How to Refresh & Repair Knitwear

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.

Darning

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.

Most of my jumpers had small holes in so I spent a bit of time darning before refreshing them (my tights too!). A darning mushroom is a useful tool that can be bought from good haberdashery shops and picked up in vintage and charity shops. How about following our tips on what to use around the house instead of a darning mushroom?

Or try an even more decorative method of repairing holes in knitwear as shown in our video below.


Darning Kits

We have pulled together a selection of darning kits to help you mend your knitwear, available on our Etsy shop for £10 including postage within the UK.

Clothing Maintenance 101: Overstitch

How to sew an overstitch

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.

Watch our video on how to sew an overstitch

Examples of using an overstitch

Repairing a rip on a pillowcase by cutting a square of fabric from inside the pillowcase
Using a thicker thread and a larger stitch has created a decorative effect when patching this leather bag with faux suede
Mending a bra by overstitching a piece of ribbon over the underwire channel preventing the wire from poking out and digging into the skin.
Creating an Elbow patch by using a thicker yarn and sewing the stitches very close together. Georgina from Pebble Magazine mended her tweed jacket by covering the elbow rib with the patch.

How to make a face mask from a T-shirt

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.

How to make a waistband bigger

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.

Need help with your repairs? Why not join our next virtual zoom mending session on 14th September 2020. Sign up to our newsletter for more details.

How To Repair Leggings

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.

How To Make a New Waistband

I’m ashamed to admit I bought these pyjama bottoms 4 years ago. I didn’t try them on until I got home and soon realised the waist was too small and I couldn’t get them over my hips. I didn’t get round to returning them within the 28 day limit and they have sat in my mending pile ever since. Sound familiar? It was time to fix them!

I started unpicking the stitching on one of our virtual mending socials and forgot to take a ‘before’ photo but they had a couple of pleats tucked into the waistband. This gave me extra width to work with. I unpicked the waistband from the main body of the trousers using an seam ripper or unpicker. As I unpicked the stitches the pleats lay flat. I tried the PJ bottoms on and they easily fitted over my hips.

Equipment needed for this fix: Dressmaker pins, sharp scissors, sewing thread, sewing needles or a sewing machine, tape measure, iron, ironing board and an unpicker (not in photo).

I was looking for a soft fabric to replace the waistband to give extra comfort. My husband no longer wanted some of his boxer shorts as the fabric had shrunk after many washes. What a great resource of fabric and elastic! The colours of the stripe pair worked well with the colours on my pyjama bottoms.

I cut the elastic off the top of the boxers and then cut around the stitching at the front opening of the boxers. It created one long piece of jersey fabric with no seams. Perfect!

I measured the depth of the original waistband and also the new elastic from the boxers that I was going to be using. The elastic was slightly deeper than the original waistband so I used the elastic measurements. I doubled this measurement and added 2cm to the depth (seam allowance to attach to the pyjama bottoms). E.g. 5cm depth x 2 = 10 + 2cm seam allowance = 12cm deep.

I measured the waist of the PJ bottoms with the tape measure. They will be too big but I am going to add elastic later on to draw them in. I used the same measurement along the length of the boxer short fabric. The fabric wasn’t quite long enough so I measured 12cm depth of the waistband and cut two lengths from one end of the fabric to the other.

I stitched these two lengths of fabric together using a zig-zag stitch (right sides together, facing each other). Jersey fabric likes to be able to stretch and using a zig-zag stitch (by machine or hand) gives it flexibility. I now had a piece of jersey long enough to fit around the PJ bottoms. I measured it against the waist measurement I had made earlier and added 2cm for seam allowance. I cut the waistband to this measurement.

I sewed the two ends of the new waistband together using a zig-zag stitch. Match the two short ends, right sides of the fabric together. The seam that I made earlier was showing, wrong side out.

One of my favourite pieces of equipment for sewing is an ironing board. It is useful for cutting out long lengths of fabric and for this part of the process, it is a good height to pin the waistband to the PJ bottoms. I placed the opening of the PJs over the end of the ironing board, laying it flat (give it a press if needed). Starting on the back centre seam of the PJs and working on the right side. I placed the long edge of the waistband to the edge of the PJs, right sides of the fabric together.

