On the mend


SATISFYING The satisfaction of saving something from the landfill is enormous.

From clothing and footwear to pottery and machinery, fixing is the way forward

Green Living
McKinley Neal

Recently one of my kids was practising using scissors and decided to see how easy it is to cut fabric. The resulting hole in the top allowed us to discuss both that scissors are only for paper at the moment, and that we must try to our best to care for things we own. Now we have an action plan to sew a nice patch over the hole, which I hope will be a permanent reminder that things can be mended and still be useful.
Given the recent awareness of the excessive production, consumption and disposal of both clothing and other products, such as personal-care items and homewares, many people are beginning to try their hand at mending.
The good news is that you don’t have to be able to make a runway look from scratch to be able to patch a torn sleeve or a hole in the knee of your trousers. There are loads of tutorials online for basic sewing skills, and the satisfaction of saving something from the landfill – not to mention saving yourself the time, energy and cost of shopping to find a replacement – is enormous.
If you need more-advanced help, there are many talented dressmakers and tailors who will alter your clothes for a perfect fit or who can patch up something more fragile. And, shoe-repair services are brilliant for keeping your favourite footwear on the go; I have a pair of leather boots that needed fresh topstitching after six winters of use, and after the fix and a polish, I got loads of compliments on them as if they were new.
Given that clothes can evoke important memories, it’s worth considering giving new life to items that no longer suit as they are. I follow a number of people on social media who regularly transform baggy or outdated clothes into something more wearable, and have been inspired to save the most memorable of my kids’ baby clothes to make into a custom quilt that they can keep in their room for years to come.   
As for other items, it can be hard to beat the mentality of throwing broken items away. Recently I’ve chipped a mug and cracked a plate, and challenged myself to keep using them; the mug is for propagating baby house plants, and the plate sits under another pot. There is a Japanese art of Kintsugi, or ‘golden joinery’, which uses a lacquer coloured with metallic dust to repair and honour rather than hide the defect. Another way to do this is to paint, collage or otherwise decorate over or around a flaw to give it new character.
Two years ago, our dishwasher malfunctioned, and the initial assessment was, ‘It’s probably cheaper to just buy a new one’. I had to politely say I’d really rather try our best to repair it if possible and encourage some more sleuthing to find a solution. In the end, it cost me about €40, but the machine is still going strong.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.