Mending And Sewing Clothes
We live in a throw away world. From razors, gloves, towels and cameras to dishes and everything in between, we’ve been trained to use it and toss it. We seem to find it so much easier just to toss something than to repair it and keep it. Years ago you would buy an item and expect it to last your lifetime but, alas, not only are things made to be disposable, they aren’t made to last at all. I have bought two larger items just in the past week and both of them broke before I even used them once.
Cheaply made products is another whole article in and of itself, but today I want to focus on one thing we can fix and keep – our clothes. We tend to view our clothes as disposable, too, when we could make them last so much longer with just a little care. Part of that care is mending.
I know that mending is now an old-fashioned word but it could really save many of us a great deal of money if we would start doing it. It doesn’t take a lot of work or education to learn how to sew on a button or to mend a simple seam.
To get a little personal, I had a pair of panties where the elastic was ripped about 2 inches. Many people would have tossed them and bought more. It took me all of five minutes to sew it back together and they looked as good as new.
Another reason we should mend clothes is to help our families look nicer and neater. Even though it is not politically correct to believe it, clothes do make the man but we often send our kids out the door with torn clothing each morning. Even if everyone else is doing it, does that really make it right?
I know that sometimes it is hard to keep up on these things when you are tired or don’t feel well but, let’s be honest, do we find time to do other things like play on the computer, talk on the phone or watch TV? Mending takes as much energy as some of these things, yet we don’t think we have the strength or the time to do it.
I know it is hard to get motivated but here are a couple of tips to help make it easier for you.
If you don’t know how to mend, learn. Have someone show you or look on the Internet to find out how to do it. We think nothing of spending years and huge sums of money to get an education in so many areas which many of us often don’t use but we don’t bother to take a very small amount of time and usually little money it takes to learn to sew on a button. That is knowledge we will use at least weekly if not daily all of our lives.
Keep a small sewing basket by the chair you sit in in the evening so that everything is handy. Like with cleaning, we tend to make better progress with a job if we have all our supplies or necessary equipment together and in a handy spot.
Basic Sewing Basket Supplies
- Seam Ripper
- Pin cushion with Pins and needles
- Thread – basic neutral colors are light gray, medium gray, cream, white and black.
I didn’t know for years that light or medium gray makes a great neutral thread so these are important to have but adapt the threads in your basket to your family. For example you may want to keep some brown, red or navy or with little girls in the house, some pink.
If you don’t have a lot of room, wind some thread on a small card or bobbin to keep in your basket.
Keep a pin cushion with needles already threaded with white, black, brown, navy, cream, red and medium gray by your washer or dryer. If you find a stray button or see something has a small tear, you can fix it right then, which can keep the tear from getting worse or prevent you from forgetting to do it later.
Something small like this will only take a few seconds and then it will be done. There is nothing more frustrating than to put a shirt on in a hurry and find a button missing so this could help eliminate small stresses in the lives of you and your family.
For more help with organizing, cleaning or laundry, take a look at our How To Organize And Clean Your Home e-books.
Photo By: Dvortygirl
I really like the idea of keeping some needles already threaded with different basic colors, because usually for me, taking the time to thread a needle when I’m in a hurry is a pain, so I end up using a safety pin to keep the fabric together until I have more time, but this idea would save time and encourage me to sew right then and there. Also, I have a pretty blue basket I bought at the Salvation Army that I can use to store my sewing things in. Great idea.
jill … awesome post! …
just the other day, at the dry cleaners where i help my daughter, a customer came in to ask about some prices on hems that she needs for her pants… the lady that does alterations said her prices range from $10/$12 total ($15 for jeans)(this is for both legs) … the customer told her she just came from miami and there is a woman there that charges $10/per leg! … now, i am not sure if the lady in miami is really charging that price for a hem but i do know that some of our customers will not pay even what our alterationist is charging (which you can see is alot cheaper)… for those prices you can just go out and buy a whole new pair of pants and maybe save a bit…
then there is a third lady i would like to share about… she is older than the other 2, but her prices are relatively reasonable… she charges %5 for hems (both legs included) and she has so much work that she has asked if we knew someone who liked to sew but would like a small part time job (knowing full well our alterationist could use the extra work but this woman refuses to ask bc our person charges too much)…
you are so right jill… it doesnt take all that long to sew a button on or even to mend something …. and if someone really doesnt have the time to do those things than maybe pay someone else to do it… the problem that i see is that the people who provide these services charge more to fix something than if someone were to go out and buy a new pair of pants or whatever needed mending… and by the example of the third lady, her prices are awesome that if i had known about her, i would have asked her to do alot of my own mending and paid… her prices are awesome… i know people have to make a living, but from the example of the 3 ladies that i have seen, the one that is the most reasonable (and the cheapest than the other 2, same quality of work too), is by far the most successful… now this is just my opinion…
and you are right jill, if we just gave up a bit of our time to learn something new (as in my case), we could save a bit of money…
did i tell ya? i finally got a machine and i have someone who is willing to help me refresh my memory of doing alot of the mending i need to do on the clothes in my family (hemming, new zippers, etc…)… i am not sure about the tension on the machine so this person is going to help me set it up right… and i just refuse to pay $8/per pair of pants (normal price for this person is $12/per pair of pants) to put in a new zipper… i just wont do it bc for $10 i can buy a new pair of pants but that defeats the purpose of throwing away decent good pants that can be worn for years (they are jeans)… just my opinion here…
and for the fastening of buttons, they used to have this gadget that looked like a glue gun but with a needle looking part that you just positoned the button in the place you needed it to be, and then clicked, the button was secure in the material (how easy is that!?!) … hehehe :D … i used to have one of those and they were awesome…
i am glad you posted this bc i have been telling my daughter (when we are working at the dry cleaners) that i really would like to get my machine up and running and maybe take in some sewing myself… to earn some extra money… my daughter agreed and said she would too… and its a shame there are no classes here to teach the art of sewing and mending … i took that in high school and had a blast! … but the schools dont offer it anymore… i also want to still get one of those treadle machines like grandma had! … they are aweosme … (that is where i originally learned to sew, with grandma… happy memories!)…
i cant wait to read what you bought that broke b4 you used it once… i have done that many a time myself… and yes you are right, some things today are not made to last at all… just like this blender i bought last yr… i had it a total of 3 months b4 the thing just up and died… same thing with a mixer.. my daughter bought me one for xmas and well the first time i used it, it stopped working as i was using it … how horrible is that?? …
thanks again for posting this jill … i appreciate it…
i hope ur day is going well…
ps i found that cookbook again last nite at the store adn they are holding it for me … i will be getting it tomorrow so i will share some recipes with you… i looked at some of them again, super easy and fast too! … :D …
ugh! so long! sorry about that … hehehehee :D ..
