The New Year offers us the opportunity to reflect on our behaviours, well-being and lifestyle, ripe for looking back on achievements and setting ourselves new goals. For some this might involve going through your wardrobe, your chest of drawers, that pile of clothes in the corner of your bedroom and taking the time to assess your relationship with your clothing, whether you’ve worn those clothes in the last 12 months or perhaps whether they represent who you want to be in the year ahead and donating these unwanted good quality clothes to charity. For those that may have taken our secondhandfirst pledge to source a percentage of clothing (and other items) secondhand this goal might be to give longer life to your clothes and learn the skills to do this.

The Mending Bloc at London's Climate March in November 2015.  Photo credit: David Stelfox
The Mending Bloc at London’s Climate March in November 2015. Photo credit: David Stelfox

Throughout 2015 we continued to share those vital skills through our Sew Good community workshops to help others repair and mend their clothes, and by sharing these skills hope to maintain a large quantity of these clothes in circulation and strengthen the relationship we have with them. In 2016 we aim to continue to run these workshops and offer opportunities to get involved with committing to a secondhandfirst way of life.

Resources for clothes repair
Resources for clothes repair

In January we joined our good friends the Restart Project whose volunteer led community electronic repair workshops free users from the frustrations of electrical malfunctions whether it be a faulty toaster, a broken hoover or a cracked i-phone screen. Along with the Hackney Fixers, researcher, activist and friend Bridget Harvey we enlisted the expertise of the fabulous sewing machine repair oracle Jennie from Cheeky Handmades to talk sewing machine maintenance with a side offering of clothes repair.

Jennie from Cheeky Handmades sharing her expertise
Jennie from Cheeky Handmades sharing her expertise
Inspecting the innards of a sewing machine to keep it healthy
Inspecting the innards of a sewing machine to keep it healthy

Basic maintenance and investing some time and love with our sewing machines and similarly with our clothes, coupled with a general understanding of how to use them can keep these material objects happy and healthy for longer.

Changing sewing machine needles after 6-8 hours of use, using a nail file to rid of any nicks in your metal work, a dust under the bonnet with an old toothbrush and a good oil – with machine oil and not olive oil (!) can help keep your machine ticking over nicely. And importantly, just as with clothes, if you invest in quality it will last longer. Secondhand sewing machines, as with vintage (secondhand) clothes have stood the test of time, built for longevity giving you more for your money. Just as with poor quality disposable clothing you’ll find a lot of the cheaper sewing machine models are not designed for regular use and with parts made from easily breakable plastic and cases that are incredibly difficult to take apart seem intended to discourage repair. Not to be defeated though all 3 sewing machines were fixed at this workshop!

If you’d like to find out more about how to maintain a healthy sewing machine the knowledge and information shared in the workshop in Hackney is available online here.