If you’re lucky enough to stay at home during this pandemic, you may have some extra time on your hands. Did you go through your closet? Dig through your drawers? Find some clothes that you haven’t been wearing because they’re missing buttons or have holes? Learning how to mend your clothes can be a useful skill, and believe it or not, it can also be surprisingly fun!
I’m going to do my best to walk you through some basic garment mending. These are fun projects to get your wardrobe back in shape, and you can get creative with them or keep these repairs simple — depending on your interest level. Ultimately these projects can help keep your clothing wearable for longer (and out of landfills!), making them a major win no matter how far you take your designs.
Please note: clothing that has any amount of stretch should be washed and completely dry before repairs are made. Additionally, when in doubt, remember that there are tons of free resources online if you want further instruction or you’re in need of a particular repair isn’t mentioned here.
Now let’s get to sewing!
How to Sew a Button
Sewing a button is one of those tasks that can seem daunting, but I promise it’s probably the easiest repair you can do! There are three main types of buttons: 4-holed, 2-holed, and shank. I’m going to walk you through the 2-holed, but 4-holed and shank follow the same idea and shouldn’t scare you off!
1) Firstly, do you have a replacement button? Is it the same one that fell off? If you don’t have that one, check if there’s an extra by looking along your clothing’s seams. If you can’t find one, check to see if you have a stash of buttons you cut off of hangtags when buying new clothes.
Don’t have a matching button? You could always choose something similar, use a different one for a unique style, or buy enough matching buttons to replace them across the whole garment.
The same goes for thread! Decide whether you’re planning on matching the thread to what’s already there, if you want to switch it up, and if thread is even the right option. A hack my family uses to sew on pesky buttons that seem to always fall off (like on sports jackets and peacoats) is to sew them on with dental floss! (I’ve definitely Sharpied floss to be black before…)
2) See if you can find where the button had previously been attached. Take your threaded needle (with knot at the end!) and try to match it to one of the previous holes from the back of the fabric. Push the needle through so it comes out the front of the fabric, where the button should be. Thread it through the button and center the button properly as to where it should lie before taking your needle through the other hole and back down through the fabric to the other side.
3) Repeat this process of going up and through the fabric, and back down to secure your button, keeping your stitches tight. (If this was a 4-holed button, you would do this process in an “X” but looping one line first a few times (6-12) before switching to the other, approached from the back.)
4) Once you feel your button is secure, make sure your thread is on the back side. Take up a couple threads from the fabric with your needle, and before you pull your needle all the way through, wrap your thread around the needle a few times (at least 3). Continue pulling the needle through and you should have a knot!
How to Fix a Hem
Depending on your hem, this may look a little different. Some hems are stitched to be visible on the front of the garment, some hems are folded and some are cover-stitched. For this example, the hem has a finished end and isn’t folded in on itself, so I’ll blanket-stitch the hem back into place. (Do you have a folded hem that is invisible from the front of the fabric? Look up slip-stitching! If your hem stitching is visible from the front of the garment, then your best bet would be finding matching thread and sewing it on a machine.)
How to blanket stitch: full disclosure…this stitch can be done much closer together, but since the fabric edge was already finished and the fabric was relatively sturdy, I spaced mine out pretty far. For the nicest finish, you can match your thread and catch the couple threads right above where you first go through the folded hem fabric. (There are great videos on YouTube for this as well).
1) Start with a threaded needle and knotted thread. Starting at the right of where your hem has come loose, pick up a couple threads from your garment (from the same level as the top of your hem) and pull through, securing your thread. Take your needle and move about a quarter inch to the left and down. Stitch through the top layer of fabric so your needle is sandwiched between the two layers of fabric. Before pulling the stitch completely through, put the needle through the thread loop, then pull to complete the stitch.
2) Repeat the stitch until you’ve repaired your hem! Use the same method to knot your thread as explained in the button fixing example: pick up a few threads (or in this case, stitch through the seam allowance), wrap your thread around the needle a few times, and pull your needle through to form a knot. Cut off excess thread! The stitch should be invisible from the front of the garment.
