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Repairing the items you wouldn’t want to buy secondhand

Repairing the items you wouldn’t want to buy secondhand

Sourcing clothing secondhand is a key component of sustainable consumption. However, there are some items that probably should not be used after someone else has been wearing them first. Items such as underwear and socks can be bought secondhand, but they need to be thoroughly and properly cleaned before wearing. Some tips on how to properly launder secondhand finds can be found here

Personally, I do not purchase socks or underwear secondhand – therefore, I try my best to continually repair the socks and underwear that I do have. As my socks and underwear are made from organic cotton, when they get to the point where they are unrepairable, I can then compost them. If you’d like to eventually compost your natural underwear and socks, it is crucial that you only repair them with thread or yarn made from 100% natural materials.

Sock Darning

One easy way to repair a sock with a hole in it is darning. For this technique you will need:

-damaged sock(s)

-darning egg or tennis ball (or something similar)

-natural thread or yarn

-long needle


Turn the sock inside out. Grab a tennis ball (or something similar) and put it in to the sock under the hole. You need to keep the hole open and sew over it so that when you wear the sock after the repair, it is a comfortable fit. Cut any loose fibres that may be sticking out around the hole. 

Put a lot of thread on needle. The thread should be the same colour and texture as the sock – try to find natural thread options instead of synthetic. I always sew outside of the damaged area to catch strong fibres so that my repair is stronger and lasts longer. 

Start sewing vertical rows with a running stitch. To do a running stitch, grab some fibres of the sock and push the needle forward to grab more fibres, and continue to sew in this fashion. This is why a long needle is important! Do not pull your thread all the way through – leave a few inches of the bottom thread out of the first row instead of creating a knot. 

Continue to make vertical rows up and down until the entire damaged area, plus a bit of the good areas around the damage, are completely covered. Leave the thread flat over damaged sections that have no thread. After that, repeat the process and start making horizontal rows with a running stitch. 

When you are done, weave the end of the thread into the sock and try to resist tying a knot, or at least a large knot. Knots may become uncomfortable when wearing if they are large. When you are done, turn the sock right-side-out and admire your repair work!

Underwear Repair

It is a personal decision whether or not you feel comfortable purchasing underwear secondhand. Do not feel like you have to purchase underwear secondhand either! I do not purchase mine secondhand – instead, I made the switch to organic cotton underwear three years ago. Underwear options made from organic natural materials are both better for the environment and your body, but they do usually come at a higher price point. Therefore, I have been continually repairing my underwear so that I do not have to purchase new pairs.

I usually use my sewing machine for my underwear repairs, but hand stitching will work just as well. You will need:

-sewing machine or needle

-natural thread



Start by pinning your underwear back together. Usually, pinning and sewing is done when the item is inside out. 

Next, start to sew along the areas that need to be reattached. I usually use a zigzag pattern on my sewing machine. Take your time and learn as you go – there are so many different ways to repair all the different rips or damages that underwear can develop. 

When I am sewing my underwear with organic cotton thread, I make sure to stretch it lightly as I am sewing it. This means that when I put on the underwear, the repair job that I just did doesn’t feel too tight. Also, if you stretch organic cotton material when repairing, it will ensure the repair job lasts longer, as the stitches will not stretch or strain the fabric when the item is being worn. Remove the pins as you go and when you’re done, turn the underwear right-side-out.

Repairing all your clothing items is important, not just underwear and socks! Ensuring you can repair items for as long as possible before replacing them is a sustainable effort that matters. There is a plethora of videos showing how to complete repair jobs available for you to learn from. Repairing the things you own does not have to be difficult or time-consuming. I try to make everything a learning opportunity. Also, you can watch something on Netflix or listen to music while doing your repairs… just be mindful about the needle! 

When I started repairing my clothing, I sat down and did as much research as I could. I then started my repairs on older clothing that I wasn’t too attached to, so that if I messed up, I could seam rip my repair job and start all over again. Just because your clothing has a hole, rip, or tear in it, does not mean it needs to be thrown out! It can still be repaired so it lasts longer, preventing more items from being bought in the process. Here’s to repairing before repurchasing!

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