Mending children’s jeans: £4.66 v £5 Primark jeans

Mending children's jeans

I wrote this post here about my belief that if we buy cheap clothes we have to learn to mend them. Well now it looks like I have to eat my words as the £5 jeans I bought for my 9 year old from Primark have massive tears (hangs head: buying cheap clothing means low quality and low wages).

So, determined not to throw them away, or turn them into embellished cut offs (as shown here) I set to work fixing them.

I am no stranger to mending jeans as I patched my own pair a few times (see here), but I knew my daughter would need a) slightly less visible mending and b) harder wearing.

I found this tutorial on wonderful Youtube.

As a result I paid a visit to the local haberdashers and bought lightweight fusible interfacing. I know it sounds silly but I’ve never used this material before – but now I am completely hooked on it as it’s so easy to use! Cut to size, iron on and hey presto it sticks!

While the tutorial only uses the interfacing to mend the tears I also cut off some denim from an old pair of jeans to act as a harder wearing patch underneath. (The denim came from my old much patched jeans that had been mended using fabric from an older pair of my daughter’s jeans – which were turned into the cutoffs mentioned above – so now the fabric was being used to mend another pair of jeans. I also have plans for the remnants of these old pair of jeans: post to follow).

Phwew, so now that the never-ending cycle of old jeans had produced denim material patches all I needed to buy was fusible interfacing and special denim needles for the sewing machine: a grand total of £4.66.

mending children's jeans

So the process of mending the tears on the jeans went something like this:

  1. Iron jeans (I also cut off some of the hanging threads from the tear). Turn inside out and cut a large piece of interfacing and denim to generously cover the tear.

mendig jeans

2) Iron on interfacing so that it sticks. (I also stuffed the denim patch up the leg so that the interfacing wouldn’t stick to the other side of the leg)

mending jeans

3) Pin the denim patch over it (making sure not to pin all the way through the leg as you need to turn the leg back to the right side in a minute).

mending jeans

4) Select a wider zig zag stitch on your machine.

mending jeans

5) With the jeans now the right side, slide the leg onto the sewing machine. Sew over the tear a couple of times using the zig zag stitch. This will secure the patch underneath in place and (hopefully) prevent any more fraying. You can then turn the jeans inside out once again and cut the denim patch to a smaller size. I used pinking shears for a zig zag edge, which should prevent it from fraying.


mending jeans

With hindsight I should have chosen a thread that better matched the colour of the lighter jeans. The stitching is more visible than I would have liked. However, for playing outside these jeans will be far more hard wearing for my daughter.

But the lesson learnt is Don’t Buy Cheap Clothes! Something I tell myself time and again but when you’re on a budget and the charity shops don’t have the right size it’s a very easy thing to do.

At least I now have my Denim Mending Kit in my sewing box for the next repair. It may have cost only 34p less than the £5 jeans but I now have plenty of needles and interfacing to patch time and time again – plus the satisfaction of knowing I will NOT be going to Primark again to buy cheap jeans.

Repair Cafe update

On Saturday we held our latest Repair Cafe. This time we moved it to a nearby village and ran it alongside the regular Community Swap event organised by Corsham’s green group (Transcoco).

Repair Cafe Box March 12 2016 (2)

While the Community Swap event was busy we were less so. It may be because the Repair Cafe was a new addition to the event or we should have had better signing. Stil we had 15 customers in two hours and our electrician, engineer and seamstress were still busy mending and offering advice.

Repair Cafe Box March 12 2016 (4)

Alison, our seamstress, was busy altering some beautiful vintage dresses

Repair Cafe Box March 12 2016 (1)

Our next Repair Cafe will be back in Corsham but we agreed we’d like to take the Repair Cafe on the road again…..


Repair Cafe update

Last Saturday (19th) was the second birthday of our Repair Cafe!

We had a really good attendance: 22 customers in all with most items being repairable, apart from two DAB radios which was frustrating.

We did have a great vintage portable record player bought in, and my beloved rag doll got a new pair of boots from Alison, the sewing expert.

I was also pleased as the live twitter commentary seemed to work and we had at least one new customer as a result!

There’s a live tweetchat tomorrow (Thurs) evening 8-9pm from #makedoandmendyear  which will be about Repair Cafes and Restart Parties if you want to find out more.

weird seventies fabric and childhood memories

A few years ago I acquired this rather odd-looking fabric, straight from the 1970s:



Despite its strangeness it does have a sentimental attachment as it once belonged to a travel cot my brother slept in as a baby in the mid 70s. When my parents got rid of the cot I kept onto the fabric and, for the past few years, have been racking my brains as to how I can use it. I really wanted to create something to pass onto his children as a – sort of – family heirloom. This Christmas I finally came up with a solution as my little niece has recently acquired a Build-a-Bear. After some pinterest research and a fair bit of making it up myself I produced a sleeping bag and matching pillow for her bear (unfortunately I forgot to take a pic before wrapping it up). I quite like the fact that the material that was once used when her daddy went camping can now help her toys have a ‘camp out’ too.

Using this fabric also got me thinking about other odd 1970s pieces that I have used, taken from a decade where unsettling and oddly coloured patterns seem to have been de rigour. In fact the orange shades of the above fabric remind me of the slightly trippy hues and effects from the Willy Wonka film (which both delighted and scared me as a small child).

A few years ago I acquired some second-hand fabric featuring animals in the 1970s shade of brown. I turned them into this cushion cover and this peg bag:



Afterwards a friend noticed the cushion and remarked that she had once had a pair of curtains in the very fabric!

