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University of Missouri

Are You Done With That?

Young people’s lack of sewing and laundry skills leads to needless clothing waste.

sewing supplies

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If you were born after the Carter administration and know how to sew a button on a garment, raise your hand. Congratulations. Now show your friends how to do it.

In a study published in Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, Textiles and Apparel Management Professor Pamela Norum has found that, compared to baby boomers, millennials age 18 to 33 lack simple clothing skills such as hemming, sewing and general laundry knowledge. She attributes the decline to fewer high schools offering home economics classes.

The situation, she says, leads to more “textile waste,” which was already at 14.3 million tons in the U.S. in 2012. “Much of this waste is due to clothes being discarded due to minor tears or stains — easily repairable damages,” says Norum, who works in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.

Sewing and stitching skills also enable people to creatively repurpose unwanted textiles. “If we want to move toward more sustainable practices, we need to evaluate not only how we take care of our clothes but also how we educate younger generations to do so.”