How to Reattach a Strap
Ever have one of those moments where your dress strap breaks? I had it happen with a jumpsuit once with no safety pins in sight. I used a hair-tie to attempt to hold my jumpsuit up during a night of dancing at a club while I was out with friends in India. Sometimes fixing a strap is as easy as hand or machine sewing a few stitches back and forth, but in this case, my friend’s dress lost a small piece of fabric that had attached the strap to the back of the dress, so I’ll have to improvise a solution. Don’t be afraid to get crafty!
For this dress, I don’t have any fabric or thread that matches the main color of it, but I do have some embroidery thread that matches the flowers that are on the fabric.
1) To start, knot your thread and hide your thread tail if the lining and face of your garment are open the way this dress is. If not, just stitch through the inside of your garment and try to have your needle come up at the seam.
2) Loop the thread through the fabric and little circle attached to the strap, building a makeshift loom. Once you feel that it is secure enough and matches the width of the other strap, start to weave your needle horizontally through the threads, trying to alternate up/down every other thread and keeping it tight.
4) When you’ve completed weaving your threads, use the same knotting technique previously mentioned to grab a couple threads (from your woven area this time!) and wrap your needle, pulling through to anchor it. Good as new for this light dress!
How to Darn a Sock
I think this is the scariest repair featured in this guide, but also the most useful. How many times have you worn through a heal in your sock? I have a whole bunch of hiking socks with holes right where my boots would rub at the base of my ankle. Here I’ll darn a sock that I had originally thought would be added to my “too far gone…figure out textile recycling eventually” pile.
1) First off, find something to stick your sock on to hold it in the right position as if it was in use while you go about stitching it. An old light bulb (what I used), a tennis ball, a glass…get inventive! Find a thread that is about the same thickness, if you can. I’m using a couple strands of embroidery thread. Knot your thread and use your needle to pull it through the sock, hiding the knot.
2) What you’re aiming to do, is again, is build your own loom to weave in the missing parts of your item. You want to start where your garment or sock is stronger to let it securely anchor your repair in place and not just pull out. So, away from where your hole/holes are, start stitching in straight rows, up and down in a running stitch, stitching one over to create a new row every time you reach the end.
When you go over the holes, the thread will just float in that space, that’s perfect! Keep your rows as straight and evenly spaced (ideally close together) as you can. Mine above are not as clean as would have been best, but you learn from doing!
3) When you feel you have sufficiently covered the weakened part of your fabric, turn it 90 degrees and start sewing rows perpendicular. Weaving through the stitches as you can, and you should see your hole disappearing! This is where it really helps to have had your stitches straight and close together…you’ll make a more compact weave (disclaimer: you really want to aim to match whatever your garment is — for example, a loosely knit sweater will obviously want to be matched with a looser darning weave).
4) Continue until you’ve completely patched your hole and then some. Pick up a couple threads from your garment and wrap your thread around your needle to knot it in place. You can always knot it on the inside too! I thought for this sock it would be more comfortable outside it.
How to Visibly Mend
Visible mending is a trend and technique that can be applied to most anything and is only limited by your imagination. You can use it in place of darning small holes on t-shirts, like I did, or even to repair jeans! I like to use embroidery thread for this as it stands out well against your garment.
I had this little hole and decided I wanted to stitch a star over it, so that’s what I did! If your hole is larger, you may want to include a patch to help strengthen your fabric. Just cut a patch slightly larger than your hole and stick on the inside of your garment, then when you stitch, make sure you are catching the patch. This will help stabilize.
The patch method is how you would go about fixing jeans, particularly ripped jeans. I didn’t have any jeans that needed to be mended at the time of writing this post, but I have these jeans I’ve been visibly hemming rather than mending that follow a similar principle. The jeans were too long and getting worn out at the bottom, so instead of folding the hem internally and stitching, I decided it would be cool to fold it up on the outside and create fun embroidery to hold it in place.
If you’re fixing jeans with a hole in the knee, you could use a patch cut from another pair of jeans or another fabric of similar weight. Up to you if you want the patch to be internal or external, though internal is more common. Again, it should be a bit bigger than your hole! Use pins to hold it in place as you stitch, either rows, a spiral can look super cool, or a bunch of random nonsense, as I’ve been doing with the hem! Your stitches will reinforce and stabilize the patch, and add a unique detail to your jeans!