I used pins to keep the waistband in place. I moved the PJs around the ironing board until reaching the centre back seam, where I started. Placing the pins vertical makes it is easier to remove them as you sew and unlikely to break a needle if you miss one. Because the jersey stretches, I was able to ‘ease’ the waistband to the waist of the PJs. If it is too big then make a small pleat. Once the elastic is added it won’t show. If the waistband is too small then stretch it to fit the PJ bottoms. If it is very small then another piece of fabric will need to be added into the waistband.

I stitched the waistband to the PJ bottoms using a 1cm seam allowance and a zig-zag stitch.

Back to the ironing board and I pressed open the seam I had just created. Tucking the raw edges up towards the waistband. This will be hidden in the next step

Working on the wrong side, I folded the waistband in half, front to back, so it covered the line of stitching I had created by 1cm. Pin in place working around the waistband. It is important to not sew a gap of about 8cm. I like to use the back seam as a marker but it can be anywhere. Add two pins adjacent to each other at either ends of this gap to remind you to stop stitching at this point. We need this gap to insert the elastic.

Working on the front, I used a technique called ‘stitch in the ditch’ to secure the back of the waistband down but it isn’t visible on the front of the waistband. I lined the needle of my sewing machine up literally in the ditch created by the seam of the waistband and PJ bottoms. If you are sewing by hand then work from the reverse of the garment and use a hem stitch. Don’t worry if the stitching goes off centre, it just takes a bit of practice.

I cut the circle of elastic from the boxer shorts to make one long length. I needed a bit extra so I used some elastic from another pair and stitched them together flat in a square as below. I used a zig-zag stitch to give extra stretch.

Once I had a longer length of elastic, I measured it around my waist. I needed 2cm on both pieces so I can sew them together.

I Placed a large safety pin in one end of the elastic.

I inserted the safety pin and elastic into the gap of the waistband that was missed from sewing.

I pushed it through the waistband until it reached the other end. Make sure you don’t loose the other end of the elastic. Safety pin it to the fabric of the PJs to be sure.

I pulled both ends of the elastic out of the waistband and pined them together using the 2cm seam allowance on both pieces. Lay them flat and make sure they are not twisted in the waistband. Re-pin them if the elastic is twisted. Using the same method as I did to fix the two pieces of elastic together, sew a square using a zig-zag stitch.

Tuck the elastic into the waistband. Press the waistband flat with a light steam and not pressing too hard. Try the PJs on before you sew the waistband. Mine were a bit loose so I cut the elastic at another point and stitched it together again using the above method.

I pinned the opening of the waistband in place and stitched from the front as I did previously. If you miss any bits of waistband, just go over them. It won’t show once the elastic gathers the waistband together.

I’m so happy with my new PJ bottoms! After 4 years of them sitting in a pile it is really satisfying to be able to finally wear them and they are super comfy! This method can be used to alter a waistband to any trousers, shorts or skirt as long as they have pleats to give a bit of extra fabric. Or if you have some that are too big then this method will gather the waist in.

How to Fix a Bra

Underwire sticking out of a bra and into the skin is uncomfortable but quick and easy to fix! It is a common problem, likely to happen when bras are washed in the washing machine. Follow these simple instructions and fix that bra!

Equipment

  • Piece of ribbon, tape or bias binding
  • Sharp scissors
  • Sewing thread
  • Sewing needles

Instructions

Choose a piece of tape or ribbon that is a similar width to the wire casing. We’ve chosen a piece of Petersham ribbon. It has ridges widthwise and is strong but pliable. It is often used in making hats. We cut this piece from a handle of a paper gift bag.

Trim the length of the ribbon so it is long enough to cover the hole on the inside of the bra and hem over on the front side of the bra.

Push the wire back into it’s casing. If it is stiff, use a thimble or push the end of the wire down onto the table. Manoeuvre the wire into it’s casing by wriggling it around until it stays in place.

Thread a needle, double the thread and make a knot at the end. There will be a narrow edge on the wire casing that hasn’t been stitched down. Use this edge to sew along. Start with one or two stitches just below the hole before attaching the ribbon to make sure the needle passes through easily. We are switching to white thread so it shows up in the photos but you can match the thread with the bra or ribbon if preferred.

Place the ribbon or tape a few millimetres below the hole and sew the edge of the ribbon to the edge of the wire casing using an overstitch. Watch the video below on how to sew an overstitch. Hold the ribbon in place with your non-sewing hand as you sew as it will be too thick to secure with a pin.

