Mend and Make Fabulous by Denise Wild releases today from Interweave/F+W Media. This is truly a book every sewist should have on his or her bookshelf.
Why, you say, I am a quilter, not a garment sewer?
Yes, I understand. I am also a quilter. The most garmenty things I have ever sewn are pajamas pants and a few aprons. However, how many times haven’t you tried on a pair of jeans with impossibly long legs at the mall and realized you could only wear them with 5-inch heels? What if hemming them perfectly was no big deal?
How many times have you lost a button from a beautiful blouse that you never sewed back on so the blouse hung like an unloved bat in the back of your closet until a silverfish ate a hole in it? What if fixing the hole and the button was within your reach?
Denise’s book is the perfect tool to help us learn everything about mending our clothes. From fixing a ripped seam or a torn slit in your favorite skirt, to shortening sleeves and replacing jacket linings, Denise gives step-by-step instructions with color photographs to guide us through the processes. She also includes several cool fixes to renew old and boring clothes – like adding piping, appliqueing lace, dip-dying clothes for cool color transitions, and creating ruffles….just to name a few.
There are several reasons for us to consider making more alterations to our current clothing. More and more, we are becoming aware of the horrible working conditions and environmental impact that are caused by our hunger for cheap and disposable fashion. But new clothes are not always better clothes. Maybe we should try to develop a more carefully curated wardrobe with classical items worth maintaining over time?
What if we fixed up that old blue blazer we used to love by changing buttons and adding a fresh lining to it? Maybe we should shorten the sleeves? As a fabric addict I would also like to point out that replacing the wool blazer would cost me almost 300 bucks. I am sure most of you can calculate how many yards of nice fabric that could buy instead!
For all those emerging clothing mending enthusiasts out there, Denise was generous enough to answer a few questions about mending and altering our clothes.
Why do you feel that it is important for people to be able to mend and alter their own clothes?
I see sewing, particularly mending, as a basic life skill. Not only will mending and altering your own clothes save you money, but it helps you get the exact fit and look you want, so it’s practical and also fashionable — especially when you incorporate upcycling, adorning, and decorative details like our “fabulous” fixes.
Can you tell us how you began sewing, mending, and altering your own clothing?
I learned to sew when I was 13. A family friend taught me to sew, and I also took it in school. I loved sewing from the moment I learned how, and my passion has always been garment sewing, whether it’s making something from scratch or doing simple alterations to something I already own.
What are some good beginner projects for the person who has never mended or improved on their own clothes before?
Hemming is the best place to start. It’s a straight stitch done on the machine or a simple stitch done by hand. Next, get creative, and try adorning (maybe add lace, appliques, or studs to a garment) or some drastic cutting (change the sleeve length or shape, widen a neckline, or make a unique or layered hemline).
What should an emerging sewist who is starting to repair their own clothes have in their sewing kit?
A hand-sewing needle and thread, a pair of fabric scissors, and some straight pins are the very basics you’ll need. I would also add some Stitch Witchery for small tears and narrow fallen hems, a sewing gauge for precise measurements, and a wax candle for coating your thread to give it added strength.
Do I have to have a sewing machine to mend and alter my clothes?
No, you don’t HAVE to. There are a lot of things you can definitely do by hand. But put a sewing machine on your wish list, because once you have one, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to get it! Stitches are tighter, more even, and more professional looking when sewn on a machine, and you’ll finish your projects in a fraction of the time.
How do you determine if a garment is worth repairing? Any pointers?
I always think about the results versus the time required. If I’m neither here nor there about a garment, there’s no way I’d spend even 5 minutes fixing it. But if I love the fit of something, if it’s a go-to favourite, or if I know I can do wonders with just a few tweaks, then I’ll put in whatever time it takes.
Are there any cool websites or blogs out there that can inspire us to make awesome fixes?
I like to look everywhere and I like to mix things up. I check out fashion and street-style blogs regularly for inspiration and ideas, and I’m always cruising sewing blogs for tips, techniques, and for the great sense of community that sewers share.
Can you tell us about an alteration or repair that you did that truly made the garment better and made you smile every time you used it afterwards?
I took a pretty gaudy bridesmaid’s dress and turned it into a sleek, form-fitting knee-length frock that’s I can now wear casually or for business, depending on how I accessorize.
I have a white button down shirt that is starting to yellow and look a bit tired. Do you have suggestions for making it new and exciting again?
Yes! If you’re feeling adventurous, I would turn it into a strapless peplum top. First, make it white again by either washing it with enzymes or a gentle bleach. Or add colour by dyeing it. Cut off the top portion and sleeves, and cut off the bottom of the shirt at your natural waistline. Sew an elastic around the top to keep it up, cinch in the sides with darts, and either gather and sew the bottom back on (make sure the bottom of the shirt has a flat, even hem), or create a proper peplum by attaching a similar fabric that’s been cut like a circle skirt.
In addition to your book, what are some good resources to learn more about mending and altering clothes?
On LoveSewing.com, we publish daily articles about sewing, fashion, and DIY, and on BurdaStyle.com, we’ve got new, trendy downloadable patterns weekly, plus fashion and styling tips and how-tos.
Thank you Denise, for sharing all your knowledge with us!