• lifecyclenz

stitch and sow: diy clothes repair

With our modern consumer mindsets, clothes are becoming just like food: being bought, used and thrown out within monthly cycles. However, food is compostable and intended to be quickly consumed, but this shouldn’t be the same for clothes. There are two main issues with the way we currently buy and consider clothes: quantity over quality, and throw-out over repair.

Quantity over quality

The majority of the clothing purchased by consumers are produced for short life-cycles, using cheap materials and labour. This produces masses of waste and an immense pressure to produce more and more clothes. The only way for this to be sustainable is through hiring people for little to no money, as this is the easiest way to reduce production costs. Additionally, materials are often low quality. Cotton fibres used in fast fashion typically wear out quickly and have a negative impact on the environment. Up to 2,700 litres of water can be used to create just one cotton t-shirt; this is far too much consumption for clothes that are worn for such a short amount of time. If this is how much water it takes to make a t-shirt, we must find ways to make it last long enough for this intensive process to be worthwhile.

If you want to help stop fast fashion, find your nearest second hand stores or try textile recycling. You can also buy a higher quality of clothes, committing to keeping it for longer periods of time. Think of it as a long term investment in better practices.

Repair and reuse

One of the best things you can do to make the most of your clothes is to repair small tears and frays. Invest in a small sewing kit and take some time to learn this new skill. Repairing a small tear in jeans before it expands might increase its life by a year and save you from purchasing another pair. The great byproduct of this is that if we all patch our clothes, we will also greatly reduce textile waste.

Sewing is often considered a waste of time, as new clothes are so easily obtainable. But, we must stop and think about the reason behind their low prices. It is now, when we are seeing unnecessary waste and mass consumerism, that we are truly realising the value of sewing and the tragedy that it is a dying skill. If you’re strapped for time, drop off your damaged goods at your local alterations shop for some quick mending.

By buying cheap clothes you are doing the opposite in terms of environmental impacts. It should be noted that initial start up costs might temporarily hurt your bank account. However, in the long term, buying higher quality clothing allows you to save both money and to ensure your clothes last you for years instead of months.

While it's nice to get new clothes, repairing clothes provides a similar feeling: a small rush of excitement. The art of repairing clothes is relaxing and a nice simple task to do while listening to a podcast or watching Netflix. And, who knows, if you end up enjoying repairing your clothes, you might have found a new hobby. Making your own clothes (using a sewing machine, of course!), means buying less clothes and designing them just the way you want.

DIY examples:

  • Headphone leather

One item that was bothering me was my set of headphones. After I had repaired a few different things I tried the simple needle and thread method. It worked quite well and since you are not looking at this piece while wearing it, showing this fix is more than adequate.

  • Pants tear

This one was a fix from a while ago, while it may not be perfect it does the job. Often the first few times can be a bit hard but it shows progress! So keep giving it a go until you’re a repair expert.

  • Shoulder bag repair + adjustments

I had a bag that was a good memento from one of my trips overseas, and I felt like throwing it out would be a waste. So I got out my repair kit after re-watching a couple of how-to's and fixed the broken strap and tidied up sections with frayed threads. The bag still felt a bit weak, so I sewed an extra reinforced piece of fabric for the bottom section. Overall a fun little project, and I might even keep adding my own little modifications in future.

Here's what you need to repair at home:

  • Needle set

  • Multi coloured threads

  • Sewing machine (optional, if you are intending to do mass repair)

  • A classic do it yourself mentality!

To start fixing any piece of clothing, all you need is a needle and a few different coloured threads. Any small tears or holes can be pulled together and sewed together via a couple of passes.

Any larger holes or bigger piece of damage can be repaired with the aid of patches, and stitching them into the non facing side.

For the more hardcore fixes or if you are fixing a lot of clothes, I recommend using a sewing machine. This saves time while creating stronger repairs than what can be achieved with just a needle and thread.

Handy videos to get you started!

  • Simple sewing technique:

  • An invisible stitch technique

  • Patagonia how they make recycled clothes

Oscar is a mechanical engineer who recently graduated from AUT, with a focus in recycling for his penultimate projects. He is passionate about sustainability in all walks of life and is looking to integrate it into his future jobs. You could find Oscar eating every type mushroom possible, while coming up with quirky home projects that almost get completed. If an outdoor/ sporting activity is not completed every week that’s a sign it’s not Oscar.

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