DIY: Essential Tools for Taking Care of Your Stuff
On Tuesday, I wrote a little bit about fast fashion and its impact on our world. You can check out that post here!
One way to combat clothing waste is to really take care of your stuff. I’m always surprised when I read magazine articles suggesting that you take clothing to the tailor for button or hole repairs on clothing. Do that many people not know how to do simple mending? Maybe. But that’s ok. I guess my thrifty Depression-era grandma really entrusted me with some money saving technology when she showed me how to do little repairs on my things. I’m grateful I can do that!
Other than mending, there are some other ways I take care of my clothing and accessories. I’ve also helped some friends mend their clothing!
Probably my oldest daily-use item is a cardigan I bought in 2004. Yup, 14 years ago. I wear it often and still get compliments on how stylish and cute it is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sewn on new buttons, repaired little tears, and gently removed stains. Buying a sweater that is kind of timeless helps too. And having this sweater well-tended reduces the temptation for me to purchase new things. If you love the stuff you have, why let a little tear or stain keep you from using it over and over?
Here are some essential tools to get you started on taking care of all the clothing and accessories you love:
+ sewing kit
A sewing kit doesn’t have to be as cute and well-stocked as mine. And you don’t have to buy a specific sewing kit box. Any box will do the job and any combination of thread, needles, sewing scissors, and other notions will work. It’s also a fun use for a pretty box you love but have no compelling reason to keep (the box for a favorite pair of shoes, luxury jewelry item, or special gift works great!). To stock your pretty sewing kit, you can buy basic sewing supplies at Walmart, Joann Fabric, or pretty much anywhere online. I like to have a selection of neutral threads (including thicker button thread), a packet of needles in various sizes, a good pair of sewing scissors, needle threaders (those things that look like coins with a wire loop at the end), a thimble or two, and some straight and safety pins. If you have clothing you love with particular colors, like a neon yellow dress, it might be worth seeking out a matching thread for repairs. If I don’t have an exact shade of thread to repair, sometimes I twist two or three threads together to give the look of a single shade. If you really want to upgrade your sewing kit, add a domed lightbulb! It’s a super old school tool to make sock darning really easy. Just stretch the sock of the top of the lightbulb and sew. The shape of the lightbulb will stretch out the fabric just enough to make sewing easier and more durable.
“Notions” is the sweet old-fashioned word for all the bits and bobs you need to do clothing repairs. I save any extra buttons, sequins, or thread attached to nicer clothing items I purchase for quick repairs. I also think it’s important to stock up on a few pieces of velcro and zippers in neutral colors, a set of buttons you think are cute, and matching sequins or lace for your favorite pieces. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a plain blazer or cardigan and upgraded the buttons with something special. It takes any piece from boring to special so cheaply and easily. Just remember to regularly review the notions piling up in your sewing kit. Old buttons from donated items have a way of sticking around in my sewing kit years after I’ve passed the item along.
+ sweater shaver & lint roller
I’ve gotten at least three people addicted to sweater shavers recently. They are the BEST tool for keeping sweaters and pilled cottons looking fresh and pretty. I like to use a good quality sweater shaver and shave sweaters on an ironing board or mattress. This keeps you from really digging into the fabric and accidentally shaving your fabrics too thoroughly. My favorite sweatshirt pills like crazy and looks old and cheap quickly. Once I use my sweater shaver, it looks like I got a new sweatshirt. Worth every penny! This sweater shaver is small so it’s easy to store and only $5.99!
+ sticky and flocked lint rollers
To keep things looking fresh, I also go over dark fabrics with a lint roller before I head out. Lint rollers are essentials for most black leggings and sweatshirts. I find it useful to have both a sticky and flocked lint roller for different textures and fabrics. The flocked lint remover works like magic in removing deodorant stains from my shirts. I always pack a travel lint roller when I’m heading out of town for a few days. You never know when your clothing will pick up lint, dog hair, or dust while you’re traveling.
+ gentle detergent
I’m pretty basic when it comes to detergent because my husband and son have very sensitive skin. I like Tide Free & Gentle for pretty much all of my fabrics. I’ve tried things like Woolite and lingerie wash, but I find that a gentle all-purpose detergent works just as well. Scented and colored detergents can sometimes lead to buildup in your washing machine and on your clothing. It’s good to have something that rinses thoroughly to keep your fabric’s integrity. If you have outdoor or athletic clothing, it might be worth investing in down cleaner or speciality detergent. A good stain remover is also an important thing to stock in your laundry supplies for inevitable mishaps and spills.
+ mesh laundry bags
Speaking of laundry, I couldn’t live without my mesh laundry bags. They keep delicates away from the agitator in your washing machine and protect zippers and elastic from damaging other clothing. These are so important for bras, delicate workout gear, tights, silks, wool, and snag-able fabrics. It also makes it so easy when I’m putting things in the drier to know what to pull out and flat or hang dry.
+ good hangers
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a collection of wire, plastic, and dry cleaner clothing hangers in a closet all crammed together and allowing clothes to get crushed, caught on wire hooks, and get creases and strange crumples on fabrics. I decided long ago to invest in nice wooden hangers for all of our clothing. Yes, they can be pricey. Instead of buying everything at once, I bought a set of two or three every pay period over about a year to get a full collection for our closets. I personally don’t like things like Huggable Hangers because they encourage overstuffing in closets (which leads to all of the above problems). Wider wooden hangers allow your clothing to breathe and discourage huge volumes of clothing. If you have cedar hangers, they keep any kind of scents and goolies out of your closet. I also have a handful of hangers for suits or delicate fabrics that are specially made for the purpose. I hang all of my cardigans on hangers with rubber shoulders to keep the shoulders from stretching out.
+ shoe polish kit, leather cleaner, and a cobbler
Everyone needs a shoe polish kit and the number of a good cobbler in your phone. I have saved hundreds of dollars on new shoes and handbags just by taking very good care of my leather goods. I like to have my shoe polish kit stocked with a few neutral shades of polish (usually brown, black, and tan) and a clear sealant. A rag or microfiber cloth dedicated to shoe polishing is important. A good shoe brush and suede brush and a handful of replacement laces are useful too. I use good car leather cleaner to clean my purses, salt stains from shoes, and our leather couch. If you have speciality items, like Wellies or designer handbags, you can often find specific cleaners and sealants online from those manufacturers. When the heels of my boots and shoes start showing any kind of serious wear and tear or when the seasons change, I take them to get re-heeled. If they get worn too much, I spring for new soles. When you spend good money on timeless styles, you can keep shoes and accessories for decades.
+ a friend who can sew
If you know of a friend who can sew, all your mending and hemming projects become a lot easier. I can do simple repairs, but I go to my mom or my local tailor for hemming. If you can’t do simple repairs and don’t have the time or inclination to learn online, talk to your friends about doing those little repairs. I have a knack for repairing open-weave sweaters and lace items. Any time I see a friend about to pitch items like that because they’ve gotten tears, I offer to rescue those items from the donate bin and repair them. I hate seeing favorite clothing items discarded just because they have a little tear or snag. Don’t be afraid to ask for favors from your more crafty-inclined friends.
There you have it! Just a few ideas to get you started on reducing clothing waste and keeping the things you love in tip top shape. If you have any other ideas for essential items to repair and restore your clothing, leave them in the comments below!