Basic sewing skills to learn, to keep your wardrobe in shape

Basic sewing skills are not that hard to master with just a little bit of patience and determination. These skills will help you keep your wardrobe in wearable shape and extend the life of your clothes significantly.

Learning these basic sewing skills is good for the planet and for your budget!

If you are reluctant to learn how to sew, let me tell you: I get it!! I was there with you for the longest time. I was team #nosew #lifehack and more!

Thankfully, there are moments in life that change you and make you reconsider things…

You can skip right ahead if you don’t want to read how stupid I was!

My sewing journey

Up to something like 2 years ago or so, I couldn’t be bothered sewing back a button that had fallen. I had never done the hem of a pair of trousers and used iron-on tape to keep these in place. Replacing bits of tapes long after it was needed and often just using safety pins instead.

It wasn’t laziness, it was mostly a total lack of interest. I did not enjoy sewing at all. I rejected it when I was younger with my mom and even more so later, when my former mother in law, a professional seamstress, tried to teach me.

Sure I was impressed by her skills. When I spent the night with my boyfriend, she would often ask me to choose a pattern and fabric in the evening and when I walked up the next morning, the skirt or jacket I had chosen was done and was fitted before breakfast!

Nether-the-less, I refused to learn for the longest time.

Fast forward time and stop a couple years back, I felt in love with my sewing machine!

Then, I successfully did a one year no-buy challenge when in addition to not buying clothes, I decided to sew my own. That last part didn’t go well (!!) but I did a lot of mending to make, what I already own, last longer.

I was particularly happy to be able to sew face masks when these were not available anywhere.

To be honest, I don’t think I’m ever going to become an amazing seamstress but I’m not just happy with the progress I made… I’m delighted! I’m particularly excited for the impact it has, as every time I repair the seam of my yoga pants, I save money!

Singer 15K sewing machine - 1923 - Vintage sewing
My glorious Singer sewing machine!

The basic sewing skills you need

So here are the main sewing skills which are useful to maintain clothes, in wearable shape.

Sewing buttons

Sewing a button is actually easy and there are plenty of tutorials out there for all sorts of buttons. Don’t be afraid because it only really takes a couple minutes. Time well worth spent, as a complete set of button on a professional shirt, makes all the difference. Not even talking about the missing button, right in the middle of the front of your favorite blouse!

Yes, I used to strategically put a safety pin there too!

Basic sewing skills - sewing buttons

Handling pulled threads

A garment with pulled threads look old and worn out but it’s often not an irreversable situation. With a bit of patience, you can easily fix this.

Basic sewing skills - handeling pulled threads

You just need to use a needle and thread to pull back, on the wrong side of the fabric, the bit that got snagged. Depending on the remaining length of the snagged thread, you can leave it like this or make a knot. But first you really should stretch the fabric along this thread, so most of it goes back where it should be.

Repairing a seam

Does your favorite t-shirt have a “breathing gap” under your harm?! Yeah, we all have been there, I’m afraid.

Ripped seam is however the easiest thing to repair, with or without a sewing machine. Depending of the type of seam, a simple back stitch can do the trick or you may need to do a ladder stitch. I ‘m sure you’ve seen videos of the ladder stitch on Instagram or else! You pull the thread once done and ta da! Magic!!

Mending little holes

Mending little holes is so much easier than mending big holes. So don’t wait! This tiny thing will grow! Handle it right away and it will be nearly invisible.

A little hole will only require one or 2 stitches and less than 2 minutes of your time!

There are tutorials out there which show you how to use iron patch to fix little holes. I don’t recommend this technique (well, not anymore!), as the patch will most likely come out after a couple wash.

Basic sewing skills - Mending little holes
The hole here was already a little too big! At least I tried!

Covering bigger holes with embroidery

Unfortunately, if you let the little hole become a big one, you may have to resort to alternative mending techniques. Embroidery might be the best answer!

I just did so on one of my t-shirt and purposely used black thread on it, so it would show, and drew a heart. Well I tried to! My little heard isn’t perfect but for a first try, and considering it is a t-shirt I use in the garage and it is already permanently stained, I think it’s ok!

Basic sewing skills - embroidery
Imperfect first embroidery test!

Next time, I’ll probably spend a little more time on it, to do something more creative. Maybe a feather, or a couple birds, even if there is only one hole.

The idea is that once you have to do embroidery to hide a hole, you might as well have fun and make it unique!

Patching

If complexe embroidery isn’t your thing, if the hole is really big, or if it is in a place where embroidery won’t do, you may want to resort to patches.

You can use the same type of fabric. Or you can be super creative and use completely different fabric.

Once more, Internet is your friend! You can find plenty examples online of really cool patching ideas. You can find ready made patches like the one below. (yes, I like feathers nowadays!) And of course, you can create your own decorative patches!

A lot of patch ideas are fun and cute but so far I’ve only had tears to repair in areas where I don’t want to stick a feather or else!

So I’ve been trying to do more of the “invisible” patching rather than the creative patching! As you can see on the picture below, I still have a lot of room for improvement on the “invisibility” side!

PS: These are hiking trousers so it’s not a huge deal to have these patches!

Repairing knitted fabric

This is still a basic skill which isn’t too complicated to manage. You just have to understand how to knit it back basically. A crochet hook is your best friend here! YouTube is too!

Replacing a zipper

Now, replacing a zipper is kind of a next level sewing skill! Personally I did it twice and I’m in no hurry to reiterate. But obviously, the skirt and my dad’s jacket I did this to, were no longer wearable, without a functioning zipper.

My main tip here would be to take pictures of how the original zipper is placed and more pictures when you remove it, to really have a good understanding on how it is done, especially at the top! Place the zipper well and let the marks, left in the fabric by the previous stitches, guide you.

Altering your clothes

This last sewing skill regroups a lot of different skills, really. Hemming a pair of trousers will prouve to be fairly easy, but slimming down a shirt can be a little more difficult.

Don’t ever start by trying to fiddle with a shoulder or a a sleeve! Shoulders and sleeves are probably the hardest part to handle.

Instead start by mastering simple tasks, like shortening a skirt, before you venture into more complicated tasks, like adding darts to a shirt.

You can train on old clothes of yours, clothes that you can’t wear anymore anyway, or buy inexpensive vintage pieces. This way, if you mess up, the damaged done won’t make you cry!

Try slowly, improve your skills and process with caution!

Sewing skills - altering your clothes
I added lace to the bottom of the camisole under dress. It makes it 100% cuter! And it was super easy to do.

*****

Last words…

Well, if I had read such a post 2 or 3 years ago, I would have said ‘nop’ not for me, thank you!!

Now, I’m really glad I changed my mind on this! I can’t believe how stubborn and stupid I was on the topic, and I am a little sad for some of the clothes I threw away, because I refused to repair them.

One very last note? If you do not own a sewing machine, do not let this stop you as there is nothing you can not sew by hand! It may take more time, but everything is pretty much doable with just a needle.

And if you want to get a sewing machine, I highly recommend you to get an old one! A lot of expert seamstress will disagree with me, but I’ll stick to my recommendation!

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