Clothes Mending in 2022

A huge thank you to everyone who has supported our community clothes mending workshops this year. All of the mending techniques and tips that we share mean nothing without the people who come to our workshops or connect with us online. Getting together as a group and seeing how many people really are engaged with sustainability is inspiring. It seems like we are all keen to find practical solutions to the problems surrounding us and these collective community experiences are more important than ever!


Thank you to St Margaret’s house, The Create Place and The Remakery for the use of your warm and welcoming venues and for sharing the news to a wider group of people. Our workshops at The Create Place are free to attend thanks to Tower Hamlets Small Grants Fund.


Our online mend-a-long is free to join thanks to a grant from Localgiving and Postcode Society Trust, a grant-giving charity funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Want to join us next year? We are taking bookings for our 2023 workshops on Eventbrite or send us an email. More details on the calendar section of our website.

Wishing you all a happy holidays and a healthy 2023. Sarah & Eleanor x

FIVE tips on how to get more wears from your Christmas Jumper

Selection of Christmas jumpers on offer at SCT charity shop on Roman Road, London

Christmas jumper day is on 8 December 2022, wear a festive jumper and donate money to Save the Children. If you are taking part, please wear your Christmas jumper more than once. It was estimated that 12 million Christmas jumpers were bought in 2019 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.’

Sarah Divall, Hubub

Previously, we have written about the ‘30 wear rule‘ when buying a new item of clothing. Why should a Christmas jumper be any different? Here are our top tips on how to get the most out of your Christmas jumper and prevent it from becoming textile waste.

1. Start wearing your jumper early

Libby started wearing her Christmas jumper at Halloween

I visited my family in Scotland in October, where they have more reason to wear jumpers for longer. It was Halloween but my niece Libby was wearing the above red sweatshirt adorned with snowflakes and an image of a cute black cat and the words ‘Meowy Christmas’. Do you know what, it looked fantastic! The black cat ticked the Halloween box and it was genuinely a warm and item of clothing that she loves and will wear throughout the winter.

2. Worn it before? So What?

My husband went out this evening for his annual Christmas curry club wearing a Christmas Jumper he has owned for 7 years and it is still going. Do you think anyone really remembers if you have worn it before? And if they do, then explain it is your favourite and you are saving another piece of clothing from reaching landfill.

3. Upcycle your Christmas jumper

If tip 2 isn’t quite for you and you want to update your Christmas jumper each year, then add a few embellishments. We love this tip from our friends at the Ealing Repair Cafe. Maria added a Christmas hat to her daughter’s non-Christmas jumper. Add some pompoms, ribbon, sequins. Any small change will make your jumper feel like it is all new again. Of course you can create a Christmas jumper from a plain jumper. As we did at our workshop with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine back in 2019.

4. Take the Christmas out of your jumper

I’ve seen some really over the top Christmas jumpers, which might be difficult to update to an all-season jumper. In this case, I refer you to points 1 and 2. If your jumper is a bit more subtle, then hide the Christmas references. Eleanor updated this semi-plain sweatshirt by cutting strips of a lightweight fabric. Thread a needle with a double a length of sewing thread approximately 45cm. Knot the end. Fold over the fabric at approximately 5cm folds. Sew through the centre of all the layers. Continue with more lengths of fabric, changing the colours if you wish. Pull together and secure with a couple of back stitches and a knot. Repeat until you have enough ruching to cover the message on your jumper. Alternatively, use the Boro and Sashiko technique to patch over the festivity on your jumper.

5. Swap with a friend

OK, you’ve worn your jumper for 7 years and fancy a change. Find a friend the same clothes size as you and swap your jumpers. Host a Christmas jumper swap with a group of friends or colleagues. Best to do it soon whilst everyone remembers where their jumper is and can wear it over the holidays.

Maybe you haven’t bought a Christmas jumper yet and still thinking about getting into the popular tradition. I spotted the jumpers at the top of this post in the window of my local charity shop and they had lots more inside. Buy from a charity shop-wear-donate-repeat. Use it like a form of rental and the money all goes to charity.

How to patch a waterproof jacket

How to patch a hole in a waterproof jacket or coat clothes repair mend

We never give up on an item of clothing but some repairs are more difficult than others. This jacket has a cigarette burn on the sleeve, which seems simple enough to repair. However, it is a waterproof jacket so we wanted to ensure the mend was also waterproof. It also belongs to someone who would like the mend to be as invisible as possible. Where do we find a fabric that matches close enough to make an invisible mend?

