Jeans are probably the most popular item people bring to our workshops. It is really tricky to find jeans to fit perfectly and once you find a pair you don’t want to stop wearing them. We have helped many people repair their favourite jeans to be worn again and again. However, it can happen that the repair needs repairing.
I fixed my nieces favourite jeans about two years ago. She has worn them continually and they need repairing again. I know I should be encouraging her to repair her own jeans, that will be the next step! Patches are great but they do weaken the fabric and can rip again after lots of wear. There is no need to unpick the original patch, just patch on top.
Here is a video to show how I got on – but I will admit that the legs of the jeans are narrow and it was tricky fitting them onto my sewing machine.
We’ve enjoyed meeting lots of people for our online clothes mending workshops and mend-a-longs. We miss meeting everyone in person but online has the advantage that attendees can join from all over the UK, Ireland and even as far away as Canada. It has been a real positive of being in lockdown helping people mend their clothes. The chats as we mend have been varied and a theme that has come up often is what type of thread to use. We have pulled together a our top tips to help…
Our philosophy at Fast Fashion Therapy is to re-use threads and other materials where ever possible. There are millions of supplies out there that someone doesn’t want that is useful for someone else. Why use up the Earth’s resources creating something new when the chances are what you want could be thrown away by someone else? Many of my threads of all colours, substrates and qualities have been donated by family and friends. I inherited my nan’s sewing box when she died and it brings me comfort to know she mended her clothes with these same threads. Including some beautiful wooden reels with the Woolworths price sticker still intact.
Charity shops are a fantastic source of haberdashery when they are back open. I always head to the back of the shop and hunt around baskets on shelves hidden behind vases and picture frames. Often picking up a bundle for £1.
Ebay and Gumtree are great if there is something particular you are after or it isn’t possible to get to a charity shop. I picked up these used industrial reels of thread in various blues for our denim patching kits. I then transfer them onto plastic reels that have also been reused. I put out a request on the Facebook group The Fold Line, used by dressmakers. Many of them had kept the reels but didn’t know what to do with them. They were happy to post them to me knowing that they were going to be reused rather than thrown away.
It is important to note if your thread is particularly vintage and has been stored in sunlight or heat it could become brittle and break easily. Try the thread before you use it. It should be difficult to break between your fingers. If it snaps easily it is best not to use it for clothes mending otherwise the stitches will not hold.
What thread should I use to mend my clothes?
The rule of thumb is to match the composition of the thread to the composition of the garment. For example use 100% cotton thread for cotton jeans. However, with so much stretch being included in our modern day garments, this rule doesn’t always follow. You can find technical tables online that tell you which threads to use for which fabrics. We like to keep things simple at FFT so have summarised the threads below
100% Polyester Thread
This is an all purpose thread and will work for pretty much all fabrics. It can be used on the sewing machine and for hand sewing. Polyester thread is particularly good for fabrics that have some stretch in them and will stretch with the fabric rather than fighting against it. A downside of Polyester thread is it will not absorb domestic and natural fabric dyes. So if you want to dye a piece of clothing the stitching will stay the same colour. I have done this and it can look quite effective. If you are looking to buy new Polyester thread rather than a reused thread then we recommend sourcing one that has been made from recycled materials. Such as the Gutterman thread in the photo.
100% Cotton Thread
This thread is great for topstitching jeans and other cotton and linen garments. It tends to be slightly thicker than regular Polyester thread. It doesn’t have any stretch and isn’t recommended for stretch fabrics. If you can’t find what you are looking for pre-loved then we like these organic cotton threads from Scanfil. Boro stitching is a decorative method of clothes mending that derives from Japan. Traditionally thicker cotton thread is used in white. We found these cones of 4-ply (4 strands twisted together) on Gumtree to include in our jeans mending kits. We use other colours too but white against dark denim is traditional.
A bit more unusual, this thread is useful for sewing highly stretched fabrics such as swimming costumes, leggings and other sportswear. It is also waterproof so works well for mending showerproof jackets. It is widely available in black and white, other colours might be more difficult to come by in small reels. We bought a large reel from eBay to re-wind onto re-used reels for our sportswear mending kits.
