While it’s equal parts satisfying and rewarding saving or repurposing a garment, I wanted to bring light to why it’s so darn important to stretch our clothing just that little bit further. Before we dive into some crafty ways to repair or repurpose ripped jeans here are a few facts to get your head around…
- China is the largest manufacturer of denim in the world. It is estimated that 70 per cent of Asia’s rivers and lakes are contaminated by the 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater produced by that continent’s textile industry. Yikes.
- According to Everlane, it takes about 1,500 liters (that’s roughly 396 gallons) of water to produce a single pair of jeans.
- Another study by Levi Strauss & Co found that producing one pair of Levi jeans requires a staggering 3781 litres of water.
- While cotton takes up 2.4% agricultural land, it accounts for more than 11% of global pesticide use.
- Pesticides can be highly toxic and create a hazardous working environment for cotton farmers as well as of course disrupting biodiversity and soil health. Between 1 and 3% of agricultural workers worldwide suffer from acute pesticide poisoning with at least 1 million requiring hospitalisation each year.
- In addition to the pesticides used in cotton production, harmful chemicals may also be used extensively in denim’s dyeing process. Azo dyes, for example, can sometimes release carcinogenic amines.
- Not just denim, but all clothing is placed into regular bins and incinerated, resulting in toxic air pollution and extensive energy usage.
Let these staggering facts be a sage reminder that it’s not just our privilege to buy denim products or any new clothing for that matter, but it’s our obligation to ensure we get the most use out of them as possible and buy the most sustainable, ethically produced ones when we DO invest in a new pair (op shop or second hand being first preference of course – E Bay is full of great condition second-hand jeans for example!).
How to revive your holey/ripped jeans
If the issue with your well-loved jeans is simply that you’ve split the crotch, ripped a section or worn down certain areas you can still fix them with these subtle techniques before discarding them.
1. Patch your jeans with lace or other beautiful fabrics like this example here from Free People, or these I found on Pinterest (by Tonya Staab).
2. Use the Japanese technique of Boroboro to repair jeans with visible stitching. Closet Case Patterns demonstrates this really well.
3. Stitch them up good as new using these techniques from SewGuide.com.
Creative Ways to Repurpose Denim
Now to the fun stuff, I’ve trawled many a Pinterest board to bring you some of my favourite Low Tox approved ways to repurpose jeans/ scraps of denim.
Make these beautiful denim bags and pillows by Brit.Co.
I love the look of these DIY Lunch bags, and these with a nice leather strap – great for kids! If you’re crafty – which I’m not – I envy you greatly if you can pull this off and I WANT PHOTOS so tag me on instagram @lowtoxlife so I can see them!
Create your own homewares:
This denim pouf by MicheleMadeMe is great if you’ve got lots of scraps or a whole pair of jeans that need to be used. Beautiful, hey?
Create a sweet little fruit basket like this one.
Make beautiful ruffled pillows for a friend or as a new feature piece in your home.
Fun Little Crafty Suggestions
Make a bunch of DIY bookmarks for friends and family. This is something I think I could actually make myself!
Whip up a Knitting Needle Case for yourself or perhaps some avid knitters in your life. No doubt they’d love a fancy case.
How cute are these denim Baby Bibs?!
Something we’ve made over the years for family cats, is something we’ve called “Mr Denim” which is essentially cutting thin strips of denim from the length of the leg of a jean, tying a couple of knots in it for texture and weight and darting it around for a fun game to play with your cat.
Still got scraps? Here are a few simple textile recycling outlet options for leftover denim scraps and items:
- H&M recycling programm sorts your clothes into those that can be re-worn, repurposed or recycled.
- Zara Sustainability Clothing Program donates clothes to NGO’s. Note: Zara is not being transparent with factory worker conditions so this is by no means an endorsement for Zara as a fashion business, just sharing an option.
- Check out Planet Ark’s Australian recycling online directory called Recycling Near You for clothing recycling options.
