There's an old adage that says, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." It was a popular saying during the Great Depression and again during World War II. My Nanna certainly lived by this motto, and I think it's an expression that still has merit today for anyone interested in making more sustainable choices as part of a zero-waste lifestyle.
Being able to mend our clothes is an important part of "making it do,” and it's why I've made sure to stock our stores with an extensive selection of sewing notions as well as brushes and cleaners for taking out stains and dirt. When we can extend the life of a shirt by replacing a button or get a few more wears out of a sweater by patching a hole, we are reducing textile waste in landfills and lessening our contribution to the environmental impacts associated with the production of new clothing.
Being Mindful Shoppers
Making our clothing last starts with making thoughtful choices when we buy. Selecting clothing made from quality materials assembled using techniques that ensure durability is key to building a wardrobe consisting of pieces that will withstand the test of time and hold up to repair when needed. Cheaply made garments are harder to fix; skimpy seam allowances make alterations difficult, cheap thread leads to buttons popping off and getting lost, and thin or flimsy fabric doesn’t stand up to a good scrubbing when we stain it. It’s easier to make something last if it’s made to last!
Merchant & Mills
Merchant & Mills is a UK-based purveyor of sewing tools and notions that are designed with style and purpose in mind. I came across their products when I was searching for tools to support my customers who were interested in sewing and mending. With high quality tools packaged in simple, sustainable packaging, their line offers a wide range of implements for creating, altering, and fixing clothing.
Not sure where to start? If you’re just starting out and want to have a selection of basic tools on hand for fixing fallen hems and replacing buttons, you can’t go wrong with the Rapid Repair Kit. If you’ve got needle and thread already and are ready to graduate to making basic alterations like shortening straps or letting out a side seam, give the Selected Notions Sewing Set a try. It’s got essentials like needles, pins, and scissors, but it also includes time-saving (and eyesight-saving/sanity-saving) tools like a needle threader and a seam ripper that you’ll quickly realize are super handy to have in your kit!
Repairing holes in knit garments like sweaters and socks is accomplished through a process called darning. Darning involves weaving over the hole using a needle and thick thread. There are lots of great tutorial videos online to guide you through it, and Merchant & Mills’ Long Darners are a perfect tool for the job. If you have knits in need of mending, give darning a try and make them last another season or two!
Vintage Mending Kits
I recently had the opportunity to acquire a collection of vintage tins — sturdy little metal containers that once housed anything from office supplies to watch parts, candy pastilles, cough drops, you name it. I started thinking about how they could be repurposed into pocket-sized sewing kits that we could fill with a selection of our favorite sewing notions.
Our Vintage Mending Kits come in three sizes and contain a variety of mending materials selected from our stock of Merchant and Mills sewing supplies as well as vintage buttons, needles, and thread. I think they make handy quick-fix kits for the home, office, or on-the-go, and I love the uniqueness of each tin.
Raleigh Briggs is a Seattle-based author, herbalist, and DIY homemaker. She’s written a few handy guides published by Microcosm Publishing, and I keep a couple of favorites stocked in the stores. Fix Your Clothes: The Sustainable Magic of Mending, Patching, and Darning is the perfect accompaniment to our sewing notions as it gives tips and instructions for stocking your sewing kit, making basic fixes to clothing, and even preserving and protecting canvas and leather goods.
Another of Briggs’ books, Make It Last: Sustainably and Affordably Preserving What We Love, expands on these ideas to include thoughts on extending the life of our food and household items. Both books can be found in our Library collection along with other great resources for achieving a more sustainable and less disposable lifestyle.
At the End: Recycle
Have you used it up, worn it out, and made it do until it can’t do no more? Then it’s time to recycle! Each year, thousands of pounds of textile waste end up in landfills. It is a problem exacerbated by the growing demand for fast fashion. Keep your clothing and fabric household items out of the landfill by giving them new life. Use this link to find donation centers near you that will accept your textile waste for recycling.
My hope is to be able to provide you with the tools you need to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle. Thanks for taking the zero-waste journey with us. By making small changes to our daily lives, like choosing to fix & repair instead of discard & replace, we are doing our part to tread lightly and leave the earth better than we found it.