As you get to the top edge of the bra, fold the ribbon over to the front of the bra and keep sewing the ribbon to the front. Most bras have a decorative ribbon, move this out of the way with your non-sewing hand. Continue sewing until you get a few millimetres from the base of the ribbon. Tuck the edge of the ribbon underneath itself and overstitch in place. Continue up the other side of the ribbon until you reach the top front of the bra.

This isn’t the neatest bit of sewing as it is quite tricky to sew with one hand and hold the ribbon in place with the other. But it is secure and as we like to say at Fast Fashion Therapy ‘done is better than perfect’. Also, if the thread matches the ribbon the stitching will be less visible.

The wire may poke through the ribbon after more wears and washes. If this happens then unpick the original mend and start again with a fresh piece of ribbon or tape. No more painful digging in bras! Click here to read our post on how to refresh knickers.

Underwear SOS – How to refresh those tired knickers

Without going into too many intimate details, many of the pairs of pants or knickers that we own get damaged or stained in the same area. The majority of the fabric that makes the knickers is still in good condition and perfectly useable, but the (often) cotton gusset that lines the inside of the knicker becomes discoloured or weak from regular wear. This ‘How to’ blog will take you through a simple technique to replace the cotton gusset using old t-shirt fabric and keep your undies going for even longer!

A mini mountain of tired knickers ready to be repaired
What you need to get started – Pre-loved knickers, cotton jersey fabric, sharp fabric scissors, paper scissors, paper, pencil, ruler, pins, sewing thread, either hand stitching needles or a sewing machine

To get started, you’ll need to find some cotton jersey fabric, this could be from an old (but not too damaged/stained) t-shirt you have at home or you can buy cotton jersey fabric online (there are lots of sustainable options for this too, Offset Warehouse usually have a good selection). I’m using the bottom of a t-shirt that I cut off to turn it into a cropped style. This blog shows how to do the technique on a classic knicker style, it can be adapted for other styles, it’ll just get more fiddly the tinier your underwear is!

As well as this, you’ll need your much-loved knickers, fabric scissors, paper scissors, matching or contrasting sewing thread (depending on your style), pencil, paper, ruler and dressmaking pins. This blog will show how to do the technique with a sewing machine, but it could be done using hand-stitching as well.

First off, start by using your fabric scissors to cut the cotton gusset that is already in the knickers away along the edge of the elastic and across the seams on the top and bottom. Be careful when you’re doing this not to cut the outer fabric and create any more holes in your underwear, you can pull the top fabric up as you cut to avoid catching the outer fabric. Try to keep the fabric you cut away in one piece as this will be used in the next stage.

Using the piece of fabric you have cut out, draw around the shape of it onto your piece of paper. Once you have drawn all the way around, use a ruler to measure another line 1cm from the edge of the shape and draw all the way around. This is the template you will use for cutting your new gusset out.

Use some pins to secure your paper template onto the cotton jersey fabric you are working with and cut around the shape with your fabric scissors. If you have lots of knickers that are a similar size and shape in need of repair, you might be able to use this template for all of them. It’s good to check the style and sizing of the gusset on each one before you cut the fabric out so you don’t waste any fabric.

Taking your cotton jersey fabric, line the top wider edge of the piece up with the seam in your knickers that joins to the area of fabric that covers your bottom (this is where the original gusset would have been attached). Pin the jersey fabric to the pants along the top line of this seam so that when the fabric is folded back over, it will be covered.

Either using your sewing machine or a hand-stitching needle, sew a straight line along this top edge where you have pinned. If using a sewing machine, remember to reverse stitch at the start and end of the line. Using a slightly longer stitch setting than normal can help the tension to be correct on stretch fabrics like these. If you are sewing by hand, it’s best to use a backstitch to make the stitching stronger, you can find a ‘how to’ video on this technique here.

Once you’ve stitched this line, you might want to cut away some of the excess seam allowance and then fold the fabric over so it roughly sits in line with the knickers underneath.

You’ll then do a similar process on the other narrower end of the gusset. This side is a little bit trickier as the other end is already sewn down, so you are not able to lie the fabric totally flat. Find the seam where the original gusset was attached and fold the end of the new gusset so it lines up with this and covers it. You’ll then need to pin just the bottom layer of this fold to the fabric of the knickers below, be careful not to catch any extra bits of fabric when you are pinning.

