Modern, sustainable living

What’s the Stitch? Why You Need to Learn How to Fix and Darn Clothes

by | Apr 30, 2019

When was the last time you mended your clothes? Have you ever? Do you keep the spare buttons that come with your purchases?

As a larger woman with size 9 feet, I tend to treasure the clothes I do have and will do all I can to keep wearing them year-to-year. As a result and thanks to my mother teaching me basic sewing, I’ve mended many a loose hem, lost button and torn lining, as well as numerous small rips and holes. I’ve even darned a special pair of socks, although I will be the first to admit this is not my favourite mending task. (Have you noticed how socks are notoriously ‘disposable’ and often seem deliberately poorly made? It’s not for nothing!). Some mends, like zippers and resoling, I will leave to the experts who return my pieces to me, almost as new and ready for another life.*

To labour the point I’ve made these past months, the modern clothing industry – fast fashion, convenience and planned obsolescence –  teaches us that clothes are disposable and easier to replace than to repair. This makes no sense as often the most common repairs are also the easiest. Better yet, whilst some can be invisible, sometimes these repairs can even add more character to a beloved piece. I’m particularly enamoured with the concept of ‘visible mending’ where repairs and fixes are deliberately made obvious to emphasise their function and challenge the disposable clothing convention! Shashiko is a gorgeous ancient Japanese version of this visible mending, which uses high-contrast geometric stitching to create functional designs whilst mending, patching and repurposing old clothes and textiles.

To get your started on your mending journey, we’ll begin with the basics: Buttons.

@Tickover_ on Instagram is an incredible conscious hand embroiderer and artist who uses her pieces and platform to draw attention to the social, ethical and environmental impacts of the modern fashion industry. This tutorial is adapted from her “Mend with Me” series where she posted weekly tutorials for clothing repair, emphasising visible mending and “showing that repair clothing is fun, rewarding and strengthens community spirit”.  I’d highly recommend giving her a follow and be sure to check out her other tutorials, as well as the #mendwithme hashtag to see some of the ingenious repairs and fixes from her followers.

You will need:

  • A spare button
  • Needle and thread
  • Quick unpick/seam ripper/small scissors
  • A pin
  • And obviously, your garment missing a button!

Firstly remove any threads left behind by your previous button and mark where the new one should go.

Place a pin over the top of the mark and bring the needle up through the fabric from the back. The pin prevents you from stitching the button on too tight.

Make your first stitch through the button, going up through a hole from the underside, and back through the opposite hole on the front and then through the fabric.

Next, repeat the process, stitching through the opposite holes until the button is secure.

Then bring the needle through the fabric, but underneath the button and pull through.

To make the “shank” remove the pin and warp the thread around the slack left behind to add strength.

I (@Tickover_) wrap around approximately six times.

Finally, fasten off your thread by making a few secure stitches on the back.

With that, you’re on your way to a refreshed new wardrobe. Once you’ve mastered the basics, feel free to get a bit funky with it using bright threads, fun buttons and interesting stitch patterns. Don’t forget, basic mending skills can also be super-valuable when second-hand shopping.  Armed with this knowledge, you’ve opened your choices for fixing-up a neglected and overlooked piece or upstyling a dated one with a new hem or modern buttons. 

And if for nothing else, a darning mushroom makes for a very quaint ring holder when not in use.

  • Ed: We’re working on a redesign of the website which will include resources so watch this space for our Little Black Book of local menders, tailors and makers. 
  • Image credits: From @Tickover_ Instagram and main image is by Amirali Mirhashemian/Unsplash
Share this article:


Related Posts

Our work is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 12, which aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production. Read More