Thrifty Whitties: Caring for your clothes installment II: post-laundering

Olivia Jones

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If you want your clothes to look nice, there is one thing you absolutely must do: store them properly. That means hang anything dressy and fold the rest. The trick of folding is to fold them while they’re still warm from the dryer, before any wrinkles set in. Most of us, myself included, don’t have time to wait around for the dryer to finish, but if you are already hanging anything delicate, the rest of the clothes in your dryer will probably not be too persnickety about wrinkling. Some clothes are pressed to be wrinkle free by the manufacturer, but most dress clothes are still prone to wrinkling. For this reason I recommend that every Thrifty Whittie has access to an iron.

Ironing can make a huge difference in the appearance of your clothes, and ultimately your personal appearance. If you don’t have an ironing board, iron over a towel on your table or floor. Heat the iron only to the heat level appropriate to that fabric of your garment. Check the label if you are not sure what the fabric is and if you can’t find or read the label, choose a lower heat than what you suspect is appropriate, and only fill the water tank as high as the fill line or it will leak water.

The other benefit of ironing is that it gives you an opportunity to inspect your clothes for wear and tear and snip loose threads. Finding a hole in your clothes while it is still small can mean saving that piece of clothing. So if in this process you do find a hole, please refer to my article on patching for woven fabrics, or darning for knit fabrics. You can always find them on The Pioneer website using the search box.

If the problem is not a hole, but a seam or a hem that is coming apart, don’t fret! Find a color of thread that is similar to your fabric. Once again I recommend using a cotton or a cotton-covered polyester thread. Thread the needle with a length that is not longer than twice your arm length and tie the ends in a knot two or three times depending upon how loose the weave of your fabric is. Turn the garment inside out and start sewing along the seam at least half an inch above where the seam is beginning to come apart. For seams I use a backstitch: it is secure and it allows for a little stretch. If you are unfamiliar with the backstitch, there are instructional videos available via Google search. Because this is a seam, when the garment is reversed, any stitches that are out of line will be visible, so try to stitch in the line of where the seam was previously. Be sure to check the other side of the seam to be sure that the stitches are staying straight on both sides. Keep sewing past the point where the seam came undone for another half inch to reinforce it.

Hems on slacks and dresses are often tacked up with what is called a slip stitch. The benefit of the slip stitch is that if done well, it is hardly visible, the down side is that it comes apart more easily than other stitches. For this stitch, thread the needle with an arm’s length of thread and instead of tying the threads together, tie a knot twice on one end only. This means that you will have to hold the thread in place at the base of the needle when you pull it taught to prevent it from un-threading, but it should mean that the stitches will be only one thread thick. For an invisible hem, the fabric is usually folded under twice. If your hem is coming undone, chances are the first hem or pressed fold of the garment is still in place. Start on the reverse side of your garment so that the knot is not visible and run your needle through the top of the fold for a length not longer than a centimeter. Pull it taught, careful to keep the needle threaded even with only one side of the thread knotted, and then bring the fabric of the hem to the fabric of the dress and very carefully hook with your needle only one or two threads of the fabric of the garment in the place where you want to tack the hem to the bottom of the garment. Pull the thread taught carefully again, and go back through the fabric of the hem. I understand that these instructions are not easy to comprehend if you are inexperienced at sewing, but I encourage you to study the illustrations, try a Google search, shoot me an e-mail or respond to this post online. Good luck!

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