Once it is pinned correctly in place, you can sew a line of straight stitching in the same way as before, either using a machine or by hand. Again, be careful not to catch any extra bits of fabric as you sew as you can’t get it completely flat. The first time I sewed these I caught a bit of the fabric and created a fold which I then had to unpick. Creating a fold in the fabric won’t damage the knickers but it might make them less comfortable to wear. Once the stitching is done, you can cut away the excess fabric from the seam allowance so that it looks roughly like the image above on the right.

The next stage uses the zig-zag stitch on the sewing machine to secure the two longer sides to the elasticated edge of the knickers. I used the same slightly longer stitch setting as before with a medium width. Line your needle and presser foot up with the elastic edging of the knickers on top of the new gusset fabric and lower. Once secure pull of both layers of the fabric and stitch a line along the edge of it. Keep pulling on the fabric as you stitch, this will help to keep the stretch in the elastic. You can try to follow the ridge of the elastic underneath as a guide for a neater finish. Remember to reverse stitch at the start and end of the line.

This process might be a little harder to replicate using hand stitching as you need to pull on the fabric as you stitch. You could still do this if you pull the fabric in smaller sections and then stitch, pulling and stitching as you work your way along the line. It’s best to try and mirror the shape of the zig-zag stitching by hand if possible, you can use the same backstitch technique you used before but in the zig-zag shape.

Stitch along both edges of the gusset, once you have finished you can trim away the excess cotton jersey fabric on either side to neaten it up and trim away the loose threads. And you have one pair of refreshed knickers!

The gusset on some knickers you own might be attached in a slightly different way to this. Sometimes they are only attached along the two longer edges and not on the narrower edges on the top and bottom. This could be to speed up production times or to protect the fragile fabric that is used to make the rest of the knicker. The two narrower edges would normally be overlocked if made in a factory. If you are repairing knickers like these at home, you could instead use your sewing machine to bind the edges of the gusset using the zig-zag stitch. Or do a similar stitch by hand, trapping the edge of the fabric and folding it slightly so it doesn’t fray.

The gusset on this pair of knicker was attached on one end and loose at the other. In this case, I attached the wider end as before and then zig-zag stitched the narrower end. You can then stitch down the two longer sides along the elasticated edges like before.

Knickers back in action!

Make a Bag For Your Mask

Have you made a mask or face covering to help protect yourself and others from Covid-19? You might find it useful to make a bag to keep your face covering in. We have made two of these drawstring bags. One to keep a clean mask in and one to store the worn mask. These instructions will help you make this practical and simple bag.

Materials Required

  • Sheet of paper (newspaper, parcel paper or A4 piece of paper)
  • Scrap of fabric measuring 40 x 60cm (or smaller pieces sewn together to create the same size)
  • Paper scissors & fabric scissors
  • Sewing thread
  • Sewing needle or sewing machine
  • Dressmaker pins
  • Piece of cord or ribbon measuring a minimum of 45cm
  • Iron and ironing board

1. Create a template

Create a template or pattern for the bag from a piece of paper. Draw a rectangle on the paper 20cm x 30cm. Cut out the rectangle using paper scissors. Or use a sheet of A4 paper as the template, it is approximately the same size.

2. Cut out the fabric

Fold the fabric in half, short edge to short edge. Place the short edge of the template so it lines up with the folded edge of the fabric. Pin in place and cut around the edge of the template with the fabric scissors. We created a bigger piece of fabric from 4 smaller squares. We sewed them together to make a piece measuring 40 x 60cm. We finished the raw edges with a zig-zag stitch.

3. Pin the pieces together

Remove the pins from the template. Keep the fabric folded in half. If your fabric has a print or an obvious right and wrong side, ensure the right sides of the fabrics are placed together, facing each other. Pin the two pieces together by placing the pins vertical to the edge. On one of the long edges, place a pin 4cm from the open top edge. Use a different type of pin or make a mark with a pen so you remember this point when you are sewing.

4. Start sewing

It is quicker to make the bags using a sewing machine but it can also be sewn by hand using an backstitch as shown in our video here. Use a 1.5cm seam allowance (the row of stitching should be 1.5cm from the edge of the fabric). Draw a line on the fabric to help keep the line straight (but don’t worry if you wobble a bit, the bag will still be usable). Start sewing the long edge at the mark you made 4cm down from the top to the bottom edge. Sew the second long edge from the top down to the bottom folded edge. Finish the raw edges by sewing a zig-zag stitch along the edge of the fabric, sewing the two edges together. This will stop the fabric fraying when washed. (Use an over stitch if hand sewing)

5. Create a channel for the cord

Fold over the top open edge by 1cm, right side to wrong side and press with a hot iron (be careful the steam doesn’t burn your fingers). Fold the edge again by another 3cm. Tuck in the open ends to create the opening for the cord. Press with the iron and pin in place.

