Fix It Friday
Fix It Friday is a program in which fashion students set up sewing machines in various places within the Illinois State University campus and the surrounding Bloomington-Normal community and offer FREE basic sewing, mending and clothing repair services to anyone in need. The fashion students lend their time, talent, and skills on a completely volunteer basis.
Our students are learning every day the harmful social and environmental impacts created by the current fast fashion model. The majority of our clothing is made at a rapid speed with little regard to the people behind the products, the quality of the goods, and the lasting environmental impact that is made by the overconsumption of clothing. This cheap clothing falls apart easily in the wash, and is often quick to snag or lose a button. If a customer purchased an item for a low cost and a button falls off, he/she might feel his/her only option is to throw it away. Many people do not have the skills or tools necessary to fix their garments themselves. And although there are local tailors and alteration shops that can do this work, it is often not worth the hassle or money to fix such a small detail, especially if it was an item that didn’t cost much in the first place. When this cycle happens, the clothing is discarded as waste. It is estimated that Americans throw away approximately 70 pounds of textiles each year.
Inspired by the Patagonia Worn Wear truck, my students and I took this information and transformed it into action. By providing a free monthly clothing repair service to the local community, the fashion students can practice their sewing skills while also reducing the amount of textile waste in the landfill.
- Repair clothing that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
- Decrease the amount of clothing donated into the secondhand/thrift store marketplace (they are overloaded with product and cannot sell all the items donated)
- Give back to our campus and our community & become more engaged with others
- Educate/create awareness of sustainable fashion & overconsumption
- Practice sewing skills
This project was implemented by forming a team of several fashion students interested in pursuing this initiative. To begin, we were able to use a small amount of funding from the Fashion Design and Merchandising Association (student club) and gather various misc. resources we had in our Design Studio. (For example, we used older domestic sewing machines, a folding table from our storage closet, etc.)
Our first event was on the University quad. We advertised to the campus via email, Facebook, Instagram and by hanging posters in high traffic areas. Word spread quickly. By our second event, we had local news stations (both TV and radio) interviewing us and we even made the front page of our local newspaper!
Soon after the program was implemented, we were able to apply for a grant from Illinois State University's Office of Sustainability. This money helped us purchase additional supplies, create business cards and other promotional material. We also created a "Fix It Guide" to pass out to our customers so they can learn how to sew a button or sew a basic stitch themselves.
August 2016: Formed a team of interested students. Divided tasks to find supplies, develop social media pages, a ticket stub for customers bringing clothing, and an informational handout to give those stopping by. Contacted various friends on campus and in the community to explain our idea and ask if we could "set up shop" at their coffee shop, library, or other location. Began scheduling the events and locations. We also started to develop a list of services, and "rules" -- such as if a customer doesn't come back to pick up their item, etc. We also discussed how we would not want to take away business from any local alteration shops, so we developed a handout listing these vendors: "If we can't fix it...we know some people who can!"
September 2016: We held our first Fix It Friday on the Illinois State University quad. We had approx. 7-8 customers stop by with items in need of fixing, such as a ripped seam or a missing button. For those people that stopped by without an item to fix but curious about our operation, we provided information about our next event and directed them to our Facebook page. With being in such a visible location on campus, this helped to spread the word about our services. We also posted pictures on social media of the event and continued to spread the word in the following weeks.
October 2016: We set up our sewing machines outside in the middle of our town circle. We had many customers stop by, including several news outlets. After this event, news quickly spread and I had community members and business owners contacting ME asking to host Fix It Friday at their store or location.
We continued to host multiple events at locations around town both fall and spring semester. We went to public libraries, coffee shops, a senior living recreation center, a vintage gift shop, restaurants, and our campus student center...to name a few! These locations would help us with promotion by advertising the event in their store or through their social media. We also took Fix It Friday on the road and traveled to Chicago to be part of a "Make Do Mend" event with the Chicago Fair Trade Association, as part of Fashion Revolution Week this past April.
We were recently recognized with the Outstanding Service/Volunteer Program award though the Office of Student Involvement at Illinois State University.
Although the semester is over, Fix It Friday is not finished. This program has become such a success that we will continue the program each year, with a new group of students interested in organizing and leading the events. This upcoming year, we would like to create a Fix It Friday website and develop/post several "Do It Yourself" videos on how to fix and mend your clothing.
As mentioned previously, we started this program with little resources: using the items we could find around us. We eventually received a $5000 grant from the Illinois State University's Office of Sustainability. Once we received this grant, we were able to purchase more of the supplies we needed to fix items and to promote our events. Additionally, we were able to collaborate with a Student Engineering Club on campus to build a custom mobile sewing cart. It will be built early this fall so we can start using it at our events next semester.
Sewing Supplies (thread, scissors, seam ripper, bobbins, etc.): $255.71 Folding Chairs (set of 2): $53.00 Small Sandwich Board: $50.72 Large Sandwich Board: $80.64 Business Cards (1,000): $103.50 Sewing Machines (2): $239.00 Mending Pamphlet (500): $875.00 Portable Cart for storage: $65.36 Custom Mobile Cart + Table: $1310.00
The response to the Fix It Friday program from the campus and the community has been overwhelming. As the faculty advisor, I have fielded phone calls and emails from local news sources, businesses and organizations throughout the state of Illinois, interested in our program and inviting us to set up shop at their storefront or event. We already have Fix It Fridays scheduled at locations throughout our campus and community for the following academic year!
While our students live busy lives with class, work and social commitments, it has been a source of pride for me that these fashion students have willingly given up a Friday morning or afternoon to help others. Fix It Friday is not part of a class, and students do not receive credit for their time. They are simply giving of their skills and making a difference, one stitch at a time!
Transporting the sewing machines and supplies was an issue with various locations and depending on the type of transportation the volunteers may have. The new cart being made from the Student Engineering Club will fold down and fit into the trunk of most cars. This will help our volunteers bring items to the events with ease.
The bigger lesson, however, was in the unexpected. While we started this project mainly to fix clothing and educate consumers on overconsumption, I also saw my students engage with community members and various individuals they would not be interacting with on a day-to-day basis on campus. This experience enriched their lives as volunteers and has become a rewarding experience for all involved.