Updated on November 3, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
What with all the talk of fast fashion, throwing away old things for the sake of mental peace and nirvana, the convenience of not stepping out or even taking out your wallet for buying things, and the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out) we are all buying new clothes like they are going out of fashion.
Yes – clothes are becoming highly disposable. Use and throw clothes – that is the name of the game today. People want change and clothing brands are vying among themselves creating affordable and fashionable clothes. A new collection is coming out even as frequently as every 2 weeks. So where is the need for clothing repairs?
Why you should fix your clothes?
Fixing old clothes instead of buying new may make Jack a very bright boy, instead of the dull boy he was. Lifehack.com says that the world is paying a high price for fast fashion. Read all about this here. It means you are halfway through to a sustainable world by deciding to mend your clothes. A very lofty reason for repairing your clothes. I guess saving money would do for many.
Check out this post on the most commonly used sewing supplies you may need for these mending operations.
The most common clothing problems that beg for repair and fixes
1. Holes – big and small
Holes in clothes are the number one clothing problem anyone and everyone encounters every once in a while. Usually, there is a big hole on the fabric surface but it is not uncommon to find small pinholes on fabric made from pins/brooches or even unseen cloth moths or frequent rubbing against the kitchen sink or even a seat belt.
Darning is painful but well worth it for keeping a favourite clothing intact. You will need to keep some fusible interfacing handy to reinforce the back of the fabric before you do any of the operations.You can learn how to darn here.
2. Damage to collars of shirts, coats, jackets
Collars are the first thing that gets damaged in shirts – sweat and body oil from the back of the neck settles on the collars and when we try to remove these unsightly stains with brush we may inadvertently and unintentionally damage the collar fabric.
For severe damage, you may need serious sewing skills to replace the collar. Simple repairs like changing the interfacing inside and darning can be done by opening up the stitches, turning the collar inside out and sewing from the inside before restitching it back. A sort of reverse engineering will work here; just remember the steps back.
3. Seam has come open
Usually in store brought clothes the seam stitching is done rather carelessly. Just a single long length stitch will be all that is holding fabric layers together and your modesty. This seam stitching will come open any time with some small amount of stress. You can give reinforcing stitches on top of the seam stitching to prevent the seam ripping open at unexpected places ( quite literally)
Learn more about the straight stitch here or the zig zag stitch which is the best stitch for even slightly stretchy fabrics. Backstitch is the closest hand sewing stitch resembling a machine-made stitch. You can find the other hand sewing stitches here. You can use the ladder stitch to sew the seam shut if it an emergency- quite easily with a needle and thread. Learn some invisible stitches for that no stitched look.
4. Lining damaged
A lining is usually added to a garment to protect the outer fabric of the garment but usually, the fabric used for lining is not of good quality and it tears or rips – in this case, if mending is not the solution, you may have to replace the lining or decide to do away with the lining. The lining is usually attached to the neckline or shoulder seams so you may have to undo the stitches there to get it out.
Choose a good quality fabric for lining and make it as the same as the outer garment and attach at the neckline, armline and shoulder seams. Learn about a method to sew the lining and the outerfabric to give the look of an invisible hem here.
5. Pressing impressions on garment face
This is the dreaded mark with the shape of the iron soleplate on your garment. This is caused by improper ironing. Sometimes you leave the iron a little too long and this leaves marks. They almost look permanent but do not despair. Steam ironing and then using some pressure with your hands to smooth out the area can eliminate the mark to an extent.
Some fabrics should never be touched by the iron. You can use the steam function in your iron for preventing this. Use a pressing cloth between the iron and the fabric – this also prevents marks to an extent. A good pressing cloth is a thin muslin cotton fabric piece. Here are some ironing tips
6. Crushed Fabric Nap
This is the same case as earlier – improper ironing. You will have to iron all fabric with a nape – like velvet, from the back of the fabric. Also take special care when washing such clothes. There is a special velvet board for ironing fabrics like these. Learn more on velvet fabric care here.
Check out the post on napped /piled fabrics for some details on this
7. Colour bleeding
A common enough problem, which could have been prevented by segregating garments according to colours. Sometimes even this is not enough. A tunic with different coloured prints / embroidery/embellishment may bleed onto itself. In this case you may have to give the garment for dry cleaning and hope for the best .
Check out this post on how to prevent color bleeding here.
8. Lint on clothes
Lint is an appearance killer for clothes. Use the techniques described here in this post 15 solutions to lint on clothes if you want to deal with this.
