Three Reasons Sewing Helps My Shop Bought Items

coat button

Sewing Buttons Back On


Getting Rid Of Those Blooming Labels


Cropping Too Long Leggings

Once upon a time, those leggings would have gone back to the shop. Not any more. How does sewing equipment and knowledge help with the clothes you buy on the high street?

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37 Responses to Three Reasons Sewing Helps My Shop Bought Items

  1. Cherry says:

    I remember turning flares into straight legs when I was younger and I put many an elastic insert into the back of my daughter’s jeans and trousers, when she was little, to avoid a gaping waist at the back. The latest has been sewing darts into school blouses that are shapeless and on the baggy side.

  2. Sue Bowdler says:

    Being 5’2″ I shorten almost everything I buy, including jeans. I often make small alterations to the fit by tweaking darts, altering sleeves or changing the buttons etc. which can elevate an otherwise ordinary item to special. I have occasionally picked up a bargain because a button was missing or there was a small hole in a sweater (which is easily mended).
    The only drawback? I also seem to get asked to alter friends’ and family’s clothes too……
    What a pity not to pass on this basic knowledge to the next generations – our grandmas used to darn socks and turn sheets – will the next generation be able to sew a button on?

  3. I do the same sorts of alterations (no shortening though, at 6′ nearly everything looks like it has shrunk in the wash on me) but sewing has made me very aware of shoddy construction and cheap fabric. I am much less of a consumer of RTW now and more conscious where my clothes were made. Plus I won’t buy things just because it’s the only thing that I can get into. Why compromise when you can sew? Xx

  4. LadyxBec says:

    I think it’s given me a much better eye for fit and quality. Because I know I can make most things myself when I buy something it really needs to be the right thing, rather than the closest I can find.

  5. Definitely button makeovers. Ive done it myself -removing the ubiquitous shell buttons for something that matches and has substance. I always keep the shell buttons however, as they sometimes are the perfect match for something that has nasty plastic ones.

  6. Jenny Lester says:

    Being able to alter clothing can really come into it’s own – I trawl local charity shops for “designer” buys! Some just need a tweak and some I just buy for the lovely buttons! I agree with you Karen about the labels – why are they so itchy and why are there so many in each garment, but beware that some do have laundry instructions for those unable to decide on washing temps!!

  7. I have a much better idea of the silhouettes and shapes and things like sleeve types and necklines that I prefer and look good on me. No more raglan jumpers that i thought would look good but I never wear. And I know how to check if it will sit right – I almost bought a top the other day but one of he sleeves was cut off grain! I knew it would always pull so I saved myself from a purchase that would go unworn.

    I keep finding myself wishing online stores had the line drawing as well as the photos! Am I the only one?

  8. JaneyB says:

    Being able to turn up the sleeves on two lovely coats from charity shops is a real advantage. As the weather is about to get colder I shall be very glad to have these in my wardrobe!

  9. suzy roberts says:

    I remember my grandma tutting at clothes I had bought as a teenager and sewing on the buttons again, before letting me out in the garment. With short arms and legs, I have always shortened RTW and I love that I can now make clothes to fit my short frame. However, most of all, I don´t buy for the sake of buying…I live in Spain and when looking around Zara, Mango, Massimo Dutti I think…”that fabric is shoddy”, “that´s a basic tunic, or simple dress – I could make that better.” Here in Spain, we still have lots of fabric shops and haberdasheries and so it´s a no brainer – handmade is better in every way.

  10. Alison says:

    Definitely replacing ‘nasty’ buttons but also re-doing buttonholes that have come unraveled and replacing broken zips in trousers. I also need to shorten trousers both for me and my husband. Pleased to report that I’ve successfully trained my daughter to be able to do the same!

  11. I’m short am forever turning up trousers. I also sewn on buttons that seem to be hanging by a thread in the shop. Sewing has made more choosey when buying RTW. If I can make it myself, I don’t bother.

  12. Tegan says:

    It seems everyone is more motivated than I. Sewing has simply meant that I don’t buy things I could make, but I never make them. And I never remember to sew buttons on. I have a sweater that I’ve been wearing for a few months (I made it) and it only has half the buttons and none of the ends are sewn in. But cause it’s wearable, it left the work pile and went into heavy rotation.

    So, I guess my being able to sew has cut down on the clothing that I buy. Which that alone is useful. I don’t think I’ve bought anything that wasn’t long underwear or a cashmere sweater from Goodwill in YEARS.

  13. I actually learned to sew for precisely these reasons — most of my clothes are RTW, and most of them have needed to be re-hemmed or patched or have a button sewn back on at some point. In fact, the only sewing I did at all in 2015 was repairs/alterations.

  14. PsychicKathleen says:

    Sewing has totally helped my RTW! I’ve put DECENT elastic on the waists of umpteen leggings and skirts, even added darts in the back of tops that are just shapeless, and added lace to the bottom of long tops to make them more tunic length. The list is endless!

