Living with Less: Simple Sewing Repairs

Living in the Spain for the last little while has taught me a lot about living with less. We only brought two suitcases and four backpacks, which may sound like a lot, but sure doesn’t feel like it when you start packing your whole life into them. A lot of difficult decisions needed to be made. We were weighing and reweighing our bags so many times that at the last minute, to make up for adding toothpaste and facewash, I took out two of the only sweaters I had packed. I have no excuse except packing fatigue and nerves the day before leaving. Once we got here I went thrifting and found some sweaters that are super warm. I’m wearing one right now!

Living With Less

Living with less means that each article of clothing is 1. getting a lot of wear and 2. very valuable. So when one of my cardigans got a hole in the sleeve and one of Jackson’s favorite flannels (though they are all his favorite) ripped, I decided to fix them. 

living with less means extending the life of your clothes with simple sewing repairs

Now, I’ll admit I’m not a total beginner with sewing. I made an apron in home economics class in middle school and even made a quilt a few years ago- quite the resume, I know. But if you can thread a needle, you can do basic fixes like this! 

Why fix your clothes?

living with less means extending the life of your clothes with simple sewing repairs
Apparently we have sharp doorknobs! 

Even if you aren’t living abroad with only a few sweaters, it’s worth trying to extend the life of your clothes. The fast fashion world is something that I’m trying to divest from eventually, but if you’ve done any research on the matter, you know it can be difficult and expensive. 

It’s no secret that the clothing industry produces insane amounts of waste. And the whole system is set up to be cheap enough that you keep replacing things and buying more. Below is a table from the website showing the extent of the waste. Especially note the first and last section for generation vs. landfilled. And that’s in thousands of tons. 

fast fashion and clothing waste in the United States according to the

It’s not helpful or healing to guilt and shame yourself or others for buying ‘fast fashion’.

Most of my clothes are not sustainable (yet!) and I’m not sharing this to pass any sort of judgment. I am sharing this because I think it’s important to be an informed consumer. Our power as a consumer lies in where we spend our money. The more we know about this system, the closer-up we get to it, the harder it can be to participate in. This has certainly been the case for me anyway.

In the meantime, how can we extend the life of the clothing we currently have? 

Simple Sewing Repairs 

living with less means extending the life of your clothes with simple sewing repairs

Whether it’s a hole in a sweater, a ripped pocket on your jeans or worn away socks there is a video tutorial out there to help you fix it. 

I started by trying to darn the hole in my sweater. This is a technique I’ve had success with for my wool socks, but it didn’t translate well to the thin material of my cardigan. So I tried a hybrid of a few videos to fill the hole. 

Here are a few that I watchedThis video for darning (starting at around 4:30), but could honestly be used for meditation or falling asleep. This is more what I ended up using though. And I’m tucking this video away for chunkier sweaters in the future. 

Fixing your clothes with simple sewing repairs is a way to live with less

How I had a perfect match for thread from this tiny sewing kit truly mystifies me, but I was delighted. 

living with less means valuing your clothes and making them last longer with simple sewing repairs

Fixing the flannel was a little easier with just pinning the fabric how I wanted it and sewing a whipstitch on the underside. Since the fabric is darker and the location is less obvious, it’s more forgiving. 

living with less means extending the life of your clothes with simple sewing repairs

In the End…

I finished this post, but came back to write this last piece. What I’ve talked about above is not an easy change for me. I love clothes and I enjoy shopping. Many of the ethical clothing companies I’ve found are only online, which takes some of the joy of trying on new things away. I wonder, does it really make an impact on the production cycle if I just buy a little less or more sustainably? Or is it way too small in the grand scheme of things? This isn’t a call for you (or me) to quit shopping or to feel guilty about your choices. 

This is a nudge and conversation for recognizing our part in a system and intentionally finding our place in it.

Where are you at with this? Do you have ideas for me, or companies you’ve found that align with these intentions? What resonates, what doesn’t?

I’d love to hear from you.


9 thoughts on “Living with Less: Simple Sewing Repairs

  1. haha you love your shopping. I’ve wondered some of the same things. I think both the pandemic and living in Spain has shifted my idea of what I actually need in terms of clothing. I think somewhere between what I have now and what I have in the States will be nice.

  2. 🙂 Yes! I like the look of homemade patches and keeping things going for longer. I agree- nice to see so many positive comments about this!

  3. It’s so good to hear from you. I’m delighted you’re following along 🙂 I just spent a while on the Tasc website- very cool company and super true about traditional workout clothes being plastic! Thanks for sharing that- I’m going to hit you up for more details (sizing, which things you have, etc) once we’re back in the states so I don’t have to pay crazy amounts for shipping. Miss you!!

  4. Love this post! When I was in high school and college in the late 70’s, mending was the thing! Think of real life distressed jeans with patches all over. Everyone wore them. I’m glad you and so many others enjoy saving your favorite clothes. As you said, it’s helpful to have a balance of store bought and thrift items. Thrift store clothes are usually such great finds!

  5. Many times I’ve taken needle and thread to a sweater that I really like and has a small hole in it and it usually turns out fine. Darning socks, however, is a different story. Never tried it though. I have been pondering, however, how this pandemic for the past year will shape my attitude about clothes going forward, as I have had many clothes and shoes in my closet this past year that have not been touched or worn. Which makes me think I certainly can do with a lot less. (You know how I love to shop – not -:))

  6. I look forward to your blog posts each time! This one really got me as I’ve been struggling with the question of clothing as well. One company that Phil & I enjoy and find super comfortable is Tasc bamboo clothing. I know there are so many more to explore too! My goal is to buy for need and not just want this year–or at least for a few months because shopping is also a fun activity too 🙂

    I love the awareness and may have to try some mending of my own in an effort to get more wear out of what I have!

  7. When you’re on a fixed income, it’s very important to stretch your clothing dollar. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve stitched up weathered clothing. Good info to have!!!!

  8. Another thought-provoking post! I have a black cashmere cardigan that comes out of storage with holes every year! I don’t think it’s moths; nothing else cashmere or wool near it is touched. I just grab my needle and thread and start stitching. No idea what I’m really doing. I’ve also tried it with my alpaca socks. That’s a little trickier because who wants lumps of thread under their feet? But I would love to find a sock darning class somewhere. Maybe the Folk School in Viroqua, Wi, near me can help me find someone who knows what they are doing.

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