Mend your ways: it’s sew worthwhile!

Carry on wearing them: Old trousers can be transformed into a skirt
Carry on wearing them: Old trousers can be transformed into a skirt
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With the annual Budget doing little to ease austerity, the biggest fashion trend right now is the tightening of belts.

And the humble needle and thread can save you pounds when it comes to increasing your wardrobe options.

Your sewing box might even be the answer to resisting splurges on cheaper ‘fast fashion’ buys, which can prove costly in the long run when they’re falling apart at the seams.

Rebecca Peacock, co-author of new book Make & Mend, says: “We all know how easy it is to buy a cheap pair of jeans or a couple of low-price T-shirts to cheer ourselves up.

“But these low-cost clothes can be a false economy in terms of the planet, society and your purse.”

Give your wardrobe some longevity with our make and mend guide:


If your favourite jumper has developed a hole or your most flattering trousers are sporting a tear, do what your grandma did – have a go at repairing them.

“Mending clothes is a skill that will allow your wardrobe to last longer. The ability to get out the sewing kit and restore your treasured clothes to their former glory is invaluable.”

Have a mending day: sort through your wardrobe and pull out any garments that require repair but are structurally sound.

Peacock advises: “You can easily fix clothes with small tears in seams or un-ravelled hems. Holes can often be darned and small stains can be covered. Any item that’s too big can be taken in.

Trousers that are too short can probably be lengthened by letting down the hem and it’s not hard to replace broken zips.”

If you’re lacking in sewing skills, take your repair haul to a company offering alteration services and ask for a bulk discount – or see if a capable relative can help.

creative customisation

Clothes can take on a new life with a few minor adjustments.

Peacock says: “Honing your skills will allow you to adapt clothes you already own and snap up the best bargains and turn them into garments that fit perfectly and become unique to you.

Charity and second-hand shops can become your first port of call.

You can hunt for interesting patterns, textures and designs that can be chopped up for a new creation. And you can buy that beautiful £5 dress that doesn’t quite fit – because you know that a few stitches here and there will work wonders.”

Peacock advises you keep your eye out for charity shop clothes with unusual buttons and heavy beading and either rework the garments or snip off the details and add them to other outfits.

Similarly, good buttons, zips, pockets, buckles, loops, motifs and ribbons on clothes you no longer want can be cut off and kept to customise other projects.

fashion something new

Sometimes it just isn’t worth all that needle-threading effort.

But if you have a garment that’s beyond the rescue stage, it doesn’t have to be consigned to the duster cupboard.

“There are a myriad of projects that can be created from scraps of fabric,” Peacock assures. Her favourites include turning beloved tops into fabric shopping bags and fashioning eye-catching scarves from old clothes – a beginner’s dream project.

She says old trousers can even be transformed into a skirt. “This is most effective with jeans,” according to Peacock: “You don’t need to cut into the fabric much at all. You can make a calf-length denim skirt or a mini – and choose between a slim pencil or comfortable A-line shape.”

save or say goodbye?

Weigh up whether you should save and stitch, or discard and ditch.

Peacock recommends asking yourself five questions. If the answer is yes to three or more, get your mending box out. If no, then add the garment to your recycling pile and use the fabric, buttons and detailing for other projects.

1) Do you love it? Would you be truly upset if you chopped it up to make something else?

2) Is the tear or rip on a seam? If you sew the seam back together again, will this solve the problem?

3) If the item is stained, can it be patched without ruining the design? Could it be dyed a dark colour to cover the stain?

4) If the garment is too big, will a small alteration solve the problem?

5) If it’s too small, can you find suitable fabric to enlarge it?

estimate ‘cost per wear’

If a garment costs £30 to buy new and you wear it ten times, the price per wear is £3.

If the garment then gets a hole in it and you throw it away, you have to spend another £30 to replace it. However, if you repair the garment, and wear it a further ten times, the price per wear is just £1.50.

Make & Mend: A Guide To Recycling Clothes And Fabrics by Rebecca Peacock & Sam Tickner is published by Spring Hill, priced £9.99.