how long should you keep repairing your clothing?

how long should you keep repairing your clothing?

we are thought bamboo socks visibly mended with darning by slow stitch club

People new to the world of visible mending (and clothing repair in general) often ask me "how long should I keep repairing an item of clothing?" and the truth is that the answer totally varies. 

There are lots of factors to take into account before repairing an item of clothing such as:

  • Is the damage from wear and tear or accidental? 
  • How old is the clothing?
  • What is the clothing made from?
  • How often is it worn?
  • Has it been repaired before? How many times / is it breaking in the same areas? 

For example if you accidentally snag a tshirt and cause a hole but the rest of the top is in good condition, then yes absolutely it’s worth repairing and the hole itself should be fairly straightforward to fix. If the clothing is so old and has worn thin but you still love to wear it, then yes I think that’s worth repairing even if it becomes a bit of a project. If moths have been at your favourite jumper but you can repair the damage (and work to treat the moth problem in your wardrobe!) then yes, repair it. And if the same pair of jeans that you live in keep wearing out at the knees or back pockets, but you can patch and stitch and add layers and texture to keep them in action - you guessed it, yep, repair it!

If however the fabric quality isn’t great which means that it's become too fragile to wear, the repairs aren’t holding up, or you aren’t wearing the clothing anymore because it feels uncomfortable or doesn’t fit, then that’s a time when I’d say don’t repair it. If you can donate it to someone that can use it or if you can cut the fabric up into scraps for cleaning or other uses then sometimes that is the best option. It’s unavoidable that clothes will eventually reach the end of their life cycle and it can be harder to part with clothes that you have spent time on repairing, but don’t waste your time and energy repairing things that you no longer continue to wear and love.

I've also been asked before if I think it's worth repairing fast fashion pieces or clothes that were cheap to begin with. All of the same questions above still apply for me - it's not about how cheap something was to start with, it's about how the clothing makes you feel. If it's a staple piece in your wardrobe or something that makes you super happy to wear it then that marks its real value. I think it's also worth noting that buying new isn't inherently bad - it's the rate at which clothing is being consumed that is the bigger issue, so being able to repair and recycle clothes for as long as we possibly can honours the garment workers who made the clothes as well as helping to minimise the waste to landfill.

The time it takes to repair something is another factor in whether you choose to repair a particular item of clothing. As much as I advocate for repair of all kinds, it can be a big investment of time and that’s worth considering when you’re looking at a piece of clothing. 

For example the socks pictured have been darned so many times but I still love to wear them. They’re made from bamboo and they’re so so comfortable. The darns never take too long to do and I’m happy to keep doing that whilst the socks still fit, have their stretch to them and are still comfortable to wear. They might get an extra 6 months of use, or an extra year (hopefully longer!) because of these repairs, so to me that's worth it.

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