On the Mend (Part 1)

Whip stitch On a recent visit with my parents, I noticed a small tear along the side seam of my father’s shirt. He mumbled something about how that was the end of that shirt, and my mother was quick to agree. After I picked my jaw off the floor at this ludicrous statement, I pointed out to my mother that she owned a sewing machine and I knew for a fact that she could sew! There was no need to get rid of the shirt when a simple and quick fix could make it good as new.

In these increasingly harder economic times, knowing some basic sewing techniques can help fix common rips and tears that will help extend your wardrobe. So over the next couple of weeks I will be highlighting some simple ways to fix up and mend your clothes. These fixes are worth more than the pennies spent on materials and are not only good for your wallet but good for the environment to boot.

To fix the aforementioned tear in the seam of a shirt you’ll need a needle of appropriate weight. One that is sturdy enough to go through the fabric easily, but thin enough that you won’t struggle. You will also need thread in a coordinating color.

Turn the shirt inside out and press so the hole will line up. For smaller holes I usually don’t pin the work area, but it does help to stabilize keep the two sides from separating. Working from right to left, start approximately 1/4″ in front of the hole. Insert the needle to start, then make small diagonal stitches over the edge, as pictured. This is called a whip stitch.

Make sure your stitches are evenly spaced and small in length, ending approximately 1/4″ beyond the tear. Tie off and cut the remaining thread. Turn the shirt right side out and admire your new/old shirt!

Written by Kelly Rand

Kelly covers visual arts in and around Washington, DC for DCist and is editor of Crafting a Green World. Kelly has also been published by Bust Magazine and you can find her byline at Indie Fixx and Etsy’s Storque and has taught in Etsy’s virtual lab on the topic of green crafting.

Kelly helps organize Crafty Bastards: Arts and Crafts Fair, one of the largest indie craft fairs on the east coast and has served on the Craft Bastard’s jury since 2007. Kelly is also co-founder of Hello Craft a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the advancement of independent crafters and the handmade movement. Kelly resides in Washington, D.C. and believes that handmade will save the world.


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  1. My sister and I are members of a poor people’s rights organization, Arise for Social Justice. We’ve been collecting tips to help folks survive in tough times. Just tonite we were talking about how our grandmothers would have a button jar– cut off from worn-out clothing then used for rags, patchwork quilts, clothespin bags, etc.

    We’ve got to recover some of these lost arts.

  2. Brilliant! I can’t believe how quick people are to throw out clothing that could be easily mended and passed on to someone who needs it. I am really looking forward to this series.

  3. Do you know a good book that specializes in hand stitching/sewing? I’d like to try and learn this skill, rather than relying on a sewing machine.

    I’ve been inspired by Alabama Chanin.

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