Do You Repair Clothes When Worn?

In the magazine world, we work pretty far in advance to get an issue onto the newsstand on the date it's promised. Right now, we're just finishing up work on our Spring issue of Stitch.

Learn more about the book in our Spring issue.

Let me assure you, it doesn't feel like spring here in Massachusetts. It's been chilly lately, and over the weekend we got a storm that dumped about seven inches of snow.

Meanwhile, it's nice to be looking ahead to spring, with its bright colors, budding trees and flowers, and warmer temperatures.

For the Spring issue, I interviewed author Elizabeth Cline, who wrote Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. You can read all about it when your Spring issue arrives, but let me tell you, Overdressed has some eye-opening revelations about the fast-fashion world.

Cline and I talked about ways to support ethical change in the cheap-fashion world. One way is to get the most wear possible out of what clothes you already own. She also noted the importance of clothing repair and resale.

I got to thinking how I'm pretty good in the category of wearing what I have. (Every now and then I realize I'm wearing an item I bought during high school or college. Eek.) I only shop a handful of times a year, and pick up a few basics for the season.

I'm pretty good at repairing what I have, too. Though, admittedly, when faced with patching a hole in a pair of pants or shirt, sometimes I'd rather not take the time to make the fix.

If you're looking for info on not only mending clothes, but how to do so creatively, Mend & Make Fabulous is available now for pre-order. 

What about you? Do you mend clothes for yourself or your family when they need repair? Or is it easier to buy new? I can't wait to hear. 

 

Other sewing topics you may enjoy:

Categories

Hand Sewing, Upcycling
Abby Kaufman

About Abby Kaufman

Abby Kaufman is assistant editor of Stitch magazine. When she's not scoping out new fabrics for her collection, Abby enjoys outdoor activities, and spending time with her husband and two dogs. 

31 thoughts on “Do You Repair Clothes When Worn?

  1. I do indeed mend clothes, both for myself and my family. With two young grandboys, there sure are plenty of opportunities for creative patchwork, and the results are highly appreciated by the young ones. It just makes sense, both financially and ethically.

  2. I ALWAYS repair when I can. I check clothing before washing (or when removing) them so it makes it easier when I’m done with my laundry, the repairs are done. My husband is very good about telling me if a button is loose (or has disappeared) so I can repair easily. Since I make most of my clothes and all of my husband’s shirts, I usually have something left over that allows for repairs to occur easily. If the repair is too daunting (just can’t be done and not seen easily), the item will go in my stash bag for repurposing. I’ve sewn this way for over 50 years and find that clothes you buy just don’t last like the ones I make myself. My mother was very good at repairing (she had 6 children to clothe so mending was part of growing up)and she passed this “gift” down to her daughters. I believe it is worth the effort if the item is still in good condition and the repair is minor.

  3. Since I make my own socks, and a lot of other things, I get miffed when a hole appears…I FINALLY learned to darn! I love it…you can hardly tell it’s a repair when done properly, so, I’m delighted.
    I spent a lot ot time in Europe when I was younger, doing the “starving student in a garret” (well, “chambre de bonne”) I was introduced to a culture where sewing, knitting and mending was still part of daily life. I had bought a little Featherweight and it kept me clothed (and mended) for nearly five years. When I returned to the US, I kept up the personal sewing and have recently gotten back to it.
    I think it’s too bad that “Home Ec” has been dropped from so many schools…that and “shop” …both of which should be open to both genders….I learned so much about “survival skills” in addition to what I learned at home.
    We really need to get back to introducing cooking, sewing, etc as just that “SURVIVAL SKILLS.”
    end of rant
    yeah, I repair…darning is a great skill…learn it!

  4. I buy used clothing, donate out-grown-but-not-worn-out clothing, mend & hem, and (on the rare occasion) sew clothing for my young family. I hate having to shop at retail stores to see how cheap and poor quality the fabric is anymore – it’s just a waste! I get much more use and utility from ten- or twenty-year old castoffs than from newly purchased clothes, and at a cheaper cost! I have to agree at the waste in the fashion industry. Overdressed is now added to my reading list. 🙂

  5. You bet. I combine applique or embroidery motifs when mending. I actually get tons of compliments on a cardigan that I repaired (appliqued to cover up an ink stain from an uncapped pen). While I don’t look forward to mending, it’s gratifying to use creativity to make a visible mend that shows that I honor the resources of the planet and the people who made the original garment.

