May 22, 2020 8 min read 2 Comments
When it comes to clothing, the most sustainable thing you can do is wear what’s already in your closet. But what if your favourite shirt is missing a button or has a hole? Instead of shopping for a replacement, we want to help learn some basic sewing repairs, so you can repair that shirt and get it back into the rotation. Repairing clothes is a great skill to have and there's no time like the present to get started on learning the sewing basics!
Our amazing production team at Encircled put together some easy to follow sewing alteration tutorials for how to fix a few of the most common clothing flaws. Below, you'll find tutorials for how to sew a hole, sewing on a snap, sewing a button back on, and spot cleaning.
No sewing machine? No problem. We wanted to make sure anyone would be able to do these repairs, so none of these tutorials require a machine. We’ll also be starting off with a lesson on basic sewing for anyone new to sewing, or just looking for a refresher!
Hand sewing is an essential skill for anyone to have. Having the right tools and tips for hand sewing will allow you to make little sewing repairs at home quickly and easily, instead of taking a garment to the tailor (saving you time and money, win!) or just leaving the damaged garment in the back of your closet never to be worn again. Most importantly, you will be able to easily extend the life of your clothing - check out our page on circular fashion for tips on parting with clothes in an eco-friendly way when they are at the end of their lifecycle.
Whatever project you are about to embark on, there are some key first steps:
Take one of your sewing needles “aka sharps” out of the pack. The most common packs have a variety of sizes in them. The size you pick will be determined by the type of project you are working on.
For example, if you are sewing on a button, you will want to look at the holes in the button and make sure the sewing needle you choose will fit through the button holes. If you are going to be sewing through thick or multiple layers of fabric, a larger needle is better as it will push through the layers of fabric more easily than a small needle.
Once you have chosen your sewing needle, it’s time to thread it. Grab your thread spool and unwind a length of it. The longer your thread is the more difficult it is to control your stitches. So, start small. A nice starting point is to wind out a length of thread the length of your arm. When you are more comfortable with hand sewing you may choose to unwind a longer amount of thread so you don’t have to stop and rethread your needle as often.
Snip your thread off the spool with your scissors. Now take one end of the thread, and “thread” it through the small hole in the top of the sewing needle. This may take a few tries! Licking the end sometimes helps to keep the fibres together (only do this for your personal repairs for hygienic reasons), or you can recut the end with your scissors until you get a clean end.
If you have a wire needle threader, this is your time to use it. You simply pull your thread through the wire and fold it back over itself so you are holding both loose ends of the thread, and the thread is looped into the wire. Now push the entire wire through the hole in the needle. Once it is through, drop one loose thread end and pull it fully through on the other side of the needle hole, and remove it from around the wire. Grab both loose ends, now on either side of the needle, and hold tight while you remove the wire needle threader.
Once you have your thread end through the needle hole, bring your two loose thread ends together on either side of the needle and straighten them out so the needle meets cleanly in the middle of the thread. Knot the two loose thread ends together, leaving a “tail” of about 1 inch. Pull them tight so they don’t come loose during sewing!
Whatever project or clothing repair you are working on, you will need to mark the spot that you will be sewing in. Doing this ahead of time will save you a lot of frustration in the future if your button doesn’t line up with your button hole, or if your seam isn’t quite straight.
You can use a straight pin with a ball head to mark your spot if you don’t have tailors chalk or a tailors marker. Most sewing kits have pins, so this is a readily available option.
You can mark your spot with tailors chalk or a tailors marker, but remember you will need to wash the garment after the repair to get these out. They are nice options because they stand out and give you flexibility to move the fabric around without poking yourself!
Use your ruler to measure precisely where your sewing repair will be done. For example, with a button, you will measure the distance between buttons, and the distance from the neckline of the shirt to where your button hole is, to determine where you need to resew your button. Once you have determined where your clothing repair will be done, you can either stick a pin in vertically in the place you need to mark or you can draw a small mark (a dot, cross or an x is fine, whatever you can see best) with your tailors chalk or marker.
If you use the pin option, stick the pin into the fabric straight down so the ball head is right on the spot you are marking, then bring the end of the pin back up through the underside of the fabric so it pokes out the top of the fabric again. The pin will be secure in this position, and you can get to repairing clothes!
If you made a stitch you don’t like, want to redo the repair for a cleaner finish, or need to remove any stray threads from the area you are about to repair, this is when the stitch ripper comes in handy.
Using the little sharp tip at the end, slide the tip under the thread of the stitch you wish to remove. The inside of the stitch ripper is sharp, so when you press against the thread and then pull upward, it will cut the thread. Sometimes you only need to stitch rip one thread and the entire row of stitch you made will come undone, other times you need to stitch rip a few to get all the thread out.
No matter what though, if you stitch rip you will need to start your repair over. Once one thread is loose, they will all eventually come loose, even if it doesn’t feel like it right then and there. So make sure you remove everything, and you can start fresh!
Now that we've got the basics down, it's time to get sewing!
All photos are copyright Encircled. Contact us for permissions/rights to re-use or repost images.
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