Sewing 101: How to learn how to mend your clothes

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4 easy ways to up your sewing game.

No matter how well you take care of your clothes, they will eventually show signs of wear and tear. Instead of throwing them away, why not try fixing them yourself? It sounds daunting, but with a few simple tips anyone can do it. Below we share four easy ways to up your sewing game.

(Photography: Erik Putz; props styling: Tricia Hall)

1. Store your sewing kit

The first step to getting started with clothing repairs is having the right tools for the job. Below are all the essentials you’ll need for basic home repairs.

1. Sewing pins

These will hold the fabric in place while you sew.

2. Shears

Use those sharp little scissors to cut the yarn.

3. Tape measure

A collapsible will easily slip into your kit.

4. Discovered

This small tool dismantles the seams without damaging the fabric.

5. Neutral wire

A base shade will work with a wide variety of fabrics. Small amounts of wool are also useful for mending knitwear.

6. Sewing needles

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

7. Unraveling control

This liquid putty prevents the fabric from fraying.

2. Learn the Basics

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

A demonstration of the overlock stitch in blue thread on denim and yellow fabric

(Embroidery illustration: Ashley Wong; Photography: Erik Putz)

whip stitch

It’s a must-have for securing seams or sewing two pieces of fabric together. Pass the needle through both pieces of fabric, then pass the thread around 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)

Current point

Also known as a straight stitch, you do this by passing the needle and thread through the fabric at regular intervals. This is especially good for hemming.

A demonstration of the purple thread back stitch on denim

(Embroidery illustration: Ashley Wong; Photography: Erik Putz)

backstitch

You can reinforce your seam simply by doubling the starting stitch, hence the name.

Bright pink, blue and yellow repaired patches on a red sweater

(Photo: Arounna Khounnoraj)

3. Turn dots into art

Instead of hiding stitches and patches, let them steal the show and turn ripped and worn garments into one-of-a-kind works of art. Inspired by sashiko, a Japanese tradition of embroidering garments for decorative and functional purposes, visible repairs are a great way to breathe new life and style into beloved garments. “It shows the story of the piece,” says Arounna Khounnoraj, co-founder of a studio and textile boutique in Toronto. Bookhou and author of the book Visible repair. “It’s a badge of honor – you think, ‘Here’s someone who really cares about keeping things out of the dump. (Sewing shops and Etsy are great places to shop for those.)

Interested in visible mending but not sure where to start? A quick search online will bring you many free resources. Khounnoraj suggests starting with YouTube or his own Instagram, @bookhou, where she shares explainer videos. His book, Visible repairis filled with step-by-step illustrated instructions and fun DIY project ideas.

An embroidered image of a spool of thread against a piece of white fabric in the shape of a house

(Embroidery illustration: Ashley Wong; Photography: Erik Putz)

4. Take virtual sewing classes

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

1. Textile Museum of Canada

As part of his Teaching sustainable textiles program, the museum offers free videos that cover the basics of mending and sewing.

2. Zen stitching

Textile artist Kate Ward runs Sashiko Sewing Clubwhere participants learn to make 12 different embroidery designs over the course of a year.

3. The junction of the seam

This Toronto-based studio hosts online workshops which cover everything from basic modifications and repairs to advanced projects for a fee.

4. Library lessons

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

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