How I Broke a Safety Pin Addiction and Started Mending Clothes

I used to think mending clothes would take too long, so I’d rely on safety pins. The button fell off my pants? No problem, a safety pin will help me get dressed and out the door fast.

But the problem with safety pins is they’re a gateway. Eventually you need a safety pin but can’t find one, and then you’re looking to office supplies to get your fix.

Scotch tape holds up your pants hem, but only for an hour or so. Later people will look down and see your torn hem and long strips of tape sticking out around your ankles. (I know this first-hand.)

You’ll wonder if the stapler will work better and longer, and strategize how if you face the top of the staple to the inside of your clothes, then it won’t be so noticeable.

The binder clip can fasten your pants where the button used to be. Sit gently.

Then one day I decided to sit down and sew a button on. Properly, with a needle and thread.

It took me less than ten minutes!

A shirt I hadn’t been able to wear for five years took five minutes to fix!

Suddenly I was on a roll. Another pair of pants, fixed in ten minutes.

A small rip in a skirt, fixed in just a few.

Buttons were fastened back on, my clothes were better than ever, and I don’t think about safety pins much anymore.

Your Essential Sewing Supplies

A needle and thread fixes most issues, so don’t wait for the problem to get worse.

Start with thread in three basic colors: black, white, and beige will suit most clothes. Choose good-quality, all-purpose thread that doesn’t break easily.

Keep a button jar. Whenever your new garment comes with extra buttons, add them to the jar. Then you won’t have loose buttons in your drawers, medicine cabinets, and jewelry box.

You need some good little scissors.

One more tool is a handy seam ripper. Use it to take the tags off shirts if they stick up in the back. What you do is you poke the pointy end under the stitches so you can break the thread. Then you can pull the tag off without accidently cutting the fabric of the shirt.

Do you mend your clothes, or do you have other creative ways to fix them?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. I became a fan of fabric glue…I’ve used it to hem pants or fix small tears in things where it isn’t obvious its glued! :-)

    Kait Palmer´s last post…A Haircut, a Wedding, and a lot of Photoshop

  2. Jackie@Lilolu says:

    I started mending my own clothes about 2 years ago. You’re right it’s not as difficult as one may think. The fun part of it all was buying a cute sewing storage basket/box.

  3. I’ve used duct tape in the past, but generally now I’m better at mending. It helps that I picked up embroidery as a hobby…

    Juice´s last post…Matty and Chloe

  4. I’ve mended a few of my husband’s clothes. Sewing on buttons, stitching up linings of jackets. I would say one other thing that is helpful to have is a fabric pencil. They wash off and they help you get buttons on straight/in the right spot. You can get one that’s blue on one end and white on the other so it’ll show up on whatever color fabric you’re using it on.

    Jen C.´s last post…Making Tea

  5. Jessicah says:

    Haha! I totally used a paperclip to fasten my pants the other day, since I couldn’t find a safety pin. But sadly the paperclip didn’t hold the material well, and I had to keep re-attaching, because my pants kept sliding down. :) Maybe I’ll give in and get out a needle and thread later…

  6. Too funny. I’m siting at work reading this with both a saftey pin and scotch tape holding up my pant hem. Have to admit I’ve used the binder clip fix too! I did recently start a button box…maybe that is the first step. :) Love your blog!

  7. OMG, this is me! And I thought I was the only one there…

  8. When my kids were little, I sewed most of their clothes,but these days I do most of my sewing for paper arts. Mending has always been a challenge- hard to find it very exciting! I do sew on buttons and am the family’s official “hemmer”, but that’s about it. I’ve been known to use that fubible webbing tape you iron on – it holds for several washings.

    deb mattin´s last post…Father’s Day

  9. I have also begun mending clothes. I am also repurposing things of mine that no longer fit, never fit quite right, or I never wear. A floral skirt is becoming a dress and bloomers for my daughter. An adorable appliqued tee worn once by my son (and promptly ruined) is going to be reincarnated as a different tee with the same applique. I was so ridiculously proud of myself for repairing my husband’s buttonless pants , etc. It’s a bit sad! ;)

  10. Sandra Gonzales says:

    I know this doesn’t make any sense but I feel like sewing is a seasonal thing. I love to sew in the winter just like I love to bake in the winter. Crazy I know.

  11. I’ve just started to mend my clothes. I had some items sitting on my dryer for months waiting for me to get around to mending them. And, finally I did. I sat down with an episode of Jeeves and Wooster and got down to it. Now when I go to the thrift store and I see a fabulous dress from let’s say White House Black Market I am not afraid to fix the stitching on the zipper or neckline. I’m still not able to make any clothes from scratch or from a pattern, but I’m at least able to give some great clothes new love and support local charities in the process by buying from the thrift store.

    AmandaonMaui´s last post…Happy Father’s Day!

  12. Denise C. says:

    I have a sewing machine & am horrible with it. I am pretty good at fixing minor, very minor, clothing issues myself, by hand. I like your little sewing box! Very cute! :)

  13. Oh my, this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today. I’ve been sporting double sided tape on the hem of my favorite pair of work pants for…oh…about the last six months. I’ll be fixing it “for real” tonight. ;)

  14. What got me mending and patching like a mad woman was getting over the idea that my fixes had to be perfect. Here are some of the results: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hja/tags/patch

    I got a lot of inspiration from the March Mending Month archives on craftzine.com. Especially this entry: http://blog.craftzine.com/archive/2009/03/patch_101.html

  15. i’m sitting here with a giant sailor button on my shorts, i’m pretty sure these used to have a very normal brown button like all Polo shorts have but it popped off and these shorts went into Rachel’s mending pile, now I have a giant sailor button. Yeah MENDING!