Could you share the best way to sew the elastic back on underwear? That’s where it always fails. I have several waiting for mending, but I haven’t mastered getting it stitched back on properly – it comes loose with one wearing!
I mend but don’t really sew. I pick up partial spools at garage sales for pennies or free. These are just right for my needs.
Lucy, if you are sewing the elastic on by machine, which I recommend you do if it is more then a couple of inches torn, you need to gently stretch the elastic while you sew. Plus I have a machine with just a simple straight stitch and zig zag so I will straight stitch mine then straight stitch a second time slightly on the other side of the first stitching.
If you are sewing by hand it might be a little harder but not impossible. Still do the double stitching and you might try stretching it over your finger while you sew to help with the stretch.
When sewing stretchy anything like like this or say t shirt material it is best to sew the seam twice. Most newer machines have special stitches that will do the double stitching at one time but mine doesn’t.
Hope this makes sense and you can understand what I’m saying. I wasn’t super sure how it was coming loose without out seeing it. If any one else has an answer please holler.
I cannot sew at all. :( But I am pretty good about stitching up tears and sewing on buttons. Also I always sew holey socks, because it doesn’t really matter if it’s not perfect. It goes in the shoe! :)
I learned how to fix and sew up my own bras too, when the underwire inevitably pops out. That has saved me a bundle for sure.
Great tips. I wish I had learned how to sew. Moms should teach their kids when they’re young; I could learn now, but when you’re a mom learning new tricks sometimes loses priority among just surviving the day!
I solved the hemming problem 34 years ago when I hemmed 3 pairs of my husbands new jeans. I was so proud of myself and when I showed him he said I did it wrong. He then ripped out the hems and got out the sewing machine and did it the way he was taught by his mother. I told him he was hired and from then on he does all the sewing that needs to be done.
I use the scroll saw and make wooden toys and useful things with wood and take them to the craft fair.
He enjoys sewing and I hate it. I can sew better by hand but the machine scares me.
We were at the pawn shop a few weeks ago looking for camera things and I saw an old treadle machine and one that was the next step up and they were selling for $150. 34 years ago I got the step up one for $75. worked great and it was so basic. My husband bought a modern machine and we gave the old one to my son and DIL and they are still using it. I think it is about 100 years old and it is still going strong as my DIL is into quilting.
Love your idea of keeping a needle and thread at the washer. This is a simple idea but I never thought of it myself. I usually find the loose button or hem out just before I put the item in the wash. Did want to share one thing. I have had some pillowcases that the hems was coming out but just did not get them hemmed and just used them anyway. Last weekend, I spent (are you ready for this) less than 10 minutes to resew the hem on the sewing machine. And I stitched it all the way around, even the part that was not loose because (these cases are old) it will eventually unravel again. They are ready for another few years of use. What or who was I waiting for. Those shoemaker elves do not EVER come to my house. :)
Elizabeth, I know what you mean about surviving each day sometimes. It is hard. When my kids were a little older and started school I was able to take a few classes through the county extension.
I didn’t go shopping or much of anything like that so my classes were the one fun thing I loved to do. They were only a few dollars and had just 3-4 lessons which was nice because I really didn’t have time to do any more.
I did take a class on cake decorating given at the cake decorating supply store here in town. The class once again was only 3 classes and even though it was a little more in price it has more then paid for itself over the years.
Don’t panic. There is a season for everything and it won’t be long you can catch your breath.
HA! HA! I say that after spending the past 3 weeks spending everyday doing something for grown kids or grandkids.With 4 birthdays next week I don’t look for it to slow down any either.
I keep telling myself one day I will catch my breath. :) :) That’s all part of being a mom. You are always a mom, it’s just the things you do for your kids change from one season to the next.
