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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Keep those favourite clothes for longer

Clothes rack

Credit: iStockphoto

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Apparently secondhand clothes shops are having a bit of a problem these days - they've got so much stock donated to them that they can't get rid of it all! And unfortunately, a lot of it isn't donated in good condition. The average Australian now buys so many clothes, so cheaply, that when something loses a button or gets a little tear, we think nothing of replacing it with something new right away.

Personally, I don't mind doing a little mending. I gather up my sewing kit (nothing fancy, a few needles and a few spools of thread), make myself a cup of tea, and sit down on the couch to watch my favourite TV show and do a little hand sewing. I rescued my favourite winter jacket by keeping the buttons when they fell off one morning, and sewing them back on later. I re-sewed in a zipper on a skirt that had come loose from the waistband. It's not hard, and there are so many tutorials online that will take you through the steps. I particularly rely on Craft Zine's mending articles - they've covered everything from fixing broken backpack straps to peeling sandals to snags in your jumpers.

If you're confident with your sewing skills, then you can branch out a little further into the reuse area, and get into reconstruction. Resize that baggy old t-shirt into something more fitted, or turn an men's business shirt into a smock for a little girl - the only limit is your imagination and the amount of fabric you've got! Again, there are lots of tutorials online.

But even if you've never done any sewing in your life, it doesn't mean you can find a way to reuse or repair clothes. There are clothes alteration and mending services in most major shopping centres now, and they'll do anything from fix that too-baggy shirt to taking up your pants to the right length.

Or you can swap your unwanted items with someone who would like them more than you do. There are swap parties springing up all around Australia, I'm thinking of having one myself. The idea is that you get a group of friends to bring in clothes that either don't fit or don't suit them, then you all switch items so that everyone leaves with something new to them. Anything left over can go to a secondhand shop, but make sure it's in good condition first!