I have no idea how to patch and mend clothes. Nor can I sew a hem, or work a sewing machine. None of which bothered me at all, until I became a parent. Now I look at my son's favourite t-shirt, with the little hole that's appeared near the shoulder, and I feel deficient. It came from the Disney store and cost a (to me) whopping £16. Sure he's got his money's worth out of it, wearing the t-shirt constantly. But I'm faced with two options - throw it out, or buy a replacement. Neither of which makes sense considering the money involved!
So, with a hazy memory of my darning badge earned in Girl Guides at the age of 11, I got the needle and thread out. My clumsy effort did the job, and while I was there I spotted that the seam under the arm was coming loose too so tidied that up. I felt pretty good, and it got me wondering. What about all those pairs of trousers worn at the knee but otherwise OK? Or the expensive cut off's I bought to go on holiday with, and ripped at shin by walking into a concrete plant pot? Then there's the blouse that came out of the washing machine with an inexplicable tear in the arm. These both sit at the bottom of my laundry basket. I spent too much money on them to simply throw them out, but have no idea how to fix them.
First stop was, of course, to ask all the PlayPennies parents I know. The answer was either a resounding silence, or the not so helpful explanation that it was something they were taught growing up by their mum. As mum of two daughters, Sho, says "I learned it at my mother's and grandmother's knee." That doesn't help me very much as my mother was never good at the whole teaching thing. We weren't even allowed in the kitchen when she was cooking.
Sho went on to explain that "anything knitted is pretty easy. Jeans are easy with a machine (easier with my spiffy old one which could sew sideways". Eeek enough with the jargon! Sewing sideways? I think that maybe I need to learn at a far more basic level than that.
Ideally perhaps, an inexpensive course at the local college in sewing would probably be best. But I have no time in the evenings, and working full time in the day eliminates that option too. So I looked for the next best thing - lessons on the internet.
This video on How to repair a rip was a HUGE eye opener for me. So that's what that extra square of spare material you get with many items of clothes (particularly delicates like silk, and boys trousers) is for! I had absolutely no idea although I have dutifully kept every square. They're in a box with all the spare buttons you get, and the little sewing kits they leave out for you in hotel rooms.
If you don't have a spare bit of material, you can use some from a pocket or the extra bit if the trousers were taken up. Boys trousers are often made extra material at the bottom, so they can be let down as the child grows. Might as well use it to patch a hole in the knee if the only other alternative is to throw them out.
Mending can in fact often make the trousers even more attractive for boys! Pictured here are a pair of my step son's favourite trousers from when he was 11 years old. I should point out that his grandmother mended them, and what an amazing job she did of it too. Plus, the overall effect was such that my step son and his friends thought they were 'totally cool'.
If you've no material to hand, or the hole is beyond your skills to mend, the simple option is to put a patch over it. Something that's been pre-made specifically for the purpose. I seem to remember these being in abundance when I was a kid. We all had patched up clothes, especially on the bum of our jeans! It was fashionable to do. This option seemed easy enough even for me to do. So out I went to buy some. And couldn't find any!
I tried every Google search I could think of. I went into every haberdashery I could find (and was sad to find there's not too many of these left. Even the one in our local Alders deparment store seemed to have disappeared). No-one could help me. Eventually I found a small packet of assorted patches in various colours aimed at children. They're a bit baby-ish though, and I haven't as yet found any that will suit children aged over 5. If anyone can point me in the right direction, please let me know!
Glue And Wonderweb
For sticking the patches on, I tried the quick fix of fabric glue. This works, to a certain extent. I have found it starts to wash out after about three or four washes. Sho recommends Wonderweb, which you should find in stores like Morrisons. I'm told that it is also the same as Vilene. Personally I've no idea and am relying on the advice of others. Yet one more item that I need to get familiar with!
Our sewing expert Sho recommends that "for T-shirts etc, it's sometimes easier to put a small piece of material behind the hole and use something like Wondaweb to hold it together."
At this time of the year, it makes sense to turn trousers with worn out knees into shorts. I ran out of time to include that here, so look out of it in a couple of weeks. Next week we'll look at what you can do to prolong the life of school uniforms.
As you can see, my knowledge of how to patch and mend is pretty basic. I expect I'm not alone. If more knowledgeable PlayPennies parents would like to share their tips and expertise, please post in the comments here!