Sew a row of stitching around the edge you have just folded over. Approximately 5mm from the edge. Remove the pins as you sew.

6. Add the cord

Measure a 45cm length of cord or ribbon (We cut them off the tops of used paper shopping and gift bags). Secure a large safety pin to one end of the cord. Insert the pin into the channel created by the hem.

Push the pin through the channel until it reaches the opening the other end of the bag. Be careful not to loose the other end of the cord as you push it through.

Tie the two ends of the cord together with a knot. Turn the bag the right way out, give it a quick press and it is ready to use! We recommend making two bags and two masks. For example, if you are wearing a mask on public transport, place it in one bag when you get to your destination. Have another clean mask in a clean bag for your return journey. Take the mask out of the bag when washing but it is useful to wash them all together in hot soapy water. Here are our tips on making a mask.

Used and vintage cotton bed sheets are a great source of fabric

Suitable fabrics

Fabrics that can be washed at a high temperature (between 40 and 60 degrees) are best. Cotton or Polyester/Cotton mix work well. We used scraps of fabric from other projects for our bag but old bedding would work well. As would old T-towels, towels, t-shirts, men’s shirts. If you have a large collection of cotton shopping bags cut up your least favourite. Cut off the handles, press them in half long ways and sew along the opening. Use this instead of the cord.

Repair in Practice – Silk Trousers

Tear on the inner thigh/crotch area of silk trousers

In the last (almost) two years of running workshops, we’ve learnt more about the most common areas of clothing that get damaged with many of our repair videos and posts responding to these. But the damage, whether a moth hole or a tear, can come in all shapes and sizes, and learning to patch on a small swatch of cotton fabric can be a completely different experience to patching on your much-loved clothing.

This ‘Repair in Practice’ blog will use some of our most popular mending techniques on a pair of very well-loved silk trousers. These silk trousers have worn down on the inside seam around the crotch at the top of both trouser legs, and the hem on one leg has also come loose.

The loose hem on one leg of silk trousers
Tools used to complete the repair: – large fabric scissors, fabric pins, thin hand embroidery needles, small sharp scissors, silk embroidery thread, iron

Repairing these trousers didn’t require much in the way of equipment or materials. To complete a similar repair you’d need some fabric scissors (for cutting your patches of fabric to size), small sharp scissors, some fabric pins (you could also use safety pins but they might be too chunky on the silk), hand embroidery needles (thinner ones are better on fine silk), patches of fabric, a matching embroidery thread and an iron.

These silk trousers had been previously repaired by their owner when I received them so the first stage of mending was to get the area around the crotch that was most damaged ready to be worked on. The hand-stitching had worked in holding the seam together temporarily but because of how weak the silk fabric had become, the area was in need of some extra reinforcement to be wearable long term. I used a stitch unpicker and some sharp embroidery scissors to take off the hand-stitching that had been holding the seam together.

A common question when repairing and in our workshops is whether you should cut away the frayed edges of a tear or hole. The answer to this can often be a question of personal style, but in this case how fragile the silk was meant that the fray needed to be cut away to prevent further damage. Again, using the small sharp scissors, I trimmed the frayed edges away all the way around the holes at the top of each leg, leaving a smooth, clean edge. If there are any areas near the hole where the fabric hasn’t quite fallen apart but looks weak, it can be a good idea to cut these away too.

You could iron some Bondaweb or fusing on the reverse of the fabric in this area to provide some extra strength. I chose not to in this case as the silk trousers have a really lovely smooth texture and drape that I didn’t want to alter too much.

I chose to use the ‘Boro’-inspired patching technique we teach in our workshops to mend this area of the trousers, working with some navy blue silk that was donated to us in a bag of scrap fabric. First I measured the size of the holes I was patching, you need to make the patches of fabric you are working with at least 2cm wider and longer than the size of the hole. In this case, I could see the seam on the trousers was still weak under the hole so I added an extra 5cm to reinforce this area as well and stop it from ripping in the future.

