Spring is officially here. The birds are chirping. The flowers are blooming. And you’re ready to pull out your sunglasses and sundresses and head outside. If you’re like me, you may be feeling like you never want to see a coat or scarf ever again. Seriously, never ever again. But unless you’re migrating south, you’re going to need that winter wardrobe to be in great shape next winter too.
This weekend, as I dropped off two pairs of boots to my neighborhood shoe repair for end-of-season cleaning and heel repair, I realized it’s time for the official wardrobe switch over. But I tend to forget exactly what’s required to do the switch well. Since I take a lot of time and care (and sometimes money) in selecting what goes in my closet, I want those pieces to last for several more seasons. So I figured there’s no better time than now to get organized with a good old-fashioned list to make sure I spend as much time and care in putting away last season’s clothes and accessories as I do in pulling out my old favorites from last spring/summer.
For your benefit and mine, included here are my checklists for saying “thanks and see you later” to your winter wardrobe and saying “hello” to spring. And as an added bonus, you can download a simple PDF version, so you can keep the lists handy for future reference.
*Before I leap in, just a quick note. I have a tiny NYC apartment, so I don’t have lots of space to store anything. In fact, I usually have all seasons of my wardrobe accessible year round. But taking the time to properly mend, clean and fold/hang clothes after a season (especially winter woolens!) is key to helping them last for years to come. So whether you have the luxury of being able to store away off-season clothing or you’re just moving them a little further to the back of your closet, following these steps will help your things last a lot longer.
It’s always at the end of a season that I start to hate everything in my closet. Nothing feels new or exciting! I’m so over it all. And winter is the worst season for this feeling, of course, because I’m as tired of the cold as I am of every sweater in my closet.
But we are resilient! We can turn moments of desperation into moments of great creativity! As I remember New York still being cold in April of last year, I know I’m going to have to put up with my winter weather clothing for longer than I would like. To make this easier and more exciting for us all, here is a little DIY guide on embellishing a sweater from our costumer-in-residence, Lisa. Whether you just need a little extra sparkle or you’re hiding a hole or stain, a few beads and sequins can make an old sweater new again.
Here’s the how-to from Lisa:
Materials and Tools
A vintage, thrifted or well-loved sweater
Small seed beads
Short bugle beads (like these vintage ones!)
(1) First, lay out your sweater flat, and start playing with the design of your beads and sequins. For my pattern, I chose something relatively easy. Starting with my sequins – I chose metallic blue sequins with a center hole – I placed 4 sequins on each side of my cardigan’s neckline, about an inch apart. Then I chose how my bugle beads (the long, skinny beads) will be arranged around the center sequin. I chose to go with 5 silver bugle beads fanning out from the middle of the sequin.
(2) Thread your beading needle and knot the two ends together. With thread folded on the double, start sewing on the backside of the sweater by making a stitch horizontally through the sweater immediately behind where your first sequin will be: start from the back so that your knot is on the inside of the sweater and make a small stitch to the front of the sweater and back in. This gives a good foundation for stitching and means the knot will not pull through.
(3) Now point your needle through the center of the sequin and pull through to the front of the sweater. Add 1 small seed bead to your needle and let it slide down the thread to meet the sequin. Without going through the seed bead, go back through the hole of the sequin to the backside of the sweater.
(4) Next, start attaching the bugle beads. Push your needle back up through the front side of the sweater where you’d like the bead to go. Then slide a bead on the needle and go immediately back through to the inside side of the sweater. Repeat until all the bugle beads in this cluster are secured.
(5) To complete a cluster (or once you’ve run out of thread), tie off your thread by stitching horizontally on the inside of the sweater and (6) double knotting the thread. Cut the thread, leaving ¼” of extra thread above the knot.
Repeat all steps until the neckline (or anywhere else you choose) has been fully embellished, completing one cluster of beads and sequins at a time. The pattern does not have to be perfect, as mine clearly displays, to turn out beautifully. These steps work well for anything you are looking to embellish, from clutches to collars to sleeve cuffs.
Here’s to hoping you and your sweater survive this winter together!
Last week, my office was hit with an IT meltdown of epic proportions. It was so epic in fact that I immediately hopped on Google and inquired if Mercury was retrograde. It turned out that not only was Mercury retrograde, but it was actually the first day of this latest period. Since the IT meltdown continues into this week, it’s tempting to avoid certain tasks – like writing, using a computer, or negotiating a lease renewal with your landlord.
I won’t get into the details of Mercury retrograde if you’re unfamiliar with this extremely popular astrological cycle that wins over many a skeptic. However, if you’ve noticed that your technology is on the fritz and your communications with others are a little murky, well, then you already know what it is.
Regardless of whether you believe it, a colleague shared the silver lining of all this with me. Apparently, it is a great time to finish projects rather than start something new. Her way of tying up loose ends was to take on her pile of mending. So instead of venturing out into the cold on a winter weekend day, she stayed in and hand-washed, repaired rips, sewed buttons back on, and finished all of the little things needed to keep the things she loved looking their best. And that, despite the chaos in the heavens, is just a lovely thing to do.
Visit my pinterest board for some mending and repurposing advice or share your favorite resources here. Stay warm, good luck and enjoy putting your sewing kit to good use, wearing freshly fixed clothes, and dropping off those heels that needed polishing and repair to your favorite cobbler!
