Learn a Few Stitches

If you can locate a needle, thread, and a spare button in your house, you're ahead of the game. Actually own a sewing machine? Watch out! You are well on your way to clothing repair success. None of the above? It's not too late for you. It's easy to assemble a simple sewing kit and learn a few stitching techniques. The amount of cash it will save you in clothing repairs is well worth it.

While hand-sewing will do the trick (after all, every clothing item used to be sewn entirely by hand) and sewing machine is even better. Decent machines are sure to be found for under $200 at your local all-purpose or fabric store. With occasional oiling and under normal conditions, this handy investment will last 20 years or more.

Emergency Sewing Kit

Whether you are a novice or expert seamstress, everyone needs an emergency sewing kit for quick repairs at the office or while traveling. Being "always prepared" isn't just for scouts.

thread (basic colors) - wrap on a stiff card
scissors - small, fold-a-way style
needles and pins - store in felt
safety pins - assorted sizes
button(s) - assorted sizes, colors

Sewing Machine Basics

Keep a variety of different thread colors available for repairs. Follow machine instructions for threading the machine. Most repairs and simple patterns use some of the following basic stitches and terms. Always experiment with new stitches by practicing on scrap fabric that is similar in thickness to that of your project.

1. Straight Stitch - Stitch 5/8 of an inch in from seam edges (unless otherwise specified by pattern). Lower needle into fabric, sew a few stitched in reverse, then come forward. Stitch a few in reverse at the end of the row to "tie" the threads. Use this stitch to repair ripped seams, topstitch on jeans, or for machine-sewn hems. For seams, you usually press them open after they are sewn. Zig-zag unfinished edges.

2. Zig-Zag Stitch - Adjust machine for this stitch. You should be able to control the width and the length. Use zig-zag to finish a raw edge to keep it from unraveling.

3. Decorative Stitches - The availability for such stitches varies from machine to machine. Some may require two needles. They are handy for adding a decorative touch 1/2 to 1 inch in from the edge on a baby blanket or baby clothing. They often will use more thread than a straight stitch.

4. Slip-Stitch - This stitch is sewn by hand. Use a single or double thickness of thread, depending on your needs, knotted at the end. Slip-stitch is used often for hemming or for finishing the open edge of a pillow. Come up from the inside or wrong side of the fabric. Go back towards the other side/piece of fabric and catch a few threads. Gently pull thread through and put needle through starting side.

Thoroughly confused? Your local community center is sure to offer classes for basic sewing techniques. Sewing - it's not just for Home Economics and county fairs!
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