  6. I put patches in my husbands trousers when he gets them. I put them in places that I know he will wear out the fabric before the trousers are ready for the rag bin. I recently tried to patch a work shirt of his and it did not last. It was in a place that was noticable so I scraped them instead of trying to fix them again. T-shirts that are torn get turned into potholders. Trousers that are still good but faded get redyed to make them last longer.But I do try to mend or patch when I can.

  7. Yes to mending clothes, if I find something I like, that fits and is comfortable then why should I throw it out because of a small hole? I have also mended my OHs trousers and shirts as well!

  8. There are some garments I will mend: jackets that are still in good condition except for the zipper wearing out. Replacing a zipper in a windbreaker is easier than in a down coat! Other garments are not worth repairing, but they are sometimes kept for chores like fixing a field fence in a shallow pond. After we finish the job we can discard the clothes without complaint. I have also repaired some items for neighbors; one neighbor asked if I could replace a zipper in some almost-new jeans. I had never done it before, but looked online for directions and finished the repair satisfactorily. (They had helped us, so I was glad to return the favor) One repair I have not been able to do is replace the heavy snaps on outerwear. Lee

  9. I repair all kinds of clothing. My favorite story is my winter coat. I purchased the hunter green, very long, very wool, very warm coat in January, 1993. About 10 yeas ago, the cuffs on the sleeves were worn so I checked with my cleaners to see which of the velvets I had would hold up best. I hand sewed new “decorative” edgings over the entire edge and I haven’t had to replace them yet. And I do believe if the need should arise, I will replace them. Oh, yeah, the velvet I had on hand was leftovers from a flower girl dress I made for my then 4-year old daughter (26 years ago). I have used the same cleaners this whole time and the pickup/drop off person asks about it each fall. I do believe I can say the coat is distinctive and memorable!

  10. I do mend and also do this for my customers. I find creative ways to restore the garment. Once my grandson tore a hole in his favorite sweatshirt. So I mended the tear but I also found a really nice football helmet, which happen to match in color. I stitched the patch over the mended tear and it was perfect. My grandson loved it. Also, I had a really nice pair of wool slacks that started to wear in the inner thigh area. I patched them with the same color patch and also had to make another lining. I love those pants and I can enjoy wearing them many more times.

  11. Yes, I mend and repair and alter clothing for me and my husband. I am very short and must hem every pair of pants I buy. I’ve become quite adept at hemming different fabrics. I also must shorten sleeves on everything from cotton blouses to knit sweaters. The alteration I am most proud of is my bras! I recently lost 20 pounds and didn’t want to pay the replacement cost as I plan on losing another 20 pounds. I examined how the sides were stitched together; with careful measuring figured our how much to cut from each side so the bras would fit correctly, and determined how to shorten the straps. Some of the bras needed a small alteration to the front (usually a small seam) to make the cups fit right. TA DA!!! $240 saved! And I am in the midst of altering them a second time already even though I haven’t lost any more weight because my body shape has changed. I’m proud to have learned a new skill.

  12. I could have written this “mend & make fabulous.” Today’s prices–for even the lowest quality “new item,” are ridiculous and cost prohibitive. A little ingenuity, a few “in house” trims, notions and the like–a good machine—and some of the saddest items become quite wearable. My next project will be an attempt to follow an internet pattern I found for fabric-covering worn, but still usable, shoes. Most of my clothing is mended, changed up a bit, maybe new buttons, narrower legs, etc. I look well dressed and feel a tad smug about the smart “fixes” that keep my closet current. My best winter “fashion” purse is a felted wool coat; the coat lining is now the interior of the purse; the purse belt is the shoulder strap. It is beautiful. My wonderful sewing machine has made it all possible. (I also found a pattern for making the style of under pants I covet without the $12.00 a pair price tag. I’ll give it a go—who knows? It starts with an out-of-style tee shirt that hasn’t stretched out)