The only time I’ve use this is to mend silk garments but it is also useful for wool garments. It has a slight stretch to it so could be useful for jersey fabrics if you wanted a natural alternative to Polyester.
The sewing threads listed above can be used to darn T-shirts and thinner jersey fabrics such as leggings but we recommend thicker yarns for darning knitwear. The same rule applies that it is best to match the fibre content of the mending yarn as much as you can with the fibre content of the knitwear. Mending yarn is usually sold in a variety of colours but is nearly always a blend of wool and nylon. This is a good all purpose yarn, great for socks, jersey stretch fabric and most jumpers. However there are some special items that we recommend using specific yarn. Maybe a merino wool fine gauge jumper. Or a thick, cosy cashmere cardigan. We have sourced a variety of yarns for our darning mending kits from eBay and Gumtree that we have repurposed into smaller bundles for mending.
It is also important to mend the width of the yarn with that of the jumper. For example, I would use a 2-ply (two threads twisted together) yarn on a fine gauge knit jumper. I would use a thicker 4 or 6-ply yarn on a chunky knitted jumper.
An old tin, plastic box with a lid or a shoe box is useful to store threads in. I have heard of people wrapping the reels with elastic bands to stop the threads coming lose and matting together. Maybe I’ll save that job for another time…
Join one of our online workshops and learn how to mend your clothes. Try an introduction to both darning and patching or a specialist masterclass for each technique. Each workshop includes the price of a clothes mending kit worth £10.
£5 discount if you book a darning and patching workshop together. They don’t have to be the same date.
Booking ends 5 days before the workshop date so that we can get your kit to you in time. Kit is worth £10, as seen on our Etsy shop. The workshop will take place via Zoom, joining details will be sent a few days in advance of the class.
Each workshop lasts 90 minutes (except the Slow Sunday event, which is 60mins). It includes live demonstrations, time to practice and ask questions. Please get in touch with any queries.
Jeans are one of the most popular items to repair at our workshops. Many people bring along jeans that have worn away between the thighs and ask if they can be repaired – yes is the answer and there are two ways of repairing. By hand and a Boro style stitch as shown in part one of this jeans mending series. In part two we show how to mend jeans with a sewing machine.
Usually people prefer to mend their jeans in this particular spot as inconspicuously as possible. Jeans come in so many different colours and shades try and match the sewing thread as close as possible. Mid-blue and pale grey work well on worn denim jeans. As part of our denim patching kit we offer 3 different colour blue threads on one reel. All are from larger reels of deadstock wound onto used plastic reels (thanks to a Facebook sewing group).
Sewing needle (sharp ended to get through the denim)
Dressmaker pins to hold the patch in place or safety pins also work well
Tape measure or ruler to measure the patch
Thread – I use a blue to match the denim (not white shown in the photo)
*TOP TIP* save pieces of denim cut from taking jeans up or save old jeans to use for patches.
As in part 1 of this blog the first step is to measure the hole in the jeans. If the hole is on both sides of the centre seam then use one patch to fit over the whole area. Cut a piece of denim that is a similar weight, feel and texture to the jeans you are mending. Set your machine to a zig zag setting. Nearly all domestic sewing machines have a zig zag setting. Have a practice on a scrap piece of fabric and change the stitch width and length settings to get the shape of zig zag that you prefer. Zig zag stitch just inside the outer edge of the patch. Sew around all 4 edges to prevent fraying.
Keep the jeans the right side out and open the fastenings as far as they will go. Place the patch over the the holes. Usually the holes are on the back side of the jeans, keep the patch on that side of the centre seam. Use dressmakers pins to pin in place.
Working on the right side of the jeans, feed the jeans under the presser foot of the machine. Take your time and wiggle the jeans to get them in place
Before you start sewing, trace the patch with your finger to make sure it is still in place and hasn’t folded over
Starting at the point where the two centre seams cross, sew a zig zag line following the line of one of the centre seams
Stop at the edge of the patch taking care not to go over the pins otherwise you will break a needle
Put the needle into the denim, lift up the presser foot and pivot the jeans 90 degrees
You want to come back and sew in the opposite direction that you have just sewn. But don’t sew over the same line, move the fabric of the jeans over so you end up creating rows of zig zag stitching. They don’t have to be exact
Once you have gone one way, turn the jeans so that you follow the line of the other centre seam. Crossing over the zig zag lines you have just sewn.
