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Help and learning on the menu at Barrie's Repair Café (3 photos)

Event provides opportunity to fix rather than discard; 'We are trying to show the people who are bringing things in how to do it'

The downtown branch of the Barrie Public Library held another Repair Café event Saturday.

The event pairs fix-it experts with people who own items that are in need of repair, be they electronic or fabric.

Meg Whitton, a member of the board of directors for Living Green Barrie, took part in the event and was trying to learn how to sew, reinforce, and fix clothes.

“The idea here is that we try and figure out repairs together. We may not necessarily be able to do it, but we are trying to show the people who are bringing things in how to do it, and to figure it out as we go. And right now, I’m reinforcing an armpit of a sweatshirt,” she told BarrieToday.

“Not a lot of people have sewing machines anymore, so this is great to give the public access to something that isn’t in many people’s homes. The library has it and people can come in and use it. It can be intimidating if you don’t know how to use it.”

Morgan Cope visited the program at the library to get her clothes fixed as she does not have a sewing machine of her own.

“While I can hand-sew my own hand-knitted stuff, I don’t know how to hand-sew my other clothes. I don’t want to just throw them away, because that would just continue to fill up the garbage landfill, and if I can make the clothes last longer, that helps,” she said.

Watching fixers like Whitton, Cope picks up on a little bit of how these repairs can be done.

“It’s easier for me to learn in person rather than via a YouTube video and helps to refresh my memory (of sewing),” Cope said.

Bill Scott, another fixer, has been repairing items almost all of his life. A retired geophysicist, he spent many years working on electrical instrumentation development.

“I’ve fixed a lot of different things, so this is what I can do to help,” he said.

Some items can be a lot more challenging, even for Scott, as the small digital camera he is attempting to repair has beaten him, sadly. He held up a small blue camera.

“There’s a broken circuit strip inside here, and we tried to stick it back together, but without luck,” he said.

You can’t win them all.

But many fixes are straightforward, he said.

The most common items brought in for repair are lamps, items with switches and sockets, items that are fairly easy to repair.

Being a handyperson seems to be a lost art now, amid a throwaway culture, thanks to many manufacturers making it nearly impossible to be able fix their products and instead banking on customers to buy another item to replace it.

There is a movement growing worldwide called ‘the right to repair,’ where governments are forcing these manufacturers to make repairable products.

“My grandson, who has a smartphone, dropped it in the water this summer, and he couldn’t get the battery out, so it destroyed itself. If he had been able to open it and take out the battery, he could have saved it and kept everything from corroding. It’s wrong not to be able to fix things,” Scott said.

He pulled an old flip phone out of his pocket.

“And that’s why I have this because I can take it apart, it has screws, and I can get into it and fix things. It’s been with me now for seven years and it’s still working.”

And, as a wise man named Red Green once proclaimed to his TV audience, “If they don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”

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About the Author: Kevin Lamb

Kevin Lamb picked up a camera in 2000 and by 2005 was freelancing for the Barrie Examiner newspaper until its closure in 2017. He is an award-winning photojournalist, with his work having been seen in many news outlets across Canada and internationally
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