9. Damaged Waistband of skirts or pants
Waistbands are always damage prone. They need to be stiff and if they are not you can say it is damaged. It is most probably because the interfacing inside the waistband which kept it stiff has disintegrated.
You can remove the damaged interfacing from the inside and replace it with a new stiffer one. Add a stiff ribbon/stay tape to the back of the waistband to make it stiff
If the waistband is beyond repair and you have matching fabric to make a new waistband do that. Check out this post 5 best ways to add WAISTBANDS to your skirts and pants for explanations on how to make one yourself.
10. Interlining damaged
Interlining is that layer added between lining and the outer fabric for warmth or comfort. At times the interlining gets disintegrated and starts shredding from inside the lining and the outer garment. Sometimes they just get detached from the fabric .
This usually happens in the wash or when drycleaning (which you used thinking the interlining is safe – you are wrong). The interlining is bonded to the lining fabric. Even when a garment is drycleaned, damage may happen due to dry cleaning solvents. Improper agitation in the wash also cause the interlining to separate from the fabric.
You may have to give the garment for alteration as it is difficult to do it if you do not have professional sewing skills
11. The fabric looks washed out and faded
This happens to both bright and dark coloured clothes and white clothes. This is usually a not-washing-properly thing. Check out these posts on preventing color fading in clothes, ” best ways to wash dark colored clothes” “How to keep white clothes white” for solutions.
Related post : Basic garment care.
12. The fabric is snagged and or scuffed in places
A case of improper washing again, usually. If you throw in clothes randomly without caring whether zippers are closed or the car key is still in the pocket or even with pins still on the garment, snagging happens. No one else to blame. Some fabric is more prone to this- like a cheap satin fabric. Satin snags because of the special weave with floating yarns.
You may have to soothe the ruffled feathers, so to say. Cut out threads which have come off and arrange the ruffled fabric weave and press in place. And not do all the things mentioned earlier and washing lingerie and delicate clothing.
I have made a bag to wash these fabrics inside a washing machine to prevent this mishap.
13. Clothing that has gotten out of shape
The most common complaint is that the neckline is gaping. Check out the solutions to this problem – ” fix a neckline that is too big“
Most of the clothing that gets out of shape will be made of knit fabrics or wool. You can take proper care when washing and drying to prevent these problems. Learn more about wool care here.
14. Fabric texture is damaged
Most of the fabrics with texture need to be hand washed for the texture to remain intact. If it is already damaged you may have to repair it or replace the area or camouflage the damage with a patch or embroidery. Learn about making fabric patches and about attaching the fabric patches.
Buttons can be replaced easily. Most clothes will come with extra buttons. I never remember where I kept it later. I usually use a close enough button from my button stash or use a button from the bottom edge which is not used if the shirt will be untucked or the one near the collar.
Replacing buttons is quite easy – check out the posts ” How to sew buttons -by hand and with a sewing machine”
If you haven’t found a matching button you may want to camouflage the truth that there are no buttons – just remove the adjacent buttons and space them apart.
16. Bubbled surface due to ironing on interfacing
This is usually caused by improper pressing and not preshrinking the fabric and or interfacing. The fabric and interfacing have shrunk at different rates. You may have to press the bubbles away or replace the interfacing with a new one altogether after removing the current one. Learn how to attach interfacing here.
17. Trims and other embellishments are damaged or come loose
You can hand sew or machine stitch these trims back to how it was earlier, if they have just come apart. But if the trim is damaged you will have to take it out and replace it, if needed with new trim. A herringbone stitch is the best stitch to sew lace trims.
19. The fabric is pilling like crazy
Some fabric pill and you have to face this reality and protect the ones that do not. Know which fabric does and segregate them when washing. Check out the top tips to prevent pilling of fabric and solutions to remove them here
20. There is shine on the fabric face
Some fabric develop a shine when hot iron is pressed on the surface. It is better to use a slightly damp pressing cloth between the ironing plate and the fabric to prevent this.
21. Garment has stains
Stains can sometimes be the death knell of a garment. Sometimes they are easily removable. Check out this post on the best stain removers you can use to remove most of the stains.
Sometimes a dirty iron box soleplate can be the cause. You can use the tricks in this post on cleaning an iron soleplate.
22. The garment has water spots
Water spots usually occur on silk fabrics – sometimes you may have to treat venom with venom. Just use a damp press cloth on the water spot and then press with iron. Do not try this solution without testing somewhere inside. Learn more about silk fabric care here.
23. Seam slippage /unraveling
This refers to the fabric getting damaged near the stitching line. It is usually seen on loosely woven fabrics or when the garment is too tight. Replacing the stitching line after reinforcing the area can save the day. You can use stay tape or twill tape on the seam line as reinforcement.