  15. LinB says:

    1. Buying skirts and trousers to fit my waist in the front means taking them in at the back waist, and straightening the hips and on down the thighs, and re-sewing the crotch into an L to take up excess fabric at my rapidly-disappearing bum. (If we told teenagers that they will undoubtedly evolve into shape-shifters as they age, they’d not believe us.) 2. Reinforcing or replacing buttons is practically de rigueur, at my house. 3. Removing sequins and beads often modernizes a garment to the point that I don’t feel like someone else’s grandmother when wearing it (my own grandmothers both eschewed sparkly bits). 4. Sometimes it is worth while to alter or repair a garment, sometimes it is easier to start from scratch. Knowing how to start from scratch enables you to make that assessment.

  16. Sdewing definitely gives my clothes a longer life. A refashion is often in order. I made jeans into a skirt here.
    Jo x

  17. A fellow shortie, so absolutely! I also love scouring the ‘reject’ rails for any simple tears or missing buttons that I can repair easily, whilst enjoying the knock down price 🙂

  18. Miah says:

    I have oddly small arms and an oddly thin waist so I have to take in just about everything I buy. Also I have to find creative ways to lengthen things. There just aren’t enough ways!

  19. Darlene Paige says:

    Sewing makes me happy. The mending pile can sit for years, or get done immediately. My greatest joy now is making bras that fit! I find it harder to sew now, since I no longer have a sewing room. I love the new features in the electronic sewing machines, but miss my built-in walking foot – the budget could not stretch to a new Pfaff. I just want a good workhorse machine with a few of the new features and the built-in walking foot – I do not need a computer. I plan to put decent elastic in all of the leggings I bought a few months ago – did not notice they use 1/4″ elastic in the light weight ones. The heavier ones have 4″ elastic – love that. I love that I can make anything from bras to jeans, and from silk to knits to denim – even if I do not make the time, or even if I am too sick to sew. I have always been considered nuts to change buttons, but really – it does not take long to sew buttons on by machine, and they make the garment! I find it hard to live in a fabric desert – the fabric chain here has dreadful fabric – I do not like surprises (colour changes, disintegration upon washing, etc.) The wonderful fabric shops closed years ago, when everyone stopped sewing. Now, we are all back sewing. I always pre-wash fabric – it is critical to do so – no surprises. I wash and dry all fabric, so that it will not change after the garment is made. I have had wonderful luck buying online, but still want to touch and feel the fabric before buying, because I would have left some of the fabric at the online store. I have missed out on the odd fantastic piece of fabric by minutes. Now, the exchange rate is simply too high to buy in US dollars. I am always looking for online Canadian stores – dislike when they sell only by the 1/2 meter – changes what I think the cost will be. It is a whole new sewing world – some of it fantastic 🙂 SO many people sharing their skills online! Lots of local quilt shops to buy cotton for sewing garments. I would rather make a garment than alter a RTW one. I always shorten pants, even for my tall daughter – I wish they would leave them unhemmed. I would have missed so much joy, if I had not learned how to sew!

  20. marycr8on says:

    I don’t wear anything I buy, until those pesky labels come out! As soon as I saw you say the same thing, I thought I was as bad as my husband always says “You are like the Princess and the Pea, every little thing that isn’t just right, bugs you!” It does! I think my pet peeve is twisted seams. I have to either fix it or get rid of it. There’s no way I can wear something like that without pulling it straight all day. Nothing is worth that.

  21. Dorothy says:

    Not so much that sewing improves my RTW because I’m not buying it these days, but I like being able to sew little accessories for my closet, like a simple storage bag for hankies or scarves. I made a wedding veil for a friend last year, and I also sewed a soft white twill bag for her to store it in to keep it safe from snags or dust.

  22. Janome gnome says:

    Yeah I’m with the quality cimments. There are stacks of theoretical tenners I haven’t spent because I looked at RTW clothes I would have bought before and just felt the standard was too low, too wasteful or that I’d rather make it myself (whether I actually do or not- and if I don’t, probably the right choice not to buy that fast fashion). I think it comes when you’ve passed that internal landmark when you realize you’re looking through your own drawers and wardrobe for hand made clothes before RTW and you start to feel the same about all garments everywhere on the planet.

  23. ellegeemakes says:

    Sewing definitely enhances my RTW wardrobe, because I can modify, repair, copy as I wish, giving new life to old purchases. Love the idea of taking out those labels. Why didn’t I think of that?

  24. Stina P says:

    I would say it keeps me from buying, period. Except for jersey and knits, that dosen’t require the same precision in fit.

  25. Robin says:

    It’s a rare occasion anymore when I buy RTW, but when I do, it is for something I don’t currently make that either needs a repair pretty quickly due to a characteristic of fast fashion (popping seams on underwear, for example) or to improve or repair an upscale resale find (going from four buttons to three on the cuffs of a vintage Ralph Lauren jacket, for another). As I have gotten more bold with attempting items I had not even considered sewing in the past (swimsuit, outerwear, gloves, etc.) I have discovered like other commenters here that RTW loses its appeal.

