New research shows that tons of wasted textiles might be saved by a few simple, basic skills.
What was once common knowledge is no more—since the decline of home economics, it seems that millennials are ill equipped to handle some of the most basic tasks, such as caring for their clothing.
Pamela Norum, a professor in the Department of Textile and Apparel Management in the University of Missouri College of Human Environmental Sciences, studied more than 500 female baby boomers and millennials (between ages 18 and 33) regarding clothing care. She found that four major areas took a hit in the younger generation: sewing, hemming, button repair, and general laundry knowledge.
While it’s unsurprising that baby boomers are more knowledgeable when it comes to clothing repair, Norum is concerned that carelessness might be contributing to the 14.3 million tons of textile waste that Americans create every year. She suggests that since these skills are no longer taught in schools, they should be learned at home, or even through fashion blogs and Pinterest tutorials.
Here, a breakdown of the basics everyone needs to know, and the resources to learn them.
Sewing and Hemming
Those who learned how to hand sew rated their repair skills almost three points higher than those who had never learned the skill. From knowing how to thread a needle—you need between 18 and 24 inches of thread—to how to fix a fallen hem, everyone can benefit from a basic sewing skillset. You’ll save money on professional repair you can easily do yourself.
Buttons are almost guaranteed to fall off a garment—stores wouldn’t attach spares just for fun! A shirt or coat is often no good without this fastener, so make sure to pick up this essential skill. We have a simple three-step guide to reference at any time. Bonus: Learn how to sew buttons on jackets.
General Laundry Knowledge
This all-encompassing skill covers the confidence to wash all different types of clothes—and you might still make some mistakes. Washing your brand new jeans with your delicates can, as we’ve learned the hard way, lead to bleeding and serious damage. But basic knowledge doesn’t end there. Laundry isn’t just about putting the clothes in the machine—you need to know how much detergent to use, which water setting is best, and how to separate each load by color and fabric. Even something as simple as unbuttoning a shirt before washing can prevent buttons from tearing. Feeling ambitious? You could tackle ironing, too.
The study’s findings were published in the Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal.