Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald, author of Modern Mending, shares her top tips for anyone who wants to take up the fight against fast fashion.

Usually I adore the start of the year, when everything’s quiet and relaxed and I get so much more accomplished. But this year started off at a low point, with bushfires raging across Australia, and the climate-emergency discussion at the forefront.

Climate change can feel overwhelming and like there’s nothing you can do to make a real impact – it’s up to businesses and politicians to change their ways, right? Well, yes and no.

The fashion industry is responsible for around 10% of global carbon emissions. When you hear the word ‘fashion’ you might think it doesn’t concern you, but everyone wears clothes, so we’re all in this together whether we realise it or not. Every choice you make – the clothes you buy, the clothes you don’t buy, how you treat the clothes you already have – has an impact. Choosing not to do anything is also a choice with an impact.

Conscious consumerism is a step in the right direction but unfortunately we can’t buy our way out of the problem; even fairtrade, organic and second-hand clothing is going to wear out if you wear it enough. At some point you’ll be faced with a decision: do you fix it or bin it?

The most effective way to lessen your wardrobe’s environmental impact is to love the clothes you already have and make them last as long as possible. And that means mending and maintenance.

Think a pair of holey socks in the bin is too small to matter? It might seem like nothing at an individual level but it becomes a huge problem when you add up everyone’s discards. In Australia we throw away 6,000kg of clothing in landfill every 10 minutes, and half of us have cited clothing damage as the reason for tossing our clothes.

The good news is that just about anyone can learn to mend their clothes. I’ve taught four-year-olds to sew with a needle and thread. I know you can do this!

Here are some suggestions to help you roll up your sleeves, find your mending mojo and get started.

Build your confidence
It’s one thing to talk about the problem and what you should do, and it’s another to have the skills and knowledge to actually do it. I wrote Modern Mending with absolute beginners (including kids) in mind – it’s got everything you need to know, no matter where you’re starting from. You don’t have to master everything at once; try one technique and build your confidence before you move on to the next one.

If you prefer to learn in person, try searching for mending classes in your area, or ask a friend or family member who sews to give you some tips. Repair Cafes are great, too – you can have a go at mending with a bit of guidance from an experienced mender – a bit like mendy training wheels. Australia has more than 40 Repair Cafes and community repair organisations, and most have volunteer clothes menders who would love to help guide you through the process.

Try a challenge
Fashion fasts are becoming popular online, with many people setting themselves the challenge of not buying new clothing for a month or a year (check out the hashtags #nonewclothes and #30wears on Instagram). If not buying any new clothes seems too big a challenge, try a sock fast instead. When your existing pairs wear out, you’ll be faced with the fix-or-bin decision. If you’re stubborn like me and refuse to give up once a challenge has been issued, you’ll be more motivated to mend them. Once you start mending, you’ll get a better sense of quality and buy better-made socks (and other clothes) in future, with repairability in mind. For nervous menders, socks are a great starting point because they’re usually hidden inside shoes, so it’s unlikely that anyone will see your handiwork while you’re building your mending skills and confidence.

Find your tribe
Mending with others has so many benefits: you can find guidance, reassurance, inspiration and encouragement in a friendly, social atmosphere. Mending communities can happen in person or online, like my Facebook group Modern Mending Club and the super-fun #mendmarch mendalong hosted by Kate Sekules on Instagram every year. Why not hold a mending bee, invite your friends and learn together? You’ll be surprised by how quickly the time passes, and how much you can achieve when you’re having fun.

Visit modernmending.com to purchase the book and any mending supplies you need to get started.