The Mending Project held an alterations event night on Wednesday, February 6, 2019, in the Costume Shop at Zoellner Arts Center. Students could bring in any clothes that needed alterations and the Mending Project would fix their clothing for free. (Courtesy of the Mending Project Facebook page)

The Mending Project repairs clothing for the Bethlehem community


The Mending Project, a clothing alterations group at Lehigh, promotes sustainability and fosters community through the refurbishing of worn clothes.

Pam Richey is the costume coordinator of Lehigh’s costume design shop and the faculty supervisor of The Mending Project. Inspired by a mending service provided by Michael Swaine in San Francisco, Richey brought the idea to Lehigh. Just as Swaine instituted a “Free Mending Library,” which fixed worn clothes brought by community members, Richey organized a booth at the local Bethlehem farmer’s market to begin mending the clothing of Bethlehem residents.

In need of help, Richey began recruiting her students with sewing skills to join her effort. Combining a passion for sewing and helping others, The Mending Project group members wanted to do more.

After receiving a bLUeprint grant in fall 2017, the group purchased portable sewing kits that included basic tools, such as scissors, a needle and thread. Using these kits, members mend clothes brought by residents and students at the university and in the greater Bethlehem community. 

Students part of The Mending Project receive basic sewing training for simple projects, such as replacing a button, so they are able to complete the project themselves. For more complex alterations that require greater sewing skills, such as hemming a dress, the group may complete the project. 

“The Mending Project bridges a gap between the South Side community and campus life,” said Natalee Castillo, ’19, who is a member of the group. 

Castillo said one of her favorite parts about being part of the group is engaging with the city of Bethlehem.

The Mending project started as a small mending table at the Bethlehem farmer’s market, their reach grew as they established mending services at the South Bethlehem public library and Lehigh’s University Center.

“We look at what we do as a need,” Richey said.

She said mending clothes not only reduces waste, but also saves money as the need to buy new clothing is reduced. Promoting sustainability in the community, the services provided by the group give life to clothing that might have otherwise been thrown away.

As a member since The Mending Project’s establishment, Arianna Pineiro, ‘20, said she views the group as an outlet where she can combine her passion for sewing and community involvement. She said she is proud to be part of an organization that provides free and accessible alterations to members of her college community.

“I like being able to help people,” Pinerio said. “The Mending Project serves a mending need.”

She said the group not only helps community members mend their beloved clothes, but also help the environment.

In conjunction with Recyclmania, the group previously hosted an alterations night on Feb. 6 and plans to do so again on March 6.

The Mending Project offered alterations and advice to those purchasing prom dresses at last year’s YWCA Pop-Up Prom Shop in Easton. As every dress does not fit perfectly, group members offered guidance to customers and provided insight on how a dress could look after alterations.

The Mending Project hopes to participate in the event this coming spring as well.

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