  13. I could have written this “mend & make fabulous.” Today’s prices–for even the lowest quality “new item,” are ridiculous and cost prohibitive. A little ingenuity, a few “in house” trims, notions and the like–a good machine—and some of the saddest items become quite wearable. My next project will be an attempt to follow an internet pattern I found for fabric-covering worn, but still usable, shoes. Most of my clothing is mended, changed up a bit, maybe new buttons, narrower legs, etc. I look well dressed and feel a tad smug about the smart “fixes” that keep my closet current. My best winter “fashion” purse is a felted wool coat; the coat lining is now the interior of the purse; the purse belt is the shoulder strap. It is beautiful. My wonderful sewing machine has made it all possible. (I also found a pattern for making the style of under pants I covet without the $12.00 a pair price tag. I’ll give it a go—who knows? It starts with an out-of-style tee shirt that hasn’t stretched out)

  14. I could have written this “mend & make fabulous.” Today’s prices–for even the lowest quality “new item,” are ridiculous and cost prohibitive. A little ingenuity, a few “in house” trims, notions and the like–a good machine—and some of the saddest items become quite wearable. My next project will be an attempt to follow an internet pattern I found for fabric-covering worn, but still usable, shoes. Most of my clothing is mended, changed up a bit, maybe new buttons, narrower legs, etc. I look well dressed and feel a tad smug about the smart “fixes” that keep my closet current. My best winter “fashion” purse is a felted wool coat; the coat lining is now the interior of the purse; the purse belt is the shoulder strap. It is beautiful. My wonderful sewing machine has made it all possible. (I also found a pattern for making the style of under pants I covet without the $12.00 a pair price tag. I’ll give it a go—who knows? It starts with an out-of-style tee shirt that hasn’t stretched out)

  15. I have been repairing clothing, cloth napkins, house linens, and just about anything that I can improve with needle and thread, for 30+ years. It wasn’t popular when I started and, unfortunately, isn’t popular now.

    One day I took an informal survey with my co-workers. I told them I was asking out of curiosity and they were OK with that. I asked if they repaired clothes. Most of the responses were, “Do you mean putting on a button?” Holes in pants pockets were done as well. Few had sewing machines, and one person told me that she threw the clothes out when they need any repair whatsoever. I was aghast! What will these people do in hard times?

    There are some aspects to repairing clothing that make it difficult today.

    No one wants to look “shabby,” so unless the area is in an area that is unnoticeable, it will not be worn. This also applies to stains.

    Knits, especially cotton knits is the fabric of choice. I can do it, but is is a real challenge. It may be easily seen or the fabric isn’t strong enough to hold the darn or patch. Knits stretch. This can be compensated, but it takes more skill.

    If I remember the book, “Little Women,” correctly, fabric on a dress was burned by being too close to the fire. They repaired the dress, but with different material. Repairs were done, but some were seen and others were not but they wore them anyway. Even in the “Little House” books, a shirt with many patches was worn, but it was clean and ironed. Things are different today.

  16. Yes,I mend . I darn socks, turn collars and resew on buttons or buy new ones if lost. I live in Spain and have done so for the past 50 years. When I came everyone did, but now anyone under 55 can’t believe it. Fast living has reached us but with the crisis we are going through there are a lot of clothes repair shops opening…

  17. I am always repairing, mending, until something is no longer wearable. When I do buy new, I buy quality. We do donate, but nothing that looks like it is close to worn-out – that’s not nice!!!! And, when we donate, I make sure the garment is in good shape before putting it in the box – buttons securely on, hems not coming down, etc. Takes so little effort! I’m really surprised by the number of people who don’t know how to thread a needle and do a simple running or back stitch these days.

  18. I am always repairing, mending, until something is no longer wearable. When I do buy new, I buy quality. We do donate, but nothing that looks like it is close to worn-out – that’s not nice!!!! And, when we donate, I make sure the garment is in good shape before putting it in the box – buttons securely on, hems not coming down, etc. Takes so little effort! I’m really surprised by the number of people who don’t know how to thread a needle and do a simple running or back stitch these days.

  19. I am always repairing, mending, until something is no longer wearable. When I do buy new, I buy quality. We do donate, but nothing that looks like it is close to worn-out – that’s not nice!!!! And, when we donate, I make sure the garment is in good shape before putting it in the box – buttons securely on, hems not coming down, etc. Takes so little effort! I’m really surprised by the number of people who don’t know how to thread a needle and do a simple running or back stitch these days.