  16. I do mend clothes, though I always put it off even though it takes hardly any time at all. I hem things, too, since I’m short and can never find pants the right length. I sewed with my mom a lot as a kid, and even though it’s not my favorite task I’m glad to have the ability to do so. :)

    liz´s last post…homemade deodorant, for real

  17. Rachel P. says:

    I was lucky enough to have a mother who insisted on teaching me how to sew on a button and fix a hem. That was the extent of my sewing and mending for years as an adult until one day my husband came home with half his usually paycheck and no other income opportunities. My children needed pajama pants and we had other household needs that I would have usually bought but knew I could learn to sew. My grandmother’s vintage sewing machine came into action and now I look for the opportunity to sew something as opposed to buying it, especially when I realized I could pick up amazing fabrics at my local second-hand store for much cheaper and how truly simple sewing clothes can be.

  18. As you are thinking similar thoughts…it is on my latest “to-do list” (http://www.se7en.org.za/2010/06/16/saturday-spot-the-meeting-and-a-school-refresher) I am declaring tomorrow a mending day after a severe pile up of mending… I love the satisfaction of finishing up a stack… and you are so right it is so quick if you just do it then and there but blogging has distracted me… I haven’t had a day of it for ages. There is a need – so blog break until the mending is done!!!

    se7en´s last post…The Week That Was – 2.51

  19. Vanessa says:

    Ha ha ha! How funny :) Just today I wore a shirt which has a thread loose and always trails on the bottom edge of the shirt. I used scotch tape to tape it on the inside. Still holding :)
    I know how to sew buttons but that’s about it. I’d love to know how to sew really well but when to find the time?

  20. Of course you’re right, it’s so much more satisfying to sew on a button than safety pin your clothes closed.

    I’m off to sew buttons on several of my UPS husband’s shorts.

  21. I have a pair of workout pants that I hemmed with duct tape about 7 years ago. The tape ended up bonding to the fabric, so while I intended to hem them properly, my plans were foiled by irremovable duct tape! Hey, it works.

  22. About two years I had the same discovery and it’s great.

    I tend to overorganize, but I have a button tin, in which I keep all my spare buttons. When I buy a garment I staple the tag to the bag of spare buttons. It makes it easier to find the right button, because I don’t have to compare all the (mainly black) buttons in order to find the right one…

  23. I have quite a fix pile right now but it is mixed in with adjustments pile and leftover sewing scraps pile. I think today I will vacuum the rug and spread it all out. I might find a few ‘new’ summer things for my kids from last summer.

  24. How funny that this topic came up today when I have a stack of mending to do. The hardest task will be replacing a machine-inserted snap on a jacket I just bought. The snap is backwards on the end of a little piece of material on the wrist. If you twist the piece of material around you can still snap it shut, but it doesn’t look quite right. As I only paid $7 for the (normally $68)jacket, I hate to invest too much time and money in repairs, but apparently it’s possible to pry off the old snap and replace it with a new one (a trip to Joann Fabrics I guess). Anybody have any suggestions on the best way to go about this?

    Cindy May´s last post…Interesting Photo-Related Items I’ve Recently Come Across

  25. I used to be the goddess of safety pins until I realized that it’s really not that difficult to mend clothes. Not I get some satisfaction after saving my favorite pieces from disaster! Isn’t it amazing what we can do when we set our minds to it!

    Tina@RideonToys´s last post…Pedal Go Karts – Safe Enough For Parents And Cool Enough For Kids

  26. Rachel,

    I needed to read this. I am not good at sewing, and I flunked home economics class in school whenever some sort of sewing project was part of it.

    Sewing has been on my to-do-learn list for long time. I should start that now, it is fear of my old home economic teacher ringing in my ears, you are not good and you will never be good at it. :-(

    I got to come over it, slowly. Hopefully I will.

    Zengirl @ Heart and Mind´s last post…101 changes: Change 5 – Smile when you wake up

  27. I despise mending with a passion. I sew and would much rather start over from scratch than mend something. I tend to send my mending over to my mama’s.

  28. Thanks for the excellent reminder!
    It DOES take me a few minutes to repair something that would otherwise not wear in months – or years!

    Karisa Rivera´s last post…Preparing To Be His Help Meet Book Review – Part 1

  29. I sew some of my own clothes, and love it, but I hate mending them. When a button falls off or a hem needs repaired, I generally beg my mom to do it for me. Maintaining things is not my strong suit I guess, but I love he creation parts.

    Throckmorton Jones´s last post…Irritating!

  30. A word of caution- many tags are sewn into seams via serging. If you remove them by cutting the threads, the whole seam can start to unravel because it’s a chain stitch.

    Better to use the seam ripper to cut along the perforations in the tag, then try to pull the bit that’s still in the seam out with tweezers; sometimes you can, sometimes, you can’t, but it does remove most of the tag while keeping the seam intact.

  31. Love this post! I stapled my watch strap together for about a month because I was too busy to get a new one! How hilarious to know I was not alone…. I also keep all the buttons for mending, but now have hundreds of buttons over the years, including for clothes I have not owned for some time… must figure out how to clean the button drawer when I clean the wardrobe. :)

    angelvalerie´s last post…the glass ceiling…

  32. blushing and smiling at “You’ll (…) strategize how if you face the top of the staple to the inside of your clothes, then it won’t be so noticeable.”
    yes, i’m guilty of that (for quick curtains’ hems, too) OMGosh :D

    francesca´s last post…Flat Irons – beginners guide