When I first decided to learn to sew, in 2009, I wanted to use the skills I learned for good. I wanted to be able to “make do and mend”, to learn a useful skill, to reduce my impact on the world. My first sewing projects included making a patchwork draught excluder, toy beanbags for the kids, washable menstrual pads and loads of Morsbags (bags made from discarded fabrics and given away for free). Here I am (in yellow) beavering away at a Morsbags event in September 2009:
I am not sure how I got from there to where I seem to be today – with a houseful of purchased fabrics, threads, dyes and books. I feel a bit ashamed that what started as a project to reduce my consumption has, at times, become an exercise in consumption.
I have just finished reading “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L Cline. I am not much of a fashionista, buying most of my clothes secondhand and wearing them until they wear out, so a lot of what Cline writes about doesn’t apply to my shopping habits. However, I found it a great reminder of the fact that textiles are not an environmentally benign item. Textiles are contributing to landfill, to pollution, to the erosion of decent jobs. One of the solutions to the problems caused by a fast fashion culture that Cline suggests is to “make, alter and mend” clothes ourselves. This has certainly gotten me thinking. Could I learn to sew clothes? Or at least learn how to mend the ones I have?
I decided to start small scale by effecting a bit of a repair on some cords I have. The cords were bought from a charity shop, and came originally from a supermarket range (so not the best quality!) but they happen to fit very well, and are very comfortable, so I was a bit miffed at the appearance of a hole in the rear pocket area. I have carried on wearing them around the house, but the hole means I can’t wear them without exposing part of my knickers to the world (not a modest look ;-)). A great candidate for my first repair job, I thought!
I machine sewed the raw edges to make a little patch from some leftover quilting cotton, then – after stiching the hole together a bit – hand sewed the patch over the offending area. I wasn’t trying to make a discreet repair but thought I would make a feature of it. OK, so it’s not going to win any design awards, but at least I can go out without showing off my undergarments. And hopefully, it has extended the life of this item of clothing by at least a little. A small step in the right direction, I hope.