sewing machine pin

The Mending Basket – sew your way to sustainability

…Lucy was caught breathless at the sight of the sodden man. She pulled herself up sharply, reminding herself of her policy against handsome men who looked as though they needed their jumpers mending. This attraction, impulse, weakness, whatever you wanted to call it, had never led to good things. This man didn’t need her to patch him up, he needed to learn to do his own mending, she told herself firmly…

Oh Pigeon – Sandy Bennett- Haber

The above is an extract from a short story of mine, and I can admit, in the privacy of the internet that the impulse Lucy has – being drawn to a man who looks as though he could do with having the holes in his jumper patched up is very much me. Although her reminder to herself that she has a ‘policy against handsome men who looked as though they needed their jumpers mending’ is more than I ever managed. I think the first gift I ever gave to my husband was a button for a beautiful and very much in need of repair Norwegian cardigan.

Read the rest of that story in the Oh Pigeon booklet:

Anyway mending is about more than seducing men. I kept my solo travel budget down by constantly repairing my one pair of shorts. They are more patch than shorts these days. Every stitch tells a tale of an adventure.

You know that buzz you get when you buy a new item of clothing? Well just imagine that you’ve worn that clothing, felt great in in, had adventures in it, and its worn out. You stick it in the back of your closet because although you can’t wear it anymore you can’t quite bare to throw it out. Then imagine that one quiet day you come across it, get your needle and thread out and repair that much beloved item of clothing, you give it a wash, freshen it up and pop it back into your closet. Its a new-old piece of clothing and you didn’t spend a penny. Buzz!

All of which is my way of convincing you that sewing contains romance, excitement and a hit of the happy you usually need to spend money to get, all while adding feathers to your sustainability crown.

Types of mending


There are some things, which even though I sew confidently I prefer to have done by a professional tailor. The zip on my son’s school fleece needed replacing this summer and I had it done professionally. They did a lovely job and he is happy because his young fingers can now confidently negotiate the zip which was frustrating him. Yes I did pay £15.00, but that included the zip and the tailors time – it was about the cost of a new jumper but the rest of it was good as new, so I opted for having a new zip sewn in rather than replacing the whole thing.

I would also recommend a tailor if the item that needs to be repaired is leather, as domestic sewing machines don’t really have the capacity for it. If your favourite handbag needs some TLC take it along and get a professional opinion.

Hand Sewing:

I often do this sitting watching TV. I love sewing bold rustic patches on the worn out knees of my kids trousers. For one thing it means they have been out and about being active, and for another I get to recycle other beloved bits of fabric to make bold patches. I tend to go for double sided patches- inside and out for extra durability. My older son prefers ‘plain clothes’ now – so my patches are a no-go. But as long as I include an embroidered lightning bolt patches are still OK for my younger son. I get a buzz seeing my younger son wear trousers that used to be his brothers, and I just re-patched some jeans that have been worn by both boys to send to my brother’s twin daughters.

Machine Sewing:

A sewing machine is a better option if you want a more subtle mend. A tried and tested invisible mend I’ve been doing on my sewing machine for years is reinforcing the worn through crotch of beloved jeans. Does this happen to other people? All the rest of your jeans are fine, washed them into a lovely fit…and the crutch wears out. It is a huge waste of money – not to mention heartbreaking to loose your favourite jeans. They must be mended.

Non Sewing Techniques

I love all things sewing, but sometimes it is not the best plan. I just machine mended the knee of my older son’s black school trousers. The sartorial kingpin in our house told me the visible stitching on his knee was unacceptable. I covered up the stitching with an iron on black on black – and the trousers are back in rotation.

Another handy non sewing mending technique is just cutting off the problem. This works especially well for those kids who grow ever taller but whose waists don’t change. If the knees are worn out, or the trousers are getting too short jut cut them into shorts and off you go. You can hem them, or with certain fabrics you can just cut and go with the frayed look.

I go through phases of mending energy. Hence the title of this blog. If your have a mending basket and something needs some TLC pop it in the mending basket and then on those long winter nights drag it out and hey presto – you have some occupational therapy to keep your hands off your phone and away from online shopping and with a little effort you will revive an item of clothing that was potential landfill.

What do you need?

You can start with as little as a needle and thread, though I would recommend a decent light, especially if you are sewing at night. Some mends don’t even need extra fabric.

Get yourself a mending basket (or a bag, or a cardboard box or whatever) pop anything you come across at home that needs mending into it.

It could be a shirt that needs a button replacing, kids worn out trousers or those beloved jeans. Have a little container for buttons or beads that have come loose – nothing worse than deciding to do some mending and then not being able to find that button. If you have a little sewing kit pop that in as well as I find it helps if everything is in one place.

No gear and no idea:

Are you tempted by the idea (and the romance) of having a mending basket but can’t even thread a needle? As with any hands on skill learning how to sew in person, one on one or in a group setting is a great way to learn.

Ask around amongst your friends to see if there are any secret sewers who you can do a skill swap with.

There may well be a workshop somewhere near you to help you up-skill. I found one-on-one and group workshops at The Edinburgh Remakery.

All those R words – Reduce, Remake, Reuse, Recycle have such a buzz around them at the moment I’m sure there are other similar thing in other areas.

If you like the idea of mending but don’t have the time you can outsource your mending to a tailor or a hobby sewer.

In 2019 I ran Mending Workshops (motivated by sharing skills and keeping clothes out of landfill). I can’t do them now, but in the lead up to Christmas 2020 I found a way to quietly spread my mending message by ‘giving’ mends to local people.

I will finish this unashamed promotion of all things sewing were I started – with romance, and literature, and recommend the novel The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie.

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