The art of mending and repairing items in the home (or clothes) is a forgotten art these days. How many people know how to fix a sticky door, mend a lock or darn a pair of socks? Years ago, everyone could do these things, even if they were a bit stereotypical (men mended doors, women mended hems!) It’s not always possible (or safe) to mend things yourself (for instance, even gifted handypeople should get electricians and plumbers in, when needed). But learning the basics is not just good for the planet (saves you having to always buy new) but empowering and saves you money too.
The recent Right to Repair laws have changed, so now mostly, items sold have to include ways to repair them, although the law rather strangely excludes mobile phones and laptops, two of the items that are most costly and difficult to repair. Some believe that certain goods are designed with a ‘planned obsolescence’ policy, so they break down at a certain time, requiring you to buy new . Other companies create toolkits that cost £50 or more to include a special screwdriver etc, as the only way to replace or repair parts. Recently in Norway, a small businessman had the public pay his legal fees, as he almost lost his business, being taken to court by a computer giant, as it deemed his repair parts ‘illegal copies’. In a world gone mad, it’s increasingly the case that in the words of Techbuyer, it’s ‘illegal for you to fix something you own’.
Would you buy a car if you couldn’t replace the tyres? So why buy a phone if you can’t replace the battery? People have trouble getting repair parts and information for tractors, appliances, wheelchairs, ventilators, hearing aids, boats – the list goes on. If it can be fixed, some company has probably tried to create a repair monopoly on it. IFixit
We had a kettle, we let it leak. Our not repairing it made it worse. We haven’t had any tea for a week..the bottom is out of the Universe. Rudyard Kipling
start a repair cafe
If you’re a fan of the lovely program The Repair Shop, why not start something similar local to you? Some people charge a small fee, others set up on a free or donation basis. Just find people who know how to repair things, then people can bring along loved goods to mend, or be taught themselves.
Typical repair cafes are held for a few hours each month in church halls etc, with volunteers repairing ornaments, clothes, bikes, jewellery and electrical goods (insurance obviously needed, especially for PAT-testing). If you need help with repairing electronics, ismash has 32 locations nationwide to repair laptops and phones, with lifetime guarantees and student discounts. iFixitStore sells kits to repair phones, laptops and iPads, plus has thousands of free online guides.
New Yorker Sandra Goldmark once owned a vacuum cleaner that needed repairing. She phoned the manufacturer who told her that the nearest outlet was many miles away, so she phoned Walmart to ask them to help, with no joy. So you know what she did? She and others got together and opened a social enterprise pop-up repair shop, which ended up as a network of 12 city-wide, which have since fixed thousands of items and diverted masses of landfill waste.
a green guide to fixing stuff
How to Repair Everything is bursting with tips on how to say ‘no’ to our disposable society. This handy guide includes quick fixes to more complicated jobs. From a sweater that’s shrunk in the wash to a broken umbrella spoke, if it’s safe to fix yourself, this book has the answer. Coccoina glue stick is a nontoxic glue (still keep away from children and pets, and avoid tin version as it contains pig hair). In this amazing book, you’ll learn how to fix:
- Shoes (heels, holes & soles)
- Torn clothes & misaligned zips
- Holes in jeans & ladders in tights!
- Broken watch straps
- Scratched glasses & sunglasses
- Remote controls & digital camreas
- Broken computer keys
- Squeaky stairs & creaking floorboards
- Stuck drawers
- Blocked & unflushing toilets
- Dripping & stuck taps
- Cracked baths & tiles
- Blocked gutters (don’t use chemicals!)
- Bikes (brakes & punctures)
- Scratched cars, flat tires & broken wipers
commercial mending inventions
FixIts Sticks are made from bioplastic and soften with heat from boiled water, to mend frayed cables, wobbly chairs, wheel puncture spoke lids and broken zip tabs. Conforming to European safety standards, do not fix on plugged-in or live electric wires, or over certain temperatures. Only fix wobbles on hard surfaces, and keep small pieces away from children and pets, due to choking hazards.
Supermend is an invisible mending repair kit for tears, rips and burns/holes in clothing, upholstery or furniture. You can also use it to repair fabrics you cannot turn inside out (like sofas and car seats). Safe for machine embroidery, also use to hem dresses, trousers and curtains. The powder will seal fabric without transference to the other side.
learn to mend your own clothes
Learning how to mend your own clothes helps to reduce the fast fashion industry. Buy clothes that last, then learn how to adjust hems and cuffs yourself, replace a button or fix a broken zip. All you need are a few skills and a sewing machine. If you get any good, you could even start your own little cottage business, mending clothes for others.Keep pins and needles safely stashed away. Keep balls of knitting yarn away from cats/kittens, due to choking/strangulation hazards.
Wear, Repair, Repurpose is a maker’s guide to replacing buttons, darning socks and other mending skills. Ditch fast fashion and make the most of thrift store finds, and give worn-out clothes new life. Illustrations help you hem trousers and embroider over stains.