Basic home ec could help prevent student college debt

If I tossed every piece of clothing with any sort of rip, stain, tear, or missing button, I would probably spend more on replacing my wardrobe than on a semester's worth of textbooks. While spilling orange soda on a white dress might not happen to everyone, its still good to know how to repair, rather than replace, clothes. And it can save big bucks in the long run.

You don't have to worry about dropping a load of cash on the latest Singer sewing machine either. All you need is a needle and some thread.. A starter or travel sewing kit equipped with a few needles, various colored, pocket-sized spools of thread and some mini scissors is enough to get started. A kit with 24 different threads and three needles sells for $1.99 at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft stores, but you can get a free one during your next hotel stay.
With needle and thread in hand, it's time to figure out what kind of repair you are facing. Large tears and holes can't simply be sewn back together. Those require a patch, and finding the right fabric can be tricky. A friend of mine refuses to throw anything away and ends up with holes in the knees of all her jeans. So she takes jeans that are beyond repair and uses pieces to patch other pants. If you don't have any old clothing, try looking at the local fabric store. They often sell cheap scraps. Small rips and fallen hems can be sewn back in place without additional fabric.

Hand sewing adventures start with the seemingly simple task of threading your needle. But depending on the size of the needle's eye and the size of your fingers, this can be challenging. Here's where the pros can help. Threadbanger posts "quickie" video tutorials. Once you get the thread through the eye, bring the two ends together and tie a knot. Depending on the fabric's thickness, you may want to do a double or triple knot.

Threading the needle is the basic prep work, and now its time to sew. The knot should appear on the inside of the garment, so start by poking your needle through from the underside. Pull the thread through until the knot prevents you from going further. Then place the needle on the other side of the rip or for patching, near but not directly on top of the first hole you made. Next, grab the needle from below and you've got your first stitch. Repeat until your garment looks respectable again.

A missing button is also an even easier fix. New clothing often comes with an extra button somewhere in the garment. Some have extras attached to the price tag, while others hide buttons on the inside tag. You may discard those buttons or not even notice them, but if you save them, you'll have a perfect match and save yourself a trip to the fabric store. Videos give the best guide to this task and the most comprehensive of Threadbanger's quickie tutorials is the one for sewing on a button.

I wear a lot of black. Maybe because I know anything white will require some serious stain fighting. But being accident prone has taught me to always carry a Tide to Go pen (frugal students can grab a coupon here) to combat stains when they happen, instead of fighting set in spots later. If during a night of drinking, you find more red wine on your clothes than in your glass, ask the bartender to first cut you off, and then ask for some club soda to dab the stain. If the on the spot methods fail you, there's always at home dry cleaning products like Dryel (coupons here) that comes with a stain stick tool. You can save money by putting one to four garments (depending on size) in the fabric protection bag and tumble dry.

If all your hand-sewing and home stain fitting techniques fall short, start by asking friends for help. I'm a proud sewer and thus, a popular mender among my friends and acquaintances. Don't hesitate to ask someone you know for sewing tips or to do a quick repair for you. When all else fails, seek professional help from tailor or dry cleaner. This will cost you, but it's still probably cheaper than replacing all your worn down threads.
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