I love some of the changes happening in our society. Many people are moving into more conscious consumption, utilizing slow fashion and visible mending to decrease their constant consumerism. What does this mean for the average busy bee who doesn’t have time or “skills” to put towards mending their clothes or finding someone to do it for them? Let’s talk about the ways that even the most novice among us can be conscious with our choices. At the end of this article, you’ll find specifics about how to reuse/recycle stuff you already have in your closet!
If you have a garment or fabric piece that you love, one of the hardest things to see is the beginnings of its demise. Whether you’ve outgrown the piece, or it has been washed threadbare, or you are noticing small holes cropping up, it is so frustrating to see a piece you love begin to decline.
Is it still useful?
YES! Mending is a huge part of textile history, and before our age of fast fashion, was required for clothing to last any amount of time. Clothing represented hours of work, and the fabric was expensive, so maintaining it was imperative!
Now, mending matters in a different way. The more we slow down our consumption and reuse our clothing, the more money we save, and the better we serve our environment.
How do we do this? There are a few different ways to address mending.
Visible mending is a returning fashion trend that attempts to bring mended articles out of the social outcast dumpster and into the chic and responsible green crowd.
Visible mending utilizes embroidery and sashiko methods to add to the story of the piece with vibrant and often colorful mended areas, highlighting the tears, rips, or wears as part of the piece’s history.
The embroidery and stitching of visible mending is design in its own right, and is flamboyant, beautiful, and sometimes snarky. The purpose of this craft is to remove the stigma around “imperfection” and create a socially acceptable place for mended clothing.
Sashiko and Friends
Sashiko is an ancient Japanese mending process that uses beautiful geometric patterns to create sturdy and long-lasting mended articles. You can read more about its history and the patterns used in my article here.
Sashiko is rapidly becoming part of the visible mending movement because of its durability and beauty. The stitches themselves create art, and the fabric used for patching need not be so vibrant. It is another option for those who wish a less flamboyant mending process.
Darning is another process for fixing clothing which has worn through or torn the fabric. Many mass-produced items like socks have wear-prone areas, like the ball of the foot or the heel. Darning is a way to replicate the fabric, revitalizing the item for longer wear.
Darning uses a needle and thread to mimic the fabric that has worn through. Essentially, you are re-weaving the item. It takes some practice, but for your favorite pair of comfy socks – this is a lifesaver. Darning also works on sweaters, jackets, or shirts, although patching is sometimes preferred based on the type of rip or tear.
Slow Stitching For Long Term Clothing
This all sounds great in theory, but what if I don’t even know how to sew a button, Hilary!? (Look below for a tutorial)
Well, that’s easy! All of these skills are easy to learn, it’s finding the small bits of time in your day to learn them. If you’re able to sew a button or a mattress stitch, or even hem a garment, you’re able to keep your wardrobe functioning much longer.
Slow stitching is about moving away from instant gratification in fashion, and learning to love and respect the clothing we have. It’s about remembering our incredible luxury with regard to clothing access, and honoring the items which keep us warm, help us feel confident, and enable us to do our jobs.
You don’t need to know how to mend everything – but the next time a beloved article of clothing has something wrong with it – ask yourself if it is salvageable as a piece of clothing. Then, send me a message or search online to find techniques on how to fix it. If it’s not salvageable, DON’T THROW IT AWAY! Fabric is something that can be reused so easily! Look in the section below for nifty ways to recycle old clothing!
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to sew a button:
As conversations around slow fashion continue to bring responsibility for our consumption to our attention, how we manage what we own becomes more important. What do you do with the clothing that you just can’t wear anymore, or is worn beyond repair?
Well, there are several options, and more tutorials appear online every day! Scroll down for a few ideas:
Sock monkeys! These have been a way to reuse old socks for years, and they are just as cute today as they were 50 years ago. Craft Passions has a great tutorial to make sock monkeys here.
Do you have super cute knee-high socks that you never wear? Turn them into cute coffee cozies for yourself or for gifts! Diana Rambles has an oh-so-easy tutorial here.
If you’re not great at sewing – you can still recycle your old denim! Curly Made has created these no-sew OR
sew denim buckets for use around the house. The beautiful thing about cloth containers is that they are sturdy AND can be washed. Perfect for kiddos’ art supplies, or even fruit!
Denim is also great for dog toys – it’s durable, washable, and easy to sew. Pillar Box Blue has a super-simple pattern for sewing dog-bone-shaped toys out of your old pants. If you’re learning to sew, this is a great project – as the pupper won’t mind if it’s a bit wonky!
Sweaters are hard. We love them, but they don’t always love us for quite as long. However, you can continue to love your sweater with boot cuffs made from the sleeves!! There is a simple tutorial here at Petit Elefant to turn your old sweater into a chic pair of boot cuffs or legwarmers! Don’t be intimidated – these are simple patterns with great explanations. Give it a shot!
If you’re feeling adventurous and have a brightly colored sweater from the 70s or 80s, you can use it to upholster an old stool! You really only need some staples – and the willingness to try. Upcycle-That has a great tutorial that walks you through the whole process.
Oh maaaan. This brings me back to high school. I loved my flannels. Now that I’ve dated myself, join me in turning those old, amazing, comfy shirts into a shopping bag! The Art of Doing Stuff calls it her “Lumberjack Bag” and it is SO stinkin’ cute! It requires a minimum of sewing – only a couple of seams, and you’ve got your own personalized bag.
For someone more experienced with sewing, Scratch and Stitch has a fabulous pattern for an up cycled flannel shirt-into-reversible-vest combo. It’s gorgeous, useful, and exactly what I love to think of when I think of recycling clothing. She also has a sweet orange tabby. Bonus cat tax!
Bras are annoying and difficult, because we wear our favorites to death – and by the time we need a new one, there isn’t much left. Don’t lie – I can’t be the only person who does this. However, there is STILL a way to get new life out of those sad, dead cups. Skunkboy Blog has a great idea – cut the cups out, and attach them to your thinner summer dresses for added support, and less worry about straps showing if the dress is backless!
For a more experienced sewer, Alice and Lois has some adorable baby hat patterns made out of T-shirts – and these would be fantastic gifts to local charities, hospitals, or women’s shelters.
For someone with almost no sewing experience, a braided rug is a time-honored way of reusing fabric scraps into serviceable and beautiful floor coverings. Wonder Forest has a no-sew rug pattern here that is easy, beautiful, and perfect to keep you in the reuse/recycle mode!
Mommypotamus also has a no-sew project for your old t-shirts – a 10-minute tote bag! If you can tie a knot, you can make this bag!
You can see so many options here for reusing your old clothes – and getting just a bit more mileage out of your current wardrobe. What is your first project going to be? Has anything here inspired you to create something different? Please let me know in the comments – I want to learn too!