was news of a football EU super league, which the fans protested against. Within 24 hours of the pressure from the fans the league and government threatening with legislation all 6 UK clubs pulled out. The league can’t make a profit if nobody watches and the TV companies don’t pay for the rights. Just think how we could change the fashion industry if we stopped buying clothes from brands that don’t pay their garment workers a fair wage. If we stopped buying clothes made from chemicals and fibres that damage the Earth, the brands would have to adapt their sourcing policies to appeal to the consumers.
‘…if people are willing it could happen tomorrow, or it could be years and years…nothing is impossible.’
Nazma Akter , Fashion Question Time
4. Legislation is key to genuine change
Preventing Fashion’s negative effects on the Earth clearly isn’t as top of the UK Government’s agenda as football is. The UK Government rejected 2019 Fixing Fashion’s report by the Environmental Audit Committee which could have brought in some legislation against the negative effects of Fashion on the earth. Governments and businesses need to start putting the planet and people before profit. Governments need to shift subsidies from supporting damaging industries to fund those that are sustainable and ethical and to put legislation in place to give workers, consumers and citizens a voice
5. Consume less + mend more!
‘If we consume less it automatically reduces the number of plastics and chemicals in our clothes.’ Baroness Bennet of Manor Castle, Green Party. Before buying new clothes, consider what we already have in our wardrobes. Why hasn’t an item of clothing been worn for a while? Can it be repaired or altered into something you will wear? Or re-sell it on one of the many resell apps available for someone else to love. Follow one of our videos teaching how to mend clothes or join one of our workshops.
About Fashion Revolution Week: This is the eighth 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.
We are teaching two masterclasses this month on patching and darning. See the graphics below for more details along with a link to book via Eventbrite. Get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Join one of our online workshops and learn how to mend your clothes. Try an introduction to both darning and patching or a specialist masterclass for each technique. Each workshop includes the price of a clothes mending kit worth £10.
£5 discount if you book a darning and patching workshop together. They don’t have to be the same date.
Booking ends 5 days before the workshop date so that we can get your kit to you in time. Kit is worth £10, as seen on our Etsy shop. The workshop will take place via Zoom, joining details will be sent a few days in advance of the class.
Each workshop lasts 90 minutes (except the Slow Sunday event, which is 60mins). It includes live demonstrations, time to practice and ask questions. Please get in touch with any queries.
Jeans are one of the most popular items to repair at our workshops. Many people bring along jeans that have worn away between the thighs and ask if they can be repaired – yes is the answer and there are two ways of repairing. By hand and a Boro style stitch as shown in part one of this jeans mending series. In part two we show how to mend jeans with a sewing machine.
Usually people prefer to mend their jeans in this particular spot as inconspicuously as possible. Jeans come in so many different colours and shades try and match the sewing thread as close as possible. Mid-blue and pale grey work well on worn denim jeans. As part of our denim patching kit we offer 3 different colour blue threads on one reel. All are from larger reels of deadstock wound onto used plastic reels (thanks to a Facebook sewing group).
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)
*TOP TIP* save pieces of denim cut from taking jeans up or save old jeans to use for patches.
As in part 1 of this blog the first step is to measure the hole in the jeans. If the hole is on both sides of the centre seam then use one patch to fit over the whole area. Cut a piece of denim that is a similar weight, feel and texture to the jeans you are mending. Set your machine to a zig zag setting. Nearly all domestic sewing machines have a zig zag setting. Have a practice on a scrap piece of fabric and change the stitch width and length settings to get the shape of zig zag that you prefer. Zig zag stitch just inside the outer edge of the patch. Sew around all 4 edges to prevent fraying.
Keep the jeans the right side out and open the fastenings as far as they will go. Place the patch over the the holes. Usually the holes are on the back side of the jeans, keep the patch on that side of the centre seam. Use dressmakers pins to pin in place.
Working on the right side of the jeans, feed the jeans under the presser foot of the machine. Take your time and wiggle the jeans to get them in place
Before you start sewing, trace the patch with your finger to make sure it is still in place and hasn’t folded over
Starting at the point where the two centre seams cross, sew a zig zag line following the line of one of the centre seams
Stop at the edge of the patch taking care not to go over the pins otherwise you will break a needle
Put the needle into the denim, lift up the presser foot and pivot the jeans 90 degrees
You want to come back and sew in the opposite direction that you have just sewn. But don’t sew over the same line, move the fabric of the jeans over so you end up creating rows of zig zag stitching. They don’t have to be exact
Once you have gone one way, turn the jeans so that you follow the line of the other centre seam. Crossing over the zig zag lines you have just sewn.
Demonstrated in the video below *top tip* if your sewing machine is missing stitches and not sewing the zig zag properly, trying switching to a denim needle. It isn’t always necessary to buy one specially but it does help this error.
I’ve used both techniques on this one pair of jeans to demonstrate the difference. Both work well and are both secure. Personally I like the meditative effect of hand sewing but machine sewing gets the job done quicker. Both methods won’t last forever. If another hole appears or the patching has worn away, place another patch on top and repeat the instructions. Don’t remove the original patching, the new patch will make it stronger. Want to find out more? Come along to one of our clothes mending workshops
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.
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)
If you’ve come along to one of our workshops in the past, you’ll know we normally have some darning mushrooms on hand to help you get fixing your favourite pieces of moth-eaten knitwear. If you’re thinking about getting your own darning mushroom, there are lots of second-hand ones on Ebay and Gumtree that are worth checking out, but we understand that getting a hold of your own darning mushroom might not be an option for you right now.
So what can you use instead? The main thing you need from your darning aid is a flat, hard surface to work on – avoid using anything covered in fabric, as this could get caught on your needle as your darning. Look for something that is fairly light and easy to hold, you don’t want to feel uncomfortable as your mending. Finally, think about the size of the hole that you’re mending, you may find something that works well for a small hole but doesn’t offer enough support on a larger area. Just like when you are learning a new technique, play around with different options to find what’s right for you! Below is a round-up of a few options we found around the home to use…
Option 1 – Old Marmalade Jar
This works well when using the bottom of the jar as it’s a large flat surface, the rounded edges have a similar feel to a normal darning mushroom and the area around the lid is quite easy to hold. It is a bit wider to hold than a normal mushroom so may take a bit of practice to get a comfortable position.
Option 2 – Old GU Pudding Jar/Glass Ramekin
This is a great excuse for buying a GU pudding as a treat as well! This one works well as the jar is not too deep so you can hold the fabric underneath as you would around the mushroom handle. The base of the jar is large and flat so can fit lots of different sized holes on.
Option 3 – Reuseable Coffee Cup
This one is useful for smaller darns as the bottom is narrower than the top. This is a bamboo cup so the fabric could slip around a bit as you’re working on it, securing it in place with a tie around the bottom could help.
Option 4 – Granite Pestle
This one is really nice to hold and has a similar feel to holding a Darning Mushroom. The pestle used here is quite narrow so would only work with smaller holes, but different sized pestles could be more adaptable!
Let us know if you find any alternatives around your home that we haven’t mentioned here. We’ll be posting a ‘Darning’ how-to video in the next week to give you more support with your mending at home.
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.