Why fixing your clothes is good for the planet

Not enough people know how to mend their own clothes, and P.E.I.'s Daniel Cousins wants to help change that.

Sew-stainable event hopes to help Islanders become more handy with needle and thread

'You'll care about it more, because there is that personal investment of your time,' says Daniel Cousins about clothing you can mend. (leungchopan/Shutterstock)

Daniel Cousins would like to see more Islanders at least be able to sew on missing shirt buttons.

He has organized an event at the Confederation Centre Public Library on Saturday called Sew-stainable from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for people to learn some basic hand and machine sewing. 

"Sewing is such a valuable life skill in and of itself — think of stitches! That is a skill that could save your life" said Cousins.

If you do it cleverly it's more fashionable.— Daniel Cousins

Cousins is the president and co-founder of Charlottetown's tool-lending library, which has been open for the past year. The tool library has one sewing machine to loan out, and Cousins plans to soon add one more. 

Many benefits

"We live in a society where clothes are a very disposable commodity," he said. "Hole in your shirt? It's gone. We throw this stuff out." 

'Sewing is such a valuable life skill in and of itself,' says Cousins. (Submitted by Daniel Cousins )

Consider upcycling torn jeans into shorts or a bag, he suggests. Modify your old T-shirts for a new look. One friend patched a sweater with a cute felted heart that made it look even better than it did before, he said. 

"We live in age of very crafty people," Cousins said. "It doesn't have to be the traditional crudely-sewn patch ... if you do it cleverly it's more fashionable than it is anything else."

He said he believes more people are getting back to the idea of repairing and reworking their fabric items for a variety of reasons — economic, environmental and even mental. 

"Ask any person who does needlepoint how relaxing it is to stab something thousands of times!" he laughs.

'You'll care about it more'

"We've seen this through repair cafes — people do want to keep things and have them last because things are expensive, just in general," he said. 

Cousins would love to see an equipped maker-space in Charlottetown where people could drop in and work on projects such as sewing. (Julia Page/CBC)

Even though clothing has become relatively inexpensive in the last few decades, Cousins points out it's often cheaply-made and won't last. Buttons pop, seams rip and then you may have lost the investment you made, however minimal. 

"Being able to make your own or repair it ... you'll care about it more, because there is that personal investment of your time into making it last," he said. 

Tania McQueen is volunteering to help people learn hand-sewing at the event. She learned the skill from her mother, and has passed it down to her own daughters. 

"I have expensive taste in clothes — I look online and see how they're made and copy them." McQueen says people often ask her where she gets her clothes.

"I think if material was more accessible it would be great," she said, noting that P.E.I.'s largest fabric store, Fabricville, closed a few years ago.

Make your own shopping bags

Saturday's workshop is for all skill levels and ages. Participants will be guided by three volunteer expert sewers to make a drawstring cutlery bag, reusable wax cloth, lunch bags and cloth shopping bags. 

'Everybody should know how to sew a button, do a basic stitch,' says Cousins. (NeydtStock/Shutterstock)

Everything will be provided free including fabric, but people can bring their own if they wish. 

"Everybody should know how to sew a button, do a basic stitch," he said. "Surprisingly, so many people don't." 

Now that P.E.I. is banning plastic shopping bags, Cousins said he hopes Islanders will see how easy it is to make their own reusable ones from new or upcycled fabric. 

If you can't make Saturday's event, Cousins said there are plenty of easy step-by-step tutorials online that can help. He's also hoping to offer another workshop, perhaps in Summerside.

Cousins enjoys sewing household items as well as mending and creating some of his own clothes. His major project this fall is creating a faux-fur winter coat from scratch. 

More P.E.I. news


Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a bachelor of journalism (honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email


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