Category: Monthly Mend

The Monthly Mend: Fix A Ripped Belt Loop

TIW | Fix a ripped belt loop
Last week, my mom/seamstress fixed a ripped belt loop that had created a fairly large hole on one end of the loop. I had no idea if it was even repairable, so I was amazed when it not only could be fixed by hand but also looked like nothing had ever happened. This week, our seamstress-in-residence, my sister Lisa, is back sharing how this sort of magic can help you out if you too have done the “skinny jean jig” one too many times. – Rebecca

It happened to me one day as I was getting dressed for work. I was doing my usual skinny jean jig and, whoops, there went a belt loop. Now being a seamstress doesn’t mean I will fix everything right away or even within a month. Cut to six months later and I’m finally digging through my Ziploc full of iron-on patches ready to fix these pants.

For those of you new to the mending scene, iron-on patches are pieces of fabric (usually a twill or jean) with an adhesive backing that can be ironed onto the underside of any rips or tears to stabilize the torn fabric and hide the rip. It also gives you something to sew that ripped belt loop back onto.

Once I find a matching jean colored-patch and plug in the iron, the fun begins:

You’ll need:

– An iron-on patch in a similar color (these can be found at drugstores as well as sewing stores)
– An iron
– A long needle (big can be better when it comes to thick fabric like denim) or a sewing machine
– Thread to match the thread of your jeans
– A few straight pins or safety pins

Start with heating up the iron: high heat is fine – a cotton setting if you have it – since the patch is made of cotton. If you are ironing onto a non-cotton fabric, adjust the temperature of the iron to the setting for the main fabric. In general, it’s smart to avoid any steam. A little bit is okay, but the steam can prohibit the adhesive from sticking as well as it could.

Next step is to prep for ironing by placing the patch. I trim my patch down to about a half-inch bigger on all sides of the rip.

01. Then, I pin the patch in place with the adhesive side facing down on the wrong side (i.e. the inside of the jeans) and flip over to the right side (i.e. the exterior) to make sure it’s covering the rip.

Once everything is lined up on the right side, flip back over to the wrong side, making sure to keep everything in place as best as you can (that’s why the pins are super helpful!) and take the iron to the patch. For this situation, it was imperative to catch the ripped jean and the ripped belt loop with the iron even though the belt loop has a thick bottom. That means iron as hard as you can.

02. Finally, let’s reinforce the patch with some stitching. I was anxious and did my first stitches very quickly on my sewing machine with a tight zig-zag stitch above the original belt loop stitch.

03. The stitch is still holding, but I can still see the rip.

04. So I decided to strengthen the stitching by hand with a “slip stitch” (or blind stitch) by running the needle and thread through the belt loop end and into the patch at the back and then repeating this loop until I’ve got a secure stitch connecting the belt loop back to the jeans and patch. Really there is no wrong way to mend as long as it holds! Just be sure to tie off the thread on the inside of your jeans after you’ve finished stitching with a knot as close to the fabric as possible.

05. Sometimes your rip may have left some frayed threads. If that’s the case, now is the time to cut these away for a clean, finished look.

06. You’re done! The belt loop is now securely fastened to the patch.

Tip: If your iron-on patch comes unstuck in the wash, Stitch Witchery is a great iron-on adhesive tape found at your local sewing store that will re-attach the patch to the jeans. It can be cut down to fit around your patch and ironed on using the same method as you did with the patch before.

While the belt loop may look as good as new, it’s best to do your future skinny jean jigs while pulling up the whole waistband, and not relying on belt loops.

More mending questions? Find Lisa on twitter @lisammagee or follow her tumblr, Stitched History, for her inspiring look into costume and fashion history.

All photos by Lisa Magee.

Sashiko: Finding beauty in mending

This I Wear | Sashiko: Finding Beauty in Mending

Japan rose to the top of my travel list after I couldn’t help but feel the stereotypical envy of a friend’s Facebook photos, taken while sitting in a hot spring looking out over beautiful green mountains. I want to go to there.

But recently I’ve become totally enamored of Japanese traditional arts, which seem to perfectly marry beauty and practicality regardless of the medium.

It was the beauty aspect that inspired me to sign up for a Sashiko embroidery class at the Textile Arts Center here in New York. Sashiko is a traditional Japanese embroidery, and its geometric and linear patterns are beautiful yet misleading in their complexity. The trick is that for even the most detailed design, the maker can find the longest linear route for her stitches and rarely begin a new thread.

By the end of the three-hour class, I had half of a potholder embroidered. And a few weeks later, I had a completed potholder with a very obvious untied stitch that I am convinced will fall out if someone was to even breathe on it.

