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Simple Fixes and Mending Techniques

Photo: Sloan Howard

For people who love clothing and textiles, few things are more disheartening than to discover that a favorite garment needs to be mended. And if you aren't sure how to make the necessary repairs, those pieces serve as a silent reproach as they pile up in the closet corners. 

Mending is often associated with a bygone era, an old-fashioned activity for people who had limited access to manufactured goods, lived through the Great Depression, or made do with wartime rations. With the accessibility of inexpensive fashion, mending fell out of practice. The current shift in economic realities and concerns over global sustainability may have caused you to reflect on a time when consumers made, purchased, and wore high-quality cloth-and knew how to care for them. 

Mending is remarkably easy, surprisingly quick, and extraordinarily gratifying. Learning how to evaluate a damaged area and becoming familiar with the basic techniques are all that's needed to get started. By mending treasured garments, you can enjoy them longer, take pleasure in your artisanal self-sufficiency, and do your part in leaving a smaller footprint on the planet. Now that's cutting edge!

To mend or not to mend
When evaluating garment damage, first determine whether mending is possible and if it will save the garment.

Can it be fixed?
A mend may be possible if the damage is to elements of a garment's construction, such as released seams or darts, loose buttons, worn buttonholes, loose beads or sequins, tired elastic, a broken zipper, a fallen hem or cuff. Mending also is possible if the damage is to hidden elements, such as shabby lining, a hole in an inside pocket, under a button, or in a sock.

A mend may not be possible if the damage involves the textile itself, such as rips and tears or insect damage in the body of the cloth, deterioration, shattering, or loss. Shattered silk is nearly, if not completely, impossible to mend.

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Comments (9)

restlesslegs restlesslegs writes: Mending and repairing is so important, especially if you have an article you really like. Using small stitches with matching thread is what I do. I need new ideas an techniques of repairing an article that has lots of wear left in it.
Posted: 6:11 pm on July 18th

user-875846 user-875846 writes: I liked the techniques. I would like to see repairs that used the correct thread colors alongside the demonstration repairs.
Posted: 1:53 pm on May 18th

CFields CFields writes: Good reminder of mending techniques. My grandmother taught me how to darn socks and linens when I was a kid. I've used all of these techniques except the felting. It's a better solution that the one my sister used back in the 1970's to "repair" a badly moth-eaten sweater - she embroidered a flower around each hole. It was cute but no longer warm!

An article showing how to mend and alter knitwear would be useful, too.
Posted: 8:23 am on May 3rd

LucyJane LucyJane writes: I am probably the only person in the world who likes to mend or make something new again....... I consider it a challenge to fix something or present it in a new way or fool the eye.
Posted: 10:44 pm on May 2nd

HighToss HighToss writes: Thanks, I love the tip on how to mend holes in wool. Great article!
Posted: 7:24 pm on May 2nd

Mamato8 Mamato8 writes: I have done mending on garment leather. It is so important to match exactly the stitch size to get the needle to land in the original holes!

Thank you for sharing this article! I am not one to throw things away if it can still be used. Someday, I will work my way through my mending pile... It's a dream...
Posted: 12:37 am on May 2nd

Tosca2 Tosca2 writes:
Posted: 9:06 pm on May 1st

Tosca2 Tosca2 writes: I am so glad you are introducing this topic again in our very disposable age. I would suggest that your last question under 'Is it worth it?, should be your last question;
Is the garment a collectible or an heirloom that should be retired and carefully stored away?
Conservation techniques and approaches deviate to another path after the question of the collectible or heirloom value is determined.
The rest of the questions and the techniques you have introduced are terrific for a garment that's destiny is to be worn to death. So many lovely possibilities there, repair, recycle, reimagine.
Posted: 9:04 pm on May 1st

PaulasPalace PaulasPalace writes: Your pictures are so much more clear online than they are in the magazine.

Posted: 7:19 pm on May 1st

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