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how to sew and repair your old clothes

How to sew and repair your old clothes: 3 sewing ideas to try at home

Need to know how to sew a skirt or dress at the seam for a repair? Or unsure how to sew a button? Don't fret. We can help.

Are you interested in sewing clothes? Perhaps you’re feeling crafty and want to learn a new skill. Maybe you’re just trying to get the best out of clothes you already own, or rescue something you love that’s been damaged.


Whether you’re after basic tips, like how to sew a button, or more complex things like how to sew a dress or skirt from scratch, here are some useful tips and sewing ideas.


  1. How to sew a button


Let’s start with one of the simplest things you might need to do. It’s easy to learn how to sew a shirt button back on.


You’ll need:


  • A button ((if you’ve lost the original button, check the inside of the garment – most clothing manufacturers helpfully attach a spare)
  • A needle
  • Some thread that matches the colour of the clothing


Then, just follow this process:


  1. Thread your needle
  2. Make a knot at the end of the thread
  3. Start sewing from the back of the garment, following the stitch pattern of the other buttons
  4. Go through all the spaces a few times, giving the button a gentle tug after each one
  5. Fasten the thread off at the back when you’re satisfied the button is secure


When you’re first learning how to sew a button, it’s important to remember not to pull the thread too snugly, otherwise you won’t be able to fasten it afterwards. Before you fasten off, you could also wind the thread around your stitches a few times – this will help you judge the tension.


  1. Mending garments and sewing clothes back together


Sewing clothes back together is an incredibly useful skill, and could save any number of your beloved sweaters from the trash heap.


You’ll need:

  • a needle
  • thread that’s a similar colour (and, for socks, thickness) to the garment you’re mending
  • some scissors
  • something you can use to push the hole out so you can see what you’re doing. Professionals would use a darning egg, but you can use a tennis ball instead


Then, just follow this process:


  1. Trim away excess flyaway threads, being careful not to make the hole bigger
  2. Start sewing a running stitch across the hole
  3. Continue until you’ve covered the space
  4. Sew another set of stitches at a right angle to the ones you just finished, weaving in and out of the original stitches


If sewing clothes back together at the seam then start by pinning the two edges together, using the edge of the fabric as a guide and go over your running stitch with a few backstitches to reinforce your repair.


Did you know? You can use iron-on mending tape to keep torn edges together when sewing skirts or dresses at the seam as part of a repair.


  1. How to sew a shirt, skirt, or dress


Making your own clothes can be hugely rewarding, but where do you start? Luckily, you can get templates that take out a lot of the hard work for you. The process you take will vary slightly depending on what you’re sewing, but the general technique is as follows:


  1. Choose a fabric and template you like – if this is your first experience learning how to sew a skirt, shirt or dress then pick a simple design and plain fabric
  2. Cut out the template and pin it to your fabric
  3. Cut the template out of the fabric, leaving a few centimetres border on all edges
  4. Pin the pieces of fabric together in the correct order and sew using a running stitch – if learning how to sew a shirt you’ll normally sew the shoulders first before moving onto the neckline, sleeves, and body. If learning how to sew a dress or skirt then you’ll normally sew the main panels together before adding finishing touches like the hem and neckline or waistband


Hopefully, this guide has given you a few sewing ideas for how to keep your wardrobe in one piece. Just remember to practice on fabric scraps or old clothes before you start sewing clothes you wear regularly so that you can master the techniques. Good luck, and have fun!

Top tip!

Wash and iron your clothes after you mend them! This is a great test of how well your stitching holds. Use a detergent you trust, like Skip, to keep them in great shape.  

Key Steps

Here’s what to keep in mind while you’re sewing clothes:


  • Iron the garment before you start, unless the manufacturer recommends against it.
  • Use good lighting.
  • Take regular breaks – your eyes and neck will thank you!
  • Test the strength of your stitching by washing the garment afterwards.