But while my beginner’s potholder might be fragile, the real beauty of Sashiko is that it was meant to be tough. The style of embroidery began as a way to mend and reinforce elbows and knees and other clothing spots prone to uneven wear. But like all Japanese arts, someone along the line realized that it might as well be beautiful too, and Sashiko is a perfect example of combining utility and beauty. As the craft matured, it evolved from just a mending technique into its own art form.

One of the most popular uses of Sashiko is to repair worn knees in denim. Instead of trying to hide the mending process to make them look brand new again, the jeans evolve into something new that shows both their age and their rebirth. It is not unlike the Japanese art of Kintsugi, when broken pottery is pieced back together with gold. The repaired item becomes more valuable than when it was brand new.

Mending can be an art. It can tell the stories of a garment’s life. It can increase value, even if often just emotionally. It can turn something that even we did not appreciate into something treasured. And perhaps it can even help us see the “flaws” of our clothing as exactly why we love them most.

Ready to try Sashiko? Check out this great tutorial on Purl Bee. And visit my “Mending & Repurposing” Pinterest board for more inspiration on how to let your mending show.

Images: [left] My potholder!; [right] Sashiko embroidery on denim via SarahDivi.com, found via Pinterest

The Monthly Mend: Invest in your shoes like a pro

Alex, Patina Shoe Parlor | This I Wear

When I first moved to Manhattan, my coworker Sara introduced me to the man who would become “my” shoe guy. When you live in NYC (or any walking city), you will destroy every pair of shoes you own, so having a shoe guy in NYC is like finding a trustworthy doctor when you move to a new city: it’s inevitable and best not to wait until you’re desperate. But even with a fantastic shoe guy, I have a long history of being embarrassed by the state of my shoes. I take pride in my appearance, but somehow my shoes can never quite keep up with the rest of me. They have been the enemy: uncomfortable and unreliable no matter how much money I increasingly spend on them. And even more embarrassing, I have to admit to throwing away some shoes in the past that have let me down one too many times. I needed help.

Alexander Bourne is a young entrepreneur who set aside his dream of becoming an orthodontist to start Patina Shoe Parlor in New Orleans in early 2012 after he accidentally purchased a shoeshine kit at a garage sale. Almost overnight, he expanded the business from just shoeshines to include repairs of shoes and leather accessories. I spent an hour with him to pick up some tips on how to take care of my ever-embarrassing shoe collection and how to know what shoes to invest in.

Here’s what I learned from Alex:

1. Before you throw out a pair of shoes, take them for a consultation at your local shoe repair shop. I was amazed at the extent of repairs that Alex can do (and I LOVE seeing the “After” shots on his Instagram). Need the whole sole replaced? He can do it. Got a scuffed shoe? He’s your man. Just a quick heel repair? He can help. So before you toss, it’s worth asking if a repair can be done. Depending on the extent of the damage, it might not be cheap, but your shoes could look like new with a little love and investment.

2. You will wear through your shoes, even if they are well-made. This was my zen moment, and I was quite glad to hear it from Alex. Shoes get more wear and tear than the rest of your wardrobe. I feel guilty because I seem to go through shoes so quickly, but in reality, it is because I love walking and I tend to rotate just a few favorite pairs of shoes rather than buying lots of pairs. If this describes you as well, you are going to need to make friends with someone in shoe repair.

3. Invest in shoes that can be repaired. An expensive shoe does not necessarily mean it is a repairable shoe. When you buy a repairable well-made shoe, simple sole and heel replacements can be done over and over as long as the rest of the shoe holds up. For men and women, turn the shoe over when you are shopping and look for leather soles and wooden heels. Avoid molded rubber soles (sorry, comfort shoes!) or anything that has been fused to the shoe’s upper rather than stitched.

4. A big price tag doesn’t mean the shoe will last. When I asked Alex if shoe price relates to shoe quality, he pointed to the example of the infamous Louboutins: “Christian said, ‘I don’t make shoes for you to be comfortable in. I make them for you to look good in.’” That makes sense. If shoes are difficult to walk in, they probably weren’t made for walking. Save them to wear on special occasions, but don’t expect them to last forever.

5. Leather lasts, but more ethical options exist too. Alex says that a surprising number of his clients are vegans, who don’t wear leather products both for ethical reasons and for the environmental impact, especially of the tanning process. Vegan alternatives can include synthetic leather substitutes, which are improving. It’s not a black-and-white choice quite yet, though. Leather is typically more expensive but easier to shine and refurbish (and therefore, save), while vegan alternatives are less costly but less likely to be repairable or as durable as leather, meaning they are more likely to end up in a landfill faster. It’s worth it to do your research.