- Textiles recycling businesses SCR Group and King Cotton both accept worn and damaged clothing.
- Boomerang Bags is a grassroots community upcycling initiative. Each group collects unwanted fabrics and sews them into cloth bags to replace single-use plastic bags in their community.
Top Sustainable Denim Brands to shop from for your next pair of jeans:
If you’re in the market for a new pair of sustainably made jeans from an ethically minded company, here are a bunch of notable businesses to look into.
- Outland Denim – An Australian owned and run denim label that focuses on workplace diversity, complete transparency with garment manufacturing, a focus on using sustainable technology and drastically reducing water waste. I love, love, love mine!
- Mud Jeans – Currently one of the only brands offering the option to lease jeans rather than purchase a whole new pair. Mud Jeans have saved 300 million litres of water to date, it’s completely carbon neutral, and in the past three years, the brand has saved 12,000 jeans from landfill and incineration, instead, turning them into new denim. I have had a pair and they are fabulous jeans, great quality and a pro tip: Sizing runs small, so if you’re normally a 29 for example, order a 30 in their brand.
- Everlane – This brand uses a game-changing denim factory. Unlike typical manufacturers, their LEED-certified facility recycles 98% of its water, relies on alternative energy sources, and repurposes byproducts to create premium jeans minus the waste.
- Nobody Denim – Nobody Denim is committed to manufacturing denim garments in Melbourne and guaranteeing the maintenance of fair working conditions all the while minimising their carbon footprint. They’ve reduced water use by 50% in their stone washing and bleaching processes, they use natural enzymes to replace harsh chemicals which are safe for human and environmental health, and are biodegradable.
- Neuw Denim – Neuw Denim jeans are designed for longevity with initiatives to educate customers to care for their garments. They also champion the use of Australian grown cotton, resulting in a reduction in the use of pesticides by 90%. They’re currently working towards 50% recycled water within 12 months. The 70% that isn’t recycled is transported to an external facility, managed by the local authorities where further cleansing processes are applied. After the final process, the water can be re-released back into the public water grid.
BONUS Reader Tips:
- ‘Old clothes, especially cotton, make great cleaning cloths. Take a pair of scissors to them and voila! Second life! -Rena
- ‘Don’t forget Young Living Foundation’s Sole Hope project which turns denim into shoes for people in Uganda afflicted with Jiggers. People with Jiggers are seen as outcasts and shunned by their communities. Most don’t have shoes so they are easy targets for Jiggers (kind of like sand fleas) that bury into their feet. The Foundation also runs Jigger removal efforts before giving them shoes. A life-changing service for these beautiful people. At the upcoming Gold Coast Young Living Symposium, I’m attending a shoe cutting workshop. Can’t wait to contribute in this way.’ – Vicki
- Make your own Japanese Tawashi sponge like this one below.
So there you go, hopefully, a super inspiring post to help you revive old jeans and make conscious ethical and sustainable purchases in the future. Have I missed any tips or tricks? Perhaps there’s a great denim brand that I haven’t mentioned. Share with me below.
Low Tox. Healthy People. Happy Planet.
Great timing! I am in need of a new pair of jeans and planned to research which brands would be sustainable and ethical to purchase from. I’ll also share this post with my daughter who is learning to sew and can repurpose my old jeans. Thanks x
Awesome! Thanks for sharing Jayne 🙂
Don’t forget Young Living Foundation’s Sole Hope project which turns denim into shoes for people in Uganda afflicted with Jiggers. People with Jiggers are seen as outcasts and shun by their communities. Most don’t have shoes so they are easy targets for Jiggers (kind of like sand fleas) that bury into their feet. The Foundation also runs Jigger removal efforts before giving them shoes. A completely life changing service for these beautiful people. At the upcoming Gold Coast Young Living Symposim I’m attending a shoe cutting workshop. Can’t wait to contribute in this way.
Ahh yes of course! Thanks Vicki! I’ve added that into the post and credited you so people can see it. x