Just ask Kristin M. Roach. She wrote the book on it.
"Mend It Better: Creative Patching, Darning and Stitching" (Storey Publishing, 2012) teaches the basics of mending. It also delves into some fun projects, including decorative stitching and imaginative mending, for rescuing a favourite item from the trash heap.
"It's not just fixing worn clothing," says Roach, 29. "It's making something, like jeans, better with a new look."
Roach, who blogs about thriftiness and crafting with what's on hand at Craft Leftovers, says that personalizing store-bought clothes is "not just for crafters. It's something that everyone can (do) to breathe life into old clothes and save some money."
Decorative mending is especially useful for clothes that have holes and tears. The mending is not hidden. It's flaunted. It's also creative and personal.
Roach, of Ames, Iowa, mentions the darned elbows of a favourite pink knit sweater, which is featured in her book.
"There was no point in my trying to cover it up," says Roach. "It was never going to happen."
Instead, she patched the elbow holes with the dark purple of an old T-shirt, and embellished the patches with freeform stitching in light blue.
"I've had so many people say, 'that's so great, that's so fun.' It adds a certain character to the whole sweater," says Roach.
Most of the projects in the book require a sewing machine, although decorative patching can be done by hand. Roach's ideas are here, but so are other crafters' projects.
A skirt hem is lengthened in Jennifer Forest's "Historical Hem" project, based on the thrifty decorum of the 19th century, when girls' hemlines were extended as they grew to keep their knees covered, according to Roach. In this project, a decorative fabric is added to a skirt hemline, then trimmed in a complementary fabric.
Another project adds colour and personality to a simple corduroy skirt: Two rows of red rickrack are sewn in a wavy pattern at the hemline. Roach recommends using any flat decorative trim, beading or pretty ribbon.
Jeans are patched with lace or mended with colorful fabric and topstitching. An old pair of jeans is transformed into a mini-skirt, then bleached.
"It's a great way to 'cover' a stain by completely removing any hint of it with bleach," says Rachel Beyer of Portland, Ore., who authored the project.
If nothing in the closet begs to be embellished, Roach suggests scouring thrift stores.
"There are so many bland skirts and shirts just begging to be updated, fixed and made unique," she says in her book.
Before you mend a piece, Roach recommends considering:
—Do you love it?
—How much time, money and skill will it take?
—Is it a quality piece or something junky and disposable?
—Is the fabric easy to work with?
Some slippery or stretchy fabrics are difficult to work with, as are some patterned fabrics and lace. They may prove more effort than they're worth. But Dad's old button-down, dress shirt? That's worth mending.
"I have a shirt from Dad from the 1970s," says Roach. "I've mended it several times over."
One more mending pointer: A patch needs to be the same type of fabric as the garment. A stretchy sweater, for instance, should be patched with something stretchy, such as T-shirt material. Jeans need to be patched with a sturdy cotton. Otherwise, the patch may shrink and wear differently than the garment.