Today we will have a close look at how to care for (handmade) garments. It takes time and dedication to make your own clothes, so naturally you want to make them last as long as possible. And in addition, it is also better for the environment. The fewer clothes you need, the fewer clothes will end up in a landfill later on. And to top it off, it also saves you money.
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How to Care for (Handmade) Garments
I hope that you agree with me that it is important to take good care of your clothes, handmade or not, for various reasons. Let’s have a look at the life cycle of an example garment. You made (or bought) a new piece of clothing and it is time to clean it.
First of all, you have to be aware that not every piece of clothing has to be washed after being worn only once. Underwear and store-bought socks are the exception. But pieces like sweaters, shirts, jeans etc. can be worn several times before they have to go into the washing machine. Especially hand knitted socks can be worn multiple times before you need to wash them. Just use your common sense and wash items once they get dirty or sweaty.
If choosing a wash cycle, go for a lower temperature and lower water usage setting. If you are dealing with a delicate item, you can choose to wash it by hand in a sink instead of running the more water and energy intensive hand-wash cycle of your washing machine.
When it comes to the washing detergent, you should experiment with the amount you need. I find that the quantity specified on the packaging is usually way too high. You can also experiment with the kind of washing detergent you use. I am currently testing out a DIY washing detergent that I made from Savon de Marseille (a cold process 100% vegetable oil soap from France) and washing soda (Na2CO3). The results look promising so far. If it proves to be a success, I will share more about it in a future blog post.
You should also consider foregoing the fabric softener. I haven’t used one for years and have never had any issues.
Ideally, you should take your clothes out of the washing machine immediately after the washing cycle is complete. And, if at all possible, hang dry your clothes instead of putting them in the dryer. Not only will this prolong the lifespan of your clothes, it also saves on electricity and the associated costs. As an added benefit, clothes that have been dried outside smell absolutely amazing. But you can also dry your clothes on a drying rack inside during the colder months of the year.
Once your clothes are clean and dry, they need to be stored properly. Hang the clothes that should be hung on hangers (like dresses, button-down shirts or suits) and store the rest in drawers. Don’t cram the closet too full. Rather, take it as an opportunity to declutter some of your clothes when the dresser and/or armoire becomes too crowded.
After a certain time, colors will inevitably fade. Sometimes clothes also discolor when put in the washing machine with differently colored clothing. If this bothers you, consider overdyeing the item instead of decluttering it. I have done this many times, especially with jeans once they get abraded on the knees. If you have children and play/sit with them on the floor a lot, you know what I am talking about. I have made good experiences with the fabric dye from a company called Simplicol. It can be applied very easily in the washing machine.
Like discoloration, the formation of holes in garments is a normal process that will occur over time. This is doesn’t mean automatically, however, that the garment should go straight into the garbage bin! There are a number of situations where you can easily repair the hole yourself. And if you don’t want to mend the garment yourself, you should also consider bringing it to a tailor.
If a seam has unraveled, you can simply restitch it, either by sewing machine or serger if you own one or by hand.
If a hole has developed within the fabric, you generally have two options. You can either mend the hole or add a patch on top of it. If you opt for the mending option, a darning egg or mushroom is very handy, especially in the case of socks. I use one that belonged to my husband’s grandmother and is made from some kind of gemstone. But you can find some wooden options to purchase here.
When it comes to patches, you can choose from a multitude of options. A lot of them can be attached by simply ironing them on.
If you want to explore the different mending possibilities in more detail, there is a book called Mending Life that has been on my wish list for years. Although I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, the description as well as the reviews indicate that it is a great resource if you want to learn how to repair your clothes.
If your clothes are finally ragged beyond repair, there is still one last option before you have to throw them out. Is there any way you can repurpose the item?
For example, you can use an adult piece of clothing to make a garment for a child. Or even some doll clothes. You can repurpose clothes made from natural fabrics like cotton or linen and use them as cleaning rags. You can even sew a quilt from small pieces of clothing you saved. Knitted pieces can be unraveled and the yarn can be used for a different project if the damage concerns only a few spots. There are various possibilities.
Do you have any additional tips of how to care for your clothes? Come share in the comments! And if you want to know more about my own handmade wardrobe, you can have a look at this blog post.
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