Should We Mend Our Clothing?
The textile industry creates around 92 million tonnes of textile waste every year, but by 2030 it’s expected that more than 134 million tonnes of textiles will be discarded per year.
It’s easy to throw away old, unwanted, or ruined clothes because the fashion industry encourages us to. When most clothes are so cheap, why should we mend our clothes?
Mending our clothes helps us reduce our waste, keep our wardrobes stuffed with our favorites, save money, and learn valuable skills.
The longer we keep clothes out of the landfill, the fewer textiles we consume and discard. It doesn’t have to be difficult either! There are many resources on how to mend our clothing, and many add wonderful, unique details to every garment.
Why should we mend our clothes?
Before fast fashion started, clothes were more valued for how long they could last, and mending clothes was a natural part of owning any garments. A small tear was easily remedied, and when someone outgrew their clothes they were passed down to relatives or upcycled into something else.
But fast fashion has changed how we view clothes.
Under fast fashion, people buy clothes that are on-trend and aren’t designed to last as long. Wedding outfits are a one-and-done style, trends flit in and out within months, and the quality of clothes makes it either difficult or supposedly not worth the effort to mend them.
So many of us have been told that our clothes need to be perfect, they need to fit us perfectly, and we need to fit in with current trends.
Mending clothes embrace imperfection and seeks to keep our clothes wearable for as long as possible.
The main reasons to mend clothes include:
- Reducing the amount of textile waste sent to landfill
- Keeping our favorite clothes for as long as we want to wear them
- Learning a new skill (whether it’s general sewing or hand stitching)
- Saving money by wearing what’s already in our wardrobe
What to use to mend clothes
The most common tools for mending clothes are:
- Scissors (fabric scissors aren’t always necessary)
- Measuring tape (useful for all sorts)
- Seam ripper (mostly if you want to work on repurposing clothes)
- Needles (you’ll need denim needles for working with jeans but otherwise any needle should do)
- Thread (starting with one spool is easy)
There may be other tools you’ll find useful, but there’s no need to commit to them until you’re ready.
How much does it cost to mend clothes?
The cost of mending clothes is tiny, though there might be a bit of an upfront cost to it! Because you’re in control, you only have to buy what you need to start. Don’t get lured into buying expensive sewing kits or machines.
Don’t commit to a sewing machine until you’re sure you’ll get the most out of it. Are you going to spend hours sewing outfits from scratch? Do you not have the strength, patience, or time for hand stitching? Could you borrow a sewing machine or stop by a library or sewing cafe to rent a machine?
Many sewing tutorials you find online might try to sell you more expensive tools. In almost every case, there are bound to be cheap, local options to keep your costs down and help reduce further waste.
Search free/pre-owned websites and Facebook groups for sewing kits and thread before committing to spending too much. You don’t need to pay out for sewing instructions or embroidery patterns either.
The Internet Archive’s magazine rack includes a section on knitting (with almost 1000 different texts) and there are plenty of search results for sewing. Project Gutenberg also offers some books on sewing.
While many of these are vintage magazines and books, you can also check your local library for more contemporary magazines like Threads Magazine, Sew Magazine, Sew Daily Blog, Simply Sewing Magazine, and The Pattern Pages. You can also find free tutorials on their websites.
That’s not to mention the number of blogs available online, giving their tutorials, patterns, and guides away for free!
How to mend torn clothes
For most torn clothes, you’ll just need to stitch the fabric together. There are many ways of covering up holes. The two primary types of mending are visible mending techniques and invisible mending techniques.
Visible mending makes the previously torn area a statement of the garment. You can sew in patches or use brightly colored thread. Embroidery skills are often used to create obvious patterns or neat additions, from simple stitches to elaborate shapes.
Spin Off Magazine’s 7 tricks to know before you sew for visible mending are a must-read for anyone starting out. You don’t want to make a mistake that causes the hole to wear away again.
Invisible mending hides the work you’ve done to the fabric, making it look like the original as much as possible. This often involves using color-matched thread spools and more planned-out stitching.
Most tutorials for invisible mending are done in videos. The blind stitch – also known as an invisible stitch or slip stitch – is the most common technique of invisible mending.
Ways to mend tiny holes in clothing
For mending tiny holes, choose whether you want to mend them visibly or invisibly.
To invisibly mend tiny holes, you’ll want to pick a thread that is as close to the original color as possible. A darker shade of color will blend in more than a light thread if you can’t find an exact match.
One of the best tutorials for mending a tiny hole is Bob Vila’s how to sew a hole in 5 quick steps. You’ll just need a sewing needle, thread, and a pair of scissors, though a needle threader can be helpful if you have poor eyesight or struggle with threading needles.
