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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
Seam ripper or unpicker – a sharp tool which helps to unpick hems for alteration or to remove broken zips
Darning mushroom or egg – Makes it easier to darn holes in jumpers, t-shirts and socks
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
Tape measure – for measuring the hemline of trousers and jeans for alteration
Safety pins and dressmaking pins – for patching and alterations
Darning yarn – to repair jumpers and socks
Tailors chalk or a fabric marker – for alterations
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.
Sometimes it is the small things that stop us from wearing our favourite clothes. In our series, Clothes Maintenance 101, we demonstrate common fixes helping to make our clothes wearable again.
Sewing on a button is a simple task. It doesn’t take very long if you know how and have a basic sewing repair kit. In this video Sarah runs through the variety of buttons available and how to fix them back onto a garment.
Where to buy spare buttons
Start collecting your own spare buttons in a disused jar. Some garments come with a small packet of spare buttons that can be added to the jar. Charity shops often have packs of random buttons for sale, but we appreciate they are accessible whilst we are social distancing. We have pulled together some of our collection for sale on our Etsy shop. A random mix of buttons apx 30 buttons with some designs having 6 of the same button included (e.g white shirt buttons).
It is estimated that 12 million Christmas jumpers will be bought this festive season despite 65 million lurking in the back of the wardrobe according to charity Hubbub. Speaking in The Daily Telegraph, the Charity’s project co-ordinator Sarah Divall suggests customers ‘swap, buy second-hand or re-wear and remember a jumper is for life not, just for Christmas.’
These facts inspired us to create two upcycling workshops to combat this example of fast fashion, textile and plastic waste (up to 75% of Christmas jumpers contain acrylic, a form of plastic)
Upcycle a Plain Jumper Into a Christmas Jumper
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine asked us to help their staff and students create festive jumpers from plain knitwear already in their wardrobes as part of their Sustainable Christmas Fair. We were really impressed with everyone’s creativity. Techniques such as couching, appliqué and embroidery were applied using festive trims and fabric remnants we picked up at Charity shops. There are plenty available this time of year.
Upcycle a Christmas Jumper to Wear All-Year
We launched our December workshops at Buy a Gift’s Zero Waste Christmas market. Alternatively we took a Christmas jumper, added embellishments to create a jumper we could wear all year round. Ruching scrap fabrics and appliqueing them over the Christmas motif. This effect can be used to cover any branding on sweatshirts and t-shirts.
We run a variety of fashion repair and upcycling workshops for up to 15 people. Please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to book us for your sustainable fashion event or click on our event calendar for our upcoming workshops.
Are cotton tote bags worse for the environment than plastic bags? It is a debate we have been reading this year, first published by Quartz Magazine after the results of Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food 2018 life cycle assessment were published. Taking into account the amount of earth’s resources it takes to produce cotton they argue that a plastic bag could be less impactful than a cotton one. Click here to read the full article.
One view we think is missing from the conversation is a bag made from scrap fabric. If a single use plastic bag creates litter and a cotton bag uses up valuable resources, how about making a bag from textiles that would otherwise be thrown away?
Below are the instructions to make a small tote bag, perfect to use as a gift bag and save on sparkly paper that can’t be recycled. Or keep for your own use, they work brilliantly to carry a packed lunch, water bottle and reusable coffee cup.
How to Make a Small Gift or Tote Bag
Two pieces of fabric , both the size of an A3 piece of paper (apx 30 x 42cm)
Or sew smaller scraps of fabric together to create a bigger piece
Polyester all sew thread
Iron and ironing board
Sewing machine (or come to our free class at The Create Place to use the machines there)
Lay a piece of A3 paper one one piece of the fabric (or measure with a tape measure and mark with a pen or tailoring chalk)
Pin around all 4 edges then cut around the paper with fabric scissors
Remove the pins and the paper
Repeat steps 1 to 3 for the second piece of fabric
Match up the two pieces of fabric, placing right sides together
Pin together along one of the short edges (placing pins vertical to the edge)
Sew along this edge using a 1.5cm seam allowance
Zig zag or overlock the raw edge of this seam
Keeping the pieces together, fold over the bottom sewn edge by 4cm.
Press in place and pin
Pin along the two longer sides, place pins vertical to the edge (making it easier to remove as you sew)
Sew along the two long sides using a 1.5cm seam allowance, incorporating the folded edges
Remove pins then zig zag or overlock the raw edges
Hem the top of the bag: fold over the top edge of the fabric by 1cm, right side to wrong side, press with a hot iron
Fold again by 3cm and press, then pin in place
Stitch around the hem approximately 0.5cm from the hemmed edge
Measure the length of straps you want (we’ve used fairly short straps). Add 3cm to this measurement
Cut two pieces of fabric measuring 8cm wide x the length of the straps required
Take one of the strap pieces, fold over each short edge by 1cm, right side to wrong side and press with a hot iron
Fold over one of the long edges by 1cm, right side to wrong side, press with a hot iron
Repeat on the other long side
Fold the strap in half, wrong sides together. Press and pin in place
Sew the two short edges and then the long edge together, sewing as close to the hemmed edges as possible. This can be done in one long stitch if you pivot at each corner. Click here for a YouTube video on how to pivot on a sewing machine.
Repeat steps 15 to 19 for the other strap
Lay the bag flat and find the centre point at the top of the opening by folding the bag in half width wise and marking the point with a pin. Lay the bag flat again.
Take one short strap end and place 3cm to the right of the centre front, pin in place
Take the other end of the same strap and place it 3cm from the left of the centre front point. Pin in place
Turn over the bag and repeat steps 21 to 23 with the other strap
At this step, decide if you want the strap ends to show on the front of the bag or place them on the inside of the bag. Either way, line up the short edge of the strap just below the line of stitching on the hem and re-pin in place
Sew the straps in place by sewing in a square on the strap. Start at the point where the top edge of the bag lines up with the strap. Sew a horizontal line then pivot and sew down to the same level as the row of stitching at the hem.
Pivot again and sew along the hem line. Pivot for a forth time until you reach the starting point.
An optional extra: sew a criss-cross line from each corner
Press the bag and it is ready to use!
Cotton and linen woven fabrics are the most versatile and will withstand washing. More delicate and stretch fabrics will look pretty as a gift bag and handy to store items at home.
Where to find scrap fabrics
Old bed sheets, quilt covers and pillow cases
Old tea towels or bath towels
Scrap fabrics left over from dress making (the blue and yellow bag is a combination of fabrics left over from 3 different dressmaking projects)
Piece squares of fabric together to give a quilting effect and help use up smaller pieces
Old clothing beyond repair
Pieces of fabrics left over from alterations such as taking up the hem on jeans
Use ribbon for the straps or lengths of hem cut from clothes with their stitching intact