Mending Workshops IRL!

Mending Monday was in full swing this week at The Create Place this week. Thanks to everyone who came along, here is how we got on…

Justin did a great job mending a rather large patch on the knee of his jeans. First of all he reinforced the hole by placing a denim patch behind the hole. Then zig zag stitched it in place using the sewing machine. He ironed on these fun patches over the hole. We recommended to Justin to hand sew the patches using an over stitch. It helps keep them in place. 

Sarah brought her favourite jeans with her to fix. They had the common problem of fraying on the inner thigh seam. Sarah didn’t want to throw the jeans away as there was nothing wrong with the rest of the denim. She used the sewing machine to secure the patch and cover the holes with a zig zag stitch.

Jess found a replacement button that co-ordinated with the button on the other side of the dungarees. It was a shank button and she sewed it on with a double thread to prevent it from falling off again. How to sew on a button. Jess found a replacement button that co-ordinated with the button on the other side of the dungarees. It was a shank button and she sewed it on with a double thread to prevent it from falling off again. How to sew on a button.

Scroll down to find more information on how to join one of our in person or online workshops…

Sutton

Saturday 3 July, 2 to 3:30pm ‘Fix your Clothes’ Workshop at Whitehall Historic House, Sutton: In this ‘Fix your Clothes’ workshop hosted by Whitehall Historic House, we’ll give you an introduction to the repair skills of darning and patching, and provide you with some of the materials you need to get started. Each participant will receive a kit to use during the workshop, the kit will include a selection of woven and knitted fabric patches, 1 cotton yarn, 1 woollen yarn, 1 regular sewing thread, 2 needles, and an instructional card for each technique for you to look back at after the workshop. Tickets are £10 Book via Eventbright.

The Remakery, Brixton, London

Third Monday of the month 6:30 to 8pm : We have teamed up with The Remakery for a regular clothes mending workshop. The format is the same as our session at The Create Place. Bring along an item of clothing that needs mending, along with a basic sewing kit. There are a few sewing machines available, iron and ironing board. Please let us know what you are mending in advance and we can bring along the relevant materials as we don’t have any storage at The Remakery. Book via Eventbrite, cost is £3.50.

The Create Place, Bethnal Green, London

Second and Fourth Mondays of the month 6:30 to 8pm We are back at The Create Place in Bethnal Green. Spaces are limited to 4 people and full details will be sent in advance so we can stay Covid safe. To help manage the limited space only one person can book one place per month. For example if you book for the 14th June you can’t book for 28th June. We are not advertising on Eventbrite, please email us if you would like to book for July.

First Monday of the month we host a free online mend-a-long. Bring along a couple of pieces of clothes mending with a basic sewing kit. Connect with us on video call and join in the chat as we mend. Feel free to ask us and the group questions. Sign up for our newsletter for joining details which are sent a few days in advance (previously on Zoom but we are exploring other platforms). (no online workshop in July, next meet up is 2nd August.

We look forward to seeing you online or in person at a workshop soon. 

Which threads to use for mending?

a box of sewing threads in bright colours mix of shapes and sizes

We’ve enjoyed meeting lots of people for our online clothes mending workshops and mend-a-longs. We miss meeting everyone in person but online has the advantage that attendees can join from all over the UK, Ireland and even as far away as Canada. It has been a real positive of being in lockdown helping people mend their clothes. The chats as we mend have been varied and a theme that has come up often is what type of thread to use. We have pulled together a our top tips to help…

Reuse

Our philosophy at Fast Fashion Therapy is to re-use threads and other materials where ever possible. There are millions of supplies out there that someone doesn’t want that is useful for someone else. Why use up the Earth’s resources creating something new when the chances are what you want could be thrown away by someone else? Many of my threads of all colours, substrates and qualities have been donated by family and friends. I inherited my nan’s sewing box when she died and it brings me comfort to know she mended her clothes with these same threads. Including some beautiful wooden reels with the Woolworths price sticker still intact.

Charity shops are a fantastic source of haberdashery when they are back open. I always head to the back of the shop and hunt around baskets on shelves hidden behind vases and picture frames. Often picking up a bundle for £1.

