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.

Quick Fixes – Knitwear

In these videos, we’ll go through some different techniques you can use for fixing holes or damage in knitwear if you’re looking for something faster or simpler than darning, or just to create a different effect.

Part 1 goes through a smocking technique and an eyelet technique, whilst part 2 goes through a version of ‘Boro’ patching for knitwear. For more information on ‘Boro’ take a look at our ‘Boro’ video and how-to on our blog.

If you’re looking for the yarns or materials you need to get started on these techniques, we’ve got some mending kits available on our Etsy shop.

How to Take Up Jeans

We never manage to find jeans to fit us correctly, especially if they are from a charity shop or swishing event. We have listed step-by-step instructions on gaining a professional finish when taking up the hem on jeans

Sewing machine is advised as the denim is too thick for hand sewing.

Try on the jeans with shoes. Tuck under the hem to where you want it to sit (on one leg). Hold in place with a safety pin
Lay the jeans flat. Measure from the crotch (where the two legs meet at the front) by placing the end of the tape measure at the crotch point. Pull the tape measure flat to where you have folded the hem. Make a note of the measurement. Now measure the other leg. Mark the point where the new hem is going to be with tailoring chalk or a safety pin.
Measure the depth of the fold. For example this fold is 8cm from the fold to the edge of the hem. We need to account for a 2cm seam allowance. Take 2cm from this measurement, in this example, 6cm

We’ve created a ‘how to’ video on measuring and taking up trousers, the method of measuring is the same for jeans.


Using a tape measure and tailors chalk, mark 6cm from the hem around both legs of the jeans.
Using sharp scissors, cut around the mark you have just made
Turn the new hem, right side to wrong side, by 1cm. Press with a hot iron. Repeat on the second leg.
Using a sewing machine, stitch 2mm from the folded edge of the jeans. We’ve used an orange thread to match the original stitching. Repeat on the second leg. (It is advisable to test your machine on some of the spare denim to make sure it can get through the thickness of fabric).
Take the jeans back to the iron. Turn over by 1cm, right side to wrong side. Press with a hot iron. Repeat for the second leg.
Back to the sewing machine: Sew the hem using the first line of stitching as guide. Stitch over the same line of stitching.
On the inside of the hem it leaves a thicker line of stitching, looks effective for turn ups.
On the front side only one line of stitching is visible. Give them a good press and you are ready to go!

Top tip: Keep the scraps of fabric left over from cutting the hems. They are useful if you need to patch these jeans or any other kind of clothes patching.

How to Take Up a Hem

Clothes rarely fit perfectly when we buy them, especially if we have acquired them from a charity shop, vintage fair or clothes swap. Taking up a hem on a pair of trousers is a fairly simple task and you don’t need a sewing machine. The secret is to measure, try-on, measure, try-on. Repeat several times before cutting the hem.

A basic sewing repair kit is needed, including a tape measure, iron and ironing board

Watch our ‘how to’ video on taking up hems


We have filmed a separate video on how to hand sew the hem in place, click on the button below to be redirected to this blog post.

This same alteration technique can be used to shorten the hem of a skirt, dress, shorts or even sleeves. When measuring a skirt, use the waistband as the point of reference to measure down to the hem. Measure approximately 6 places around the skirt.

With a dress, find the waist point, usually there is a seam at the waist. Use this as a reference point in the same way as a skirt. For sleeves the measuring reference point is the armhole seam.

Taking up jeans uses the same method for the measuring part. We do recommend using a sewing machine as denim fabric is thick to sew by hand. Read our blog on how to take up the hem on jeans.

Top Tip: Save any pieces of fabric left over from cutting the hem. They are useful for patching clothes.

Looking for some specific advice? Book an appointment at our online repair cafe. Each appointment is 30 minutes to help you get started on your alteration or clothes repair.

How to Repair a Hem

The stitching on hems coming undone is one of the most common clothes fixes at Fast Fashion Therapy. It is simple mend to complete with a needle, thread and sharp scissors. In this video we explain how to repair a hem with a hem stitch, or herringbone stitch. We use trousers as an example but the same method can be used on skirts, dresses and sleeve hems.

Most hems can be fixed without a sewing machine. Our video next week will run through how to shorten a hem on a pair of trousers.

Haven’t got a sewing kit and need some ideas? Find out how to build your own sewing kit to mend clothes on our blog post.

‘Darning’ video tutorial

We’ve got a new ‘Darning’ video tutorial on our YouTube channel!

This video will take you through the basics of how to darn holes in knitwear. The technique can be used on an area that’s just worn down or where a hole has appeared to strengthen the item of clothing and create a new piece of fabric in the damaged area. This video shows a visible style of mending but the same technique can be used to repair invisibly if you use a matching thread.

If you’re looking for the basic kit you need to get started on your darning, head to our Shop to find our new darning kits!

Don’t have a darning mushroom at home? How about something from your kitchen? Read our blog on what to use around your home in place of a darning mushroom.

