On Tuesday students and community members gathered on the second floor of MSU’s main library for a Clothing Repair-a-Thon. The event aimed to educate attendees on how repairing their old items could reduce garment waste and make clothes more unique in the process.
The event was a collaboration between the MSU Library’s Makerspace and the MSU Surplus Store. The Makerspace provided sewing machines, needles, thread and a space for the event. The Surplus Store – the retailer where MSU sells used and unneeded furniture and apparel – provided tattered garments and fabric for students to mend or combine into something wholly new.
“It’s just the stuff that we can't sell or don't really want to sell … we have huge hampers of them and we bring them to events like this,” digital storytelling junior Laura Clay said.
Clay works for the surplus store through creating sustainable events and initiatives. She said in recent years, the store has attempted to be more sustainable by sorting and finding uses for items they receive but cannot sell.
The largest focus of the event was visible mending. Based on Japanese tradition and growing in popularity across the world, it’s a type of mending that adds patterns and designs to holes and rips in clothing.
"Mending doesn't have to be about hiding mistakes but celebrating them and celebrating mending," MSU Makerspace coordinator Jamie Moriarty said.
Attendees learned to add designs and even new patterns and fabrics in their mending.
MSU archivist Susan O’Brien is an experienced mender. She taught attendees how to use the sewing machines and create elegant mends.
O’Brien said the easiest projects for new menders are repairing the zippers of pants and more broadly anything with hard fabrics like denim.
“It's dependent on the fabric. Some fabrics you just touch and they want to shred or fall apart," O’Brien said. “That can be frustrating if you’re new but denim is very forgiving.”
O’Brien also reminded attendees that older fabrics tend to be more rigid – a fact embraced by hobbyist thrifters in attendance.
Fueled by social media, thrifted clothing has exploded into mainstream popularity in recent years and is just one of the ways organizers of the event hope students can make more sustainable fashion choices.
Barb Burns-Briggs, a retired elementary school teacher and MSU alumni and parent, has been mending and repurposing clothes long before sustainability was her priority. Today she’s happy to see it become more mainstream.
“I'm glad to hear more people are doing that,'' Burns-Briggs said. ''It’s been my obsession and I'm glad to hear that young folks are getting introduced to that too.”
In all, 15 students and community members mended items at the event. Before the event began, Moriarty said she wasn’t focused on turnout but rather what could be taught to those who did attend.
“I would say it's more about the quality interactions rather than quantity,” Moriarty said.
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