5 Tips for Altering Your Own Clothing

February 2nd, 2012 by

Today I’m going to give you some of my best advice for altering your own clothes! It’s a great place to start if you’re new to sewing because there’s so much to learn from the way other garments are constructed that will help you in the future. Also, I’m big on the idea of giving clothes a second life. Fashion changes and so does our taste, but these clothes just don’t disintegrate into thin air, right? Let’s take some time to talk about how you can get the most out of the clothes you already own! Here are some tips for your next alteration!

1. Tailors Chalk-This is my favorite tool (read: most useful) when it comes to alterations. There are two kinds- wax and chalk (which comes in white or blue). I prefer wax because it disappears with a little bit of heat from the iron. Chalk will come out with a wash and sometimes by rubbing, but sometimes I don’t plan on washing it. Of course, don’t use the wax if it’s a fabric you can’t use high heat or steam on :)

2. Take photos as you take the garment apart. Sometimes, you think you can remember everything, and then you don’t. This emoticon fulfills that feelingΒ  : /Β  So, do what I do and document each step. Lay a ruler down too so you don’t have to remember measurements. I have been so thankful for this at times when I didn’t notice a detail (gasp) at the beginning that was vital to put something back together. A photo tells all! Not to mention, after a while you will have built up a nice little visual dictionary of how certain things are assembled by manufactured sewing. It’s very cool if you’re a nerdy sewer like me! :)

3. When you’re taking something in (making it smaller) mark your chalk line, sew, try on and then (if it fits) cut. May seem obvious, but you’ll be very disappointed if you cut too soon. Too much fabric is a fix-able problem, too little is.. well too little. Yowza when it’s vintage!

4. There is a difference between a rip and a broken seam.

A lot of alterations I take care of can easily be fixed if it’s a broken seam. I’ve seen it a lot in vintage dresses. And who’s to blame them, they’re aged, they’ve had some wear and the thread is wearing thin. No worries! However, a rip is not as easy. With a rip, there’s no getting around it without seeing some stitching or a new seam, unless you want to put a fancy little patch over it or something. Rips have a good chance of ripping again. It may be that part of the garment is too small or the fabric is just worn thin. (The one shown above I didn’t do, it’s thrifted, but I would guess that someone tried to take the embroidered logo off >never a good idea< and it left a hole. Rip, hole, same thing.) Your call on if it’s worth fixing. I wanted to let you know about this though, because I’ve met a lot of people who just didn’t know. They were really concerned that their favorite jacket with a broken seam would never be the same! It’s really cute, but as Pam Tillis says, “no use cryin’ over spilt perfume.”

5. Lastly, I’ve said it before but I feel the need to say it again. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Paying someone to alter is sometimes totally worth it! For one, they’re going to get it done faster and two, seamstresses tend to under charge what their work is truly worth (I know because I’ve been there). Not saying that you should take advantage of them (at all) but it’s true. You have to decide if it’s really a job you can handle and will be worth your time.Β  If it’s not, go give that woman (or man) some business! Let me say it this way, it’s kinda like the hair stylist. I can trim my own bangs every once in a while, but my hairstylist would not be happy with me if I decided to thin it out one day (you’re the best Kerri!). It’s going to be harder for her to fix the disaster than it would have been to cut my whole head-o-hair. Same with your alterations lady.

That’s it! I hope these have helped you and encouraged you to dig in your closets for those lovely garments that need a wee bit of attention before they can be your favorites again. I mean, really, who has extra closet space for clothes you don’t wear anyway!

If you liked these, be sure to check out my 10 Tips for Successful Sewing.

always, Missy


2 Responses to 5 Tips for Altering Your Own Clothing

  1. Ray Anne says:

    Hi Missy, I’m new to your blog, but am wondering whether you could give any tips on altering cardigans? I have recently bought a jacket I really liked and once at home realised that the bottom of the cardigan seems like a coat. If I was too shorten the bottom of the jacket, how should I do it? Thanks :)

    • Missy says:

      Hi Ray Anne. I might be able to help you better if you can send me a photo? I’m having a hard time envisioning what you are talking about. My contact is located at the bottom of the site :)

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