24. Permanent pleats have come undone
The permanent pleats on garments lose their sharp pleats when washing, drying, pressing. The garment looks very different and even unattractive with the pleats come undone. There is no definite solution to this other than to try fixing it with your home iron. Here prevention is better than a cure – take care when washing and tumble drying the said fabric. Pre pleated fabrics are difficult to fix at home, as special machines are needed to make those pleats.
25. The garment has horrible sweat smell
The smell may also be accompanied by a stain. As one commenter told me the sweat can be prevented with good hygiene. That aside, if the sweat smell is already present – there are simple solutions to get rid of it- Here are the 15 tips to get rid of sweat smell from clothes.
26. Metal hardware of the clothing damaged
This refers to eyelets and some fasteners. Some may need special tools to remove and replace -some just elbow grease and basic common sense. Check out the post on the tools used for attaching metal grommets (eyelets).
27. The zipper is broken
The zipper is made of plastic and is, as such delicate. When you leave it open on your clothes and it is washing/tumbling/spinning in the machine, there will be damage. But when the damage is done it is slightly difficult to repair – but not impossible. Here is a post on the different ways to fix zippers
28. Scorch marks from ironing
This is a very common ironing accident. This is not the same as burnt holes – scorch mark means you have an unattractive shading of brown coloured area on the fabric from too hot iron singeing the fibers on the surface of the fabric.
First and foremost keep the iron clean and maybe they will not even be made. Using a press cloth is the most obvious way of preventing such accidents. You can try some first aid stain removing solutions mentioned here for the superficial scorch marks.
29. Small or Big hole from moths
This is different from the holes mentioned earlier – these holes are completely preventable by getting rid of all the cloth moths in your wardrobe. Get some moth balls pronto.
30. Patches have come undone
31. Hem has come unstitched and is hanging loose
Sewing a hem back very unobtrusively is a challenge. You can hand sew the hem with invisible stitches or sew blind hem stitch with a sewing machine. And have a look at the post on making invisible hem too.
32. Embroidery is damaged
An embroidery work which is scuffed and filled with broken thread is an eyesore. Another scenario is that the embroidery is outdated and makes the garment feel old.
You can take out the seam ripper and with infinite patience take out the embroidery stitches- be careful that you do not leave any holes. Here all that matters is good lighting and patience. Here is a post on the best ways to remove embroidery from fabric.
After the embroidery is taken out you may need to replace with new embroidery of there is a discoloration there. Check out this post on some easy flower embroidery designs.
33. Inner foam is damaged
The foam rubber inside garments gets damaged or distorted in the wash. This inner foam is foam rubber that is used inside shoulder pads, bras, and other innerwear. Some foam, if not removed immediately can make stains on your clothing. You will have to take apart the clothing and remove it. Take out your seam ripper or other tools for your work.
34. Beading has come undone
Carefully remove the stitching done attaching the beads to the fabric and then restitch the beads.Check out the beading stitches you can use here.
35. Beads/sequins are damaged
In this case, you will need to have matching beads to replace the damaged beads. If it is not available, make other motifs that match – you can make some flower motifs as detailed here.
36. Elastic Waistband rolling over
A problem easily solved if you make a small vertical stitching that will keep the elastic inside the waistband in place. You can stitch in the ditch over a seam line across the waistband.
37. Elastic inside waistband is damaged
You will need to replace the elastic inside. If the waistband has several stitching lines you will have a hard time removing all of it even with the sharpest seam ripper at hand.
38. Pant hem is worn out and torn
Reinforce the hem area ; darn if tear is present and restitch the hem. Or make a separate cuff if the hem is beyond repair.
39. Pockets are damaged
But if welt pockets come apart it is a different game altogether. They may be frayed at the seam or the corner may develop holes. Sometimes they are beyond repair. Cover it up with embroidery or a patch. If they can be darned but you do not feel good about the stitching, sew a patch pocket over the area or add a flap over the pocket. Learn how to sew welt pockets
40. Finally, fitting problems and alterations
You have had them – the dress is too tight, it is too large, too short and countless other problems. These may not qualify strictly as a mending problem, but these are necessary repairs that one ought to do to make the garment wearable. Here is what to do if the dress is too big.
Here are some of the common alterations one may have to do.
Exasperation is the most common emotion which precedes most clothing fixes. You need time and a little (a lot actually) patience for repairing clothes you have at home and resist the temptation to buy more and more new clothes, which most people do not have but you are different, which is why you finished reading this.