Five Ways to Fix, Patch, and Mend Your Favorite Clothes
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Five Ways to Fix, Patch, and Mend Your Favorite Clothes

Some people have a strict mental hierarchy of Things You Can Fix and Things You Cannot Imagine Fixing. Me, I get hung up on clothing.

When I encounter a rip or a popped button, I just blame myself for being rough and wonder if there are any sales happening. Fixing clothing is for people with dedicated sewing corners, I tell myself, not people who lost their tiny mending kit years ago. Sure, I never thought I could fix bikes, car accessories, laptops, phones, lawn mowers, or stairs, either, but clothing is weird spellcraft involving fibers, right?

Wrong, because there are iFixit guides that tell you, step by step, how to fix your clothing. You don’t need a sewing machine for all of them. Most involve only common household tools, a needle and thread, and very cheap replacement zippers or buttons.

To inspire you to reach deep into the closet and fix up that treasured item you can’t bring yourself to toss, we present to you these guides to saving money and being crafty.

Replace Popped-Off Buttons

Replacing a button on a plaid shirt with needle and thread

The first thing to go on most clothing, and the most embarrassing, is also one of the easiest things to patch up. Look at a button close-up, and you get the idea: you’re looping thread through the holes. But there’s an established way of lacing that thread through, and finishing the work, outlined in our guide to sewing a button.

The key steps you would miss if you just wing it (like I did, until now) are marking the proper button hole placements with chalk, placing the needle in the middle of the thread and knotting it properly, and starting out by sewing up the button and then the fabric. And there’s the firm knot at the end. With the proper care, you’ll get a button that stays on for another whole life cycle of the clothing, versus one that comes off right before an important meeting.

Patch a Hole in Jeans or Other Clothes

Zig-zag stitch on a hole in jeans

Some people will pay extra for pre-ripped jeans, but this doesn’t always make for fashion-forward denim. It depends on the jeans and where the hole is. Patching a hole can give new life to a comfortable pair, even if they just become “house jeans” (also good for repair projects!). There are two paths you can go by:

  • Iron-on patching involves no sewing, and finding a patch that either matches the jean color or creatively plays against it.
  • Zig-zag patching creates a more secure patch, but also allows for creative thread-color choices and a more expressive look.

Jeans aren’t the only thing you can patch, they’re just the starting point. You can patch up a jacket, for example. And if your treasured pants are khakis, we’ve got a guide for fixing those, too.

Mend a Tear

A barely visible satin stitch on a plaid shirt
See? You have to look at this image a couple times to see the mend.

This one’s a bit more of a project, and reserved for small rips or holes that do not require more fabric to fix. But a hole does not have to be the end of a beloved shirt. Using a sewing machine, you can pull off a “satin stitch,” tight enough that nobody should be able to tell, unless they’re examining your clothes up-close (stop hanging out with these people, if so). As with other clothing repairs, you can either pick a fabric that blends in and disappears, or intentionally work in something that speaks to your fashion sense.

The guide is for a Patagonia shirt, but, surprise! Most cotton shirts can be mended the same way.

Fix a Busted Zipper

Lubricating a zipper to fix a snag or being stuck

First things first, you might not need to replace the zipper, it might just need de-gunking and lubricating. Nobody ever told you that zippers can be lubricated, but they are a moving part, and doing so keeps them moving freely. Our guide to lubricating a zipper walks you through both the cleaning out and light greasing up of a zipper.

We offer a lot of detailed guides to zipper repair, stemming from our work with Patagonia to create products you can count on for many years. Many of them require knowing what kind of zipper you’re working with. If you didn’t grow up the child of a tailor, you can use our handy guide to identifying your zipper type and then get back to recreating that smooth zipper movement.


Darning a knit sweater

Knit fabrics can seem like the toughest clothing repair, since the thread is bigger and more visible. But that’s what darning is for: weaving thread in and out of the existing weaves, lacing together a hole as if it were being made anew.

Our guide to darning a hole in knitted garments shows you the witchcraft you can work with a needle and thread, no machine required. It’s not a quick fix, but you can save some high-value sweaters, scarves, and other treasured items with yarn that either blends in or complements the colors.

What clothing fixes should we have guides for? What fixes have you pulled off on your own? Let us know in the comments.