Tackling a repair project? Start here.

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Jam Jar as Sewing Kit
Credit: Kate Mathis
  • Have a snag? Resist the urge to snip at it or you may end up with a hole in the garment. First try stretching the fabric gently to see if the snag pulls itself back into place. If not, push the snag to the wrong side of the fabric with the blunt end of a needle, then make a knot with the snag. If it’s too short, dab the end with clear nail polish, being careful not to stain the fabric.

  • If you can’t find thread that matches your garment exactly, go one shade darker. This will look less conspicuous.

  • When mending a tear, “Choose interfacing that’s the same weight as your garment's fabric: light, medium, or heavy,” says Beth Baumgartel, author of Simple Sewing ($20, amazon.com). “Iron on a small piece of it in a hidden spot to check if it feels similar.”

  • Not sure where to sew a replacement button? Hold the garment closed and insert a pin through the center of the buttonhole. Mark the spot with a dot of chalk, says Diana Rupp, the founder of Make Workshop, in New York City. Then simply center the button over the mark.

  • If you’re closing a ripped seam, keep in mind where it’s located. “Underarm seams take a lot of stress, so use a double-threaded needle for extra reinforcement,” says Rupp.

  • When ironing the hems of skirts and pants, press only the very bottom edge of the hem. This prevents leaving an unsightly impression an inch or two above the hemline.

  • Concealing pin holes in silky fabric is easy; just brush the area lightly on the wrong side with a soft, unused toothbrush. If that doesn’t work, press the fabric with an iron and a pressing cloth on the wrong side. Then inspect the holes with a magnifying glass and use a straight pin to push the fibers back into alignment.

  • Different jobs call for different types of stitches, but you really need only two. The sturdy backstitch is your trusty tactic for most rips; for hems, experts rely on the invisible slip stitch. Whichever you use, make the stitches small (no more than ¼ inch long) for the most durable repair. Straightness counts, too. Draw a line with tailor’s chalk and a ruler, and follow it as you sew. Also, be careful not to pull the thread too tautly or the fabric will pucker.

  • If your zipper tends to pop open, it just mean that the slider (the piece that moves) needs tightening. Use a pair of pliers to squeeze together the top and bottom halves of the slider on one side, then do the same with the other side. Test the zipper. Repeat if it’s still too loose.