Sustainable Sunday – Mend & Make Do

Fast fashion is killing the planet – learn how to “mend and make do” to get the most out of your clothes.

When I was a kid, my mom bought everything about 10 sizes too big – “you’ll grow into it!” she’d insist over my groans, and I would head off to school with about a foot of denim rolled at my ankles.

I really am only exaggerating a little.

It may have been an annoyance then, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found the value in making things last as long as they possibly can, and have realized that that habit was passed down not just by my mother, but from hers who grew up during the depression, and my grandmother’s mother who grew up at the turn of the (last) century, and likely for years before that.

Mothers have been following the “mend and make do” adage for generations.

You’ve likely rolled your eyes after hearing someone older say, “they just don’t make things like they used to!”, and admittedly, there are many things we have today that are better than what we had a generation ago: clothing is not one of those things.

Fast fashion is killing the environment. And no, that’s not as outrageous as it sounds when you break it down:

  • North Americans send over 10 million tonnes of clothing to the landfill every year, 95% of which could be reused or recycled
  • One trillion kilowatt hours are used by the global textiles industry every year, which amounts to roughly 10% of the world’s global carbon impact
  • It takes 2,650L of water to produce one cotton t-shirt, which is basically the equivalent of 28 baths
  • It is estimated 17-20% of total industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment

Personally, I’ve always been someone who washed my stuff in cold and hung it to dry. I take care of my clothes and that’s why, at 30(+) I still have things I wore at 14 that are in great shape. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for some of what I’ve bought the past few years, much of which has barely lasted a season. And it’s not about the quality, or, at least not the price. As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to buy better quality items in hopes that they will last, but really I have found that rarely do price and quality have any clear connection. A lot of the time, a shirt I’ve spent $60 on falls apart faster than one I’ve bought for $10.

So, what do we do?

For my part, being a vintage fan, I think there are 2 great ways to go – buying vintage clothing and mending what you already have.

This week we’ll focus on mending.

Don’t worry, I’m not much of a sewer myself, so I’m going to do a brief run-down of how to determine what can be mended and how, and then maybe at a later date I’ll get someone more skilled to show how you can really step it up a notch.

The first thing you need to do is identify what needs to be done.

What Needs Fixin’

Sounds obvious, but I don’t just mean find where the tear is. Think about what you really need to have repaired, and why. Got a hole in your jeans? Does it matter? Some people pay extra for that. Got a hole in a blouse? Do you wear it under a sweater or jacket? Maybe a quick fix to stop it from getting worse is enough. Is it something that will definitely be seen? A better quality repair is needed. Sure that it’s beyond repair? Think about whether someone else would feel the same (can you donate it to a thrift store, or a theatre company?), whether you can reuse it in another way (cut up could it make a cute headband? a pillow?) or how you can recycle it (like through our Value Village FunDrive).

On The Mend

Once you’ve determined the spot that needs fixing, you need to figure out what kind of fix it needs. Are you going to be adding material to create a patch? Stitching to repair a hem or a seam? Doing an invisible mend by darning? To determine what path to choose you need to know, a. the end result you want, and, b. the material you are working with. So let’s break some of that down.

mending silk

How to Mend Silk Lingerie in 2 Steps (Without Using a Needle and Thread!)
Use fusible material to repair delicate silk

Silk is a delicate, natural fibre harvested from the cocoons of silk worms. It’s breathable, beautiful, and notoriously difficult to repair. But if you find yourself with some damaged silk, don’t despair. While the chance of a totally invisible repair is slim, fusible fabric placed on the inside of the garment can save many pieces, like the vintage lingerie in this article. Fusible interfacing is not a difficult thing to use but can still be an easy thing to mess up: make sure you read the instructions twice, watch the temperature of your iron, and take your time so you don’t make the damage even worse. If you have a steady hand and some sewing experience, you can try to take a hidden piece of fabric from your garment and patch it with the same, but don’t try this if you’re not a sewer, it’s finicky work. Along with rips or tears, snags are a common problem with silk: this post gives a detailed breakdown of how to fix them, and why you should do that before it turns into something bigger, like a hole.


Jeans Tips: Easy Ways to Patch Your Jeans - WeAllSew
Creative denim fix with embroidery

Pure denim is a very sturdy material, created in the mid-19th century for use as workwear. But most of the denim we get today is a blend, often containing lycra or some other flexible material to make them stretchy and form-fitting and that has the unfortunate side effect of being more prone to damage. This article shares several ways you can repair your denim, whether you want to try to stitch an invisible seam or play up the patch with some sashiko embroidery.

mending knits

Mending A Knitted Sweater - PermAdventure
Darning can save a damaged knit

You’ve likely heard someone talk about “darning socks” but if you’re under 40, there’s a good chance you don’t have a clear vision of what that really is. Out of all the clothing I buy socks are easily what I have to replace the most, and it’s frustrating because it feels like I need to buy them every year. I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to my favourite clothes, and as nearly all my socks have some kind of strange pattern or design on them, I really do hold on to them until there’s nothing left (some are basically anklets by the time I throw them out). But back when our socks were a little bulkier and knit it was not uncommon to patch up those holes to make them last another season. This site explains how to darn, fix a tear with felted wool and mend with thread – great advice for anything from socks to sweaters.

mending cashmere

REPAIR - Invisible Mending of Cashmere | Our Blog
Invisible repair on cashmere.