    Your removal of labels never ocurred to me, but makes sense, and it does remind me of a local consignment shop I used to love, until they stopped accepting items from me that don’t have labels. Apparently their best customers are very label conscious, even though the labels they carry are from super cheap brands and the clothes are poorly made! I discover every time I go into most shops now (except for good ones I can’t afford) that I have less and less in common with other shoppers, so I am grateful for the sewist community online.

  26. holmar58 says:

    I am 4 ‘ 11 and 3/4″ … I am so happy to have a Janome CoverPro 1000 CPX cover stitch machine… It helps me to hem everything to the perfect length for me… Sleeve length, pants, dresses and skirts… I’d be lost without it! Having a serger and sewing machine also helps my garments look RTW… I love that!

  27. Cheryl says:

    I sew for a living 🙂 95% alterations 🙂 I also alter MY clothing, 100% 🙂 I am slender but busty with no hips. I have to take in slacks at the thighs. I actually purchase MENS’ shirts for myself. I like the FULL cut shoulders. I take a couple of tucks or darts in the back and shorten the sleeves. I don’t worry about large collars 🙂 I also shorten them 🙂 I buy my clothes on sale so they are worth the alteration time 🙂 YES, YES..button replacement is a no-brainer 🙂 Changing BUTTONS on a garment can CHANGE the garment 🙂 My customers think I am a GENIUS when I suggest that 😉

  28. I don’t often bother with altering shop-bought clothes, although being able to sew has given me that choice. I bought a pretty halter-neck dress on ebay there the other day and I can’t wear halter-necks (even with a seriously engineered strapless bra I get a headache from the knot dragging on my neck) but it was the work of half an hour to turn in into a strappy dress. Hurrah!

  29. Iris says:

    I learned to be a more discerning shopper. Nowadays I tend to buy something that has 1) interesting design/cutting features 2) nice quality fabric or unique prints and/or 3) labour intensive designs. For example, I will not buy a simple cotton chambray shirt; but if an Equipment silk shirt goes on sale, I might buy it even though it’s quite plain, because silk is a pain to prep and sew and Equipment silk shirts use a quite heavy sandwashed silk that’s not easy to source. Another example, I bought a classic wool blazer during boxing day sales. It’s not cheap, but, I think about the effort in sourcing the wool fabric (browsing online, swatching, pre-treating), making up a toile, sourcing other small bits (shoulder pads, sleeve heads, leather elbow patches, buttons), and EVEN THEN, due to my amateur sewing skills, I still may not end up with a garment that fits well. Once you think about it, it’s more economical and less frustrating to buy a good quality blazer.

    I will also judge a garment (and sometimes the brand) by the finishing touches. Did they french seam? Did they do a good job of pattern matching? How well did they sew on their buttons? Did they do all the ‘basic’ things I’d do as a home-sewer? Does their attention to detail correlate with what they charge?

    However, after a few years of sewing, I already have TNT patterns for sweatshirt, T-shirt, fit-and-flare dress, shirt. So I’m less likely to buy basic items.

  30. I haven’t bought anything other than undies in several years now I come to think of it…sewing is far more fun. As my older well-loved RTW ‘go-to’s die, I just make a replacement. I CAN make bras and knicks, it’s just not always worth the time. And as for alterations…meh!

  31. Twilight says:

    I don’t buy a lot of RTW clothes, but when I do, I really don’t want to have to do anything to them. I wish I could say that this makes me only buy clothes that fit perfectly. Sadly not. Sewing has spoilt me in a sense, as I’m far more inclined to walk past something I would have considered buying in the past. I usually think: I can make that! Or : The stripes don’t match! Or: The waist is going to be too short for me….

  32. Kayla Green's Blog says:

    My Mom usually removes those itchy label tags just like you did here. Before I took formal sewing classes, I can make “decent repairs” like the buttons and if an area developed a little hole somewhere. Now I chopped a long pair of skinny jeans, which I used to bring to the tailor’s to pay for!

  33. Joy says:

    Like your other commentators I shorten pants, take in shirts and make minor fixes and upgrades. Lately I’ve had an abundance of button holes that need some reinforcement.

  34. Taja says:

    I don’t buy much RTW–everything has to be altered within an inch of its life! This body does not meet any manufacturer’s standards. If my clothes do not fit properly (or reasonably close!), I will tweak, tug pull, push–whatever it takes–everything into place constantly throughout the day, thoroughly annoying myself and others around me!

    RTW purchases tend to be limited to the occasional garment when I love the fabric and/or print and do not see anything similar in fabric stores/online. But the garment has to be easy to alter (I really do not like alterations!). This body is a serious hourglass/pear and a bit on the short side with slightly long legs and short torso. Yikes! Good thing I love to design and sew and can create illusions! 🙂

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