Darn your socks, help the planet

Want to tread lightly on Mother Earth? You can start by fixing the hole in your sock, according to the folks at the Ottawa Tool Library.

Volunteers at the ready to help you restore those well-worn favourites in your closet

Shelley Taylor, left and Bettina Vollmerhausen of the Ottawa Tool Library are inviting members of the public to bring clothing items in need of mending to their next Repair Café on Feb. 24, where skilled volunteers can teach them how to fix them. (Susan Burgess)

Want to tread lightly on Mother Earth? You can start by fixing the hole in your sock, according to the folks at the Ottawa Tool Library.

Since last spring, the tool lending library has been hosting free events where skilled volunteers help visitors learn to fix everything from small appliances to musical instruments and vintage video games. But a spinoff event in January that focused specifically on clothing revealed an appetite in the community for mending skills in particular.  

"'Learn to Mend' was a giant success. It was a sleeper hit," said Shelley Taylor, project coordinator at the library.

The sold out event has inspired Taylor to schedule a second one for May, but in the meantime, she and library co-founder Bettina Vollmerhausen are encouraging people to bring clothing items in need of mending to their upcoming Repair Cafés. The next one is happening from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 24 at Foster Farm Community Centre.    

"You can come and learn how to mend your socks, or fix a hem on your pants or your skirt," said Bettina Vollmerhausen, co-founder of the Ottawa Tool Library. There will be fixers there who will help you, teach you, and show you how to do it."

Visitors are asked to bring just one item to be fixed, along with any necessary replacement parts, and to register that item by 2 p.m.

Bettina Vollmerhausen, co-founder of the Ottawa Tool Library, demonstrates how to do a simple repair on a worn-out sock. 4:13

Fixing your clothes not only keeps them out of the landfill and saves you money, it's fun, Vollmerhausen said.

"It's a bit of quiet time. It makes me sit down. I often put on a podcast or radio and listen to one of my favourite shows and get something done," she said. "I find it's actually quite meditative. We need more of those spaces in our lives."

Vollmerhausen learned to mend at the knee of her grandmother in Germany and has put the skills to use often, she said, including repairing hand-knit sweaters that she wore as a child and then passed on to her own children.

"I was very happy that I was able to keep that treasure alive for my family."

Taylor also hopes the master menders at the tool library's events inspire a new generation to adopt their ancestors' way of thinking about clothes. 

 "They would buy the best they could afford, and they would fix things," Taylor said. "Until it was at the very end of its life, and then [they'd] make rags out of it."