Whilst it is usually possible to effect some kind of repair with limited technical equipment, the right piece of kit can make all the difference when it comes to mending.
Obviously, the tools you need will depend on the kinds of things you are trying to repair, but here’s a quick rundown of useful kit, and where to find it:
- Needle and thread – useful for all manner of textile repairs. A spot of hand sewing can darn a hole, patch a pair of trousers, and adjust a hem.
Needles come in a bewildering array of sizes and shapes for different uses. I found this handy guide here which might be useful. All haberdashers will have a stock of needles, and if you let them know what you want them for, they should be able to guide you.
Offset Warehouse stock organic cotton threads in a fabulous range of colours, and also have this useful guide on different threads, and when to use each one.
I don’t know of any UK companies that stock organic embroidery or darning thread. I have however been able to source these secondhand on sites like eBay, when people are ‘de-stashing’ and it is possible to build up a good range of colours this way.
- Sewing machine – although this is optional, I usually do most of my repairs on the sewing machine. Partly because I don’t trust my hand sewing skills, and partly because I am impatient!
A good sewing machine is a sound investment, and it may even be possible to find one for free. I wrote this post last year about sourcing secondhand sewing machines-where to find them, and what to look for.
- A darning mushroom
Darning mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes, from simple wooden ones, to ones with lights inside them for darning in low light levels! I love mine, but have to confess that I don’t use it as often as I should or could. I was slightly randomly given mine after I made my first appearnce on local radio talking about our Make Do and Mend Year, but they are quite easy to track down secondhand on eBay, and also on sites like Etsy.
As lovely and strokable as darning mushrooms are, they aren’t essential, and all kinds of things can be used in their place: an upturned cup, a lightbulb, and even an apple or gourd will suffice!
- A variety of basic tools
Things like hammers, screwdrivers, and pliers are always handy to have around! You might find that you hit lucky and find some on sites like Freecycle and Freegle, or they are also they sort of thing you often find at car boot sales and can pick up secondhand pretty cheaply.
If however you live near Edinburgh or Frome, you are lucky enough to have access to tools without having to buy them. Edinburgh is the home to the UK’s first ever Tool Library, in the form of Edinburgh Tool Library, and Frome is home to the country’s first Share Shop. They both work in the same way as regular libraries-you join up, and then can borrow the tools you need, removing the need for every household to own tools they will only use a handful of times a year.
- A variety of glues.
Sometimes, you can’t beat a bit of good old fashioned glue!
We tend to keep some super glue in stock, and also something called Q-bond, which is a two part glue that hubby swears by.
Fabric glue is also useful to have on stand-by, and I always forget that Copy-dex actually works well on a variety of substrates.
I don’t think any of these options are especially eco-friendly, but I weigh up the impact of needing to replace an item vs the impact of a spot of glue, and the glue usually wins.
I discovered sugru right at the start of our Make Do and Mend Year, and we’ve been big fans ever since. We’ve used it to mend everything from butter dishes to wooden railway, and always keep a stash in the fridge.
It’s a bit like plasticine, in that you can mould it around whatever you are fixing, but then it self-cures and hardens in 24hrs to effect a permanent repair. It’s the invention of a British woman, which for me is another great reason to use it, as well as their whole ethos of hacking and fixing, and the community they have built up around the product.
You can buy it online, or in some B&Q stores.
Formcard is a relatively new product, and one that I have only used a couple of times, but I think it has great promise! It’s another British invention, and is a meltable bio-plastic that can be moulded when it’s hot, and then is strong like nylon when it cools. They are also re-usable, so you can just melt it again if your mend doesn’t work, or is only a temporary measure.
You can buy it online here.
- For technical mends, and things like replacing screens on i-phones, there are kits available, and often for less money than you might think.
ifixit has a whole range of parts and tools, but is based in the USA.
We have previously sourced the toolkit for replacing i-phone screens on eBay, and obviously it can be used again and again.
I hope that’s a useful place to start if you are looking to start building up your own mending toolkit.
I’ve included the things that we find most useful, but I’d love to hear from your your essential kit, and the tools you use most often. Leave a comment, or join in the conversation in the Mend It May Facebook group! I’m also asking people to share pictures of their mending kit over on Instagram, so if you’re on there, do share!
Don’t forget to sign the Mend It May pledge, and share with your friends, so we can get mending trending…!