Demonstrated in the video below *top tip* if your sewing machine is missing stitches and not sewing the zig zag properly, trying switching to a denim needle. It isn’t always necessary to buy one specially but it does help this error.
I’ve used both techniques on this one pair of jeans to demonstrate the difference. Both work well and are both secure. Personally I like the meditative effect of hand sewing but machine sewing gets the job done quicker. Both methods won’t last forever. If another hole appears or the patching has worn away, place another patch on top and repeat the instructions. Don’t remove the original patching, the new patch will make it stronger. Want to find out more? Come along to one of our clothes mending workshops
The clothes we wear to exercise are some of the most common garments in need of repair. Whether it’s tearing them when you’re stretching that bit too far, being worn down from lots of washing or falling off your bike (like in this case). The synthetic, non-woven fabrics that they’re normally made of can be some of the trickier ones to mend but classic repair techniques can still work.
I used an old pair of sports leggings (after a lot of years wear had seen better days), cut some of the fabric off the bottom of them and made two patches for patching the hole in the knees of my favourite leggings. Patches made from old T-shirts and jersey underwear also works.
I hand stitched the patches onto the leggings first to hold them in place, placing one patch on each knee. Only the right leg had a hole in but I felt it would look better on this style of leggings to make each side match.
I then used the zig-zag stitch on the sewing machine to sew around all four edges. Working from the front in a matching thread, I incorporated the edge of the patch within the zig zag stitch as much as possible. Jersey doesn’t fray so if a bit is missed it isn’t too important.
To sew in a square it is important to ‘pivot’ the needle. This is done by sewing along one edge of the square. Stop a few millimetres before reaching the end, place the needle in the fabric and lift up the presser foot. Turn the fabric 90 degrees. Put down the presser foot and continue along this line. Carry on using this technique until you reach where you started. Secure the stitch by a short reverse stitch.
I’ve already cycled, ran and done some yoga in the leggings since repairing them and the stitch has not come undone. Please get in touch if you have a sportswear query you would like some advice on repairing.
If you don’t have a sewing machine you could try to replicate the zig-zag stitch or try using an overstitch as explained in our video below.
We designed this graphic last year before the start of the Covid Pandemic. We had been running two workshops a week and people brought along their clothes to repair. We did an audit to find out the most popular items of clothing to repair and the main issues they had. Jeans were one of the most popular items to repair. Many of them had worn away between the thighs and needed repairing. Usually the rest of the denim is perfectly fine. Mending the jeans brings them back to life, ready to wear again!
With the hole being in between the thighs, I prefer to use a denim patch along with matching thread rather than making a feature of the mend. Not quite invisible mending but not as obvious as visible mending as the example in the how to video. The above photo is of my favourite jeans which have been patched several times. Rather than take off the original patching, I add layers to it and patch over the new holes. I’ve been asked if it makes the jeans uncomfortable to wear but I don’t notice the difference.
First step is to measure the hole in the jeans. If the hole is on both sides of the centre seam then use one patch to fit over the whole area. Cut a piece of denim that is a similar weight, feel and texture to the jeans you are mending. Sew an overstitch around all four edges to prevent the edges from fraying.
Keep the jeans the right side out and open the fastenings as far as they will go. Place the patch over the the holes. Usually the holes are on the back side of the jeans, keep the patch on that side of the centre seam so it covers the holes on both sides of the centre seam. Pin in place with safety pins or dressmaker pins. An embroidery hoop placed over the area you will be stitching is useful to hold the fabric taught. But it isn’t essential.
In the video above, Eleanor demonstrates how to patch using the Japanese Boro style technique. This technique can be used for all woven fabrics, not just denim. The below video is my husband (Craig) mending his jeans after I taught him this technique. He can sew on a button but usually leaves the clothes mending to me. This is the first time he has tried Boro style patching, I wanted to share the video to show you don’t have to be a sewing whiz to mend your own jeans. Hand sewing is great for mindfulness too!
