Fixing something that is broken, rather than buying a replacement, can be one of the easiest economies in the world. This practice has died out in many American households: People love new stuff so much that they don’t seem to care if it’s low quality. Most Americans would rather have, for example, five cheaply made shirts than one well-made one. When the cheap ones wear out, why, just throw them away and get five new cheap shirts!
Mike and I try to find balance on this topic, as we don’t want cheap shirts and can’t usually afford good ones. One way we compromise is to buy the well-made shirts of yesteryear at a thrift shop. Another is to mend the clothes we have.
At our house, things that need mending sit around until there is a critical mass. Every couple of months, we collect the pile of shirts and stray buttons, pull out the sewing kit, and get to work.
I have had this sewing kit since my seventh-grade home economics class. My mom took me to K-Mart and bought me a matching set of supplies: measuring tape, needles, thimble, seam ripper, and so on, which are red and still bear my surname and class section “08.” I have various colors of thread and dozens of buttons, most of which I acquired at yard sales.
In this photo you can see some of the original items; the pincushion is taped because it’s leaking sawdust!
Unfortunately, I’m about as good a seamstress as I am a cook, so I limit my efforts to maintenance. On this day, Mike had a few buttons to replace and a ripped-out pocket corner to fix, while I was trying something a little more advanced: hemming a pair of pants that a friend had given me. They fit perfectly but were just a bit too long.
First, I used my 30-year-old seam ripper to eliminate the old hem. I put on the pants and Mike helped me determine a good length. Conveniently, the new length lined up with the top of the old cuff, so I didn’t have to pin it. I ironed a crease for the new hem, cut off the extra, and started sewing.
Since I don’t have a ton of spools, finding a similar color to one’s sewing project can be a bit of a challenge. Mike made out all right with his plaid shirt, but I don’t have “denim”-colored thread. I decided the best thing, since the finish of these pants is akin to an acid-washed look, was to go light and use a buff-colored thread.
The key, when hemming, is to do most of the sewing on the inside so the hem isn’t visible. That is, on the outside you make the tiniest stitch you can, and then move the needle a quarter-inch or so on the inside of the pant leg. But don’t learn from a hack like me; here’s a tutorial.
Because I lose patience with sewing after about 25 minutes, I only did one row of stitches instead of two. So far, they have held just fine. Doing even this small amount of sewing makes me appreciate the hard work that goes into a piece of well-made clothing, even with a machine! And while no one would give my pants a second thought, I love to wear them and know that I put in a small amount of work and kept one pair of pants out of the new-crap-new cycle.