There’s never been a better moment to finally start mending your old clothes. From patching up jeans to sewing on buttons, Alexandra Bruce and Caroline Akselson of sustainable sewing start-up Selkie Patterns are here to show you some simple ways to bring your broken or damaged garments back to life.
Mending your clothes is a great way to achieve a more sustainable wardrobe, and it’s a very accessible way, too. All you need is a needle and thread and some basic skills. Some mends require a sewing machine, but only a very basic stitch and machine knowledge. It’s a skill everyone can learn, apply and pass on. Let us take you through four basic mending techniques that will come in very useful.
Images: Step One, Step Two
Mending an undone hem with herringbone stitch
A herringbone stitch is used lots on hems of garments and is a very useful stitch to know. It ends up looking like a zigzag and is created by going back and forth over the edge of the hem: one stitch in the garment, one stitch in the hem, etc. Select a thread that matches your garment so the result is as invisible as possible. Use a single thread and a hand sewing needle.
Start your thread on the inside of the folded hem (you can make a knot) and bring your needle out into your hem to begin. You will pick up the smallest amount of fabric on either side of your hem, picking up fabric from your hem and fabric from your garment. The smaller amount of fabric you pick up the better: if you pick up a larger amount, the stitch will draw it together and bunch your material. It will also be visible on the outside of your garment if you pick up too much fabric. The smaller the better! From the hem, go diagonally towards your garment. With the needle pointing towards the direction you came from, pick up a small amount of material just above the folded hem.
Go diagonally down towards the hem and pick up a small amount of the hem. Your needle will point in the direction where you came from, not in the direction you are sewing in. Continue this way until you have mended the area where your hem has come undone. A nice small, regular stitch is great for trousers so you don’t get your toes caught!
Images: Step One, Step Two
Mending a hole or rip in your denim
Mending denim is fairly easy and is best done using a sewing machine and lots of stitches to both mend and reinforce the area. You can use this technique on any holes, tears and rips in your jeans. You can use different shades of blue thread for blue jeans, as blue denim often has different colours in the fibres if you look closely.
Cut a piece of scrap denim that’s big enough to comfortably sit behind the rip or hole in your denim. Make sure it extends about an inch (2.5 cm) beyond the edges of the area you are fixing, as otherwise it won’t be strong enough. Pin the denim patch behind the tear. If you have a tear with lots of threads, give those a little trim so you have a clean working area.
With a zigzag stitch (roughly 3/3 setting) stitch back and forth over the patch, securing it to the denim. Make sure to zigzag over any raw edges of the tear so they can’t catch on anything. You can stitch vertically and/or horizontal rows. You can change thread colour in between to mimic the weave of your garment.
Images: Step One, Step Two, Step Three
Visible mending over a hole or stain
It can be beautiful to show that a garment has been through a life of ups and downs! You don’t have to hide your mending: why not try making it into a feature? You will need a hand sewing needle with a big eye and embroidery thread for this mend.
Decide on a shape for your visible mend to cover the small hole, stain or little tear. You can choose a basic square or a shape like a heart, a leaf, a star, etc. If possible, you can draw a shape with a pencil so you have a guide to stitch within. If you are mending knitwear, leave a tail on your thread when you start so you can lock the thread when you are done. If not, start with a knot on the inside of your garment. Start by making stitches in one direction only: horizontal or vertical.
Thread up another colour (or the same, your choice!) and with the same technique, create stitches in the other direction. Weave under and over your first stitches with your needle, so you’re creating a little weave.
If you have tails on your threads, finish these by pulling them through to the inside of your garment and knotting off.
Images: Step One, Step Two
Properly reattaching a button
One of the most basic and most common mends is reattaching buttons. The reason for buttons to fall off is often that they haven’t been sewn on properly. Let us show you how! You need a hand sewing needle and thread for this mend.
Cut a long length of thread and fold it in half. Put the two ends through the eye of your needle and pull the thread through until the needle sits in the middle of the thread. Fold the thread and make a knot at the ends. You now have quadruple thread, which is great for sewing on buttons.
Do two small stitches where your button will end up sitting. If you put the knot on the inside of your garment and simply pulled the needle through the fabric to the outside of the garment, the knot would end up ripping through the fabric over time. Sew through the holes of your button and make small stitches in the fabric under the button. Don’t pull the stitches super tight. You will only have to do this roughly three times, since we’re using quadruple thread.
Wrap the thread around the threads underneath the button a few times to create a short ‘stem’. Finish by knotting off close to the stem, bring your needle through the stem, then cut the thread as close to the stem as possible. All done!
Images: Step Three
For more mending techniques, see Selkie Patterns’ brand new e-book on Mending.
Discover our top tips on how to care for your clothes and keep them for longer.
Learn more about Selkie Patterns with their Bringing Business to Life interview.