How to Salvage Clothing Items
Remove pills, mend tears, and give your clothes a new lease on life.
Your favorite top ripped. A button fell off your go-to work trousers. Your coziest sweater has pills all over it. What do you do? In most cases, it worth trying to repair an item of clothing at home before taking it to a tailor-or tossing it into the trash bin, says Laurie Brucker, a Los Angeles stylist and personal shopper. "But if it's an item you love that's sentimental, an heirloom, or an item that you'll wear a ton, don't risk DIY and consider taking it to a professional," she adds. Keep expense in mind, too: if a repair costs more than the item itself is worth, you might reconsider trying to salvage it.
Not only is repairing an item of clothing more sustainable and easier on the wallet, but Brucker has also found that a bit of imagination (and a needle and thread) can turn a not-quite-right item into a new favorite. "If you are crafty with your repair, it turns into a fun way to show your style and express yourself. As a personal stylist, I know that when women feel more creative in their wardrobe, it makes them feel more engaged with themselves and their lives. We have to get dressed every day. Make it a good experience."
Brucker walks us through the most common clothing repairs, and shows us how to infuse style in even the simplest fixes.
Patch a Hole
Use items that have fallen apart as an opportunity to get more creative with your wardrobe. For example, you can take an old denim jacket or a pair of jeans with a hole in it, and add a fun patch, a jeweled detail, or add a contrasting fabric underlayer to give the item your own personal flourish. Going the DIY route? Get our step-by-step instructions.
Repair a Seam
"You can do this pretty quickly without a lot of technical detailing," says Brucker. Here's how: Turn the garment inside out. Tie off the loose machine-stitched threads around the tear. Make a short backstitch about 1/2 inch before the rip. Take the stitch through both layers of the fabric, following the stitch line. Our step-by-step instructions make easy work of the task. Another idea: If the seam rips in an armhole, you can transform the garment into a tank top or dress.
Sew a Button
Hold the button in place, and send the needle from the back of the fabric up through one of the holes. Stitch down over it into an adjacent hole. Stitch until each pair of holes has been bound five or six times; knot thread to finish. To change the entire look of your garment, switch out all the buttons or simply use a contrasting thread for a pop of color, suggest Brucker.
Use a fabric shaver-a handheld device-and brush it along the fabric lightly to get rid of fuzz, pills, and lint. You can buy them online or at your local tailor.
Fix a Dropped Hem
This fix can be a little more time-consuming, depending on the type of stitches used, says Brucker. Don't know how? Follow our step-by-step instructions. If you're not sure what kind of stitch to use, or you need to fix an item of clothing that you wear to work, Brucker suggests bringing them to a tailor, who will charge around $10 to $15.
Fix a Snagged Thread
If you catch your clothes on a sharp object and find yourself with a snag, don't worry. Just avoid the urge to cut it, since this will create a hole in your fabric and make the problem even worse. Instead, insert a threaded needle inside the loop of the snag and pull through until the end of the thread is close to the loop. Follow our step-by-step instructions on how to fix a snag-first, you'll create a knot around the loop with the end of your thread. Then, snip the excess thread from the knot, making sure not to cut the loop.
Replace a Drawstring
Use a safety pin on one end of the drawstring; thread the string through the waist detail and use fingers to guide the pin and take it all the way through, says Brucker.
"Only darn a sock if you love it, it is sentimental, or it's specially made for you by a loved one," says Brucker. Place a darning mushroom or egg under the hole for support. Create a vertical running stitch, starting 3/8 inch to the side of the hole and extending 3/8 inch above and below it. Space rows as close as possible, staggering stitches as you work. Once you reach the hole, pass yarn over it and stitch for another 3/8 inch. Change direction, and continue; repeat until the hole is covered vertically and stitches extend 3/8 inch past it. Follow our step-by-step instructions to get the job done.