6. A lot of people just don’t know shoe repair is an option. I asked Alex what types of people he sees investing in the repairs. He says you can’t predict clients by demographics: his clients include everyone from vintage shoppers and young students to some of the city’s wealthiest. However, he thinks the difference is in awareness, which is too personal to quantify. Alex explained, “You have individuals who may have grown up with their grandfathers, their parents getting things repaired, so they feel that is something they should do. More often, you get individuals that just aren’t aware that these services even existed.” And sometimes those new to shoe repair need some convincing: “They look to get something repaired, and they say, ‘That’s more than I initially spent for it.’ That right there…negates what they originally bought them for. You bought them because you liked them, you liked the way they feel, maybe over time, you’ve acquired an emotional attachment to them. You have people that it has nothing to do with whether or not they can pay for it, it’s strictly reasoning. These people don’t want to reuse or repurpose their goods because of essentially a number.” Moral of the story: think about the value of the shoes to you, not just the cost of the shoe. And if you’re just starting to take your shoes in for repairs, ask questions and feel free to get a second opinion on a repair cost. It can definitely be worth the investment.

And finally, a tip from me: don’t wear dirty boots with run-down heels to interview someone who works with shoes. He’s gonna look at your shoes, so be prepared. Alex has always had high standards for his own shoes, mentioning that “I’ve always been the one, even before I got into shoe repair, I’d be the one to go into the bathroom, and if [my shoes] ever got dirty, I would get some dishwashing liquid, take a glass, get an old toothbrush, mix it up, and I’d just scrub ‘em. I’ve always been that way. My shoestrings, I’ll take them out, throw them in with some bleach, let them soak in the sink…” Now that’s dedication.

In New Orleans and in need of a repair? It’s easy to find Alex of Patina Shoe Parlor on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or in person at 2036 Magazine Street.

In NYC? “My” shoe guy can be found at Yakub Shoe Repair (212-673-6230) at 229 Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village. He’s in the back of the shop behind the dry cleaning counter. Tell him I say “hi.”

The Monthly Mend: Bring an old t-shirt back from the dead

Halloween DIY: Bloody Repurposed T-Shirt | This I Wear

In my short career as a set costumer, I’ve had the opportunity to work on three horror films. Each time, I worked with amazing SFX (that’s short for “special effects”) makeup artists, who have taught me the art of making someone or thing bloody. In honor of Halloween, I’ll be sharing some of these tips with you to make a horror-film worthy bloody t-shirt, a classic foundation for any scary costume. For my purposes, I will be demonstrating on an old t-shirt, but these steps can be done on any article of clothing. This is a great opportunity to give an old stained or ripped t-shirt a new life, so try digging in the bottom of your drawers for the perfect costume items first.

Note: Every time I mention blood in the steps below, I’m talking fake blood, so please take necessary safety precautions with that box cutter.

Supplies
An old t-shirt (a light-colored shirt contrasts well with the “blood”)
Fake blood (try a Halloween specialty store, costume makeup store, or make your own)
Box cutter or seam ripper
Syringe, eye dropper, or thin paintbrush
Dirt, grease, or oil (brown paint also works)
Small spray bottle (optional)

Start with something you don’t want any more – a stained shirt, for example – or find something at a thrift store. Put a piece of cardboard between the shirt layers and lay on a flat surface. Using a box cutter, cut gashes, sparingly, in a diagonal direction. You can also rip up the hem and sleeves. Then, flip the shirt over and repeat gashes on the back.

Using grease, oil, paint, or dirt, smudge around the neckline, hemline, and across the body and back. Doing this step first will prevent smudging of your beautiful blood drips in the next steps. I used a “dirt bag,” industry jargon for a rag with mineral oil and movie “dirt” (a brand called Schmere) mixed together. Mineral oil helps the dirt not look dusty and also lasts longer than dusty-style dirt.

Next, paint or syringe the immediate area around the gash starting with a small amount of blood. Real blood tends to soak into fabric in a crisp line, so resist the urge to spread it with your fingers. To make it realistic (and we’re getting real here), blood is all about directional flow, so when you are ready for more “blood,” stand the t-shirt up or hang it on a hanger. Caution: it will drip, so do this step outside or cover your floor! Add to the amount of blood around the gash. Make drips stemming from the gash. Put a longer, thicker drip at the lower corner. Repeat these steps for all gashes. When you are satisfied or sufficiently disgusted with the amount of blood on the front, let it dry and repeat on the back.

Using a small spray bottle filled with watered down blood (just enough water so it can get through the pump), spray across the body. As seen on the finished shirt, I created arterial spray by holding down the pump and moving in a diagonal fashion across the t-shirt in different directions. I wanted it to be a little bit over-the-top for Halloween, so I sprayed more blood overall.

And for that extra little touch of reality, add blood on your body underneath the gash sites. If you want to go all out, scab gel blood is available and makes realistic gash wounds.