Clothing construction is a mystery to most of us. How a bolt of fabric becomes a tailored jacket or your favorite perfectly draped blouse is hard to imagine. It seems like the seamstresses, tailors and knitters who make our clothes have a million and one sewing tricks up their sleeves to keep us looking good.
Tacking is one of those sewing tricks, and I like to think of it as one of the most polite ones. Tacking refers to using large loose stitches to hold pieces of the garment in place temporarily. It’s commonly used on any type of garment slit, so that the garment stays flat while folded during shipping and looks perfect when it reaches you.
You’ll find these “X” shaped stitches on your suit coat back flaps, on the kick pleat or slit of a skirt, and on your winter coat’s back vent. You’ll also find similar stitching inside pockets that were stitched shut for the same reason.
It’s a special little touch by a clothing manufacturer to say “hey, I wanted your clothes to travel safely and nicely to you.”
But a lot of us don’t realize these stitches are intended to be removed after a garment is purchased. I often catch people in the subway with skirts and coats that bunch up and pull in the back because the tacking has not been removed. (You’ll start to notice it now because it makes a garment look very restricting!) Or someone mentions that their jacket pockets are fake, only to discover that they’re real – they were just nicely stitched shut.
So this is my little polite PSA to you to get to know tacking and make sure to do a little snip to remove those stitches before you wear that new item out.
Dry cleaning may be one of the biggest mysteries in life. You drop it off to someone whose business name changes every couple months, your clothing disappears to an unknown location for a few days, and then it comes back with a big price tag. It is perhaps just as much as mystery that once you are an adult, suddenly everything in your closet “needs” to be dry-cleaned.
I never used to question the reasoning behind those itchy care labels inside the garment. Then I found out that the biggest environmental impact of our clothing’s lifecycle is once we’ve taken our clothes home from the store and started caring for them (Water! Chemicals! Energy!). I also learned that it’s actually the law that clothing manufacturers include these, which set off my “bullshit” radar. Does “dry clean only” really mean just that? Or are clothing manufacturers just protecting themselves? Considering the cost, the scary chemicals, and now these new facts, it seems like there is an opportunity for something better here for our clothing, our health, and, yes, the environment.
Care labels didn’t exist until 1971 when they became mandated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in order to protect consumers and took on their current form in 1984 after said consumers reported that the labels were believed to be “incomplete, inaccurate, and inconsistent.” The rule is that the care label must include at least one (and therefore, usually only one) method of recommended care, as well as warn against any method that might damage the garment. If a customer follows the recommended method and the garment is damaged, then the manufacturer or brand is held responsible. Obviously, if you make clothing, it is in your best interest to put the absolute safest method of care so you don’t have customers requesting replacements for their damaged clothing or reporting you to the FTC. (source)
And because of these rules, a lot of garments that can be washed by hand at home or in cold water on your washer’s gentlest cycle are marked “dry clean only.” In fact, the laundry mavens behind The Laundress suggest “90% of items labeled “Dry Clean Only” are actually washable.” (source)
These labels also come with their own language. I never knew that the above symbol of a circle and cross meant “no dry cleaning”, but perhaps that’s because this symbol never actually appears on a label. Instead of silly symbols, I’d like to advocate that we just get to know our clothes a little more intimately and perhaps even get a little handsy.
If you’ve been dry cleaning everything, consider what your future dry cleaning-less life will include: money savings as you wash more things at home and less at the dry cleaner, longer clothing life since you’ll be sparing your clothes from all of those toxic chemicals, healthier life for you, laundry workers and everyone else on earth as we decrease these chemicals in our homes and environment, and hopefully some energy savings as you opt for more hand washing and air drying to keep your clothes looking new.
This is a win-win situation for all as long as you take some time to choose the right method for the garment.
Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up a long the way:
1. Don’t over-wash clothing. More washing = more wear. If a garment isn’t truly dirty, refresh it instead of washing it. Air out the garment or hang up in the bathroom during your steamy shower and that will likely be all you need to keep it fresh for a few more wears.
2. If a garment truly needs to be cleaned, read the fiber content label to decide whether it can be cleaned for at home.This chart from the experts at the Laundress details the temperature and treatment for some of the trickiest fabrics. They recommend their own specially formulated detergents but doing a little research can likely reveal some cheaper options. For example, Dr. Bronner’s is apparently a great detergent for silks.
3. Learn how to handwash. I wouldn’t start handwashing with your absolute favorite silk shirt, but start with something simple like a sweater. Here’s a great how-to from Martha herself.
4. Skip the dryer. Dryers and their hot air can be particularly abrasive on fabric and fade colors. The safest method of drying is always air-drying. For my wool sweaters that I used to dry clean, I now wash them with a gentle detergent on the “woolens” cycle in cold water and lay flat to dry to help them retain their shape.
5. Get the professional look without the chemicals. If you’ve been dry cleaning everything for the perfect finished look, consider having them washed with the rest of your clothes but professionally starched and ironed for the crispy dress shirt look or using an at-home steamer to get those wrinkles out of delicate garments (or use the steam function on your iron). I’ve heard this steamer is amazing.
Finally, there are some garments that are still too intimidating for me to wash at home, such as the fancy party dress and the fully lined winter wool coat. For these big or particularly delicate items, there are alternative to dry cleaning like liquid CO2 cleaning and wet cleaning available at “green” dry cleaners. Just make sure to ask them what “green” or “organic” means when it comes to the nitty gritty of what they’re going to do to your clothes.
This list of tips is just a start! I hope you’ll share your own tips and tricks for avoiding the dry cleaner in the comments below!