Where to find a suitable fabric for patching

How to patch a hole in a waterproof jacket or coat clothes repair mend

Jackets, coats and shirts already have spare pieces of fabric for us to use as patches. Look on the inside of these garments and many pieces have been doubled. For example, a classic style shirt will have a yoke. The top part at the back underneath the collar. This is usually a double layer of fabric. Cuffs and collars on shirts, jackets and coats also have a double layer. This jacket has large welts for the pocket openings, which we were able to utilise.

Start with a tape measure or ruler

How to patch a hole in a waterproof jacket or coat clothes repair mend
How to patch a hole in a waterproof jacket or coat clothes repair mend

Draw a square or rectangle that is approximately 1cm larger around the area that needs patching. Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut into one layer of the pocket flap (or which ever area of the garment you are using to make a patch). The photo shows that we have only cut through one layer so there is no hole on the right side of the pocket or garment.

Repair the hole created by the patch

How to patch a hole in a waterproof jacket or coat clothes repair mend

The hole that has been created inside the garment also needs repairing. It could be secured with an overstitch around the edge so that the fabric doesn’t fray. For this jacket we have created another patch so rain doesn’t get into the pocket. We used a scrap of polyester ripstop fabric that has been coated with plastic to make it shower proof. A piece of old shower curtain would do the trick. Keep a box of scrap fabrics left over from alternations and old clothing to use for patching other garments.

How to patch a hole in a waterproof jacket or coat clothes repair mend

We used the patch we have cut to cut another patch from the ripstop fabric. We secured it with an overstitch. This fabric doesn’t fray, same as the original jacket fabric. This is because they are plastic coated. If you are patching a garment where the fabric frays you might want to press over the edges of the patch first. Press with a hot iron to create a fray free edged.

How to patch a hole in a waterproof jacket or coat clothes repair mend

We then turned our attention to the original hole on the front of the jacket. We used invisible nylon thread to secure the patch. Nylon thread has waterproof properties, it is strong and glossy, which helps it glide through these thicker plastic coated fabrics. Jacket is now repaired, ready for another Winter.

During one of our online mend-a-longs, we talked about repairing waterproof jackets. One of our American friends on the call recommended a product called Spinnaker tape. A Googled search describes it as ripstop tape and sail repair tape. eBay had many options, I’ve included the search link here but if it doesn’t work search for ‘sail repair tape’. There were some second hand options.

Further Reading

How to mend with an overstitch

How to build a clothes repair kit

sportswear waterproof jacket repair sewing patching kit

Autumn Workshop News

Thanks to everyone who has joined us so far this Autumn. It is great to be back at the in person and online workshops, sharing ideas on how to mend our clothes after a summer break.

clothes mending online sew along darning patching denim repair zero waste living

Our online sessions was particularly busy have been particularly busy and we have a few regulars joining our session from the other side of the Atlantic. We enjoyed fascinating discussions on clothes mending and we promised to share the links for all the recommendations.

It was Zero Waste Week at the beginning of September and we chatted about how to use up the small pieces of fabric left over from altering and upcycling clothes. Making twine or cord from scrap fabrics is time consuming but satisfying. Elizabeth is crocheting with hers. Wendy Ward creates new clothes from old clothes and fabric by patching it together. Such as the sweatshirt above worn by Barley from Fabrications. Listen to Barley and Wendy on the Check Your Thread podcast which shares ideas on sewing sustainably. Karen recommended following The Thrifty Stitcher who mostly teaches dressmaking but many are also relevant for clothes repair such as this video on how to hem stretch fabrics. Diane was mending a hole in her T-shirt during our online chat. We shared our video on how to darn as this technique is useful for mending any stretch fabrics as well as jumpers and socks. 

Join us on the first Monday of the month via Zoom. 7:30 to 8:30pm. Next session is 7th November. We chat and share clothes mending ideas as we sew. It is an informal teaching workshop but feel free to ask us and any of the friendly group repair questions. Sign up to our newsletter to automatically receive joining details. Or book via Eventbrite.

The Create Place, Bethnal Green
At our first October session at The Create Place the sewing machines were redundant. Everyone opted for hand sewing to mend their clothes. It resulted in a calm relaxed workshop. Everyone chatted about the places they were from and how they ended up in East London. We are back on Monday for more clothes mending fun. We are at The Create Place at St. Margaret’s House on the 2nd and 4th Monday of the month. The next couple of sessions are full but we have space on the 28 November. Please send us an email if you would like us to book you in.

clothes mending sewing workshop darning and patching

The second session of the month was super busy with lots of new attendees and regulars. The sewing machines were back with a hive of mending activity along with plenty of hand sewing and darning.