‘Boro’ Patching Tutorial

Learn the basics of how to mend your clothes with ‘Boro’ patching

This video shows you the basics of how to patch your damaged clothes and textiles using a technique inspired by the Japanese craft of ‘Boro’. If you’re looking for the sewing kit you need to get started, we’ve got patching kits available on our Etsy page – https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/793320913/jeans-patching-kit-sashiko-boro-kit?ref=shop_home_active_1&frs=1

Find-it-at-home Darning Mushrooms!

Alternative Darning Mushrooms – (Clockwise from top) GU Pudding Jar, Reuseable Coffee Cup, Granite Pestle, Old Marmalade Jar

If you’ve come along to one of our workshops in the past, you’ll know we normally have some darning mushrooms on hand to help you get fixing your favourite pieces of moth-eaten knitwear. If you’re thinking about getting your own darning mushroom, there are lots of second-hand ones on Ebay and Gumtree that are worth checking out, but we understand that getting a hold of your own darning mushroom might not be an option for you right now.

So what can you use instead? The main thing you need from your darning aid is a flat, hard surface to work on – avoid using anything covered in fabric, as this could get caught on your needle as your darning. Look for something that is fairly light and easy to hold, you don’t want to feel uncomfortable as your mending. Finally, think about the size of the hole that you’re mending, you may find something that works well for a small hole but doesn’t offer enough support on a larger area. Just like when you are learning a new technique, play around with different options to find what’s right for you! Below is a round-up of a few options we found around the home to use…

Marmalade Jar as an alternative Darning Mushroom

Option 1 – Old Marmalade Jar

This works well when using the bottom of the jar as it’s a large flat surface, the rounded edges have a similar feel to a normal darning mushroom and the area around the lid is quite easy to hold. It is a bit wider to hold than a normal mushroom so may take a bit of practice to get a comfortable position.

GU pudding jar used as an alternative Darning Mushroom

Option 2 – Old GU Pudding Jar/Glass Ramekin

This is a great excuse for buying a GU pudding as a treat as well! This one works well as the jar is not too deep so you can hold the fabric underneath as you would around the mushroom handle. The base of the jar is large and flat so can fit lots of different sized holes on.

Reuseable Coffee Cup as an alternative Darning Mushroom

Option 3 – Reuseable Coffee Cup

This one is useful for smaller darns as the bottom is narrower than the top. This is a bamboo cup so the fabric could slip around a bit as you’re working on it, securing it in place with a tie around the bottom could help.

Granite Pestle as an alternative Darning Mushroom

Option 4 – Granite Pestle

This one is really nice to hold and has a similar feel to holding a Darning Mushroom. The pestle used here is quite narrow so would only work with smaller holes, but different sized pestles could be more adaptable!

Let us know if you find any alternatives around your home that we haven’t mentioned here. We’ll be posting a ‘Darning’ how-to video in the next week to give you more support with your mending at home.

Clothes Maintenance 101: How to build a repair kit

Are you new to clothes mending but don’t have any sewing equipment? It is easy and inexpensive to pull together a few pieces ready to repair your clothes.

Basic clothes repair kit (from left to right)

  1. Sharp pair of scissors – only use for cutting fabric and thread. They will become blunt if used for cutting paper. Regular stationery scissors are OK as long as they are new or have recently been sharpened
  2. Threads – Black and white are essential, a neutral colour such as beige and grey are useful as is navy. Poly/cotton thread is the most versatile for all garments.
  3. Seam ripper or unpicker – a sharp tool which helps to unpick hems for alteration or to remove broken zips
  4. Darning mushroom or egg – Makes it easier to darn holes in jumpers, t-shirts and socks
  5. Set of needles – a variety of sizes is useful. Some with bigger ‘eyes’ or holes to for knitting yarn to feed through. Plus thinner smaller needles for finer fabrics
  6. Tape measure – for measuring the hemline of trousers and jeans for alteration
  7. Safety pins and dressmaking pins – for patching and alterations
  8. Darning yarn – to repair jumpers and socks
  9. Tailors chalk or a fabric marker – for alterations
  10. Spare buttons
Use an old tin or plastic box to keep your repair kit in one place

Where to buy equipment

Many pieces in our repair kits have been donated by friends of Fast Fashion Therapy. We prefer pre-used equipment as much as possible. Ask around, you might know someone who has more sewing equipment than they need. Charity shops are usually an excellent place to find sewing odds and ends but sadly not at the moment with all the shops closed. Ebay and Etsy are a good online alternative, especially for darning mushrooms. Or try your local haberdashery store and see if they have an online shop whilst we are practising social distancing.

Darning and Patching Kits

We have created Darning and Patching Kits to help get started with various coloured yarns, swatches of fabric, different sized needles and an instruction card. All kits cost £10 (free shipping to UK). We also have a pack of spare buttons, all on our Etsy shop