Salvage: 5 things you can do to extend the life of your clothes

Salvage: 5 Things You Can Do to Extend the Life of Your Clothes

I am resisting the urge to buy new clothes lately, and am trying to take care of the clothes I have. A little meditative labour can save you hundreds of dollars and extend the life of clothes that you love. You will still love them to death one day, but with a little maintenance you can make them last so much longer. To this end, these are the meditative mending tasks I find myself doing on a lazy rainy day on the couch in front of an episode of The Kettering Incident:


Learn how to fix holes in knitted things, and do it quickly before the hole grows so big as to be unmanageable. There are lots of different ways to darn, and depending on the thickness of the knitted fabric you could darn with anything from tapestry wool to transparent nylon or silk thread. Pinterest has some great instructions for different darning methods.

Replacing Buttons

Fixing loose buttons, or replacing sets of buttons entirely can either make barely functioning clothing useful again, or can revitalise an old tired look. Many times I have bought a rather ordinary dress or coat second hand, and then totally reworked it just by changing the buttons. You could have an old slightly-worn black shirtdress that you freshen up with kelly green buttons, or a nice coat with rather ugly buttons that you replace with something much more classic or timeless. Learning how to sew a shank button on well is an especially useful skill (especially when that coat has got just a little too tight and you need an extra millimetre or two at the bust or midriff).


For the love of all that is good in life, get yourself a cashmere comb! My boyfriend bought a sweater online recently that came with its own cashmere comb. I am pretty sure the teeth are made of diamond. This wondrous object of worship now lives in the top drawer of his desk and I use it at least once a week on my three cashmere cardigans and any merino or machine knitted item that is getting a bit ‘pilly’. It keeps my knitwear looking so much less ratty and I feel far more polished and together leaving the house. Depilling is an activity second only to the power of lint brush (I love the kind with sticky layers of paper that you tear off only to reveal a pristine new layer). If you can’t get your hands on a cashmere comb, I hear on good authority that a lady bic razor can also do an excellent job.

Replacing a Zipper

Can you count on more than one hand the number of times you have thrown out or donated an item of clothing just because the zipper no longer works? It’s actually pretty easy to replace a zipper, even if it’s not the right length to start with. I would definitely recommend buying a zipper foot for your sewing machine. I bought my zipper feet on ebay and they (like learning to drive), have changed my life. Being able to replace a zipper is also a useful skill when you have an item of clothing that is either slightly too large or slightly too small, being able to take it in a bit at the back seam or let it out as you add a new zipper, can make all the difference. Life is too short to wear ill fitting and uncomfortable clothes, better to goldilocks the shit out of that favourite garment and make it… just right.

Polishing your Shoes

While I actually never polish my shoes, most days I look at them and think ‘how much better would life be right now if my shoes were shiny and unscuffed!?’ Like doing my nails and blowdrying my hair, I feel like taking better care of my shoes is one of those things I could definitely do to make myself feel more polished. Paying close attention to how worn down the heels of your shoes are and taking them to a cobbler to get replaced is another of those things that can literally save you hundreds of dollars.

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Vintage Knitting

vintage knitting

Summer is wrapping up in Australia, with one more hot month before coolness starts to set in. There is a Monday morning in April each year in Sydney, when all the girls on the train platform are suddenly wearing scarves.  It’s like they all coordinate it (there must be an app or something).  Winter coats follow soon after, but my favourite cold weather garment will always be a cardigan.

I’m starting to plan my knitting for the year now, because it took me most of last winter to knit my teal Audrey cardigan. If I am to add another vintage inspired cardigan to my wardrobe this year, I better get started!

When I watched the movie Brooklyn recently, I was very inspired by the cardigans and sweaters worn by Saoirse Ronan.  I wanted to start knitting right there in the cinema.

Nine Sewing Projects for 2016

Kimono Sleeved Washed Silk Top
Self Drafted.  This is a pattern I played with a lot in the final months of 2015, based on a very simple vintage cotton sailor shirt I have worn to death, and I think I am ready to try my simple version with a fancy fabric like a dark washed silk.

Kimono Sleeved Simple Dress
Self Drafted.  I hope I will be able to extend my kimono sleeved top pattern and turn it into a dress with a straight skirt with a simple gathered elastic casing.

Colette Beignet Mini Skirt
I sewed my first Beignet, a buttonless mini version, over the New Year and it was such a great fitting pattern and so easy to make, that now I would like to make it in all the colours and all the fabrics.

Mod Mini Dress
This is the year I am finally going to turn my mother’s beautiful soft cotton purple and blue paisley wedding dress into a striking modern mini dress with a simple silhouette that I can wear on it’s own in summer or with tights and a cardigan in winter.  I just need to find the perfect pattern with the perfect fit before I cut into this precious one of a kind fabric.  Possibly Colette’s Laurel or Lynn from Seamwork.

Colette Iris Shorts
I made a wearable muslin version of Colette’s Iris shorts over the summer in a remnant of pinstriped blue linen and they are such a great fit and such a comfy wear that I would like to make some now in a black cotton linen blend, and maybe in some polka dot denim.

Cigarette Trousers
Options: Ultimate Trousers by Sew Over It, Clover Trousers by Colette Patterns, Cigarette Trousers from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, or self drafted copied from an old favourite pair of Gorman Peggy Pants. Back welt pockets may adorn my second pair, after I get the fit right and am confident about the construction.

Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges Dress
I have tried the bodice of this dress before, and couldn’t get the fit right.  But my sister made a beautiful soft Darling Ranges dress, barely changing a thing about the pattern.  So I will give it another shot.  Maybe my muslin just needs to be made with a fabric with more drape.

Mesa Dress from Seamwork Magazine
Looks like the perfect simple work dress, and a chance for me to recreate a favourite grey tshirt dress that I have worn to death.

Watson Bra and Ohh Lulu High Waisted Undies Lingerie Set/Bikini
What better way to test a bra and undies than by making a swimwear version, right?

Savannah Camisole from Seamwork Magazine
I have been tossing up which to sew, Savannah or the Tessuti Camilla Camisole.  Sarai’s Merlot Red Silk Camisole convinced me Savannah is the way to go, sans lace and with a baby hem to finish the neckline.


New Sewing Space

Sewing Room

I love my little sewing space in our guest bedroom.  All my fabric lives in drawers in the double storage bed I bought years ago from IKEA.  I’m trying to keep it this neat all the time, but it’s hard when you have multiple projects on the go.

The print is by Julie Morstadt, who did the gorgeous cover for my favourite Neko Case album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.

Travel Knitting

department of knitting

Travel knitting requires small projects for small moments.  Something tricksy enough to not bore you, but that won’t get totally ruined if you forget which row you’re up to or where in the row you are.  I’m often grateful for a piece of knitting that I can pick up while I’m waiting for a friend or host to get ready, or while waiting for a ride.  Mostly though, having something interesting to knit makes those long bus and train rides bearable.  And you end up with something new and beautiful to wear, enhancing your minimal travel wardrobe and bringing you daily joy.

I carry a little knitting kit with me when I’m on the road: a couple of different sizes of double pointed needles, a needle gauge, a little tin with a few stitch markers, safety pins, a tapestry needle and a decent sized stitch holder, a notebook for keeping ideas and notes, a paper copy of a favourite sock pattern (normally Nancy Bush’s Fox Faces Socks) and enough fingering weight wool for one tiny project.  Don’t take more yarn than you need – traveling is an excellent way to add to your yarn stash.  So many yarn stores to visit, so little time.