Why you should repair your clothes

Love your old jeans and shirts, but feel that it's time to toss them out? Think again. Find out why repairing your favourite clothes is better for the environment and your wallet.

By Craig and Marc Kielburger

Why you should repair your clothes
©iStockphoto.com/leyenda13
Riiiiiiiip. We all know that gut-wrenching sound: It's the last dying gasp of your favourite pair of jeans. Putting aside the embarrassment of just splitting your pants (everyone's done it, us included), what if someone told you that life is not over for those jeans of yours?

What are we doing with our clothes?
Canadians trash 15 pounds of clothing every year, although the lion's share of thrown-away threads rarely use their full lifespan. Our feisty, resourceful Grandma Mimi would have sat down and stitched up those jeans (not that Granny Mimi wore jeans), but nowadays trends change so quickly and advertising urges us to buy, buy, buy something new instead.

On a global scale, we rarely preserve what we already have, junking 99 per cent of the stuff we harvest, mine, transport and process within six months. And within this throwaway mindset, the clothing industry is one of the worst culprits; it's a common quip in China that you can tell which colours will be hip next season by the colour of the dyes flowing through the rivers. This is bad news for the environment and the workers who receive very little pay.

Save money and have fun repairing your own clothes
Now the good news: Your beloved jeans can lead a long and happy second life, provided you give them a little TLC. The tips below, like getting acquainted with the local tailor, cobbler or drycleaner, can help extend the life of your clothing, save a little cash and avoid the environmental damage caused by crafting clothes anew.

You can also make clothing repair fun, by enlisting friends with sewing skills or enrolling as a gang in sewing classes at a nearby studio. (Vancouver's Spool and Thread sewing studio reports that 10 percent of its clientele is men, meaning there's hope for a man behind a sewing machine becoming cool and, dare we say, even sexy?) Take these tips in stride and you'll make granny proud.

Ways to start repairing your clothes
• Invest a few dollars in a cheap sewing kit and a bottle of shoe polish. You can quickly extend the life of your clothes and shoes by showing them some attention.
• Learn how to darn! All you'll need is a darning needle, door knob (or something similarly pear-shaped) and wool thread and you'll be repairing pesky toe holes in no time.
• Sewing studios are popping up in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Check the resource guide to find a sewing space near you.
• If knitting is your thing, organize a regular knitting group or search out a knit-friendly café in your community.

Excerpted from the book Living Me to We: The Guide for Socially Conscious Canadians © 2012 by Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger, published by Me to We. Reprinted with permission from the publisher. Illustration by TurnStyle Imaging.


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