As I wasn’t using Bondaweb on the silk, I needed to hem the edges of the silk patches to stop them from fraying. Using an iron, I folded the edges of the patches twice to tuck the raw edge of the silk inside the hem. The silk can be tricky to fold and press in this way as it is quite slippy so I pressed, pinned and stitched just two edges at a time before moving onto the other two edges. Because the silk I was working with was quite light I found it easiest to sew these hems by hand using a Blind Hemstitch.

I used a navy silk thread to match the patch, but you can use any fine machine or hand embroidery thread that you feel works well with your fabric. The important thing when working with silk is to choose a thread that matches in thickness so it doesn’t pull and snag the silk as you work. Throughout this repair, I threaded my needle with a single length of this thread, no longer than 30cm in length, with a double knot tied at the end of it.

This version of the hemstitch starts with your first stitch going into the fold of the hem so the thread is hidden inside the hem, you can make this stitch quite long around 1cm. Pull the thread all the way through, then with your next stitch catch just a few fibres of the fabric to the right of the hem. This stitch should be roughly parallel to the point where your needle came out of the folded hem.

This hem won’t be visible on your finished item of clothing from the outside so you could use a simple running stitch if you find that easier, but I find the hemstitch gives a smoother finish and texture inside the trousers when worn.

As I didn’t use Bondaweb on the area on the trousers around the hole, I also needed to roughly fold and hem the edge of the hole. You don’t need to iron this edge over as you just need it to be folded once, you can use your thumb and finger to press the fabric in place as you sew. The heat from your hands will hold it in place for a short time so you can work your way around the hole like this.

To stitch this edge down, thread up the needle with a length of the thread you are using and tie a knot at the end of your piece of thread. Bring the needle through from the reverse of the fabric, going through both the fold of the hem and the top layer of fabric so the knot is hidden at the reverse. Repeat this stitch a little to the left of your first stitch so you create a loop that traps the edge of the fold holding it in place. Carry on all the way around the edge of the hole so the folded hem is secure in place.

The stitches do not need to be right next to each other like in this example, you can space them out more if you prefer the look of it, just make sure the gap in between each stitch is no bigger than roughly 5mm. When you’re finished, the edge of the hole you’re working on should be bound by the stitch and there should be no fraying.

At this stage, it can be a good idea to give both the trousers and the silk fabric patch an iron to make sure they are smooth and flat, then you can begin to pin the first patch in place. I started with the larger hole as this meant I could use the small hole as another access point when sewing so I would have more places to reach my needle from when working on the reverse of the trousers. The silk can shift around a lot when you’re pinning in place so take your time with it, the most important thing is to make sure it is smooth in the area where you will start your stitching as the other pins further down the hole can be moved around as you begin to sew.

Using a running stitch, often called Sashiko in ‘Boro’ patching, begin to build up lines of stitching running back and forth across the patch and the trousers. So that the silk patch was not flapping on the inside here, I made sure to start and end my line of stitching at either edge of the patch. You could go further than the edge of your patch with your stitching if you want there to be more embellishment. For more detailed help with ‘Boro’, you can watch our tutorial video here.

I carried on the rows of stitching past the bottom of the hole as I wanted to reinforce the area of the seam that was weaker. Once you’ve finished all your rows of stitching, there may be some gaps in between the rows around the edge of the hole where the silk flaps more than you would like. Using the same stitch to the one you used to hem the edges of the hole, you can trap these areas of silk down, just make sure to catch the silk patch and the trousers this time.

I patched the next hole in the same way, pinning the patch in place first and using a running stitch to secure it in place. This area was trickier to reach than the first one as I had to bring the needle up from the bottom of the trouser leg or through from the waistband when I was starting a new piece of thread. Covering the end of the needle lightly with your fingertip is a good way to avoid catching the silk as you bring the needle through.

Once I finished sewing both patches, I checked how they were looking from the reverse, adding stitching in any areas where it looked like the edge of the patch was flapping or not securely attached. All the patching is done! Next step, fix that hem.

Using the creases left from where the hem was before as a guide, I ironed the loose hem back over, tucking the raw edge inside the hem, and pinned in place. Like with the hem of the patch, I used a blind hemstitch to secure the hem in place. I started my stitching at the inside seam and worked all the way around until it was secure.

I was more careful here to just catch a few of the fibres when I was stitching into trouser above the hem so the stitching is almost invisible. Silk trouser repair – completed!

If you’re looking for the supplies to get you started with your repair, check out our mending kits over on Etsy.