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Spokane seamstresses fix holey clothes at Mend-it Cafes

Ashley Ellsworth fixes an article of clothing during a recent Mend-it Cafe.
RICHARD CHAN/Courtesy of Elyse Hochstadt
Ashley Ellsworth fixes an article of clothing during a recent Mend-it Cafe.

The world throws away a lot of stuff, especially clothes.

“We’ve got textile waste being seen from space in the Atacama Desert [in Chile]," said Elyse Hochstadt, executive director of the non-profit group Spokane Zero Waste.

"It’s something we all relate to," she said. "We all wear clothes, right? I think we’ve also seen our closets explode and been overwhelmed by our stuff. If you’ve ever lived in a house that was built before 1960 and the closets were dinky, there was a reason. People bought clothes for four seasons for a long time and they wore them over and over and over again. There was longevity there. There was value in it.”

“And they repaired them," said Tera Lessard, a seamstress who recently created a business, Beargrass Mending.

“For as long as I can remember, I have been allergic to waste, whether it’s food waste or textile waste. Anything that seems like it could be repaired that’s going to be thrown away bothers me," she said.

That’s one of the reasons she recently opened Beargrass Mending. Lessard takes people’s clothes and fixes them. She’s also into teaching people how to stitch their own.

“Many of us just don’t know how to repair and so, as a self-taught mender, I thought I can build a community around this concept and this idea," she said.

Several people had clothing repaired at a recent Mend-it Cafe, sponsored by Spokane Zero Waste.
RICHARD CHAN/Courtesy of Elyse Hochstadt
Several people had clothing repaired at a recent Mend-it Cafe, sponsored by Spokane Zero Waste.

Spokane Zero Waste developed the Mend-it Cafe, similar to the Repair Cafe that debuted at the Perry Street Farmers’ Market in May. In this case, instead of bringing your broken toaster, you bring in a pair of jeans or a shirt and Lessard, and maybe a few others who are handy with a needle, make them usable again. You can even watch and get a pointer or two.

The next Mend-it Cafe will be September 30 from noon-3 pm at the Spokane Refillery at 7413 E. Trent, part of the organization’s grand re-opening. Another is scheduled for October 15 from noon-3 pm at the Shadle Park Library.

“There’s a lot of people in our community and beyond who want to do something to make a difference, but they don’t know what and this is something that anybody can do. It’s accessible to all humans to take a needle and thread and repair something that would have been otherwise gone into the garbage," Lessard said.

The cafes may be attractive to people who grew up with the Depression-era mindset that you don’t throw anything away; you never know when you might need it. Elyse Hochstadt believes the cafes may also interest people who barely know of the Depression.

“I think young people are saying this is the world we’re inheriting and it’s not working for us. We want to do it a little bit differently. And so they’re turning to the ways things were before the plastic revolution," she said.

During the first two weeks of October (October 3, 4, 5 and 11) , Spokane Zero Waste and the Spokane Public Library will sponsor mending classes to teach basic sewing skills to people 10-to-18-years old. Check the library website for more details.

For those who can’t make it to those, Tera Lessard says she plans to teach virtual on-demand mending classes for small groups later this fall. She’ll also teach a Basic Repair class November 4 at the North Spokane Library.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.