A Beginner's Guide To Mending Clothes

4 easy ways to up your sewing game.
By H.G. Watson
A Beginner's Guide To Mending Clothes

(Photo: Arounna Khounnoraj)

No matter how well you take care of your clothes, they'll eventually start to show signs of wear and tear. Instead of tossing them out, why not try mending them yourself? It sounds intimidating, but with a few easy tips anyone can do it. Below, we share four easy ways to up your sewing game.

A Beginner's Guide To Mending Clothes (Photography: Erik Putz; Prop styling: Tricia Hall)

1. Stock your sewing kit

The first step to taking clothing repairs into your own hands is to have the right tools for the job. Below, all the essentials you'll need for basic at-home repairs.

These will hold fabric in place while you sew.

Use these small, sharp scissors to cut thread.

A foldable one will fit easily in your kit.

This small tool will take apart seams without damaging fabric.

A basic hue will work with a wide variety of fabrics. Small amounts of wool also come in handy to mend knits.

Stock up on several sizes for different weights of fabric. Darning needles are also great for knitwear and socks.

This liquid seam sealant stops fabric from fraying.

2. Learn basic stitches

With the three hand stitches shown below, you can fix almost anything yourself—no sewing machine needed.

A demonstration of the whip stitch in blue thread on denim and yellow fabric (Embroidery illustration: Ashley Wong; Photography: Erik Putz)

Whip stitch

This is a go-to for fixing seams or sewing two pieces of fabric together. Pass the needle through both pieces of fabric, and then loop the thread over the edge of the fabric.

A demonstration of the running stitch in yellow thread on denim and yellow fabric (Embroidery illustration: Ashley Wong; Photography: Erik Putz)

Running stitch

Also known as a straight stitch, you do this by running the needle and thread through the fabric at regular intervals. It’s especially great for hemming.

A demonstration of the back stitch with purple thread on denim (Embroidery illustration: Ashley Wong; Photography: Erik Putz)

Back stitch

You can reinforce your sewing simply by doubling back over the initial stitch, hence the name.

Bright pink, blue and yellow mended patches on a red sweater (Photo: Arounna Khounnoraj)

3. Turn stitches into art

Instead of hiding stitches and patches, let them steal the show and turn torn and threadbare clothing into one-of-a-kind works of art. Inspired by sashiko, a Japanese tradition of embroidering clothing for decorative and functional purposes, visible repairs are a great way to breathe new life—and style—into well-loved garments. “It shows the history of the piece,” says Arounna Khounnoraj, the co-founder of Toronto-based textile studio and shop Bookhou and author of the book Visible Mending. “It’s a badge of honour—you think, ‘Here’s someone who really cares about keeping things out of the landfill.’” You can fix a hole by stitching your own design, or cover ripped jeans with patches. (Sewing stores and Etsy are great places to shop for those.)

Interested in visible mending but don’t know where to start? A quick online search will pull up lots of free resources. Khounnoraj suggests starting with YouTube or her own Instagram, @bookhou, where she shares how-to videos. Her book is also filled with illustrated step-by-step instructions and fun DIY project ideas.

An embroidered image of a spool of thread against a white house-shaped piece of fabric (Embroidery illustration: Ashley Wong; Photography: Erik Putz)

4. Take virtual sewing lessons

Mend and alter your favourite pieces from the comfort of your couch with these four virtual sewing workshops.

As part of its Sustainable Textile Teach-In program, the museum offers free videos that go over the basics of mending and sewing.

Textile artist Kate Ward runs Sashiko Stitch Club, where participants learn how to make 12 different embroidery patterns over the course of a year.

 3. Library classes

Many libraries across Canada offer on-site access to sewing machines and other tools, like fabric cutters, as well as classes on how to use them.

Originally published in 2022, updated in 2023.

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