Considering the exploitation of human rights and destruction to our environment brought on by “fast fashion,” we know that buying long-lasting and ethically made clothing is best for people and our planet. And it’s not only a question of ethics; materials impact performance.
Buying clothing from companies who certify zero human trafficking and fair labor practices, and who use sustainable fabrics is the principled choice, and there are personal benefits to you as well. If you’ve ever been caught in a storm half-way up a cliff, you understand how clothing choices matter …
My advice: buy only what you need, buy from an ethical source, buy quality and long-lasting products, and do what you can to prolong the life of your apparel.
I know this comes at a price. And I don’t mean a metaphorical price. I’m talking about your hard-earned cash. You know that “voting” with your dollar has a real impact on how decisions are made (supply and demand), so I encourage you to cast your “votes” conscientiously.
Maybe you want to use this tutorial to stitch up some amazing finds from your local thrift shop. There’s something here for you too.
So let’s say you splurged for that ethically-sourced, high-quality apparel item and are stoked to test it out on your off-width project. After each glorious inch of struggle, you reach the top and, as you’re lowered, your elation transforms into dismay as you discover a gaping hole in your beloved new item. WHAT DO YOU DO?!
Don’t panic! You are a capable human being who will soon have the skills to close that gap …
Sewing your own repairs
Here’s a quick and dirty run-down of how to sew your gear to extend its life. You may not win any fashion competitions (or will you?) and you definitely don’t need prerequisite experience, as long as you’re okay with function over … well … I don’t know, something other than “function.”
1. Be prepared
My sewing supplies consist of scissors, a needle, thread, safety pins, tenacious tape, and some scrap fabric. No, you don’t need to buy a pre-made travel sewing kit.
2. Assess the damage
Can you simply close the tear? Or is so much fabric missing (or the fabric is worn so thin) that you need a patch?
3. Have fun!
Don’t take the task too seriously and enjoy the process of learning a new skill. It can be a relaxing rest-day activity, and you can socialize with friends or listen to podcasts at the same time.
Guidelines for sewing a small tear
1. Choose your thread
If matching a color is important to you, bring a variety of thread options. If not then just use whatever you have.
2. Prepare to sew
Thread the needle and tie an overhand knot at the end. Turn your clothing item inside out.
3. Stitch ‘er up!
Choose a starting place near the tear and sew a stopper stitch. To do this, stitch one stitch, and before pulling it tight, thread your needle through the loop you’ve just made. You’ll do this at the end too.
Stitch ‘er up! It’s not rocket science, and if your stitches aren’t even or pretty, just remember that it’s better than a hole, and also your technique will improve over time.
The old saying prevails, “a stitch in time saves nine.”
At the end, stitch another stopper knot and then tie an overhand knot near the fabric. If you have thread left over that is worth saving for the next job tie another overhand not in the thread half an inch away from the fabric.
Then cut the thread between the two overhand knots. Now your thread is knotted and threaded on the needle ready for your next repair job.
Guidelines for a hole or for thin/worn fabric
This next level of repair requires some scrap fabric to be used on the inside of your garment.
1. Prepare and place your scrap fabric
Lay your clothing item inside out on a flat surface and smooth out any wrinkles. Cut a piece of fabric much larger than the hole—it’s better to cut it too big rather than too small. You can trim around the edges once you’re finished.
Use safety pins around the border of the fabric to hold it in place.
2. Sew the scrap in place
Sew around the border of the patch fabric, being sure to keep the thread loose. Don’t pull your thread tight with each stitch! If you do, you’ll end up with a bunchy repair and the thread will break when you stretch it.
Once your border is sewn, remove the safety pins and turn your clothing item right side out. Now sew any torn fabric to the new patch fabric. This will reinforce the cloth and slow down future wear.
I hope this tutorial helps you extend the life of your clothing, encourages you to avoid buying “fast fashion” (did you know that Americans discard on average 80 lbs of clothing a year into landfills, and most of these garments are plastic polyester?!), and ultimately helps make our world a more humane place (warm fuzzies for the end!).
Simple repairs like this can make your gear last a lot longer than you ever expected. Here is an example of an item that I’ve repaired many times. I learned to use a large piece of patch fabric instead of several smaller pieces.
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