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Mending clothes, winning hearts

A bLUprint grant enables students to provide free mending services to Bethlehem residents and the Lehigh community


Arianna Pineiro (at sewing machine) with Shira Morosohk at the Pop-Up Prom Shop in Easton, Pa.

 

Peering into your wardrobe early one morning, you see your favorite shirt is now first in the rotation. Too bad you never found the time to fix that loose button – so back it goes to the end of the line.

Darn it.

That's what you say, but it's also what you can do – with a little help from your friends at The Mending Project.

In the Fall of 2017, a student group was given a bLUeprint grant from Lehigh University's Student Affairs office to purchase sewing kits. The plan was to go forth into the community to mend articles of clothing and textiles that people brought to them.

The idea was the brainchild of Pam Richey, adjunct professor and costume coordinator in Lehigh's Department of Theatre. Richey had read a story about a similar effort in San Francisco. So she set up a booth at the local farmers market over the summer, and waited.

The need for mending services was apparent, and Richey's experiment was a success.

After the semester began, Richey recruited students interested in continuing the project and orchestrated the winning bLUprint grant proposal, and The Mending Project was born. With the funds, the group was able to purchase supplies for their sewing kits.

The team sets up shop in community gathering places, such as the Bethlehem Public Library's Southside Branch Thursday afternoons and St. Paul Baptist Church in Bethlehem on Saturdays.

The free service also extends to the Lehigh community, and if there's an available table, they set up in the Upper Food Court in University Commons during lunch on Thursdays.

The most active students in The Mending Project include Shira Morosohk '18, Natalee Castillo '19, Arianna Pineiro '20 and Lauren Dodgen '20. Morosohk is graduating this spring in mechanical engineering and both Castillo and Pineiro are bioengineering students.

"Many people we spoke to were excited to hear of our service. They told us about the items sitting in the back of their closets because they hadn't bothered to get them professionally mended," said Morosohk. "Many of those same people returned the next week with more projects for us."

Some students on the team honed their mending skills in Richey's costume construction class or work with her in the theater department's costume shop. "Personally, I learned to sew in middle and high school fashion classes," Morosohk said. "I've been sewing on my own ever since, mostly making clothing for myself."

Most of the fixes are simple and clients usually wait while the team does the mending. "We’ve done a lot of sewing buttons back on and fixing moth holes," Morosohk said, showing before-and-after photos of a once moth-bitten sweater.

Although The Mending Project is a volunteer effort, the experience is enriching nonetheless.

"Once a group of us volunteered at the YWCA's Pop-Up Prom Shop in Easton, which allows students to try on and purchase prom dresses at an extreme discount," Morosohk said. "We provided simple alterations such as shortening gown straps. It was very rewarding to watch a girl who could not afford a full-price prom dress try on her fitted gown for the first time."

Upon graduation this spring, Morosohk will pursue her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Lehigh but hopes The Mending Project will continue for a long time to come. "Ideally our project will become a fixture of both the Lehigh and South Bethlehem communities," Morosohk said. "Now that we have the sewing kits, we will be able to keep them stocked with a small fraction of the grant money and continue recruiting more students."

So get your favorite shirt – or any other garments in need of some love – back into your wardrobe rotation with the sewing skills of the students in The Mending Project.

 

- Mary Anne Lynch '16G

April 5, 2018

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