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Products at Reverse Garbage
Photograph: Mitch Lui

Where to repair, reuse and up-cycle your stuff in Sydney

Learn the skills to give your old belongings a new lease on life at these workshops, classes and community projects

By Sarah Theeboom
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When our possessions break, the usual response is to chuck them in the bin. However, this wasteful knee-jerk is a major contributor to landfill. Fortunately, this doesn't have to be the norm. There classes all over Sydney that can teach your the skills that can give your stuff a second lease on life. From repairing ceramics with ancient Japanese craftmanship to von Trapp-ing your curtains into the latest addition your wardrobe, these are the classes and workshops that can teach your to make do and mend. 

RECOMMENDED: Meet the people fighting for climate action in Sydney.

Where to repair, reuse and up-cycle

Repair cafés

What are they? Community events for fixing broken things.

Martine Postma organised the first repair café in Amsterdam in 2009, and now they take place all over the world. The idea is simple: it’s a free community meetup where people can bring their broken household goods and repair them together. At a repair café you’ll find free tools and skilled volunteers who can help you fix your gear, from bicycles to hairdryers or even your favourite jeans. In Sydney, Repair Café Sydney North meets twice a month in Lane Cove and also offers a sharpening service for dull knives and pruning tools. The Bower hosts weekly and monthly repair cafes at its Redfern and Parramatta locations, dedicated to specific types of items such as mobile phones, furniture, clothing and electricals. And a little further afield in Katoomba, community tool library Toolo also hosts monthly repair cafés. True to the name, there’s usually tea and coffee available so you can have a cuppa while you fix that wobbly table leg once and for all. 

Kintsugi

What is it? A way to mend broken pottery that increases its beauty.

Instead of viewing a broken plate or bowl as garbage, adopt the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi that says there is strength and beauty in imperfection. That’s the idea behind kintsugi, a traditional repairing technique that uses lacquer and gold or silver powder to mend broken pottery. The visible join lines bring their own unique loveliness to the restored ceramics. To learn this traditional art form, take a workshop with Jun Morooka, founder of Kintsugi Australia. You can join a two-hour beginner’s class or a more comprehensive weekend-long course. Or, if you have a specific object you’d like to fix, sign up for the Ceramics Repair Class where Morooka will guide you through restoring a piece of your choosing.

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Sewing classes

What are they? A way to extend the life of your clothing.

Every year the average Australian buys 27 kilograms of clothing and textiles and throws a shocking 23 kilograms into landfill. Break the fast-fashion cycle by mending or upcycling your castoffs instead of binning them. If you’ve never put needle to thread, you can learn to sew at Bobbin and Ink in Petersham, Sew Make Create in Chippendale, Usefulbox in Marrickville, the Remnant Warehouse in Alexandria, Busy Bee Sewing in Penshurst, Bronte Sewing Room and other craft studios around Sydney. If you just want to focus on alterations and mending, try Narda Campbell’s Upcycling Clothes for Beginners class or the Sewing Repair course at Sydney Community College. Typing the search term “upcycle” into Classbento also brings up a variety of fun, creative workshops. Turn a pair of jeans into a hat, repair or upcycle your broken jewellery, or revamp tired items with Japanese sashiko embroidery. The closet is your oyster!

Reverse Garbage

What is it? Marrickville's creative reuse centre.

This creative reuse centre has been turning trash into treasure since 1974. The warehouse is part op shop, part art supply store, and part Willy Wonka’s factory, with all manner of surplus goods and castoff materials for sale. In addition to the retail operation, Reverse Garbage runs regular art and craft workshops where you can get in touch with your creative side. Learn to make a hanging planter out of a kokedama moss ball, create an assemblage sculpture using reclaimed objects, or weave old textiles into baskets, rugs and wall hangings.

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The Bower

What is it? An award-winning reuse and repair centre

In addition to its regular repair cafés, this environmental charity also operates the Inner West Tool Library, two retail stores, and a program of reuse and repair workshops. The classes – which are suitable for beginners – take place in Redfern and Parramatta, and tend towards building and handiwork. The Bower workshops cover DIY home maintenance, power tool tutorials, woodwork, carpentry, upholstery and furniture restoration. If you really love sustainability and working with your hands, you can even take a six-day course where you’ll build a tiny house entirely out of reclaimed materials.

In the mood to keep crafting?

Man shows boy electronics on a bench
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Makerspaces in Sydney

Things to do Classes and workshops

There are a number of dedicated makerspaces throughout Sydney that'll teach you just about anything, from sewing your own leather goods to basket weaving, toolmaking and pearl knotting.

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