As autumn creeps into winter and more clothing is needed to ward off the chills, I have finally plucked up the courage to check my woollens to make sure there are no signs of moth damage.So far, so good: storage bags from Lakeland have successfully protected my cherished hand-knitted sweaters and a couple of cashmere jumpers. Holding dark items up to the light is a handy way of finding out whether any fine dining has been taking place.
I am now well over halfway through my self-imposed challenge not to buy any clothes for a year, and found the summer months much easier than the colder ones. But having to return to my tights and sock drawer after several months of bare-legged freedom has been a sobering experience.
Fortunately my mother taught me how to darn and mend tights and socks, which I have got used to doing. The problem is that most of my tights tend to attract holes and ladders around the toes and feet. So when I pulled on a thick pair of tights last week for work, I was very conscious of the long and rather uncomfortable ridges under my toes. Wearing a pair of wide chunky boots seemed to ease the discomfort.
I’m certainly not the only person to be undertaking this kind of challenge and wondering about the practicalities of mending tights. There’s no point trying to mend sheer or low denier tights as they are too fragile, but you can certainly extend the life of thicker nylon, cotton and wool tights and socks.
The key with any kind of sewing or repairs is to do it as quickly as possible (or to stop ladders in their tracks with a dash of nail varnish as an emergency measure) so you are not endlessly unfurling hosiery first thing in the morning, greeting every unexpected ladder or tear with a yelp of frustration. When the tights – with their webs of intricate hand-stitching – are really too far gone for further repair I put them in my local textile recycling bank and marvel at the bit of extra space that has been freed up.
This week, retailers such as John Lewis and Topshop and knitting groups across the UK are helping to champion British wool as part of Wool Week. Backed by the Campaign for Wool it is dedicated to raising the profile of the natural fibre as a sustainable and stylish substance, and one of the most effective, natural forms of all-weather protection. And it is perfect for upcycling: boiled or “felted” wool can be used to make handbags, corsages and badges, and even jewellery and art.
Marks & Spencer is selling its first garment made from old or unwanted woollen clothing donated by customers through its shwopping scheme. The limited edition double-breasted 1960s pea coat is on sale in selected stores and online for £89 – half the cost it would be if made from virgin wool.
Not that I will be buying one, of course.
At home I’ve been hunting for bright accessories to lift the spirit. I’ve got my eye on the luminous orange chunky scarf my daughter started knitting last year. It is only a square at the moment but I am an eternal optimist.
I am heading into the last lap of what has been a life-changing exercise, and one which has definitely helped my bank balance. But with the high streets filled with fabulously stylish autumn wear, I am determined to stay strong and resist temptation. Though I’m not looking forward to the racks of party dresses and evening wear that will be wheeled out in the run-up to Christmas.
How do you cope with the retail temptation offered by the new seasonal ranges? And do you feel guilty when you have Christmas shopping to think about as well
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk