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A Look Into Patches, BC’s New Upcycling Club

Patches is a new club at Boston College that is dedicated to transforming old textiles into new upcycled clothing pieces. It was founded by senior Katherine Garrett, who describes Patches as a community for people to explore their artistic ability and creativity through sewing. The club meets in the Hatchery, a new makerspace located in 245 Beacon that consists of equipment like sewing machines, a digital embroidery machine, and 3D printers. 


Katherine was inspired to start Patches as an avid sewer herself who recognized the emergence of upcycling in the fashion scene. She says that sewing with used textiles is advantageous for multiple reasons: new textiles are expensive, and sewing with used textiles not only produces less waste but also allows one to practice sewing skills without the pressure of messing up. She realized that the Hatchery could allow students to utilize its facilities to pursue their hobbies, and for students to learn how to sew without having to purchase their own sewing machines. It could also start a community that routinely practices sewing, which she considers an essential skill for everyone to learn. Furthermore, Katherine believes that Patches provides a different kind of artistic outlet. “The metric of grading something you sew is much less linear, so it’s easier to start sewing,” she says. She describes sewing as a craft that allows more creative freedom without as much judgment on what the result looks like. Sewing is also less subject to noticing mistakes as they can be hidden in the finished product, making the craft less daunting.


Besides creativity, the club is also dedicated to sustainability. The rapid rise of the fast fashion industry is detrimental to the environment: clothing sales are at 200 billion units per year while 92 million tons of textile waste contribute to the growing islands of trash that humans create. Fast fashion contributes to microplastics in the oceans and carbon emissions, and the industry itself is the second largest consumer of water.  In places like BC, where young college students buy into clothing trends from Tiktok or for Halloweekend, there is a culture where clothes go out of style quickly. Too often are clothes worn only a handful of times and immediately replaced with another piece that follows the next trend cycle. 


While the fast fashion industry dominates the trends and shopping habits of young people today, there is also a growing response to combat such practices. Thrift stores are a great way to purchase pre-bought or pre-loved clothing that helps reduce textile waste. Buying clothes that can be reworn for longer and does not follow trends is also an effective way of being conscious of shopping habits. Patches follows this sentiment as upcycling clothing allows old clothing to be reworn and customized into what looks like a new piece of clothing instead of purchasing one. The customization aspect is special; because of all the time and effort put into making a new article of clothing, it is more likely that the maker will cherish the clothes made and thereby reduce their contribution to the millions of tons of clothes-related waste.  


Katherine listed some of her ideas for future events held by Patches. One thing she wants to do is hold a fashion show that showcases the upcycled fashion items that Patches members have made. She aspires  to have a space for people to see the art form that sewing embodies and the uniqueness and beauty of upcycled pieces. Another idea she has is to hold a merch making event for Patches where people can bring in old sweatshirts and sweatpants and upcycle them. Currently, the club is collecting old or unworn clothing, sheets, and other textiles from the BC community in preparation for the annual thrift store on December 5, 2022. This event is a collaboration among Patches, UGBC, EcoPledge, Fashion Club, and other organizations that set up this thrift store for BC students to donate clothing for others to buy. Patches is participating by collecting some of the textiles pre-thrift store and upcycling them into wearable art that will be displayed or entered into a lottery. 


Patches is open to everyone in the BC community to join. New members must go through a training session in order to use the Hatchery’s equipment, which includes a safety training and sewing training depending on one’s experience. The club is a great way to try something new and is a friendly community united in creativity and sustainability.

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