I find that if you use fishing line when sewing it last MUCH longer that regular thread.
jill, arent those cake decorating lessons fun! :D … my sister (the one who is in remission of breast cancer), took one of those classes years ago and had always said they were fun… my daughters best friend took one too not too long ago but i wasnt able to attend (neither did my daughter) … she showed us what to do… and it was soooo much fun … hehee.. what a site those cakes looked like trying to learn that decorating part! … lots of fun for sure…
and yes you are right, things will slow down for sure (i hope soon) so we can all do the things we enjoy!…
grandma that is awesome your hubby likes to sew and you do the woodworking… i think that is neat! … i know of another couple like you two… he loves to cook (and he is a wonderful cook!) and she does the woodworking… they have been married over 40 yrs too.. :D…
its just like my kids, my daughter likes to work on cars, and my son loves to cook… :D …
yes jill, one day you will catch ur breath but as my mom says, once you catch your breath, you might wish you were busy again (can you believe she will be 82 this august? and has enrolled in another some type of tai chi class? the woman is amazing… and get htis jill, she is learning how to use the computer… and she is still nursing (she is a hospice nurse) … she tells me all of the time that if she slowed down it would literally make her old! … :D .. and jill, get this, she is wanting to take square dancing lessons too.. hehehee :D …
hope all is well with you and hte family … try to take pics of the cakes you make for the birthdays…. :D
I use dental floss for buttons. It is some tough stuff. I also keep a big spool of Stitch Witchery near my iron. It works for hems etc. I have not had one come undone if it was ironed in the right way.
I was a home ec. major in college. I can sew…I just do not like to spend my time mending when I can be making something new…
One thing too, getting thread at a garage sale etc. is not a real good idea if you need quality thread. In a real pinch it might be okay, but thread is something that needs to be quality.
There are some times a reason too that people charge ‘extra’ for. Example a zipper. Putting in a zipper is not near as hard as taking the OLD broken zipper out…so that is extra time and skill required to do the job.
You are right Roxie. I forgot to mention and meant to that if you can’t sew there is hope in the form of fusible hem tape. It works great for non sewers and sewers alike. Of course it doesn’t work for buttons but is great for hems etc.
You can find it at a fabric store and Wal Marts if they have a sewing section. Don’t panic when going to a sewing store if you get confused just ask. You can even ask the customers about what you need. Sewers are usually more then happy to help. I get asked things all the time at a store especially by these poor guys who are standing in complete bewilderment with a look on their face of what have I gotten myself into. :)
Just teasing guys. There are many men who are great sewers and my 3 grandsons love to sew. I take all the grandkids to the fabric shop just so they can get use to them and get the feel of it.
I take boys and girls to the hardware store for the same reason.
Thank you. i used to do all that stuff. I used to make clothes and I had it set up like you’re talking-had[still do] sewing cabinet set with different kits, all thread displayed, all kinds of patches, iron on & sew on applicates-the works, and i just got out of the frame of mind. You’ve inspired me to get that kit out, put it where I spend the most time and clean my sewing table off, pull the cover from my sewing machine my son bought recently— and the kids have been trying for me to get back to it. Sometimes I seem to pass over into another world! LOL Thanks!
We had friends who got a TV at Best Buy and when lightning struck it six months later Best Buy covered it!! I was very impressed with that sort of customer service.
My sister-in-love gave me a cute little tin Mary Englebret box that says “Laugh yourself in stitches” that houses my “sewing kit”. :) I love using it for my small mending projects.
Oh, one more thing… I have a newspaper article that gives 7 things that your child needs to know before going to college. One of those items is Sewing on a button. It has been so much fun for my boys to learn to do this! :)
I mend everything but socks (I never learned to darn well). Anything else is worth mending. I tend to buy things (either new or at thrift stores) that are better ‘quality’ and mending is a must and I keep my sewing machine available all the time and needles & thread close by to add a button etc. Since we will soon be retiring and on a fixed income, I am glad I learned long ago how to ‘fix’ things. My grown children still bring me something to mend, repair or ‘create’ when they can’t do it.
I come from a long line of frugality! It’s in the blood. I have sat & hand mended my son’s stuffed animals, our socks, underwear, our big comforters, sheets, curtains, shower curtains, tablecloths, bathtowels & bathroom rugs, patio chair cushions. Money don’t grow on trees afterall. I am a firm believer in making do or doing without if need be. Hubby repurposes his old socks that are beyond help & uses them for applying stain to woodwork.
Basic sewing is a valuable skill; however, don’t discount your dry cleaner’s services completely. I have a coat I LOVE and the lining is completely ripped beyond repair simply from years of use. I am going to have my dry cleaner’s seamstress repair the lining – which is more than my sewing skills, time and patience can handle – but I will get to keep using the coat I love. Even if you have to hire someone else to do it, it might be less expensive than buying new clothes.
I love all of your ideas! I have been sewing off and on for about 30 years and recently picked up my sewing box again. I darn my hubby’s socks – he gets at least 6 more months of wear out of them then. I have a regular sewing machine and serger but those are in storage cuz we are in our 5th wheel for now. I cannot wait to get them out and begin working with them. I work for a county extension and we are still encouraging kids to learn sewing skills through our 4-H programs.
Mending pays! I have put many, many patches on my husband’s logging jeans over the years. Some jeans have 20 or more patches! Some patches were even patched. Now that he’s no longer logging I am selling them on ebay for $50 each. It makes me feel much better about all the wrestling I did with those jeans and the sewing machine! Most of these repairs were done while we lived and traveled in our travel trailer for five years.
I grew up doing this and have done it for years. I thought everyone did it. Thank you for all of your “comon sense” advice.
Young women of today know so little about sewing period.They do not seem to know how to even thread a needle,let alone what it is for or how to use it.Nor are the interested in learning.It is easier to just go out and buy more.
I put a dab of clear nail polish over my buttons to strengthen them. Seems to help. I don’t lose too many buttons. My boys (including the hubby) have troubles with buttons coming off, but they are easy to sew and then they get the clear polish trick too. I haven’t had to sew the same button a second time!