We were back at The Remakery in Brixton on Monday. Thanks to everyone who came along making it a busy and fun evening. We fixed our clothes with jeans patching, pocket fixing, replacing elastic in waistbands, altering the fit on a dress, turning up the cuffs on a jacket, patching pyjamas, darning mittens, repairing a hole in a T-shirt and fixing the straps on a bag. Phew, all of that in 90 minutes! We are back at The Remakery on the 21st November. Book via Eventbrite. The event says 14th November at the moment but it will be updated soon. We are at The Remakery every third Monday of the month.

BIG GREEN WEEK: Thanks to everyone who came along to our T-shirt upcycling workshop in September for Big Green Week – we had loads of fun chopping and changing T-shirts, adding stitching and embellishments. Or making them into something completely different! Thanks @st.margarets.house and @thecreateplace for inviting us to take part


Our community clothes mending workshops at The Create Place are free thanks to Tower Hamlets Small Grants Fund. The workshops get busy so please book your place in advance via Eventbrite or send us an email. Click on the workshop button above for more details.

Our online mend-a-long is free to join thanks to a grant from Localgiving and Postcode Society Trust, a grant-giving charity funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

How to Alter and Upcycle a T-shirt

Zero Waste Week how to upcycle a t-shirt

On average we own 22 T-shirts and tops. 24% of these are unworn, this is the top of all items of clothing and only second to footwear. For September’s Zero Waste Week we are focusing on one item of clothing in our wardrobes, the T-shirt.

There are many ways to alter and upcycle a T-shirt to extend it’s life cycle. We bought two men’s T-shirts from a charity shop and experimented with a couple of techniques.

Notes about T-shirt fabric

T-shirts are nearly always made from jersey, a fabric that is created by knitting long yarns (threads) together. The same construction as a jumper but with much smaller loops holding them together. Knitting the yarns gives the fabric a natural stretch. 100% cotton T-shirts will have less stretch and recovery than a fabric that contains Polyester or Elastane. Elastane (such as Lycra) is an elastic that means the garment recovers back to it’s original position when it is stretched. 100% cotton T-shirts can stretch out of shape, which is what has happened with the Miami T-shirt that we bought.

The good thing about jersey fabric is it doesn’t fray when it is cut. So you can use your scissors to alter and upcycle T-shirts without a sewing machine. The fabric rolls back on itself, so after multiple wears and washes it will keep rolling and get smaller. But that can also look good.

We have used a sewing machine on the techniques below. If you are using a sewing machine then a zig zag stitch generally works best on jersey as it allows the fabric to stretch without breaking the stitches.

Equipment

  • Sharp scissors to cut fabric
  • Sewing machine or follow our guide on how to sew without a sewing machine
  • Ruler and felt tip pen (doesn’t have to be a fabric pen)
  • Polyester all sew thread
  • Elastic: 1cm wide for shoulder seams / 2 to 3cm wide for waistband of skirt

How to shorten and ruche a T-shirt

You can find more detailed instructions on our ‘how to shorten sleeves video‘. We shorten the sleeves on a jumper using elastic, which is the same technique we have used on the sleeves of this T-shirt.

How to Upcycle a T-shirt into a skirt

More T-shirt alteration ideas:

  • Trim the sleeves to create a cap sleeve.
  • Cut off the sleeves for a sleeveless top
  • Cut off the neck edging and reshape the neckline to a slash neck or V-neck
  • Shorten to a waist length or crop top
  • Shorten the hem by adding a length of elastic to the side seams, the same technique I mentioned above.

Shorts can also be created from T-shirts. We recommend finding a sewing pattern that you like. Cutting up two T-shirts for the fabric then following the pattern. Charity shops have lots of sewing patterns often for a couple of pounds. If you pick up a vintage one, measure the flat paper pattern and compare it to your body measurements. Vintage patterns are often much smaller than our modern sizing.


How to use up fabric scraps

We were left with the above scraps of fabric after upcycling two T-shirts. These scraps will be reused in other mending projects. Keep a box of fabric scraps left over from alterations. They are useful for patching other items of clothing.


basic sewing kit for clothes mending repairs
Read our blog on how to build your own clothes repair kit

Five Ideas on how to Reuse a T-shirt

Zero Waste Week how to upcycle a t-shirt sustainability stats

Textile waste creates an estimated 92 tonnes globally each year according to this BBC article, Why clothes are so hard to recycle. For this week’s Zero Waste Week we are focusing on reusing one item of clothing in our wardrobes, the T-shirt. On average we own 22 T-shirts and tops. 24% of these are unworn, this is the top of all items of clothing and only second to footwear.

