Did you know that the global fast fashion industry creates more CO2 emissions than all the world’s international flights and maritime shipping combined?
Thousands of tons of perfectly good clothes are chucked away each year, often when they’ve only been worn a few times. But in a little corner of Merton, a dedicated group of trainee stitchers are challenging the throw-away philosophy, learning new skills and finding friendship.
Around £140 million worth of clothing is sent to UK landfills each year
Based at the Wilson Wellbeing Space at the Wilson Hospital, Project Preloved is teaching complete novices how to upcycle and mend well-loved items and give them a second breath of life. T-shirts are turned into tote bags and old cardies into colourful cushion covers.
“Learning to sew, mend and upcycle gives people the skills and knowledge to save money and extend the life of their clothes,” says project manager Rachael Edwards from Sustainable Merton, which runs the project. “Around £140 million worth of clothing is sent to UK landfills each year. Globally, extending the average life of clothes by just nine months could save £5 billion a year.”
When you make something you have a great sense of achievement
Project Preloved is the brainchild of Rachael and her Sustainable Merton colleague Amy Coyne. Funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, distributed by Merton Giving, the scheme provides free two-hour long workshops, sewing kits, and expert tuition from professional sewers and designers. The project also provides a great place for local people – 60% of them from east Merton – to meet and work in a gentle and holistic environment.
Course member Maribel Greig says: “Sewing is beautiful and practical. When you make something you have a great sense of achievement. My mother was a seamstress but I spent many years working in an office environment. I found that my mental health was suffering in that environment so I became a gardener instead.
“I’ve discovered that I really like to do things that are meditative and calming and sewing is wonderful for that. On a practical basis, these classes are also very valuable for anyone who is on a low income and wanting to repair their clothes and get the most use out of them.”
State Registered Nurse Nigel Chapelle learned about the classes through the AFC Wimbledon Dons Local Action Group which sprung up in response to the COVID-19 crisis. A keen gardener like Maribel, he finds that the gentle rhythms of sewing are helping him to ease him back towards nursing work after a long period of ill-health.
Learning to sew, or any creative activity, can bring people together
“There’s something about gardening and working with textiles that have an innate spirituality,” he says. “I hadn’t sewn since I was a child but it’s a really good skill to have. Sewing is a great way to develop a gently disengaged mind – I think that many men would benefit from the sense of calm it brings.”
Project manager Rachael says: “Learning to sew, or any creative activity, can bring people together. It addresses loneliness which is really important as we recover from the pandemic.”
You can more details of Project Preloved.
Sustainable Merton is involved in a wide range of exciting projects across the borough aimed at reducing waste and mobilising the community to respond to the climate emergency and improve quality of life without compromising the planet. Find out more on the Sustainable Merton website.