Colette, the clear polish tip is a great idea and does work really good. You can also sew your buttons on with dental floss or quilting thread which is a little heavier too. But the clear polish is probably the easiest.
Grizzly Bear Mom
I think we need to be careful when purchasing clothing. Some items are see through, or almost worn out when they are brand new! Obvioulsy I don’t buy those. When my mom was in high school (class of 1951) all the girls had to take a few shop classes and all the boys a few home ec ones. It prepared the boys for when their wives had babies, and the girls if their husbands weren’t home and a lamp needed fixing. That was one forward thinking school!
I have never answered any of the great articles you write but I really loved this one. I am nearly 69 years lod and I teach a lot of classes on frugal cooking, buying and living daily. We have a lost generation of throw awayand get new that is going to be in a world of hurt soon. I have two grandaughters, 16 & 17 that cook from scratch and sew, and quilt. I have seen that over 25 people have you Dining On A Dime cook book. I LOVE it!! One teenager saw me kneading bread and said she didn’t know bread could be made in a regular home! I had to chuckle!
Malvina, thank you so much. That is exactly why we wrote the book. We saw a whole generation of gals (and guys) who didn’t have a clue to basic life skills. So thank you for your support. I had to chuckle at your bread story although I’m afraid it is all too common.
I remember once hearing a missionary’s wife say that one of the hardest things she had to do when they moved from their home town was she had to learn to mop a floor. She had lived in a home that was all carpet (that was back when even the bathrooms and kitchens were carpeted) and moved to a home with no carpet and didn’t even know where to begin to clean her floors.
I thought then I wanted my kids to learn how to do as much as they can so if ever they were in a pinch or when they left home they would know what to do.
I totally agree everyone needs to learn mending. Seems that those under the age of 45 have no desire to learn, they look at it as something us OLD FOLKS do. I was shocked when I stopped at my son’s house one day to find that his wife had STAPLED my granddaughters emblems on her girlscout uniform since she had NO CLUE how to sew them on. My son laughed at her … then HE sewed them on. I taught my kids how to sew when they were very young. Thanks for the article.
When matching your thread to fabric, if you don’t have the exact color, go with a shade a bit darker than the fabric. Lighter thread will show up more.
I’ve learned that darning socks with embroidery floss works well. It’s easy to match colors with my left over floss. I keep a tin with left over floss, a pin cushion with needles (some pre-threaded with colors often used), and a burned-out light bulb to support the place I’m darning. The tin stays in a drawer beside the chair I sit in while watching the TV news and catch up on the mending while the news is on. After the socks get too thin to mend again, they go out to the garage where my husband uses them. I’ve also darned cotton underwear and kept it much longer and still comfortable. T-shirts that get a snag can also be mended the same way.
When my daughter was young, she tore an almost new pair of corderoy pants near the knee. I patched them and then embroidered a ladybug over the patch, completely hiding the patch. I then added another ladybug lower on the leg. She got compliments on her “new” pants and wore them until they were far out-grown.
I like using embroidery thread for darning because you can get a lot of colors, without taking up a lot of space.
Jill, enjoyed your topic on repairing, with 3 girls and a special needs son, Ihave done a lot of mending. When my children were young i worked for a woman that was a widow and she supported her family of 7 children by just her sewing and making alterations, and she taught me loads of tricks and she only charged $7 to hem a coat and $3 to hem a dress, that was back in the 50’s I also took a small cake decorating class and made all my daughters wedding cakes and i used to have a little business cake baking still dable in it some have enjoyed it for many years I will be making a wedding cake in Oct for 200 for my son’s teacher at the workshop my son now is 49 years old and just abig old teddy bear.i’m now 78 and i know that learning somthing new keeps you active and your mind sharp. a lot of young girls would be more creative if they would bring back the good old home ec classes. there is nothing more exciting than creating that first dress you have made all by your self. thanks so much for all your neat helps wouldn’t miss your mail look forward to it each time
lol God bless
I just wanted to mention that I was shocked when I went shopping for thread ( I had a lot on hand and it has been a few years since I bought any thread). The price for good thread is ( to me) high. Then when I was looking in my local thrift shop, there in the craft section were bags with spools of threads, in mixed coulors, 8 in a package for 50 cents. I looked them over and bought 2 bags with colours near what most of our clothing we wear looked like. Mending costs way down! Also a good source for buttons ( for that blouse that just lost the button right at the bust!) I have bought sweaters and blouses at the thrift shop for a dollar and taken all the buttons off and replaced with buttons bought in a bag of buttons at the thrift shop. Made the item look so much better and probably worked out to a dime or so more for the item ( and have the old buttons left). Our little thrift store gets items from many of the local stores, perhaps the threads are in colours not sold now, but there are all sorts of new notions for sale at 1950’s prices. Helps to keep our clothing looking good for a lot longer, and being on limited pensions it’s a good feeling to be able to look well and not be bothered with using credit to do it.
Pat I too love the sewing section of my thrift store and buy tons of fabric and sewing notions there. I also look for sheets, tablecloths, full skirted dresses which I can get for $.99 or less to use for fabric.
My mom I think was the ultimate in a frugal sewer. When she would hem a dress (she did alterations for a cleaner) she would pull the original thread out of the hem to reuse when she rehemmed it. I would always tease her about it. Although why she did it was not so much to be frugal as to be sure she had the exact matching thread.