  20. I too am one who repairs. My husband works in a specialty machine shop and his clothing is frequently in need of repair due to tears from the sheet metal he works with. Also for young children who grow so quickly it’s often cheaper to repair than to buy new.
    By the way, kudos for still being able to wear things bought in high school or college.

  21. I too am one who repairs. My husband works in a specialty machine shop and his clothing is frequently in need of repair due to tears from the sheet metal he works with. Also for young children who grow so quickly it’s often cheaper to repair than to buy new.
    By the way, kudos for still being able to wear things bought in high school or college.

  22. We bought my daughter a very fine double breasted coat from J. Crew. Almost immediately I discovered that sharp edges on metal shank buttons were cutting the threads and the buttons were falling off left and right. I reattached them several times and eventually gave up on thread, opting instead for crafting wire. Only one thing makes me angrier than cheap buttons on an otherwise nice coat, and that’s giving up on the coat altogether. Manufacturers like this need to consider all the details.

  23. I repair if there is a split in a seam but also remake things. I never throw out old clothes. I make new item and use fabric from old clothes to embellish or accent new items. I sometimes embroider over holes or stains. I don’t have young family any more so donate to various charities, some of my updated clothing items.

  24. always mend. It costs too much to buy and that only happens if a new size is required or the item to replace is ready for the rag box. Even the rag box is used for mending.

  25. I don’t mend clothes if I can help it. (I know, here come the rotten tomatoes!) I am not fond of hand sewing which eliminates a lot of mending. My dear mother doesn’t mind hand sewing, so I send her much of my mending.

    I have found that buying quality is financially wiser so I shop the thrift shops for quality items. I have purchased many items that need a button replaced and I will replace the button.

    There are many items that just simply aren’t worth mending that can be salvaged for other projects. And I salvage. I salvage to the point that the fabric that would normally be thrown away gets stuffed into a new dog or cat toy. The toys go into a bag that then go to a local animal shelter. It is an awesome experience to walk into an animal adoption event and hand the volunteers a bag full of pet toys and simply say, “Here, these are for your animals. They are completely machine washable and dry-able.” At that moment, you know you have made the world a little better place.

  26. I’m an old fashion kind of girl that comes from a home where clothing was always mended or made into something new (now known a up-cycling). Living in these hard economic times I think it important that people know not just how to mend a hole but how to creatively patch or up-cycle. I do a a lot of hand embroidery, and it has come in handy not only for decorating new items but also for hiding stains or iron burns on garments that is otherwise perfectly fine.

  27. My Husband has a on office job. He usually wears long sleeve shirts and spend long hours leaning on his left elbow as he works at his computer with his right hand, or while driving the car (for all you Americans who find this confusing, we live in Jamaica – right hand drive vehicles). This basically means all his left sleeves get worn out long before the shirt has seen its last day. I don’t bother to patch but simple cut the sleeves giving his a short sleeves shirt he can still wear.
    I also scrap anything that come to the end of it life – buttons off garments, zippers and clasps from hand bags, etc. as I can often find use for them later.

  28. I mend my clothes whenever possible…I’ve used permanent markers to cover small bleach spots, learned to sew a simple darning stitch to mend wovens, and have even repaired holes in sweaters…I try and use yarn from my stash, or find a yarn that matches. If there’s a rip in a hem, I will sometimes be able to shorten the skirt or dress to hide it. But I think I’m successful because I either sew my own clothes or buy high quality. It’s much harder to mend flimsy, badly made items I loved the book “Overdressed”..it changed the way I shop.

  29. I have been repairing my husband’s jeans for a while now, and I think I’m improving in that task. If he has pants that can’t be repaired I harvest the buttons and zippers for future up cycling projects.
    I’ve repaired some of my own clothes, and sometimes repurpose and remix the pieces of garments that are not damaged. Two sweatshirts might get blended into one, two t shirts become lounge or yoga pants.
    I’m not likely to wear high end designer garments, but my “affordable wardrobe” is starting to last longer now that I’ve learned to sew!
    – LK in Cambridge MA

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