You can easily repair or rejuvenate your wardrobe with simple creative methods like hemming, tie-dye, and denim patches. This is our expert guide.
People who used to buy sliced bread now spend hours caring for sourdough starters. It could be a great time to learn a skill that will set you up for success in life: sewing.
The pandemic has brought news about warehouse workers and drivers being put in danger to deliver clothes to our homes. This makes it more urgent to slow down fashion. A recent report found that the global fashion industry is responsible for putting the planet on the path to environmental disaster due to seasonal trends’ throwaway nature.
This can be done by reducing your need to buy new clothes and making the most of what you already have. We asked experts for their tips on how to revive and repair your wardrobe, from tailoring and mending to darning.
Layla Totah, a London-based sewing teacher, says “Darning can be easy.” It’s the same process for holes in socks and jumpers for mothholes.”
It is worth learning the basics of needle and thread before you begin darning. Totah recommends Wendy Ward’s Sewing Fundamentals for Everybody and Tilly Walnes’s Love At First Stitch as good books for beginners. Lily Fulop’s new book “Wear Repair, Repurpose” has good illustrations for beginners too.
To make the stitching process easier, you’ll need something solid to place behind the hole. Totah suggests using an orange or round glass if you don’t own a wooden darning mushrooms. To cover the hole, create a weft. Begin by stitching horizontally across the hole using a running stitch. Next, work vertically. She says, “Basically, you’re creating an additional layer of fabric.”
You may need to make your stitches larger if the hole is large. You should not stitch too tight as this could cause distortion.
Choose a yarn that matches the style of the garment. “Some knitted garments include a length of yarn that was used in making them,” Lauren Guthrie, owner of the Guthrie & Ghani sewing school and shop in Birmingham. It also offers excellent online resources for beginning sewers. This is helpful if you need to match your repair job. If not, don’t worry. Totah says, “You can turn it into a feature by using contrasting colours. You can choose from a variety of colours to repair each hole with a different color. It’s beautiful!”
Reviving frayed jackets and jeans
Fraying can occur on denim, especially at the elbows, knees, bottoms and thighs. An iron-on patch for denim is the easiest option. A sewing machine is required if you are going to sew it correctly.
Choose a piece of denim larger than the frayed area, and that is similar in colour to the garment. Place the fabric behind the frayed areas and tack it (roughly stitch) in place. Totah says, “Then put the fabric into the sewing machine.” Totah suggests that you can also stitch within the patch. This will help the thread blend in if you have chosen a matching one.
Guthrie recommends making a mark of the repair by using a patch if it is larger. Totah suggests using a contrasting, textured fabric, such as flannel or corduroy. Straight stitch or edge stitch around the patch by hand to attach it. This can also be used to make a feature. Totah points to the Japanese art of sashiko – a form of repair that is traditionally done with white thread on indigo fabric.
Repairing seams and hems
Totah says that this is also very simple. You can do this quickly with iron-on webbing. However, be careful when ironing synthetic fabrics. To make it more thorough, fold the hem twice, covering the raw edge. Then, using a matching thread, catch stitch the entire hemline.
To do this, first bring your needle up to the fold with your first stitch. Then, Totah says, “at a diagonal angle, you will take another stitch on the garment but only catching a few fibers.” Continue this process, placing the needle under the fold to ensure that the stitch goes only into the folded fabric (the hem) and not the outside of the skirt or trouser.
Totah says that seams are even more simple. These can be done manually or with a machine. She says, “Sew over the unattached stitching line. Make sure to overlap any remaining stitches and back stitches at either end. This will prevent it from unraveling.”
Replacing the a button
You will need to thread a needle, sew through the fabric, and buttonholes until the fabric is attached. Totah suggests that you double the thread to speed up things. “Each stitch counts for two.”
You can give your standard buttons the same resilience as ‘shank button’. If you want to give your standard buttons more resilience than those that have a loop of metal, plastic or plastic at their backs, leave a few millimetres for each stitch so it doesn’t pull against the fabric. Once you have finished sewing the button on, create a small shank and wrap your thread around it several times. This is especially useful when replacing buttons on thick garments like coats.
There may be a solution if you have clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn since the unfortunate incident with the red wine bottle. There are many good stain removal tips on the internet, from general (how to remove fruit stains) to specific (how do you get rid of Silly Puutty).
Dr Lisa Ackerley, AKA the Hygiene Doctor, recommends cleanipedia.com, while Stephanie Zia’s book, “Clean: Organic Household Tips That Don’t Cost the Earth” is also full of ideas.
Martha Stewart’s rule of thumb for most stains is to act quickly. However, this is not always the case. Zia says that some stains can be set with hot water, soap, or ironing. “Trickier stains may not always be removed the first time.” It is more about repeating the process than trying to act quickly.”
Although stain removal is a complex science, Zia has some basic rules. You need to know what type of stain you have – greasy or protein, and how to remove it. Hot water and washing up liquid are good options for grease. However, don’t let it soak too long. Use cold water and washing liquid for protein stains such as sweat or cheese. Avoid soap for tannin stains. However, you can use coffee, perfume, or spices.
Combination stains are tricky to treat. If you mix your coffee with sugar, it can make the process more complicated. She writes that dye stains such as those from blueberries or cherries are worth having in your stock cupboard.
Repurpose your old clothes
Tie-dying T-shirts has given them a new lease on life. “Do a whole batch of things at once rather than one thing at a time, as it’s quite wasteful,” says Totah, who also suggests natural dye.
There are a range of techniques, such as the Japanese shibori – which is where you stitch, fold, bind or twist fabric for different effects. You can also add texture to your fabric by binding small objects like coins or pebbles.
Totah says that transforming jeans into shorts is an easy and classic way to reuse them. Cut the jeans to the length that you prefer, then “sew a strip of stitching in the same color around the hem. You’d still have a raw edge but it would serve as a barrier to prevent it from unravelling too much.”
Guthrie states: “Embroidery can also be a wonderful way to personalize your items. You can add details to the collars and back pockets to make an item sing again.”
You might feel inspired by all the skills that can extend the life of your clothes. Perhaps it’s time to start making your own clothes. Begin small with a bag for your keys or sunglasses. Remember that even Versace had a starting point.