If a button comes off a blouse in an obvious place take the one from the bottom to replace. You can add one that almost matches for the bottom which won’t show
What a wonderful post! Thanks Jill! I am wondering if there is something “in the air” this week though. Like you, I have had to replace two major items during the past week…first my freezer croaked and the day after it was delivered, my refrigerator quit! The new one will arrive sometime next week. What is going on with that? By the way, I appreciate your comment above about your mom reusing thread for hems. How clever! I had never thought of doing that!
When a garment becomes too worn or stained to repair, I always take off the buttons, and if it’s still in good shape, remove the zipper. I can often reuse them when I’m mending something or making another outfit. I will also cut up a worn out pair of jeans to make patches. My kids have grown up with patched jeans and never seemed a bit concerned about it. For the girls, if I had to patch somewhere besides the knees, we would sew on a few sequins or otherwise embellish it to look cute and they liked them as well as the ready-embellished jeans that sell for so much in department stores.
I’ve taken the time to read the Little House series (yes, as an adult) this summer. One thing I’ve noticed was that mending was a task that was done regularly in those days. I also noticed how Ma would use her old dress to make a much smaller dress for one of the girls once they’d outgrown their clothes or when the baby came along. They kept the scraps handy from clothing, curtains, etc, to MAKE something new from it.
It was not considered to be poor…but resourceful.
My how we’ve let the lines become blurred!
Hopefully I’m not dating myself and I am not near as old as the Little House books but I use to make many of Tawra’s clothes from my old things. I have one picture of her where she looks like and you can tell she feels like a princess in her “new” Easter outfit. Easter was early that year and it was cold. I had no money to buy her a new Easter dress and didn’t want to disappoint her.
I had an old satin quilted housecoat I cut it apart and made a jumper for her. I even used the buttons which had been on the housecoat and carefully cut the lace off of it to put down the front of her dress. She looked so cute. Right now that same lace is sitting in a container here in my sewing room because even when the dress had to go I still picked off the lace and buttons to use for another time and have used it over and over.
The grandkids just love it when I reuse things. I will use trim from my clothes to put on an outfit for them, when they outgrow or wear that out I use the trim for an Easter hat. When that gets smashed off comes the trim to use on a throw pillow for their room and when they redecorate I once again use the trim to decorate a treasure box for them.
This is why I chuckle at recyclers who look in horror at me when I say I don’t believe in recycling. I don’t. I just reuse what I have. I never have anything to recycle. They have no clue to how much I am saving the planet. :) :)
What a hoot! I had not even thought that, that was recycling! I made 90% of my girls clothes, the others were ones they were given by Grandmas ( both sides ) for Christmas and Birthdays. One year my daughter out grew her denim Jeans, they became too short overnight, but not too small everywhere else. I looked through what I had that might work ( mid 1970’s) and found the only thing I could imagine, it was a linen striped teatowel, with off white, red and muted green stripes) I added 3 inches to the bottom of the pants and then cut out the shape of a butterfly and sewed it on her pants part way up the leg and used the machine to make the body and the antenna and around the wings. It was a hit at school the next day and other kids were asking where she got it. She was unhappy to say her mother made them. Then Oh, Joy, my Cousin sent her a new sweater and a pair of jeans that were made to go together and the sweater had a house on it with a smoking chiminey, the pants had the same picture embrodered on the back pocket. She was so happy to go to school with “new” clothes, when she got there the other kids asked” do you think your Mom would make me some like that”. LOL, thanks Jill for the memories.
I remember making kids coats from my old coat, and little skirts and vests from dh. old suit pants! I made all kinds of matching Barbie clothes from material I made the girls clothes out of , and even the scraps after that made little doll quilts.
Do you remember ” idiot Strings? ” I don’t know what the real name is but that’s what my kids called them when I crochet string to keep their gloves and mitts together and ran them through their sleeves. For years they called them Idiot strings. Later they wouldn’t wear them, then when oldest hit about grade 11 she asked for them again. Walking home in freezing weather with no mitts because you lost them was no fun and no one would swipe her gloves because they had idiot strings on them.
I do remember those strings and thought they were the most practical things ever. I could never get my kids or grandkids to use them. Of course they are always missing gloves. I have for years carried 2-3 pairs of gloves in my coat pocket and a couple of pairs in the car and guess what, they get used all the time. “Nan” always has gloves, a tissue and chapstick in her pocket. For along time you could even find a baby bottle in there too. :) :)
I see gals on TV with these cute slimming coats and laugh because even if I had the figure to wear one of those I think it would spoil the affect walking down the street with my bulging pockets.
Last year I went to put on my coat and got in the car. I couldn’t figure what was in my pocket and put my hand in it only to find it stuffed full of leaves. I had forgot my granddaughter had borrowed it while they were raking and playing in the leaves a couple of months earlier.
Well anyway I would love some of those strings for me. It would make my life easier.
I totally agree about being able to mend.
Usually I wait until I get several items that need mending before I get out my sewing machine.
Last week I noticed several towels that were raveled and frayed on the edges, so I showed my 10 year old granddaughter how to use the sewing machine and hovered over her as she turned over the frayed edges and did a simple straight stitch to give them a second life. She was thrilled with her new skill.
Recently I found a rip in the back of my husband’s favorite pair of jean cut-offs that he uses for yard work. Had I not known how to take a piece of jean fabric that I saved when I cut off the legs to create a pair of cut-offs, and patch them from underneath with a few rounds of the zig-zag stitch, we would have had to throw them out for decency sake.
