Mending as climate action

Dearest readers, as I riffle through my photographs wondering what to share with you, I’m really struck by the combination of nature images, crafty things, and climate action (and, a very hefty set of granddaughter photos!) For me, they are all related. In all honesty, I don’t think individual climate action is important enough to get really agitated about. We are all caught up in a system that makes it virtually impossible to eliminate plastics and fossil fuels from our lives in this country. Taking the actions that I can take as an individual, is a step in the direction of aligning my actions with my values. It is thus a step in the direction of integrity. It is also a self education project, and all forms of education are worthwhile. All actions to limit consumption and reduce carbon footprint are needed. But in the end, community action outside of our own individual households is necessary. We, the people, need to press government and corporations to take action–what they do and don’t do, dwarfs what any of us can accomplish alone.

Every sock whose life I extend is kept from landfill a while longer (if plastic is part of its construction–landfill is its ultimate destination). Plastic is now part of the construction of so many garments that all garment mending is important. And let’s be up front and declare that acrylic, polyester, lycra, nylon, polyamide, and blends that involve any of these fibres–are made from plastic. Socks that are 100% wool or any other natural fibre, can go into the worm farm, compost bin or earth at the end of their lives and return to soil. But if they have 15% nylon content, putting them into any of these places will result in adding microplastics into my garden. Keeping them going respects the hours I put into making them, the love my sweetheart has for them, and the resources and labour (and hence emissions and likely, exploitation) that went into the manufacture of the yarn. And so, I mend.

People ask about hours spent mending as a waste of my time. Because of my views about individual action, I tend to ask myself whether individual actions are a decent use of my time. If guerilla gardening gives me pleasure and exercise–that’s enough for me. If mending can take place in meetings, in front of the TV, and as the closest I come to meditation–then great. But every so often I decide I’m spinning my wheels on some waste management project and just let it go. I see and hear people caught up in guilt about their individual contribution to the climate emergency, and I don’t think it makes sense. Do your best at individual level, and move on! Getting caught up in these feelings doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, if any of us can help it. Our contributions as individuals are just not the main problem.

Authors on the subject of mending and slow fashion, from Orsola de Castro to Aja Barber to India Flint, talk about how the stories and memories and effort embedded in clothes that you make and/or mend yourself, increase your sense of investment and attachment to them, and thus your preparedness to keep wearing and tending to them. That’s certainly what I experience. And I also enjoy my own and other people’s attachment to clothes that are well worn and comfortable and that they want to keep wearing, whether they were expensive or cheap, bought new or second hand, made at home or in a factory.

I’ve spent very many hours on this cardigan of my sweetheart’s–because she loves its soft gloriousness so much. I think when she looks at it she doesn’t really see its current bedraggled state, but more its original glory, the foreign city she bought it in, and of course the comfort and softness of its yarn and the beauty of that lovely blue.

This is a Very Special dress that came home with me from a workshop, discarded after a lot of love and washing from someone else, with some tears in it. My granddaughter loves it even though it won’t fit her quite yet… its time will come, and for me that combination made it worth mending–and this was the kind of repair that really doesn’t take long despite being the apparent reason the dress was discarded.

More hand knit socks that get to live another day. I don’t buy darning thread (well, the blue cardigan was a special case!)–so here I’m using multiple strands of different colours to create what I think is a pleasing effect, rather than trying to match when I really can’t, using what I have.

And so, on it goes. The earth is a beautiful place, and I’m prepared to mend to protect it. And also prepared to do civil disobedience to protect it. And there is no need to choose between the two!


Filed under Natural dyeing

4 responses to “Mending as climate action

  1. So true! We live a simple and thrifty life because we enjoy it, but it also aligns with my personal values very nicely. There are areas I would like to change but can’t due to social expectations and needs (the need to work for one), but I am aware that I am not saving the world at large, just my small part of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sue Hetzel

    A very supportive post, thank you! I have been guilt-ridden after making a decision to create a raised vegetable bed and then discovering, because of the small size of our block and my level of strength, I need to use plastic bags of compost and soil rather than buy in bulk. Especially when we can’t re-cycle soft plastics at present. As you say, individual/community/political actions all help. But I won’t use those bags again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, goodness. Surely everyone reading this in a wealthy country knows that feeling. We are all implicated in systems that catch us in these situations even after a lot of care, thought and planning. Until the systems change, I think this will continue to be true.


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