Has this ever happened to you? It’s happened to me countless times. And for some reason or another (no returns, too lazy to return, bought it while in another city, etc.), you just can’t return it. You’re left with a few choices – throw it away, leave it in the back or bottom of a closet for oblivion, or do something about it!
I am a huge proponent of fixing things yourself! Of course it’s a little bit easier if you have the right tools (lucky to have my own sewing machine!), but you’d be surprised how easy it may be to fix some things yourself.
First off, ew. Most times if I can see the stain in the store, and can’t identify it’s nature, I may just leave it. But crap, you already have it at home : you may as well do something about it! Thank heavens for the internet and its bountiful resources – Lifehacker (one of my favorite websites) has a great roundup of ‘how to remove stains‘ links. But honestly, most stains, although gross – may not be that big of a problem (most of the time it may just be food!) Give a gentle soak first, and if still needed, wash in the machine. I’d do a cold run, since hot water tends to set stains. Paint stains like the photo above, may be goners – but even so, if you don’t mind a little paint, maybe you could do some more splatters! (I actually have a pair khaki pants I need to do this to after I got spray paint on them). Dish soap is also a great stain remover.
Holes or rips
I would say holes or rips may in fact be the most common problem you may encounter when you get home. After you’re done punching the air, figure out your next step. You can either close the hole or cover it up! Depending on which type of fabric, you will have different approaches. FIRST and most important, if you don’t already have one, get yourself a little sewing kit. They’re cheap, and will provide you with needles of various sizes for different tasks. If you’re sewing up the hole, you will have to find thread that’s the closest possible color. Most craft stores have them, it doesn’t have to be a perfect match, because you’ll be sewing from the backside, but you want to get close. Knit fabrics, although daunting may be the easiest. This tutorial is great! The idea is to grab all the loops with your needle so that they don’t unravel even more. For other fabrics, you can almost do the same thing, just kind of thread through one end and close up the hole from the backside.
If you want to get really creative, there are lots of online tutorials for felting or patching holes. I mean, look how awesome this sweater looks! Or how these pins have covered up some would be holes too.
Uh oh, there’s a button missing! What do I do? Luckily, most often retailers are smart about missing buttons and will provide an extra button for you in the tags. Always check there first, and more often than not there will be a spare button for you! If there isn’t one or the tags have been cut off, don’t despair, most buttons are basic and can be matched online or at a craft/sewing store. But if you have special buttons or none match, then why not replace all the buttons! Again, with your handy sewing kit (which may have some spare buttons too) and this little how to sew a button tutorial. You can add, switch, or tighten any buttons!
Many times, I’ve fallen in love with a dress at the store, and after I wash it I want to wear it immediately and only then notice the hem has fallen! Ugh. I will admit in my very lazy days and in a quick hurry I have stapled a hem because I needed to go (I have even heard of people gluing, but I would never suggest this as you’ll probably just ruin it beyond repair after). But this is pretty easy to fix too – if you have a sewing machine you can stitch it up pretty fast of course. But since most people don’t, you have some solutions. Start with matching thread, again with your sewing kits you can do a straight across stitch easily. You can also buy iron on hem tape that will hold your hem in place as a double-sided tape would – although it’s typically a temporary solution. Fixing the hem will also work if you realize the hem is just too long or maybe too short (and there’s some room to let it out).
You can use these same tips to repair any unraveling or ripped seams (think sleeves, or on side seams). It’s an easy fix because you’re repairing right along the seams, unlike holes which can be all over. Your repair work will rarely be visible.
This may be the toughest to fix – but taken that your zipper isn’t missing a tooth, you may just need some strong hands and a few tricks, but you can fix some zippers again. There are lots of online tutorials on how to do it (one and another). Sometimes you can sew a tiny bit to cover up the part that was broken, some people cut the zipper out and sew in buttons! You can actually get pretty creative in different ways to fix it that don’t require adding a whole new zipper (which sucks, even I can’t do that).
Hole in jeans
A frustrating problem, cause you probably already have a bunch of jeans with holes at home! But good news, depending on the color of your jeans, there may be several ways to fix your jeans (plus save a few of those at home that needed some TLC too).
How well you want to mend is all up to you. Some people like to cover up rips so that they become invisible. Others like the look of some rips or patches. This type of repair almost always requires a sewing machine – you take a piece of fabric or another piece of denim and attach it to the backside (inside out) and then on the forward side sew back and forth & across in a crosshatch pattern until you’ve mostly covered up and reinforced the hole. This is a fantastic tutorial with the sewing machine. Of course this works the best when the denim is of a solid color – and even then, you have to find thread that matches your color.
Alternatively, some people don’t mind holes in their jeans (I am not one of them). Pinterest seems to have lots of cool ideas on patching denim if that’s a route you don’t mind going.
When to give up
Even I will admit that there are some times when there are things you may not be able to do – whether it’s the type of fabric or just missing the materials. I have a batch of things I bring my mom to fix occasionally when I visit her because her sewing machine is better than mine, she has endless thread and zipper colors, plus she’s infinitely better than me at sewing and mending. If you have a friend that does know how to sew, it doesn’t hurt to ask them for help – but if they agree, please be kind and buy matching thread or the buttons needed. This has happened to me several times where people expect me to spend my money to buy supplies to fix your things. Um, no.
Many people also don’t realize that Dry Cleaners often offer tailoring services as well.
I hope these tips come in handy for you thrifters, but realize that these tips may also help you save some things at home that were sitting in a pile already waiting to get fixed! Get creative! I know many people today don’t think they have time or energy to do work themselves for whatever reasons (often because it’s just cheaper to throw something out and but another new product). But shopping responsibly, and taking care of & mending your clothes will increase their lifetimes in your wardrobe.