Please feel free to share a photo of your bloody look with me through Twitter @lisammagee #ThisIWear!

The Monthly Mend: 3 tips for recognizing quality clothing

In this series, I’ll be featuring a new topic every few weeks on how to make better choices when shopping and how to take care of your favorite items once they find a home in your closet.

This I Wear: Stitching Samples

How do we shop? Each of us has different priorities, but I imagine that for the average shopper, it goes something like this: (1) a fabric or style catches your eye, (2) you look over the whole garment for cut, (3) you check the price tag, and if it has passed the test so far, (4) you try it on. For those of us without extensive garment construction knowledge, we just want it to feel good and fit our budget. But there are actually a few things you can look for in a garment to make sure you are heading home with something that will last, whether it is from the Gap or Bergdorf’s.

I’ve recruited our resident sewing guru, Lisa, to teach us how to look under the hood of a garment before we commit. So find your garment’s care label and follow Lisa’s tips:

1. The Fabric
Look for breathable long-lasting natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool, linen, and silk. Synthetic fabrics—polyester, nylon, acrylic, Spandex, and more—are less breathable. Often these fabrics simulate a natural fabric counterpart, but the quality and enjoyment of wearing is rarely the same. While Spandex is the necessary evil to getting my skinny jeans on, it can change the fabric’s overall quality and wear. Designer labels do slip in synthetic fabrics in some form in their collections, though I could argue that these synthetics are better quality that what you would find at a mass-market store. You as the consumer can tell by touch: the hand (meaning how it feels when you touch the fabric) is usually of higher quality. If you are still unsure, think about when you will be wearing the item. If you’re headed to an outdoor summer event, opt for cotton or linen rather than polyester to keep you cool. When purchasing a winter coat, an investment in 100% wool over acrylic is wise—wool is naturally water (and snow) resistant, great at regulating heat, and very durable.

2. The Details
What we don’t see is often more important than what we do see. The stitch length, thread quality, hem type, and seam finishing all come together to create a better garment. The better the details, the longer the manufacturer spent on that garment, raising its quality.

  • Stitches should be tight and close together for maximum durability; larger stitches are reserved for topstitching (the stitching you see on the outside of the garment). Thread should not be too thin or too shiny. Too shiny indicates 100% polyester or nylon thread, which can melt when ironed, particularly when the garment’s main content requires a higher iron heat than the synthetic thread.
  • Hem style depends on the type of garment. Casual pants usually have topstitched hems, but nicer pants and skirts should have invisible hems, which means you should not be able to see the stitching on the outside of the garment.
  • Look for shirts that have flat-felled or French seams. These seam finishes not only take longer to create, but they are also sewn 2 to 3 times, so that the seam is more highly reinforced. Check out A Fashionable Stitch for additional styles.
  • Finishing details are one of the simplest indicators. “X”-shaped tacks that keep slits in place show care for the garment. Same with stitches that hold pockets together. The manufacturer took the time to add these temporary stitches, so that pockets don’t stretch and slits don’t rip before they get to the consumer. Just make sure to remove these stitches when you get home! Using scissors to remove just the first stitch should make it easy to pull the remainder of the thread out by hand.

3. The Fit
Fit is vital to how we look and feel in our clothes. Many people go through life with ill-fitting clothing, not realizing that small alterations or trying a different brand that fits their body shape better could make a big difference in comfort and style. While sizing seems universal, every brand has its own exact size measurements, and this can vary by style. A woman’s size 6 in one store could be a size 4 or 8 in another. Use sizes as a starting point, but don’t rely on them to determine fit. Instead, look for key construction aspects to indicate fit:

  • Women should pay special attention to where darts (fabric tucks to shape the garment to the body’s curves) hit on their bodies: a bust dart should end close to, but not at, the apex of the bust.
  • Shoulder seams should hit at your shoulder, not below or above. (Note: I do confine that to traditional button front shirts and T-shirts, as different fashions of shirts may alter the shoulder seam placement.)

Utilizing the services of a tailor can also help with fit. If you find something you love but the fit is off, consider having it altered. I will say, having performed my fair share of surgery on garments, tailors are not miracle workers. There are things they cannot resolve, and good ones will tell you that before they accept your money. Better to return the item than to have a garment you can’t wear and have paid for twice. Quick tip—Tailoring doesn’t have to be expensive: the Japanese brand Uniqlo hems all pants bought in store for free, even for a cheap pair of jeans. Nordstrom offers free alterations on select full-priced merchandise. Make sure to ask about tailoring services when you’re shopping, especially if it is an investment piece.

Tweet your sewing questions to Lisa directly @lisammagee #themonthlymend. Photos by Lisa Magee.

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