I am sure that somewhere in a charity shop is the Magic Roundabout fabric that my aunty made curtains and a gym bag from. Alas all I have now is this Magic Roundabout mug, picked up from a jumble sale about twenty years ago:

Childhood memories: Magic Roundabout mug bought at a jumble sale


Are there any fabric patterns from your childhood that both delighted and unsettled you? How would you feel if you were reunited with it once more?

If we buy cheap clothes we should learn to mend…


This phrase came to mind last week when I returned a £3 dress my youngest daughter had bought at Primark. Admittedly she had bought it in the sale but after only wearing it twice the fabric tore at the back. I had considered mending it myself but as the material was a type of netting I knew the sewing would look clumsy. At first I hadn’t even thought about returning it for a refund as it’s a hassle to go back to the store. However I realised it was her Christmas money and, in the end, the store assistant was very helpful.

I began to wonder how many times people return cheap clothing to High Street stores because it’s damaged. I’m not just singling out Primark as there are plenty other shops that sell cheap (and not so cheap) clothing that falls apart. (Last summer I posted here about my personal experiences with buying school uniform).

In the early ’90s I studied in the US and bought the dress below from Nordstrom, a well known department store:


I can’t imagine the dress was very expensive as I was living on a small budget. However after wearing it a couple of times the hem came undone. I really liked the dress and was gutted to have to return it. But much to my surprise the store had its own in-house seamstress. She mended the dress and I picked it up as good as new. Twenty years later I still own it and the hem has is still good! (I just had a quick look online and it still seems that Nordstrom has its own onsite tailoring and alterations service).

Wouldn’t it make sense if UK stores offered the same service? Instead of having to return an item because of a fault wouldn’t it be better to have someone on-site mend it? I imagine shops would argue that it isn’t cost effective but I do wonder what happens to all those tonnes of imperfect clothing that customers return?

In the meantime if we want to keep on buying cheap and badly-made clothing perhaps we should reduce our environmental fashion footprint by learning to mend them when they (inevitably) fall apart.

Second-hand (and home-made) Christmas: Part Two

Having recently talked about the second-hand Christmas ‘trimmings’ in our house I thought I would post about the pre-loved presents I have bought (and made) this year. As you may know, from other posts, I do buy second-hand gifts but only for those people whom I think would appreciate, or not care, that it is re-used. This year my charity shop gift buying has focused on my children – interspersing pre-loved gifts with new ones.

As always I have raided the bookshelves of some of the local charity shops to give a selection to the girls.IMG_9328

My twelve year old will have the Hilary McKay and Cathy Cassidy books. I’m going to introduce the Amelia Jane books to my six year old. All these books were from the same Dorothy House shop and cost just 20p each! My eight year old is really into real life mysteries so I ordered a second-hand book for her online (which hasn’t arrived yet, uh oh!).

My eldest requested a jewellery tree and I picked this one up for £2 from the local PDSA shop:


As well as second-hand presents we have been making our own to give to neighbours, teachers and school friends.

This week I helped my eight year old make these cushions for a couple of her friends:


She also made some holly leaf decorations, sewing very carefully up the spine of each leaf:


And some bath salts, using dried rosemary and lavender from the garden:


Finally we all made these very chocolatey biscuits for neighbours:


I’ve also sneaked in a couple of extra ‘home-made’ presents for my youngest two. I’ve found some great free printable paper dolls online (via pinterest). I’ve printed them on thick card and they look very adorable:

IMG_9341Of course there were other presents that I intended to make but I feel I am running out of time. There are a couple of projects I want to work on in the New Year as we have quite a few family birthdays in January and February. In the meantime the presents are wrapped (using our recycled brown parcel paper), and waiting for Christmas Day…

Second-hand Halloween


We are currently enjoying the half term holidays here: ten days off school filled with playing, making and exploring. I always enjoy the October half term as the weather can  be good, local attractions and museums are still open for us to explore with our visitor pass, and there’s Halloween at the end. Over the past 24 hours we have been getting ready for Friday evening and adding a few second-hand touches:

Picking up Trick or Treat buckets from Oxfam shop:


We picked these up for 49p each. I know they’re made of plastic but at least we will be re-using them.

In turn I also sorted through our existing Halloween costumes and donated a couple through our local ‘Free, For Sale or Swap’ facebook page.

Decorating the house with Spooky Scrapstore

Last year we paid a trip to our local scrapstore and picked up some Halloween craft sets and other props. The black netting has proved to be a great buy from the scrapstore. I’m not sure what it’s original purpose was but it has served as a Pirate’s fishing net and, now, enormous spider’s web.

Making Halloween Treats

So I confess I have bought wrapped sweets to give out to Trick or Treaters but my six year old has also made a few cupcakes decorated with ‘blood’ icing:


Making home-made costumes

We do have our share of cheap supermarket costumes, kindly given by grandparents, but I always prefer home-made outfits. However as the girls get older they want more choice in their Halloween clothing. This year two of them are adapting their own old clothes for a ‘Zombie’ look. I had intended to re-use part of our old tent to make a ghost outfit but I have no takers (unless I wear it that is!).

Second-hand pumpkins?

We’ve been busy carving our pumpkins and this year I do intend to save the flesh – and maybe seeds – to make some Autumnal soup. It’s so much easier to throw the scraps away, and I do wonder how good the the taste of mass produced pumpkins are.


Green Halloween

I don’t want to go on about how Halloween has become more commercialised since I was a kid. I have to say I really enjoy this time of year. Trick or Treating is great fun where we live: it’s gentle, family friendly and over by 8 o’clock. BUT there is also a lot of waste and every year I wonder how I can make it greener for my family. There is a great movement in the US called Green Halloween.They organise national costume swap days and come up with ideas for healthier, less wasteful treats [at present it looks like their website is under reconstruction but they’re still worth a look]. Maybe this is something I should look into for next year and try to encourage a more second-hand spin to the festivities.