We are running monthly virtual workshops teaching patching and darning. Join us to learn Boro style patching with the opportunity to practice and ask questions. Book via Eventbrite on the button below. The class takes place via Zoom, instructions and a patching kit (worth £10) is sent in advance of the workshop. Hope to see you there.
It is that time of the year when my jumpers and cardigans swap their under-the-bed storage home with my summer clothes. Moths like to eat dirty clothes so I washed my knitwear before I stored them away in an airtight bag. Bringing them back out into the Autumn light, I can see their are in need of refreshing and repair…
Refreshing & Washing
I prefer not to wash my knitwear too frequently. It can cause more pilling (bobbling) and shrinkage. Instead I gave them a refresh. The most effective way to refresh your clothes is to hang them outside in the fresh air. I live in a flat without a balcony so this is how I refresh my clothes:
Boil half a litre (1 pint) of water and let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, add 10 drops of tea tree essential oil and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. 30ml of witch hazel is also useful if available. Tea Tree oil is thought to work as a natural insect repellent, including moths. Lavender is a well known remedy to prevent moths and I also prefer the smell to Tea Tree, so this blend works better for me.
I added the solution to a rinsed out spray bottle that I had previously been an eco-friendly cleaning product. Any spray bottle will do but it is best not to use one that previously contained bleach just in case there is any residue as it will damage your clothes. I place my jumper over the ironing board, give it a generous spray then hold over a steam iron. Ensure the iron is on the wool setting, too hot and it will shrink your knits. I only pressed the iron very gently on the knitwear, more of a hover and using the steam to refresh (see video below). The jumper is still damp at this point so I placed flat over a clothes rack so the water didn’t weigh down and stretch the jumper.
When washing knitwear it is important to take notice of the care instructions in the label. I prefer to handwash my knits or if using a machine then I set it to the lowest spin cycle. A special wool detergent is recommended such as the one from Ecover.
Knitwear shouldn’t be dried on a hanger or a washing line / rack. The water in the knit construction will be heavy, causing it to stretch. It prefer to lay the knitwear flat on a concertina clothes airer with a towel underneath to catch the water.
De-Pilling or de-bobbling
Small bobbles seem to appear on jumpers out of nowhere. I am constantly de-bobbling! It is technically known as pilling and is caused by the friction of two pieces of fabric rubbing together. Under the arm is a common place or if you carry a bag regularly you will notice pilling where the bag is in contact with the jumper (or any type of fabric). Some fibres bobble more than others, I seem to always choose the bobbling type! The video above includes two ways of getting rid of the bobbles and the final refresh as described in the paragraph above.
Loose or Pulled Threads
I bought this jumper in a charity shop, perfect condition except for a long piece of yarn hanging from the sleeve. It had probably got caught on a clothing tag whilst in the shop. Here is a quick video on how to pull through the yarn or thread to the underside of the jumper to prevent causing a hole.
We love darning at Fast Fashion Therapy. The mindfulness of the stitching and the sense of achievement when repairing a hole. One of my cardigans had a hole directly under the button. I removed the button first, repaired the hole by darning with a matching yarn. I chose a matching yarn rather than making a feature of this darn as it is only a small hole that will be covered by the button. I sewed the button back on and voila! My cardigan is ready to wear.
Overstitch is a simple and effective hand sewing technique. It is really useful when it comes to mending clothes. The stitch can prevent fraying, hold two pieces of fabric together or useful for patching.
In a previous blog we shared our favourite mask tutorials as recommended by attendees of our workshops. In this ‘how to’ blog we want to show how to turn an old t-shirt into a collection of face masks.
We’ve used a large men’s unwanted T-shirt.
We cut around the seams to create larger, flat pieces of fabric. We saved the buttons from the placket for another project.
We then ironed the fabric flat, smooth out the creases to make it easier to cut out the shapes for the masks.
There are so many great patterns and videos out there demonstrating how to make masks we haven’t done our own one. But what we have done is pulled together our favourite videos and those recommended by our workshop attendees.