Ebay and Gumtree are great if there is something particular you are after or it isn’t possible to get to a charity shop. I picked up these used industrial reels of thread in various blues for our denim patching kits. I then transfer them onto plastic reels that have also been reused. I put out a request on the Facebook group The Fold Line, used by dressmakers. Many of them had kept the reels but didn’t know what to do with them. They were happy to post them to me knowing that they were going to be reused rather than thrown away.

It is important to note if your thread is particularly vintage and has been stored in sunlight or heat it could become brittle and break easily. Try the thread before you use it. It should be difficult to break between your fingers. If it snaps easily it is best not to use it for clothes mending otherwise the stitches will not hold.

What thread should I use to mend my clothes?

The rule of thumb is to match the composition of the thread to the composition of the garment. For example use 100% cotton thread for cotton jeans. However, with so much stretch being included in our modern day garments, this rule doesn’t always follow. You can find technical tables online that tell you which threads to use for which fabrics. We like to keep things simple at FFT so have summarised the threads below

100% Polyester Thread

Gutterman 100% recycled Polyester Thread from James Tailoring

This is an all purpose thread and will work for pretty much all fabrics. It can be used on the sewing machine and for hand sewing. Polyester thread is particularly good for fabrics that have some stretch in them and will stretch with the fabric rather than fighting against it. A downside of Polyester thread is it will not absorb domestic and natural fabric dyes. So if you want to dye a piece of clothing the stitching will stay the same colour. I have done this and it can look quite effective. If you are looking to buy new Polyester thread rather than a reused thread then we recommend sourcing one that has been made from recycled materials. Such as the Gutterman thread in the photo.

100% Cotton Thread

Olive green sewing thread on a wooden reel
Scanfil 100% organic cotton thread from Offset Warehouse

This thread is great for topstitching jeans and other cotton and linen garments. It tends to be slightly thicker than regular Polyester thread. It doesn’t have any stretch and isn’t recommended for stretch fabrics. If you can’t find what you are looking for pre-loved then we like these organic cotton threads from Scanfil. Boro stitching is a decorative method of clothes mending that derives from Japan. Traditionally thicker cotton thread is used in white. We found these cones of 4-ply (4 strands twisted together) on Gumtree to include in our jeans mending kits. We use other colours too but white against dark denim is traditional.

Nylon Thread

A bit more unusual, this thread is useful for sewing highly stretched fabrics such as swimming costumes, leggings and other sportswear. It is also waterproof so works well for mending showerproof jackets. It is widely available in black and white, other colours might be more difficult to come by in small reels. We bought a large reel from eBay to re-wind onto re-used reels for our sportswear mending kits.

Silk Thread

The only time I’ve use this is to mend silk garments but it is also useful for wool garments. It has a slight stretch to it so could be useful for jersey fabrics if you wanted a natural alternative to Polyester.

Darning Yarns

The sewing threads listed above can be used to darn T-shirts and thinner jersey fabrics such as leggings but we recommend thicker yarns for darning knitwear. The same rule applies that it is best to match the fibre content of the mending yarn as much as you can with the fibre content of the knitwear. Mending yarn is usually sold in a variety of colours but is nearly always a blend of wool and nylon. This is a good all purpose yarn, great for socks, jersey stretch fabric and most jumpers. However there are some special items that we recommend using specific yarn. Maybe a merino wool fine gauge jumper. Or a thick, cosy cashmere cardigan. We have sourced a variety of yarns for our darning mending kits from eBay and Gumtree that we have repurposed into smaller bundles for mending.

It is also important to mend the width of the yarn with that of the jumper. For example, I would use a 2-ply (two threads twisted together) yarn on a fine gauge knit jumper. I would use a thicker 4 or 6-ply yarn on a chunky knitted jumper.

An old tin, plastic box with a lid or a shoe box is useful to store threads in. I have heard of people wrapping the reels with elastic bands to stop the threads coming lose and matting together. Maybe I’ll save that job for another time…

Follow our tips on how to build a clothes repair kit

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.