The above stats are part of a wardrobe survey undertaken by Ecowise who surveyed 709 people in March 2022 for Project BLUEPRINT. The project was commissioned by Essex County Council to create the first cross-border delivery model for Local Authorities to transition to a Circular Economy.

The results were fairly positive in terms of the respondents taking responsibility for their unworn clothes. 61% donated clothes to charity shops, 52% gave them away to friends whilst 49% re-purposed their clothes. So nearly half the respondents are mending and upcycling their clothes, great news! Sadly 38% are throwing them away in their recycling bins, which contaminates the rest of the recycling.

Zero Waste Week how to upcycle a t-shirt sustainability stats

Five ways to save a T-shirt from landfill

1. Mend holes, cover stains, repair rips

Holes can easily appear in T-shirts. I find the area around my jeans button creates a hole as the metal pulls on the fabric. T-shirts are usually made from jersey fabric, which has a knitted construction, like a jumper. A hole can easily be repaired using either darning or patching. Regular sewing thread works well for darning T-shirts as the fabric is finer than a jumper. The technique is the same and instructions can be found on our how to darn video.

If the hole is larger then you may prefer to patch it. Eleanor patched a hole in her leggings, the technique is the same for T-shirts. Found out how to patch your T-shirt (or leggings) on our blog.

If you are struggling to get a stain out of a T-shirt then cover it with decorative patches or a pocket (see the end of the skirt instructions).

2. Alterations

Zero Waste Week how to upcycle a t-shirt

Sometimes T-shirts just need a bit of adjusting to create a top that you will love wearing. The knit construction means you don’t always have to sew, just cut a few bits off! The fabric rolls in on itself rather than fraying. I’ve rolled up the sleeves off this T-shirt and added elastic to the shoulder seams to make the sleeves shorter and a ruched effect. Follow my how to shorten the sleeves on a jumper video. The technique is the same but add the elastic to the shoulder seam. Find more detail on how I altered the T-shirt on this separate blog post.

More T-shirt alteration ideas:

  • Trim the sleeves to create a cap sleeve.
  • Cut off the sleeves for a sleeveless top
  • Cut off the neck edging and reshape the neckline to a slash neck or V-neck
  • Shorten to a waist length or crop top
  • Shorten the hem by adding a length of elastic to the side seams, the same technique I mentioned above.

keep all the scrap pieces of T-shirt left over to use for patches or see tip 5

3. Upcycle into a skirt or pair of shorts

This works well with T-shirts that are damaged in the arm pit area as this part is cut off. Find more detailed instructions on our separate How To blog post. For shorts we recommend finding a sewing pattern that you like. Cutting up two T-shirts for the fabric then following the pattern. Charity shops have lots of sewing patterns often for a couple of pounds. If you pick up a vintage one, measure the flat paper pattern and compare it to your body measurements. Vintage patterns are often much smaller than our modern sizing.

4. Turn into a drawstring bag

This T-shirt is my husband’s favourite but he couldn’t remove the sweat smell after wearing it to the gym many times. I turned it into a bag for him to carry his boxing gloves, so I kept the Boxing Cat motif.

  1. Cut the top off the T-shirt in a straight line, keeping the motif if it has one.
  2. Cut off the sleeves. Cut off the hem as close to the line of stitching as possible.
  3. Turn the T-shirt inside out, pin together where the arm holes have created a gap
  4. Stitch where you have pinned using a sewing machine or backstitch by hand.
  5. Repeat on the other side.
  6. With an iron press a 2cm hem on the top of the T-shirt, right side to wrong side
  7. Stitch around the hem, close to the raw edge, creating a 2cm ‘channel’.
  8. Using the cut off hem as a drawstring, add into the channel with a safety pin.

5. Cut into patches and rags

If you have exhausted steps 1 to 4 and your T-shirt is beyond repair or upcycling it can still be of use. Cut along the side seams and shoulder seams to create two big pieces of fabric. Cut off the collar too. Cut the fabric of the T-shirt into squares in various sizes, save some in your mending box to repair other knit (stretchy) clothes such as T-shirts, sweatshirts and leggings.

With the remainder squares, edge them with an overstitch. Use the large squares as dusters, they work really well on glass and mirrors to get a lovely shine. Cut smaller squares and use them as face cloths instead of disposable wipes and cotton wool. I backed mine with the towelling from an old dressing gown and created a small drawstring bag to match (a smaller version of number 4.) I used an overlocker to finish the edges. A zig zag on a regular machine works just as well. If you are sewing by hand with an overstitch, use a thicker thread around the edges.

