Mend and make do

You might remember that last month I reviewed a book called To die for: is fashion wearing out the world? While I was reading that book, I was struck by the figures on how often people throw out clothing, rather than having it repaired. A lot of the clothing that goes into landfill is perfectly good, aside from a few minor tears or flaws. Most of this clothing could easily be fixed or repaired, but for some reason, people would rather bin it and buy new clothing than go to the effort of having their old stuff fixed.

Sure, repairing clothes that are torn or damaged takes a little time and effort. Perhaps it seems easier to just buy new gear whenever your old stuff gets damaged. I think that sometimes, when we haven’t paid much for the item in question, it becomes disposable in our eyes. We’d rather just run out and buy a fresh discount tee-shirt than patch up the hole in our old one. In reality though, it works out much cheaper to fix things yourself than to replace them when they sustain minor damage. Doing a D.I.Y job can actually be much faster than you’d expect. Here are some of my best tips to help you mend and make do.

– Take worn-out shoes to a cobbler and find out what can be done to salvage them. Cobblers can do amazing work, and are able to fix a multitude of shoe problems. Thin soles can be re-soled, holes can be patched, scuff-marks can be dyed: there are just so many options. Most of the time, repairs will cost a tiny fraction of the price of buying a fresh pair of shoes and you’ll be amazed at the end result.

– Learn to sew with needle and thread. It’s easy, and you don’t have to be supremely skilled to sew on a new button or repair a fallen hem.

– When you throw away truly worn out clothing, unpick the buttons before you bin them. Keep all these spare buttons in a little box, and you’ll have a selection of buttons on hand for repairing your favourite items.

– Keep the extra buttons you get with new clothing, so you won’t have to go searching for a matching button if you lose one.

– If you aren’t a talented seamstress, find a reputable tailor to do your repairs for you. Most tailors charge quite reasonable prices for basic repairs, and it will save you the hassle and stress of having to do it yourself. They will be able to re-sew fallen hems, replace broken zippers and worn elastic as well as more complicated repairs.

– Remove makeup stains on clothing with a cotton ball soaked with a bit of makeup remover. Just dab at the stain, then give the item a good wash.

– Greasy stains are a pain to remove, but if you act fast, they can be a cinch. Sprinkle flour or baby powder over the stain and leave it to sit. The powder will absorb some of the oil. Shake the powder off and repeat if necessary. Then wash the item and it should be good as new.

– Red wine stains can be removed by sprinkling salt onto the stain and leaving it to dry. Then wash as normal.

– Don’t wash your clothes too often. Repeated washing and ironing is one of the major causes of wear and tear in clothing. Wash your clothes only when they’re actually dirty. If you wear something for only a few hours, it might only need an airing on an outside clothes line to keep it fresh.

– Use funky fabrics to patch holey jeans. Keep swatches of worn-out clothing or excess fabric to use as patches.

What are your favourite mend and make do tips? Are you more likely to repair or replace damaged clothing?

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