For these masks we followed the Leah Day tutorial. We’ve made lots of these masks so we already had a paper pattern ready, created from the measurements given. Making a paper pattern speeds up the process rather than measuring out the squares each time.
We laid the pattern flat on the fabric and pinned around the corners and edges before cutting. We managed to get 5 mask patterns from one T-shirt.
Instead of using elastic to hold the mask around the ears, we cut thin strips of the T-shirt fabric. We used a piece of ribbon as a pattern, cutting it to the required length. Pinned the ribbon to the T-shirt fabric and cut 10 strips (5 pairs).
Once cut, we pulled the short ends of the strips gently away from each other. This caused the ends to curl in on each other and now work perfectly to hold the mask on around the ears, in place of elastic. Jersey doesn’t fray so the edges don’t need to be hemmed or finished with a zig-zag stitch.
The leftover pieces, too small to make a mask, have been saved for future projects. T-shirt fabric is useful for patching leggings, T-shirts and other stretch clothing.
We found that using a zig zag stitched worked best on the T-shirt fabric. We also used a jersey needle for our machine. Another tip: we used a purple thread for the bobbin so one side of the mask has a different colour thread. This is so when you wear it and take it off briefly, you know which way it was so it can be worn in the same way.
We recommend for the masks to only be worn at a few hours before being washed. Or if it has been worn for a length of time. For example, when we are travelling on the train, we wear one mask and then put it in a draw string bag at the end of the journey. We then wear a clean mask for the return journey home. We keep our clean masks in one bag and carry a spare bag for the dirty masks. Then wash the masks and bag in hot soapy water once we get home. Click here for details on how to make bags for your masks.
Important to note
All the videos note that the masks are not suitable in a clinical setting. Wearing a mask is required in the UK for shopping and travelling on public transport. They could possibly stop the wearer spreading the virus to someone else but they probably do not protect the wearer from catching the disease. The mask must be washed after each wear. Place the mask over your mouth and nose before leaving home. Do not touch your face or remove the mask whilst out and about. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face to remove the mask. Place the mask in a drawstring bag and wash them both on a hot soapy wash.
With a round tummy area, I often have a problem that my shorts and trousers are too small around the waist. These shorts are not too bad when I am standing up but when I sit down the button flies off, even when I have sewn it on securely. With the hot weather we have been having I needed to make these shorts fit more comfortably. Here is what I did…
In a previous post, I cut the elastic off some worn out men’s boxer shorts. I still have quite a bit of the elastic left. I cut two pieces each measuring 6cm in length. Leaving the width as it is (it will fray if cut).
On the front of the shorts, the waistband had a stitched side seam. This was easy to unpick with some sharp scissors and an unpicker (seam ripper). I unpicked both sides.
I wasn’t able to unpick the waistband on the reverse as it was one piece of fabric. So I cut it with some sharp scissors down just past the line of stitching.
I inserted one piece of the elastic under the channel of the waistband and pinned in place. I repeated this with the other end of the waistband and made sure it lay flat before pinning. Using a zig zag stitch on my sewing machine I stitched down over the raw edge of the waistband side seam, incorporating the elastic. Zig zag stitch is useful for elastic and stretch fabric as it stretches with the elastic. I used a regular running stitch along the bottom edge of the waist band to re-fix the area I had cut.
I then repeated this for the other side of the waistband. So that I had two pieces of elastic inserted on each side of the waist of the shorts. If you don’t have a sewing machine you can replicated the zig zag stitch by hand. It is best to use a thimble as it is a lot of fabric to get through and will make your fingers sore otherwise.
My last job was to sew the button on. I had lost the original button, so I chose one from my spare button jar. Before I sewed the button on, I checked it fitted through the button hole and was large enough to hold the thick fabric of the waistband. Watch our video on how to sew on a button. If you need some odd buttons for your collection, we sell a pack on our Etsy shop.
I can now comfortably sit down in my shorts with the button safely in place and they are more comfortable to wear. An alternative way to fix a waistband is to change it completely. In this how to blog post I replace the waistband of some pyjama bottoms. The same technique can be used for any shorts, trousers or skirts.