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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Feb. 28, 2024

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Mend & Make Marvelous: Two Clark County businesses help customers get the most out of their clothes

By , Columbian staff writer
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Miki Landis cuts a piece of silk fabric to mend a frayed section of quilt at her shop, The Enchanted Rose Emporium, located inside Providence Academy in Vancouver.
Miki Landis cuts a piece of silk fabric to mend a frayed section of quilt at her shop, The Enchanted Rose Emporium, located inside Providence Academy in Vancouver. (ELAYNA YUSSEN/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Maybe you’ve got a bundle of clothes taking up space in your closet or drawers, stuck in waiting-to-be-mended limbo. Maybe it’s your favorite sweater from 1987 with moth holes, your grandmother’s vintage poodle skirt with the broken zipper or a fabulous pair of pants that just doesn’t fit right. You can’t bear to throw them out or donate them, but you can’t wear them, either. What to do?

Miki Landis and Emily Herrera, owners of two downtown Vancouver shops that offer textile repair and upcycling, aim to bring those treasures from the back of your closet into the light. They use innovative mending and artful alteration to make what was old feel brand-new again (or turn it into an entirely original creation).

“There’s always parts of something that are totally reusable,” said Landis, who teaches workshops in mending, handcrafts and other textile arts at The Enchanted Rose Emporium in the Providence Academy building. “People just throw things away. They don’t even donate them because resale places can’t sell damaged things. Literally it’s sometimes a seam that has come apart or a button missing. In five minutes, it can be a new piece.”

Herrera, owner of Okie Jo (a reference to her native Oklahoma), a new shop in the basement of Kindred Homestead Supply, has pondered modern fashion’s too-quick journey from desirable to disposable and believes we can do better than to throw old clothes away. She points out that many synthetic fabrics don’t readily decompose. They simply take up space in landfills (polyester, for instance, can take 20 to 200 years to disintegrate). Instead, she said, we should keep wearing garments for as long as the fabric’s viable.

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Miki Landis repairs a frayed section of quilt at her sewing store, The Enchanted Rose Emporium. She teaches a variety of workshops to help people get comfortable with basic repairs.Mend & Make Marvelous: Two Clark County businesses help customers get the most out of their clothes
Maybe you’ve got a bundle of clothes taking up space in your closet or drawers, stuck in waiting-to-be-mended limbo. Maybe it’s your favorite sweater from…
Miki Landis, owner of Enchanted Rose Emporium, helped me to artfully repair a very special piece of clothing.A Stitch in Time: “Textiles tell a story”
I recently took a mending class with Miki Landis, owner of The Enchanted Rose Emporium. My stitchery skills are remedial at best. I can darn…

What’s more, we can have fun while we’re doing it.

“To go through the act of mending, repairing or altering your clothes to grow with you, the clothing becomes more personal, and it also has more character to it and it becomes a lot more individualized,” said Herrera, who also offers in-person and virtual classes covering everything from how to sew on a button or use a sewing machine to clothing construction techniques.

Herrera agrees that shopping is enjoyable and buying new things is unavoidable, but consumers should consider the “cost per wear.” If you pay $40 for a sweater at Target and wear it a couple of times before throwing it out, that’s not a good value for the resources that went into its production and the personal resources (like money, time or the gas to get to the store) you expended to purchase it. However, if you pay $200 for a pair of well-made jeans and wear them 400 times over the course of several years, mending as necessary, those jeans cost 50 cents per wear.

“Even if a trendy item is speaking to a person now, a couple years down the road, that trend might not feel as resonant. That garment can be altered to reflect a more timeless style or the evolution of a trend,” Herrera said. “The garment doesn’t have to be thrown out and replaced with an entirely new thing. It can adapt with us and the world around us.”

Landis noted that buying new things wasn’t always the norm. As inexpensive, ready-made goods became abundant in postwar America, it became easier to buy new rather than to “make do and mend” as previous generations had done out of economic necessity. Parents stopped passing on skills like darning socks, sewing clothes and quilting.

Quilting is a perfect example of textile upcycling, said Landis, because it’s repurposing clothing scraps to make a new, useful item: a warm blanket.

Landis specializes in upcycling vintage fabrics and antique clothing into new pieces, including wedding dresses, reworking great-grandma’s gown into a modern style. She makes new aprons and children’s clothing from vintage household textiles that are too stained, torn or delicate to be used for their original purpose.

“I particularly like to find pieces with stitchery on them. I have things that are over 100 years old,” Landis said. “It’s amazing to preserve the handiwork of women who have stitched things by candlelight way back in the day. Sometimes they are damaged or stained but there are still ways to use them.”

Herrera emphasized that just because a piece of clothing doesn’t fit anymore doesn’t mean its usefulness has ended or that it’s destined for Goodwill. For example, over the course of the pandemic, many people experienced fluctuations in their body size. Instead of fretting about changing their bodies, Herrera suggested changing their clothes to fit their new shape.

WHERE TO GET YOUR STITCH FIX

The Enchanted Rose Emporium

Where: 400 E. Evergreen Blvd., Suite 120, Vancouver

Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays

Next in-person workshop: “Victorian Crazy Quilt” (beginner-friendly), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 1; $50

Contact:  360-228-2241; enchantedroseemporium@gmail.com, theenchantedroseemporium.com, facebook.com/theEnchantedRoseEmporium or instagram.com/enchantedroseemporium/

Okie Jo

Where: 606 Main St., Vancouver (in the basement of Kindred Homestead Supply)

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays

Next in-person workshop: “Learn Your Sewing Machine,” 1-2:30 p.m. March 29 at Kindred Homestead Supply, 606 Main St., Vancouver; $85

Contact: okiejo.com or instagram.com/okie.jo/

Mending circle

To work on a mending project with others, attend the monthly mending circle at Kindred Homestead Supply. Get details by clicking on “workshops and events” at kindredhomesteadsupply.com or call 360-719-2745.

Repair Clark County

Skilled volunteers will do simple sewing repairs for free at this recurring event, hosted by Columbia Springs in locations all over Clark County. The next in-person event is 4-6 p.m. May 4 at the Battle Ground Community Center, 912 E. Main St., Battle Ground. Check columbiasprings.org/repair-clark-county for more information and a complete schedule of events.

“There are ways to expand garments, whether that be from the material that’s already present in the garment or … adding new material to it and then evolving the garment, inserting that creativity into it but still prolonging the life of the original item,” Herrera said.

Landis also offers alterations to existing garments as well as repairs. She said she’s delighted when someone brings in decades-old items that just need a quick fix to be enjoyed for another generation or two. In the further interest of conserving the planet’s resources, Enchanted Rose sells sustainability-minded sewing products and fiber craft supplies, like recycled yarn.

“There’s so much waste in the textile industry and there is no reason not to reuse items,” Landis said. “There’s so much that can be done to repair something and make it usable again, even if it’s literally falling apart.”

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