Take control of your attire!
Last year, I wrote an article about the ways fast fashion harms both workers and consumers and that everyone should know the basics of sewing. We should be able to make and alter our clothes whenever we want or mend them when they get damaged rather than having to throw out entire garments and purchase new ones. So I’ve compiled here some of what I’ve found to be the most helpful basic tips for mending and altering clothes.
If you’re hand-sewing, silk thread is probably your best choice. It’s stronger and more reliable than polyester blends and is available at any craft store without a huge price difference from the synthetics. It’ll hold up better and withstand more washes and wear.
Making pants fit your hips
If you’re anything like me, ladies, you like thrifting high-waisted pants but only seem to find them in the men’s section. This is especially true of pants with the mom-jeans fit, but most men’s pants aren’t made to fit people with curvier hips. This means I often find pants that fit my hips perfectly but are way too big at the waist. However, this is pretty easily fixable.
You’re going to want to take in the waistband of the pants in as many small darts as possible. Bigger darts tend to create puckering and wrinkles where you don’t want them, so spreading it out among a bunch of little darts will make the waist taper nicely and mostly unnoticeable. I also try to put my first two darts in the back behind the pockets, so that if there is a bit of a pucker at the end of the dart it’s hidden inside the back pockets. I’ve only ever done this with a sewing machine, so I don’t know how easy this is to hand-sew, but I would imagine it’s not the most efficient.
If you don’t have a sewing machine or want to invest in one, you probably know someone who does have one you could use. For example – your mother, your grandmother, one of your friends, or me!
Get ’em! That’s all I’ve got! They’re two bucks a pack at Hobby Lobby and will save your life. A pack of safety pins takes up very little space in your bag, but I guarantee you’ll be glad to have them. I have a lot of outfits where one or two buttons are load-bearing, and by “load-bearing” I mean “lose these and my entire chest will be on display,” which is a huge bummer if that wasn’t my plan for the outfit.
I know it sounds like common sense, but do you actually have safety pins? Everyone knows they’re the perfect quick fix, but I didn’t even have them on hand until last year. Go get a pack, carry them around, and thank me later–and get ready to be everyone’s favorite when you can save the day in someone else’s wardrobe emergency.
There are tons of articles, books, and YouTube videos that explain this better than I could, so I’m not going to try to teach you stitching here. But do some googling and familiarize yourself with the basic stitches – running stitch, backstitch, and whipstitch – and which should be used when. Something as simple as the type of stitch can be vital in having your work withstand the test of time and wear. Darning is also something that the internet can teach you way better than I can, so google that while you’re at it.
Don’t be afraid of patches
It’s really hard to patch clothes totally invisibly, and in most cases impossible. The patch is probably going to show, no matter what you do. So, rather than trying your hardest to hide the patch and ending up with a severely middling patch job that just looks kind of sad, I encourage going in the other direction. Make your stitches visible, choose fun thread, and patch with a totally clashing fabric!
Patches are accessories in their own right, and it’s going to be a lot more useful to have a visible, strong patch that gets the job done rather than trying to hide it and having to re-patch your clothes every week. If you really want to go hard, you can even paint designs and slogans on your patches, punk-style.
As with most things in fashion – it’s not ugly if you do it on purpose. Instead of unsuccessfully hiding your stitches, make them a visible choice. It looks cool, often adds to an outfit, and is also a subtle brag that you mended yourself. It’s nice to be able to mend your own clothes, and sewing is a good skill to have. But I’ll be honest – I love attention, and maybe you do, too. It doesn’t sound like it on paper, but trust me – being able to whip out a skill like this has only ever made me cooler.
Once again – get it! That’s all! Hem tape is basically a ribbon of head-activated adhesive. I’d bet not a lot of you have sewing machines, but way more of you have irons, and the world of iron-on adhesives is a beautiful, beautiful place.
If you need to hem a skirt or a light pair of pants – this won’t work on this fabric like denim, but you can also just cut denim without hemming it and it won’t unravel too badly – all you need is hem tape, an iron, and a scissors. Cut the hem to an inch or so longer than your desired length, fold it up over the hem tape according to the instructions, and iron that sucker. Bam. You haven’t sewed a stitch, and you’ve magically created a smooth new hemline.
Thrift stores are my favorite places to get sewing supplies. Do you know how many random old people die and donate their whole sewing stash to the St. Vincent De Paul store? Tons, that’s how many. You can find sewing supplies at thrift stores for way less than craft stores, and these will also often have the advantage of being much higher quality.
Things like shears and needles used to be made to last much longer, and that’s why the scissors your grandma has had since 1989 have never failed once but you’ve had to get a new pair every year. This is also ideal for purchasing sewing machines, although you will also want to check pawn shops. Pawn shops will usually have tested the machines to be sure they work, while a lot of thrift stores just put them out. I’ve never used a more reliable sewing machine than my gajillion-pound, solid metal vintage Singer.
Go forth and sew!