23 April 2015

If It’s Broken, Fix It

The annoying thing that clothes, backpacks, towels, shoes, handbags and other such articles have in common is that they are not made to last forever. Sooner or later, you'll need to replace them, because constant wear and tear will have rendered them either unusable or unpresentable. While renewing your wardrobe and accessories might give you the pleasant feeling of a fresh start, the costs involved in the process can be enough to overshadow the bliss. How do we fix the problem? The answer is... fix the clothes.

As with most problems, wear and tear tend to become worse if you ignore them. If, however, you take a few minutes to repair damaged items as soon as you notice the first sign of degradation, you might be able to save quite a bit of money in the long run. Not to mention postponing the painful moment of saying goodbye to your favourite jacket or backpack.

Is it easier said than done? Not necessarily. It doesn't even require outstanding organisational skills or advanced craftsmanship. Fixing the problem as soon as you notice it will help to keep everything in tip top shape as long as possible.

That includes treating stains as soon as they happen or notice them. The longer you leave something with a stain the harder it is to shift. Check our Stain Removal chart if you're not sure how to clean a stain up.

Stitching loose buttons back on or replacing missing buttons immediately keeps the garment in circulation. To keep the button in place use dental floss to sew it on and then dab the front and back with clear nail polish. That's a button that will stay where it's meant to be.

Taking up loose hems isn't hard. All you need is a needle and matching thread. Not sure how to do a hemming stitch? No problem, buy some iron on hemming tape from a the haberdashery aisle of a supermarket, Spotlight or Lincraft and you won't need to sew.

You can buy iron on patches to match all types of fabric too. Never again throw out those school pants because Junior has gone through the knee. Just buy a patch in a matching fabric, trim to size and iron on. You can also use iron on patches to reinforce the knees of track pants, especially useful if they are part of a school or sports uniform.

Fix sticky zippers by running a candle up and down the teeth and then zipping up and down a couple of times. It works like a charm to stop the sticking and could save you having to replace a broken zipper.

None of these repairs takes a lot of skill or requires complicated tools. All you need is a basic repair kit and a small cantilever tool box keeps everything together and neat, with all your bits and bobs stored neatly in individual compartments. Two dollar shops carry them for around $5, well worth the investment.

Some things to put in your repair kit:

  • Reels of cotton in basic colours (black, white, navy, cream, dark green are good to start) 
  • A reel of strong cotton in a neutral colour
  • A packet of sewing needles
  • A packet of upholstery needles (these are handy for fixing straps on luggage, stitching the seams in runners etc)
  • A tin of dressmakers pins
  • Good fabric scissors
  • Hemming tape
  • Buttons in a variety of colours and sizes (choose them to match the most shirts i.e. Clear or white for school shirts etc.)
  • A variety of iron on patches
  • A candle

When you are fixing something, do it in such a way as to ensure that it will last long enough. Otherwise, you're just wasting time. For instance, stapling the straps of your backpack might solve the problem for two days, but that's not the kind of solution you should be aiming for.

Naturally, you won't be able to fix everything yourself. For broken shoe heels and other similar problems, you will need to go to a cobbler or shoe repair booth. It won't be free, but it will definitely cost you less than buying a new pair.

Prepare your all-purpose repair kit now, and you can stop worrying about having to replace things too often.


  1. I have had good success reviving suede with suede cleaner... and I am talking suede that I thought was really wrecked. It came up like new! (boots!)
    Black sharpies work a miracle on scuffed black heels...
    And vaseline rubbed on and polished off revives a leather hand bag so it is like new! Amazing. Mum taught me this one. Her shoes are always beautiful. Its vaseline!
    I love it when an item lives again with a little bit of TLC and what a saving. Many times I buy things from op shops... they have probably been given away as they dont look brand new anymore... but they do when I have finished with them! This is such good advice and a big saver.

    1. Annabel you have some great ideas there, thanks for sharing. I am a part of the very first "disposable" generation and I don't like it one bit. "Disposable" doesn't sit well with me. Apart from the cost of constantly replacing things and the damage done to our earth, throwing things away because they're old, broken, out of date, we don't like them any more or any other reason is teaching our children and grandchildren that they don't need to respect their belongings - they can just throw them away when they're sick of them and get new ones. They're not learning to treat things with respect or to be resourceful and recycle, repurpose, reuse their belongings - all things that will save them money, time and energy and stop stuff going to landfill. In our house nothing is thrown away until it absolutely cannot be used or recycled into anything else. We give items in good condition to folk we know will appreciate them or donate them to our local op shop so we aren't hoarding, but we don't throw useful things away. This week's newsletter (17:15 on the Cheapskates website) has some wonderful ideas for reusing woollen jumpers - felt them, turn them into cushions, unpick them and reuse the wool, make hot water bottle covers from the, make leg warmers and mittens - so many wonderful ideas to save these jumpers from being wasted. We Cheapskaters are so creative when it comes to fixing, recycling, reusing and repurposing, it makes my heart sing :)


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