I recently made a swag curtain for our bedroom without even needing a pattern, since this style is so simple.
The only sewing class I’ve ever had was 9th grade sewing at Roosevelt Junior HS in Peoria, IL. Had a great teacher, and she has saved me tons of money over the years sewing clothing for myself, kids and grandkids. Mom taught me how to mend. Mom “darned” socks too, but I have not thought that was worth the time and effort. I make rags of the old socks, cutting them in half so that they do not get mixed up with socks that need to go back into the drawer.
Of all the subjects I took in HS, sewing, typing and English have gone on to be the greatest benefit. I graduated in 1965.
I second that Alice. I was so glad I took those things. I made my kids take typing and they both took woodworking and auto mechanics – Tawra too. I have taught all the grandkids how to sew and they have taken home ecc. in school. My one grandson was so proud. He was the only one who had ever used a sewing machine and ended up getting an A+. These things really do boost the kids self confidence besides teaching them life skills.
I love this post. My mom is the designated mender in our family. She was a Cub Scout leader for over 30 years and had a bright red wool coat that she would sew all of scout patches on to. I’m sure she will have a good laugh when I tell her about the woman who “stapled” the Girl Scout patches. My mom used to barter her patch sewing skills to all the men in Scout Camp to get them to do other things she needed done, like cutting fire wood, helping the boys earn their patches, etc. Yes, basic sewing skills are something I think everyone should have. It’s a shame they’re taking out Home Ec. and Wood Working classes from the schools these days. People just don’t realize what an essential skill basic mending is.
Eighteen months ago, my husband was laid off. Then, I lost 4 of my 6 day care kids due to job losses. I started mending more to save money from having to buy more clothes, particularly socks and underwear. It’s amazing how much socks and underwear cost for several people! Those items I would have normally thrown away (or used as rags)are now sewn several times over. However, it’s saved us a lot of money we didn’t have to spend.
Please keep preaching this! It’s so important to have these basic how-to-get-along-in-the-real-world skills. It might not seem very impressive to be able to extend the life of one shirt, one pair of socks, etc. But it’s not simply about the single item. The cumulative savings can be quite large, not to mention the empowerment one feels because of the ability to rein in spending. It’s silly not to give it a try, at the very least.
I have been able to use my sewing machine to mend a lot of things. It doesn’t have to be a fancy sewing machine either. A sewing machine with feed dogs that can drop and has a zig zag stitch can sew on a button. I often patch my boys jeans with a piece salvaged off a pair of jeans that were too worn out to use. I zig zag around the patch. I saw a lady at a home school conference that offered DVD sewing classes. (not affiliated with it). her site was:
http://modestymatters.net/ I was really impressed with her DVD’s and the items you made.
My mending pile was getting huge so I started keeping sewing supplies in the car. Now I keep a bag of projects in the car that I refill as they are completed. Many tears and buttons can be taken care of in the 20 minutes it takes us to get to town and bigger things, like hems, can be handled on longer trips. I’m teaching my daughter to sew also so that thrift with clothing will become a habit to her.
Kimberly, you make a good point here. Keeping a project bag in your car or even in your purse is a great idea. I’ve often recommended doing this for craft projects such as crochet, knitting, or needlepoint, but simple mending would also make a great project bag. Having a small project bag handy is a great way to use time that would otherwise be wasted. For example, time spent waiting at the doctor’s office, or waiting to pick up children from school or after school activities. You would be surprised how much you could get done in just a few minutes here and there. As the saying goes “time is money”.
Jamie that is true. I have always carried a “project” sewing bag with me every since high school. The first summer I started dating my husband he had to do a lot of running around and going to different places where I had to just wait in the car for him. I started on appliquing some quilt blocks only working on them at those times and by the end of the summer I had enough blocks done for a huge quilt. I always would hold the quilt up and say look at how many hours I have waited for you. : )
I use a small make up bag that has little pockets in it. I can fit a 1 1/2 inch pair of scissors (or I sometimes use nail clippers), some embroidery thread and my folded up block in there perfectly. I carry a very small purse but this fits great for along the side of it. If I am going to be going like say on a trip or something then I have another size larger bag which I keep a few more or bigger projects in it. I think most die hard sewers all do this. I do get some looks at the doctors office but more often then not someone comes over and starts chatting about my project.
When I was in charge of the women’s group at church I would tell the ladies to bring their sewing projects (knitting, crocheting) to work on while I was speaking. Not only were they learning things at the Bible study but they often worked on projects to give to people in need or missionaries.
Women years ago would not waste a moment and was always seen working on something. Even if they got together for a visit you didn’t just sit.
I mend and reuse everything but socks;My mother never sewed a thing only mended socks
It’s funny that I just saw this posting this week because yesterday I put on a pair of socks and, of course, there it was, a hole in the big toe area. Well, I guess this will be the first of many projects in my newly started mending “pile” or “bag”. I have mended clothing and socks every so often in the past but I never really kept a pile or bag of “to be mended” projects. I would just mend one item whenever I had time and I remembered it needed mending. I have now decided to start keeping a pile and/or bag in a handy spot so I can keep up with the mending and won’t have another morning of searching for another pair of “good” socks to wear.
i keep telling myself and my kids.. we really need to learn how to sew .. i can sew a little bit but i see more and more people taking in mending and sewing as a way to supplement their income .. some only do buttons, hems and zippers and others doing that and more .. like alterations and etc ..
this is a vital thing to learn .. same as cooking .. and i tell my kids “the crockpot is your very best friend!” .. esp if u do not like to cook or can barely boil water ..
i have such a huge mending pile that it is rather a sore spot .. but i told hubby i will get around to it ..
yes i have a machine (i bought it used for $10 but i am not sure if it works) and just recently i was at walmart and for $15 they had this cute little sewing machine that mends and it runs on batteries .. so i bought it .. yes i know but i figure i could use the hand crank and not use the batteries and just do the mending that way ..
i put that website on my computer to look at more in detail ann .. thanks for posting ..
and jill/tawra.. thanks for the reminder on this .. its a good thing to learn .. :D
When sewing lingerie (elastic back on panties) you might want to use a stretch stitch if your machine has it or a narrow zig zag stitch.
