Make Mending a Habit

by Teresa Higginbotham

Going through my kids closets, I spot a shirt with a button missing; a sock with hole in it; jeans with the knee out. Do I take the time to fix these things, or do I just let the stuff stay there until my child outgrows it? I don't see people mending the way they used to. My mother used to have a mending basket with needles, thread, and even this big wood egg shaped thing she'd stick under socks when she darned them. She taught me how to mend and I can remember some socks I had in college that had two or three stitch lines in them. I just plain didn't have the money to go out and spend on new socks. I was too busy trying to see how much Top Ramen it would take to feed me. For many of us mending is a necessity, but our time is also of value. Here are a few ways to maximize your mending time.

  1. Create a mending bag. Put all of your mending supplies in one place, like a tote bag. Here are some suggestions to put into the bag. f you don't have time to make a trip down to the fabric store, most of these things can be found online at and Hancock Save buttons in all colors and sizes. The little white ones are great to cut off worn out shirts. You'll almost certainly reuse them. Also save...

    • Iron-on patches

    • Appliqués - can be put over a hole

    • Stitch Witchery (an iron on fusible tape you can use for hems)

    • Snaps

    • Scissors

    • Thread-white, black, blue, tan

    • Pins

    • Needles

    • Large Safety Pins-These work really well for pulling through drawstrings or elastic that has worked its way out of the casing.

    • Small Safety Pins

    • Goo Gone

    • Collar extender

    • Fray Check Use for fraying seams

    • Zipper Safety

    • Fabric Mending Magic/007 Bond
  2. Depending on your mending needs, there are probably more things you could add to this list. You could store this bag somewhere you might be idle. Maybe next to your bed, in your car, or in the kitchen.

  3. Group "like jobs" together. Hems to fix, buttons to sew, clothes to patch or appliqué, socks to darn, rips to mend.

  4. Jump on thinning knees before your kid's knees burst through. Put a patch underneath the knees either when you first purchase the jeans or when you start to see the color of the pant leg lightening around the knee.

  5. Know What to Stitch Where - If you are mending on machine use a straight stitch for cotton, denim, and any woven fabric. Use a small zigzag stitch for a knit fabric. To mend a seam that rips often try the elastic stitch-one forward-two back. There is an excellent book that illustrates this. Wardrobe Quick-Fixes by Jan Saunders.

So, the next time you're walking around your child's closet with a pile of clothes that need mending--before you stick them in a corner for later--think of the replacement costs and then compare those with the cost of mending them. It just might make you sit down with your mending bag the next time you catch X-Files--but don't prick your finger staring at David Duchovny!

Teresa Higginbotham is also known as "Tightwad Tess". You can contact her by email at

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