The star stitch is a great visible mending technique that can be modified as you like. Needle ‘n Thread’s star stitch tutorial shows you how to make a 6-pointed star, which can double as a snowflake for wintery garments.
How to mend moth holes in wool clothes
Wool is more difficult to repair than most other fabrics because of how it’s woven together. It’s also more susceptible to being eaten by moths because it’s often kept in storage during the hotter seasons.
Luckily, Hunker has a great tutorial on how to repair moth holes in wool fabric, which uses invisible mending techniques by sewing inside out and along the lines of knitting.
If your woolen garment is in really bad shape and you’re a big knitting fan, you can reuse the yarn by unraveling the wool.
How to mend big holes in clothes
Patches are a great way of mending big holes in clothes and giving your garment a statement piece.
The fabric you use for your patch is up to you but the most eco-friendly way of sourcing fabric for patches is to use up any off-cuts or old fabric from clothes you no longer wear. It’s best to select the fabric of a similar weight to the clothes you’re mending though it’s entirely up to you.
Instructables shows how to patch clothes using fusible web tape and an iron, which can be an easy way to add patches. Fusible web tape is made with polyester, so make sure you only use as much as you need. If you want to reduce waste further, use some pins to pin the patch in place and stitch around it instead.
How to mend burnt clothes
It’s best to mend burnt clothes with a patch to cover the hole, though you can also cut out the burn mark and stitch over the hole using visible techniques like the star stitch.
This tutorial on patching burn holes by Hunker recommends trimming away burnt fabric and loose threads anyway since the burn could damage the fibers.
How to mend cigarette burns in clothes
Cigarette burns in clothes are very small, which usually makes them very easy to patch up or stitch over. You could even sew an embellishment over the mark, such as a button or trim.
For dresses or floral garments, you could even create fabric flowers from thin fabric to sew into place.
How to mend clothes with embroidery
Mending clothes with embroidery is a fantastic way to spend some mindful hours hand stitching. You’ll most likely want an embroidery hoop to keep the fabric flat and still, but you don’t have to plan excessively.
For many, freestyle embroidery is the way to go – you don’t have to worry about counting stitches or the structure of the fabric.
Some great embroidery techniques you can use include:
- Backstitched chain stitch
- Bargello stitch
- Bullion knot
- Buttonhole wheel eyelet stitch
- Chain stitch
- Feather stitch
- French knot
- Overcast stitch
- Running stitch
- Satin stitch
- Seed stitch
- Stem stitch
- Woven wheel stitch (great for roses!)
The satin stitch in particular is a great way of filling in holes with basic shapes or embroidered flowers.
There are a lot of free patterns out there that use different stitches to create floral designs and more.
How to repair trousers
Trousers can be mended just like any other clothes, though the material is usually a bit tougher. You’ll need strong needles for anything that uses denim or very heavy materials.
There are some common repair methods you should be aware of though. According to the Repair Café Foundation, trousers are among the “top 10 items most often brought to a Repair Café“. Almost 100% of trousers brought into repair cafés are successfully repaired.
Knowing how to repair your trousers at home can help you save money and keep your trousers for longer.
How to mend a zipper on trousers
Fixing the zipper on your trousers can help extend the life of any pair of trousers for years to come. Whether the zipper isn’t on the zipper teeth any longer, some zipper teeth are broken or missing, or the zipper is stuck.
WikiHow covers how to fix zipper problems in simple, quick-fix ways.
Replacing a fly zip is a bit more difficult, so if you’re unsure then it’s best to go to a repair café and have someone else do it for you, or contact local (or friend-of-a-friend) tailors.
The tutorial by The Sewing Loft Blog explains how to replace the zipper in a pair of pants or on a jacket or coat. Stitching with a sewing machine might be easier given all the work, especially since the tutorial advises using a zipper foot.
How to mend a hole in trousers
Patches are particularly popular when mending trousers, but you can also go for a ripped look.
Think of ripped jeans and how popular they are. If you’re a fan of ripped jeans, why not rework your torn jeans into the same style?
Make sure to reinforce the holes you make so the threads don’t fray and break further though!
For mending holes, you’ll either want to patch the hole or stitch over it. WikiHow’s methods for fixing crotch holes in jeans include ways of hand stitching, using a sewing machine, and patching using glue, irons, and sewing.
How to fix trousers that are too long
Hemming is the best and easiest way of fixing trousers that are too long.
By cutting the excess fabric and creating a new hem, you can fix the length of your trousers to a better length for you. Make sure not to go overboard – unless you’re certain you want the length to be over your ankles forever, be conservative with your estimates.
It’s better to go a little too long than it is to regret hemming at all.
The Good Trade’s hemming tutorial goes step-by-step through how to hem clothes yourself. Permanent Style also has a video tutorial on hemming trousers.