Like silk, cashmere is delicate and expensive, and until recently I would have thought there wasn’t a good way to fix it – then I came across this YouTube tutorial on how to repair cashmere with fusing powder and chopped up fibres from elsewhere on the garment. Pretty cool stuff.


There are countless other fabrics out there but I think this range will give you a good idea of the basic mending techniques available, and what types of materials they work best on. Basically you can patch it – with either an invisible, or a visible, decorative patch – or stitch it – with an invisible stitch or embroidery. I have a pile of mending I’ve been meaning to get to for ages, so when I finally pull it out I’ll be sure to record my progress, regardless of how it goes.

Have any of your own tips for mending garments?
Let us know in the comments.


The Changing Face of Iceland – Bygone’s President Premieres Film at UN Climate Change Conference

Bygone Board President Dr. Mark Terry is currently in Glasgow for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

For this week’s Sustainable Sunday we’re focusing on our very own Board President, Dr. Mark Terry!

Mark joined Bygone as President back in 2018 and has been the guiding force behind our in-depth commitment to change through our Sustainability Mandate. Mark’s unique combination of theatre, film and environmental knowledge has made him an essential part of our team.

Dr Mark Terry, UN Climate Change Conference.
Dr Mark Terry at the UN Climate Change Conference, November 2021

Mark is currently in Glasgow for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). On November 4, his latest film, The Changing Face of Iceland premiered at the event and was followed by a Q&A after the screening.

This is Mark’s 3rd film in his trilogy about global warming; The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning (2009) and The Polar Explorer (2011), have been aired on CBC in Canada and released in the U.S. by PBS, as well as screened at past United Nations climate summits.

Youth Climate Report

Iceland is another project of the Youth Climate Report (of which Mark is the Executive Director), a partner program of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat since 2011, and a company we are proud to sponsor. You may remember back in March, the Youth Climate Report was honoured at the SDG Action Awards, and as an official sponsor, Bygone was lucky enough to have the chance to share a short video about our commitment to sustainable theatre.

Congratulations to Mark and all those involved on such a great and exciting achievement. Be sure to check out all the links in this article to learn more about these initiatives.

Sustainable Communities – Kanata Trade Co.

Kanata Trade Co. is an Indigenous run Canadian organization that sells products design by Indigenous artists, and donates profits to help support the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Likely, when most of us hear the word “sustainable” we picture solar panels and wind turbines, keeping plastic out of the ocean and other sorts of “green” practises: all of these are important, but sustainability is about so much more.

The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals are targets made to lead our world towards peace and prosperity for all, and while that may feel like a colossal task no one person could take on, it’s actually really simple for all of us to take small steps that can help lead our community down the right path. Today we’re going to focus on the community aspect of the SDGs, but you can see our entire commitment laid out on our website.

Kanata Trade Co. is an Indigenous run Canadian organization that sells products designed by a range of Indigenous artists. On their site, it reads;

Indigenous communities in Canada are a central part of our history. At this unprecedented time they are uniquely effected by Covid-19. Our community wants to help everyone.
Our proposition is simple; buying a mask keeps you safe and the profits support Indigenous communities.

Not only does this mean Indigenous artists are getting royalties for their work, but the profits are going towards Indspire, a registered charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. Kanata Trade Co.’s founders write:

We are twin Inuit sisters both attending Queen’s Univeristy.  Our journey has been made possible thanks to the help of Indspire.

Like many indigenous students,  Indspire supported us through their bursary program and also through their mentorship.  We were able to have a much fulfilled college experience as a result of their assistance.

Now that we are nearing the end of our studies, we would like to give back to Indspire so that more indigenous students can also have the opportunity to attend colleges and universities.

Indspire is an Indigenous national charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people for the long-term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities, and Canada.

All profits from the sale of the masks will be going to Indspire (  Our supplier will also pay royalties to the artists for the use of their artwork on the masks.

Please purchase an indigenous art face mask and share this site with your colleagues, friends and families so that we can together support indigenous students together.

Kanata Trade Co.

Personally, I think the patches are my favourite, they feature beautiful designs by artists like Sioux Native Artist Maxine Noel and Yellowknives’ Dene Native Artist Dawn Oman. But they also offer beautifully designed masks (like it or not, we’ll be wearing them for a while still, might as well invest in a nice one!), puzzles, shirts, pins, cards, hats and eco-friendly bags (I’m hoping the John Rombough one comes back in stock).

Quality education is a key to a sustainable community, and that’s what charities like Indspire, and the groups that support them, like Kanata Trading Co. are helping to provide.

When we support the artists in our community we give them the opportunity to expand and grow, and that in turn feeds back into the community they came from. So if you’re looking to treat yourself to a new book or accessory, or you’re starting to think about holiday shopping, be sure to check out Kanata Trade Co. You can find them on Instagram and Facebook – be sure to give them a follow & a like, help spread the word and support your community for #SustainableSunday!