I think everybody should know how to do at least basic mending. I am pretty good at sewing ( I made my own wedding dress). And I will often alter my things to make them look better on me. I love up-cycling clothes because nice fabric can get so expensive. Lately my best projects have been making my 3 year olds dresses longer. She takes after her tall skinny daddy and is outgrowing dresses in height, but still has tons of room in width. This is a problem I would love. But to solve…I just add fabric. Sometimes ruffled, sometimes just as a flat extension. The look is super cute, and she loves it. So far I have been able to use stuff I would have given away, or that had stains on top. I have also taken a few items that were loved and still in great shape, just no longer would work with how tall she is. I took two dresses and combined them. Cut off the skirt, folded over and made an elastic waist, added a few inches of the other skirt underneath for more length. Took the top and made a gathered extension on the bottom…love it more than the original. I love not spending much…the originals cost $1 each and now they will last at least one more year.
It’s great to hear from other people who mend clothes too… where I live (eastern France), other moms don’t ever talk about mending, I wonder what they do? I recently discovered that you can DARN with your SEWING MACHINE!!!! you just need a special ‘darning foot’ for the machine (costs 20$ or so) and a small embroidery hoop, and then you can bring back clothes from the DEAD!!! it’s so fast, it’s not even funny, and if you match your thread to your fabric well, it’s practically invisible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I even darn towels that the dog has chewed up to shreds, and they come out almost new!!!!!! I hope this ‘tip’ is helpful to somebody, it was to me!
Mending brings great satisfaction knowing I am saving money. I have mended many pairs of underwear to get a lot more wear out of them. I have used old washclothes for a dishwashing rag, they work very well. I have many boxes of old garments that are beyond repair, I’m planning on using them as sewing fabric for crafts, quilts, or whatever. Sewing can help ease stress in your life because it is a creative action so you don’t have the need to constantly be focus on your problems. Ladies, take up sewing, and enjoy life, be creative with what you have. I, also, was the recipient of my Mother’s old Singer trendle machine. There is almost nothing that will break on it. It is the machine that I learned to sew on when I was a young teenager, and it still works great. I did advance to an electric machine when I married in 1969. About 4 years later my hubby upgraded that machine and I still have it today, works great! Happy Sewing and mending!!
I realized that my own children did not learn to sew or mend, so I have made time to get all of my grandchildren (14) involved in sewing on a button, taking about 4 at a time so that it was easier for me and great fun for them for an afternoon. The trick is to keep it simple (I used large buttons and scraps of fabric.) One of my grandchildren is now the “button-sewer” of the family!!
I agree with the lady who stated that we need good quality notions to sew in order to make them last and I have had old thread that I had to trash because it was rotten (saved it too long evidently), however if the thread is polyester, it does not wear out or become rotten so quickly. I made polyester curtains for the 4 windows in my husbands workshop in 1980 and they are still hanging and with the original fabric and thread. I must admit though, they are soon going to have to be replaced. I made them from a batch of fabric that my mom had bought sometime in the 1970’s so many fabrics and thread will last a very long time. I love your website and read it every chance I get. Julia Browder P.S. The curtains are in full sun exposure so you know the fabric is good since the sun rots fabric pretty quickly
When my children had grown and left home (mostly, still have one as an adult roommate), I had too many towels and not enough dishtowels. I cut extra towels in 4 quarters, hemmed, and even used decorative stiches from my 40 year old machine with contrasting thread. The dishtowels are holding up fine, but the regular towels I kept I’m now zigzagging the edges to control ravelling. The really ragged ones have gone to hubby’s shop as shop towels. And yes, all my sons know how to cook, clean, basic mending, and have done their own laundry since they were thirteen. (I couldn’t stand what I was finding in their pockets any more!) I now go to the thrift store and pick up sheets and curtains to use as material for sewing projects. I wash them and if they wrinkle they go to the shop as covers.
This terrific info. I get so much mileage out of my and my family’s clothing. I repair everything, including undies. When an under wire in my bra breaks, I put in one scavenged from an older bra.
And there’s no reason a repaired item needs to look any less than a newly bought item. I take our old long-sleeved tee shirts and breathe new life into them, by nipping in the waists on stretched out tees, and turning under the cuffs on stained and worn sleeves (then machine stitching a new sleeve hem. I use fabric dye to perk up the color of jeans and other clothing.
I polish shoes. Now that’s a lost skill. But both my grown son and my husband go off to office jobs everyday, and their shoes should look good. I do all the things my mother did in the 60s and 70s. I just don’t understand what has happened to our society, why others aren’t doing this as well.
It doesn’t just save money to do all this, but it just seems like the right thing to do. If God has provided so well for me to have clothing, shouldn’t I then take excellent care of it? That’s my attitude.
