Simple Methods for Mending Clothes

Wear your favorite clothes longer with these tips for fixing tears, patching holes, sewing buttons, and more.

| May/June 2018

  • button
    Mark the location of the button.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • button
    Anchor the thread.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • button
    Attach the button, being sure to leave your pins in place while you sew to allow for spacing between the button and the fabric.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • tear
    Determine how prone to fraying your fabric is, and then stabilize the edges accordingly with either a whipstitch for non-fraying fabric, or a blanket or buttonhole stitch for fraying fabric.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • tear
    Close the tear by either butting the edges together with a ladder stitch, or turning the edges inward and using a backstitch.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • tear
    If you catch a tear before it gets too big, you can usually avoid a patch and simply mend the tear instead.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • jeans
    Measure and pin to your desired length.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • jeans
    Sew along the pinned line, and consider hand cranking your machine over the side seams.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • jeans
    This method of hemming allows you to keep the original hem.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • patch
    Work a whipstitch or blanket stitch around the edges of the hole to keep it from growing while you work with it.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • patch
    Pin the patch securely, and avoid adding in any wrinkles.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • patch
    Anchor the patch to the damaged fabric.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • patch
    Unpin the patch one edge at a time, turn the raw edge under, and pin again before moving to the next edge.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • patch
    Anchor your thread and work a small running stitch or slip stitch around the edges of the patch, and make sure you catch the garment fabric underneath.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • patch
    Patching worn or torn garments is a simple way to get more use out of your favorite clothes.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • backstitch
    Backstitch.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • blanketstitch
    Blanketstitch.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • ladder stitch
    Ladder stitch.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • whipstitch
    Whipstitch.
    Photo by Caitlin Wilson
  • gritty
    Gritty tries his hand at mending.
    Illustration by Brad Anderson

  • button
  • button
  • button
  • tear
  • tear
  • tear
  • jeans
  • jeans
  • jeans
  • patch
  • patch
  • patch
  • patch
  • patch
  • patch
  • backstitch
  • blanketstitch
  • ladder stitch
  • whipstitch
  • gritty

I'm very hard on my clothes. Digging garden beds, wrestling thorn-laden roses, chopping and canning produce, and even sitting down with a book and a cat on my lap all take their toll. In the warmer months, though, there's so much to do that I end up tossing items that might not survive another wash into a basket for later. After cleaning out the chicken coop, clearing encroaching brush, or building a bonfire for marshmallow roasting, the pile of mending grows even more. What to do with all these clothes? They aren't worn enough to turn into rags or throw out, but they aren't exactly presentable anymore, and work clothes are less useful when they're full of holes.

Mending small tears or holes is very easy, and adding a patch to cover a large hole or reinforce a worn spot is only a little more difficult. I don't own a sewing machine, so I do almost all my mending by hand. In many cases, hand sewing is preferable: It's easier to manipulate a constructed garment in your hands than on the bed of a sewing machine.

No matter what you're mending, be sure you have good light, a comfortable place to sit, and all the supplies you need before you start. The job loses all its joy if you have to fight your environment to accomplish anything.

Patching large holes

Jeans with torn-out knees and shirts with thin elbows are perfect candidates for patching. In fact, any garment with a thin spot you can feel will benefit from being patched before it rips. You'll need a needle, thread, pins, the torn or worn garment, and the patch. Cut the patch the same shape as, but about an inch bigger than, the place you're patching. In general, you'll use fabric similar in weight and fiber type to the garment you're patching — denim for jeans, thin cottons or polyesters for shirts — but there are always exceptions, such as using heavier fabric to reinforce the elbows of an often-worn shirt and extend its life.



Step 1: Stabilize the hole. Work a whipstitch or blanket stitch around the edges of the hole. This keeps it from growing while you work with it. If you're reinforcing worn but not torn fabric, skip this step.

Step 2: Pin the patch.I prefer patches placed on the outside of the garment, so the edges don't chafe and the damaged fabric is hidden. Center the patch, right side out, over the damaged area, and pin it securely. Try to avoid wrinkles: If you stitch them in, you won't be able to iron them out.

JANEE
6/17/2018 8:47:30 PM

Very well outlined and explained. thanks.


Denise
6/15/2018 10:54:08 AM

These are common sense, everyday skills that every "housewife" knew how to do in the "olden days". LOL Now, in our disposable society, most people have forgotten basics that make our lives easier and more economical. Great to see this in print.


JanieDK
6/15/2018 7:42:25 AM

Such a valuable set of skills! Sustainability!







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