‘Make do and mend’ was a term coined during the Second World War. It is often looked upon romantically but it was born out of necessity. Everything was in short supply, and that included fabric. If something tore or didn’t quite fit you anymore, you couldn’t just go out and expect to buy a replacement garment. And there was certainly no “retail therapy” going on. In fact, fabric and clothing was rationed throughout the Second World War, and that meant that people up and down the country had to make do with what they had. This meant mending their clothes to last them another few months, even years.
Nowadays new clothes are readily available and it is often all too easy to go out and buy a replacement garment than take the time to fix something you already have. Mending and making skills are becoming a lost art, and in terms of sustainability, this throw away and replace culture is seriously unheathly!
There has been a big rise in mending communities, if you’ve got a broken electrical item check out the Restart Project – they have restart parties where volunteers teach you how to fix, not just fix it for you! And our lovely friend Jen over at Make Do And Mendable has a blog jam packed with amazing ideas, all inspired by her incredible decision not to buy anything new for an entire year!
Clothes are one of the easiest items to repair but they are often neglected or put in a pile to ‘fix later.’
So if you are feeling a little thrifty, but don’t know where to begin we’ve put together some basic mending tips and links to great initiatives to get you started.
Replacing a button
This is one of the easiest mends that you can do! If you’ve lost the button be sure to check the side label of your shirt or coat – they often come with a spare button attached. If not, don’t worry. I love replacing buttons with ‘odd’ ones. It reminds me of the care and attention I’ve put into fixing it whenever I’m doing the buttons up. Alternatively, head to a local haberdashery to find yourself the best possible match. You might like to buy a few just incase another button falls off!
- Thread your needle, double over the thread (to make it stronger) and knot it.
- Make sure you’ve got the button in the right place and put your needle through the fabric so the knot is at the back.
- Thread your button onto the needle through one of the holes and then stitch loads of times going in and out of the holes. At least 5 – 6 times to make sure it’s really well attached.
- Now make your needle go between the fabric and the button and wind the thread around the stitches a few times. (This is called a shank.)
- Take your needle through to the back of the fabric and knot.
- To knot, do a stitch on the spot and before you pull the thread pass the needle through the loop, pull tight and repeat to secure.
Darning used to be commonplace, if your socks got a hole in them they would have been darned and darned again until they could be darned no more! Darning is also great for mending moth holes in jumpers. use a matching thread or a bright contrast to show off your clever darning.
It may sound complicated, but actually all darning comes down to is mending holes using a running stitch. First you create a line of running stitches filling the hole, you then turn the garment to a right angle, and weave your needle in and out of the stitches to make a patch over the hole with your thread.
There’s a great inititive from WRAP (Waste Reduction And Prevention) called Love your Clothes they’ve create a website full of hints and tips about getting the most from your clothes and not throwing them away. Take a look at their more in depth instructions for darning socks, where we found this great image.
Repairing a Hole with Interfacing
Interfacing is a clever material that has glue on one side. If you are going to add a patch to something, interfacing makes the mend even stronger. Patches are most often applied to trousers when you wear through the knees, or jackets that are wearing through the elbows. You can buy some ready-made patches that just require ironing on. Or you could of course make your own using scrap bits of cloth and a bit of interfacing to strengthen it. Make sure you iron it gluey side down or you’ll end up with a messy iron!
Whilst others will need a stitching line to ensure that the patch is secured on. With care, you can add patches to the inside of garments. Sometimes you can be really clever and you wouldn’t be able to tell that there was a patch at all. This can be done by hand or machine.
There’s another great website called The Good Wardrobe, run by the amazing Zoe. An “online style-sharing community hub mixing the best of sustainable fashion with services that prolong the life of your wardrobe.” Here’s their tutorial for (almost) invisibly mending a pair of jeans.
Boro stitching is an ancient Japanese form of reinforcing cloth with hand stitches, it is done in a similar way, but finished with rows of small hand tacks to make the repair more of a decorative feature.
Repairing A Seam
Repairing a seam is fairly straightforward and simply requires you to resew the seam and catch your fabric a little further into your garment. For more details take a look at this great article from the Guardian’s how to mend series – How to Mend a Ripped Seam. The way that you should repair a seam will alter depending on whether you are mending by hand, or you are using a sewing machine. For those that prefer to use a machine, you can use a running stitch for woven (non- stretch fabrics) and a small, zigzag stitch for jerseys (stretchy fabrics). If hand stitching, you will probably prefer to backstitch.
Whatever you decide, make sure that you do not use too much of the material to mend the seam, otherwise you’ll find your garment a lot smaller than it used to be!
Although this may seem complicated, as long as you follow the basic steps you will be fine. Your hem may have just fallen down or perhaps your item is a bit longer than you want it to be.
- First, unstitch the entire hem and lay it out flat.
- You may need to iron it for good measure and to make sure it is completely flat.
- Now change the hem to what you want it to be and pin.
- (Cut some fabric off if you need to, but don’t cut too much, remember you are going to turn up at least 1.5cm)
- When you are hemming, especially something like trousers, get a friend to pin them up whilst you try them on. It can be really tricky to get the length right on your own.
- ALWAYS check your hem by looking in the mirror, not down – when you lean down to look, you actually make the clothes look like they are hanging longer than they are.
Now, there a a few methods to do the final hemming:
1. Hem Tape
Some people “cheat” and use hemming tape. It is a bit like interfacing but ends up sticky on both sides. You iron the fold in place and put the hemming tape in between the layers of fabric then iron over the top. Done! (I say cheat but it is a very quick and easy methods, it just involves no sewing!)
2. Machine Heming
You may want to overlock the fabric (if you have an overlocker) or edge finish on your machine (see your manual) to stop it fraying inside.
You can get around both of these by double folding the fabric so no raw edges are showing!
Then you can then use a straight stitch to complete the work, or go crazy and use a decorative stitch to make it a feature.
3. Blind Hem
This take a little longer but I think it’s the best way of hemming a garment, as you can’t see any stitches on the outside. When you stitch you need only catch a little thread on the main body of the garment then a normal stitch on the hem. You should only see tiny specks of stitching on the outside
4. Whip Stitch
This is a great stitch if you are in a hurry, although it is not as durable – and that’s the whole point of mending isn’t it?
5. Herringbone Stitch
I always do a Herringbone Stitch. It’s a little tricker but a lot more durable.
This stitch is worked backwards (so the individual stitches you make are done in the opposite direction to the way you are stitching). The first stitch you make will be through the main body of the fabric. Take a stitch from right to left (or left to right if you are left handed) but only take up a couple of threads of the right side of the fabric so that you can’t see the stitch through. This stitch should lie directly above the hem fold as illustrated above.
Then, roughly 1.5cm away from the first stitch, make a larger stitch through the fold in the fabric. Do not go all of the way through to the front. Move down again and take another stitch through the main body of the fabric, only picking up a couple of stitches. It should creates these little criss crosses you see above. This gives the hem better tension and if one of the stitches breaks, it doesn’t unravel as easy as the whip stitch!
You can do a blind stitch on a normal sewing machine, it just takes a little practise and accuracy! Here’s a great tutorial.
Now you have the basic knowledge to go about making do and mending your clothes. A little repairing can go a long way, and you’ll soon find yourself unable to throw anything away unless you’ve tried to salvage it!
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