Everything you said is so true. For those of you who need it we have an article on How to Shine Shoes It is like you said it is a lost art and I to remember growing up and having to shine shoes. My dad was a Marine so you can imagine how our shoes shined. : ) But anyway that is what a good deal of our website is about trying to teach people some of the old skills. Boy do I feel old now. : )
My son’s high school offered a class called Life Management Skills. Mostly fellows took the class. Thought it would be an easy A but it turned out to be a class in cooking skills as well as learning to handle personal finances, like keeping a checkbook and making good purchasing decisions. I also taught my son to cook at home and whomever he marries will get a really good cook and money manager.
My daughter wanted a sewing machine one year for Christmas. She picked out a basic one for about $100 and when I asked her how she liked it, she said she never used it but her husband was the seamstress in their family and he used it all the time. He was a light and set design major in college and learned to sew all his props. He also makes the children their Halloween costumes. As far as I am concerned, as long as someone uses the machine made it a worthwhile purchase. My husband sews his own buttons on but does not like mended socks. Says they give him blisters so we just splurge and buy him new socks at the outlet mall whenever we go to the beach. As for me, I quilt and have always repaired our jeans with the iron-on patches. If you put them on the inside and outside, the jeans get longer wear. If that doesn’t work, I just cut them off and hem for jean shorts. My mom used to turn collars and cuffs on my dad’s shirts and when I was first married, did my husband’s as well. I never learned to do that but now that he is retired, it is not necessary since he rarely wears dress shirts. Perhaps, this will be a way to earn a little extra cash when I retire. :) Great post, Jill and Tawra. Reminds us that a little extra work reaps large savings.
Oy vey! I hates mending cheap garments because the repairs will be chronic. I have been blessed with the talent of sewing anything from scratch but despise repair work. My solution: my scratch sewing is always done with choice fabrics and purchased items are always high quality. I live in these items, once they become a favorite it breaks my heart to get rid of them so I mend them. I’d rather have fewer items of good quality than a lot of cheap clothes.
I have been a mender from way back, out of necessity, and am largely self-taught. However, I have come to possess some older homemaking books (circa 1950’s or earlier) that really show the make do and mend mentality. These books show different kinds of mending, darning, and how to add to and alter children’s clothing, without remaking the entire garment from scratch. I am constantly amazed and impressed by the resourcefulness of these methods. No apologies are ever given–just sound advice, good diagrams, economical ideas, and the call to practice. I was intrigued to find out that cables on sweaters, were often used as panel insertions, to lengthen or widen home knit sweaters for children, as they grew out of their clothes. These ‘old’ techniques were real skills, with real benefits when practiced.
I have many ways of making clothes last longer. I am the queen of creative patching on t-shits, and pants. Stains, no problem I have a dye to cover that. Creative dying of t-shirts, and even pants can give back life to an other wise lost piece of clothing. This is so true when it comes to young children who are prone to tears and mishaps.
I have shirts and slacks that have been worn happily by all six of my kids, the oldest is now 22, and our youngest is 6. Do I buy new clothes; sure I do , on clearance or very cheaply. I always keep in mind how I am going to make the item last longer before I ever buying it. a little thought now provides less waste latter.
Before I go to bed for my next shift, I used to patch my husband’s blue jeans and work shirts because of burns from his job as a welder. I would wait until I had time to sew. I would show my husband how many pairs I’d repaired and the replacement cost. Many times I “saved” $200.00. A few guys said they wouldn’t be caught dead in patched pants. He just laughed at them and told them how much money his wife saved the family and he was proud that I worked too and patched his pants. Said I was a better wife than their wives were.
Old holely socks are good for bed socks for cold feet. Dusting mitts, washing the car. Protecting bare arms from sunburn or gardening. Putting on lotion or med creams on arms, feet. I use at work to cover rash on my arm. Good for use on critter legs or mule ears to keep wounds protected. And if you don’t have a good pr of socks at the moment, just turn the hole to the top. Works best with tube socks with holes on the heel or bottom. On the toe, just sew up real quick. Put a bar of soap in and use ase washrag.
All those are great uses for old socks. I also just learned of another one and that is to cut off the top of a ribbed sock, fold it in half and slip on your wrist to use as a pin cushion. They are easy to fold and put in a travel sewing box or keep one at each chair you tend to sew in.
Margaret Mary Myers
I love to do “recycle sewing”, usually just simple things, like making long pants or long sleeves into shorts or short sleeves, changing out the buttons on an item, mending leather purse straps, or whatever helps me to keep on using items (or to use items I find inexpensively at the thrift shop).
And I’m finding all the comments on this post so much fun to read. Thank you, Jill and Tawra, and everyone who contributes to the discussions.
When I’ve been sewing at my mom’s house, I try to leave several needles with thread in them for her to mend my parent’s clothes. She has a hard time seeing to thread a needle, so I can do that for her and it really helps her out. (I go to her house to sew because she has more room to spread things out and she has a Bernina machine.)
What a great idea Liz. Sometimes it’s those little things that can make a big difference. I had an older person once tell me she wished everyone would write their letters (back in snail mail days) to her in red ink because she was having a hard time reading.
When I buy any item with buttons, whether new or used, I take a few minutes to check all of the buttons, tightening any loose ones before I even wash it. I’ve noticed that a lot of new items have buttons that are just barely hanging on. Taking those few moments right away saves me from those embarrassing moments and lost buttons. I started doing this after finding a large gaping hole where a button was supposed to be (showing my bra). This was at a large gathering, and was a brand new shirt! Also, you can dye buttons.