Below we have listed some basic items that are useful to build a repair sewing kit. If you are looking for more ideas, techniques or inspiration then please join our workshops on Monday evening. Three a month in person in London and one online. More details on the calendar section of our website.


basic sewing kit for clothes mending repairs

How to find time to mend clothes

how to find time to tick clothes mending off your to do list

Top tips for ticking clothes mending off your to do list

Since I’ve been teaching people to mend their clothes the more of my own clothes I have to mend. Karen, a regular workshop attendee, asked if we ever give up on an item of clothing. No is the answer and I think that is why my mending pile seems to be larger than ever. I did mend my clothes before I taught the workshops but I might give up more quickly on an item that wasn’t a quick fix. We have been running the workshops for four years and I rarely give up on an item of clothing. Choosing darning, patching, altering or upcycling the clothes so they feel new again! Here are my top tips on how to find time to mend your clothes.

1. Keep the clothes visible

Where do you keep your clothes that need to be repaired? I find if I put them in the wardrobe or drawers they never seemed to get fixed. I place mine in a small basket close to my wardrobe reminding me to mend them.

2. Mending kit

Keep a small sewing or mending kit to hand. You don’t need much equipment, a variety of needles, a few threads, yarns and patches of fabric. The most important thing is a sharp pair of scissors that you only use for fabrics and threads. Read our blog on how to build a repair kit.

3. Our free ‘How To’ video library

We have a range of how to videos to help with clothes mending. Whether that is darning a jumper or a pair of socks, patching for denim repair or any woven garments. Taking up a hem and upcycling clothes. Our most recent addition to the video library is how to replace a zip in a pair of denim shorts or jeans. Any garment with a fly front.

how to replace a zip in jeans trouser shorts and skirt with a fly front

4. Our free online mend-a-long

Time is definitely an issue when it comes to clothes mending. We’ve been running a monthly mend-a-long online for the past couple of years to encourage people to mend their clothes. An hour once a month when a group of us get together to chat as we mend. It isn’t a formal teaching session but all clothes mending and upcycling questions are welcome. We learn of techniques we might not have thought of from people who join us from all over the UK and sometimes the US. Sign up to our newsletter for joining details.

clothes mending online sew along darning patching denim repair zero waste living

I understand that it isn’t always quick and easy to fit clothes mending into your week. But sometimes it can be the smallest mends that prevent us from wearing our clothes. Whether that is a lost button or a small hole. Join us for a collective mending session and be amazed how much you can get repaired in an hour.

We are thrilled to announce that we have received £500 of funding for our online mend-a-long project through Localgiving Magic Little Grants Fund which is supported by Players of People’s Postcode Lottery – It means we are able to keep running this online-mend-along for free for a year, thank you to everyone who plays the People’s Postcode Lottery! We meet on the first Monday of the month (unless there is a bank holiday and we are taking a break in August).



How to replace a zip in jeans

Plus trousers and shorts – any style with a fly front

I wear these denim shorts all year round, adding tights for the winter. All of this wear has started to show. The inner thigh needs patching and worst of all the zip has broken. I’ve repaired it several times by running a charcoal pencil over the zipper feet (only works with metal zips). This time there was no putting it off, I had to replace the zip.

It is a fairly difficult and time consuming job. Follow these step by step instructions and you too can replace a zip in a pair of jeans, shorts, trousers or skirt. Any style that has a fly front. That means the zip is hidden behind a piece of fabric and it has a zip guard. Which is another piece of fabric that sits behind the zip. Preventing the skin from getting caught in the zip.

Equipment

basic sewing kit for clothes mending repairs
  • Seam ripper / unpicker
  • Dressmaking pins
  • Sharp scissors
  • Sewing needle and thread in a bright colour (for tacking / basting the zip in place)
  • Sewing thread to match the colour of your garment
  • Sewing machine (if you are based in London and don’t have a sewing machine, book in for one of our workshops where we have several machines for use and can show you how to use one).
  • New zip – Measure the size of the old zip to get the right length. Measure along the zip feet rather than the tape.

How to instructions

The first and most important job is to take photos of how the zip is inserted into the garment. Put stickers on the pieces if necessary. If you do this before unpicking the stitches, it will help you put everything back in the correct place.

how to replace a zip in jeans trouser shorts and skirt with a fly front

Here are the finished shorts. I also patched the inner thighs by using the sewing machine. Find out how to patch your jeans here.

I decided to dye the shorts as they were looking very faded. I had a couple of items of clothing to dye at the same time. I used Dylon’s jeans blue machine dye using the instructions. I’m really pleased with the result and they are my staple piece of clothing for this hot weather we are having.

Denim patching kit available on our Etsy shop

denim jeans patching sewing repair kit