Sewing | An Article on Mending Skills


This article is intended as an overview to mending clothes and is not intended as a training document. For more detailed information on how to sew garments please subscribe to Threadelicious Threadbox.

Most people would say, ‘why are you wasting your time writing an article about mending it’s boring!’ Well not to me. You see I am rather passionate about sewing and mending to me is considerably exciting, as you never know what you are going to get to fix up. Mending is challenging both technically and creatively. Mending is a life skill after all the biggest human invention of all time was the sewing needle. Mends are mini sewing projects that you can take along wherever you go and usually require a short amount of time and can be done in between all the other jobs you do on a daily basis. At this time I am willing to write an article about mending if it is going to get some people picking up a needle and thread and start sewing so I hope you find it interesting, useful or inspiring.

Whether you are looking after your own or others clothes, mending and altering is a great way to practice all of your sewing skills and learn about fibre, durability and finesse. But it is also a chance to get creative and learn new fibre skills, and try out new stitches and experiment, in a way I think it brings out your textile artist side.

If you have already started following the modules in the ThreadBox and have got as far as Module 1 – Unit 5 then you may have in your possession a bag labelled F holding all of your Mending/Alteration projects. Otherwise if you are organised you may have a mending basket where everyone in the house throws in the items they need mending.

These are projects that you can pick up whenever you are in the mood to sew but don’t want to start a big project they can be done in the home or on the fly. Sometimes I keep mending projects like this in a little bag and fix them up when in a waiting room or sitting around for the kids, sitting at one of their sports events etc., or just watching a film or TV series, or to destress (which is an essential for me!) I can’t sit and do nothing, I never have idle hands!

Mending and Altering are really two very different things and I need to have either my mending head on or my altering head on as I may need to use very different skills and mindsets to determine how to deal with them.

Mending starts with a garment that is damaged or worn out that is close to leaving the house but with some tender loving care it can stay for a little while longer to be used for its original purpose.

Altering a garment can use totally different skills on clothing that may not even be damaged, and can give a garment a complete new lease of life even if the garment was brand new to start with. Altering may completely change a garment into something entirely different from its original purpose. Or simply change its size or length. So whatever you call it altering, re-purposing, or recycling this is where you can really get your ideas and creative juices going and use up all of your spare/waste fabrics. I will be covering Alterations in another Project Unit later in the year. But if you look on my recycle board on Pinterest you can get lots of ideas to start you off https://www.pinterest.com.au/Threadelicious/sew-recycle/.

With fewer schools teaching sewing skills or teaching unvaried sewing skills and families living outside of their original communities or away from other family members, and people prioritising other activities to fill their time, sewing skills are starting to dwindle. Where do you go if you want something mended? Can you do it yourself? Do you want to be able to do it yourself? Have you ever thrown anything away because it needed mending?

This is an upsetting state of play for me, for what it is worth I believe every person should have a basic set of skills for life and I consider basic sewing and mending to be amongst that list. I truly believe that if you have the capability to hold a needle and thread that you can work some sort of basic stitching. However trying to get my teenage boys to sit down and understand this theory is proving to be tricky!

We have plumbers, electricians and other experts that come into the home to fix household broken things, why are we discarding sewing skills in this way. There are less and less places you can take garments to for fixing and fewer people in family circles who have the skills. Skills of seamstresses and tailors are not being valued enough in our communities they are dwindling too because the cost of mending can outprice the cost of repurchase, but they need to make a living. By not having these skills in a community garments become throw away items.

If you already know how to mend and sew then please please teach others around you! I find myself driven to teach these skills to anyone who will listen and also hope to turn those around who don’t hear me yet!

The following information is simply an overview of what is possible with mending just to get you thinking about what kind of mends you might like to learn how to do. By no means is this an exhaustive list as this article would go on forever! As you read along think about how you would have done the mend or if you would have done anything differently.

The garments here are from my local community, I wanted some examples of mending for you and I mended all the items for free in exchange for photos for this article so I thank those who took the time to deliver and pick up and allow me to fix their clothes! I must say I had fun that week getting all the requests for mends and looking at the variety of fixes and mends. I would highly recommend you doing this to challenge yourself and your sewing skills! By the way I do have an alterations business and specialize in Bridal and Formal alterations.

Essentially I see mending split into two categories, Invisible Mending and Visible Mending.

Invisible mending is a secret - you attempt to mend without it being obvious that mending has taken place, to keep the garment as close to original condition as possible.

Invisible mending can demand perfect sewing or fibre skills to the level of artistry.

Visible mending is a statement – it is where you throw caution to the wind and make the mending visible but suitable for the garment so that the wearer is still happy or proud to wear it. Visible mending is not an alteration but can change what the garment looks like dramatically and you can pretend that the mending creativeness was always there and part of the garments personality.

Both forms of mending can use the same or a completely different set of skills. Both offer the chance to learn new skills from simple stitch placement and styles to embroidery, weaving, fibre arts, spinning, felting, knitting, crochet, lace making, tatting, beading etc. So this is the chance for you to practice other previous life skills that you have learnt. We could never cover every creative option in one article so this is where you can trawl Pinterest or google, UTube and lose yourself down the ‘Alice Hole’ learning (also my Grandma’s name!), growing and experimenting with everything fibre you can find. The good thing about the sewing art is that nothing is wrong and everything is a learning process.

For any type of fix stitches add strength to fabric, they make it more durable, thicker, heavier (and surprisingly so). Stitches make fabric into garments and I know that is an obvious statement but it always surprises me how and fabric feels and the weight which is so different when a garment comes together with stitches. So wherever possible I will always prefer stitches to any glue or iron on fix for mending although sometimes these new fibre technologies can give a more invisible mend but not necessarily a stronger fix.

In order to truly fix invisibly the more knowledge you have of the fibres your garment is made of, and the more understanding of the process that the thread went through to make the fabric for the garment the more ideas you will get to do the fix. So any other skill you do have will play a part in fine tuning your fixes. I have honed skills and taught workshops in fibre preparation, spinning, weaving, knitting, crochet, weaving, embroidery, beading and so on and every mend will take some portion of my skills to get the best results and this knowledge is continually growing over a lifetime. Practice makes it less about retaining information as it brings you more connected to the cloth and it simply becomes about the feel and becomes second nature, threading a needle, settling the thread, deciding on a knot, the stitching all becomes established in muscle memory and can literally be done with eyes closed and little thought process, you feel the job at hand rather than think it, I believe any master at a craft works in this way. Mending is going to take you on this journey.

If you have made the garment in the first place then the fix will be more simple to make as you are familiar with the shape, pattern fibre, fabric, etc. already, but other garments may require a little more study initially to see how it was constructed and what threads will match in texture thickness and colour for the best results. It goes without saying that any study of a garment designed and constructed by someone else will start ideas popping in your own head too, so it’s always worth jotting down any ideas in your notebook as you think of them.

The list of fixes possible for mending is really matched to the skills required to make the garment in the first place so if you are mending and don’t think you could make a garment then I say sign up to our sewing course because I believe you can, you just need to know the order in which do everything and the Threadelicious Threadbox will show you that.

Here is a list of some of the main things that would require mending;

A hole in the fabric

A split seam

A hem fix

A closure fix

A strap fix

A trim or decoration fix