Housewife MacGyver: Modern Mending {and a giveaway} with Helping Little Hands

Before I married my husband, I asked my mom to teach me how to darn a sock... you know, just in case I ever needed to. She told me that she'd teach me just how her mother taught her: "You hold the sock like this over the trash can, and then you holler 'DARN' as you toss it in the trash."

What does this domestic tradition have to do with Housewife MacGyver? Well, today our guest is Polly from Helping Little Hands, here to share some more modern methods of mending and helping clothes make it a few extra miles. No darning required. :) And be sure to read clear down to the end of the post because on top of her amazing skills, Polly has a fun giveaway for you!

Hi, I'm Polly.  I'm mom to three busy kids, and wife to my amazing science teacher husband.  I blog over at Helping Little Hands where I blog about whatever I'm working on...sewing, reading with my kids, cooking, random crafts, and fixing up and refashioning clothes.  Come over and say hello sometime.

(All the patterns I provide on my site are free...but the site I'm using to host the images has started asking people to pay before downloading.  I'm in the process of converting them over to Google Doc, but if you want to download a pattern before then, just email me.)

I've been wanting to go back and do a recap of some of my favorite Hand-Me-Down Rehab posts for a while.  You know...because sometimes you see a project on someone's blog and you wonder how it really turned out for the long after it was washed and worn once...or 10-20 times.  I'm so glad Lorene has finally given me the motivation by being part of her Housewife MacGyver series.

I really got into what I call Hand-Me-Down Rehab during the year just after Hubby graduated with his PhD.  We were lucky to be able to substitute teach consistently, but Hubby didn't have a permanent job yet.  We were pinching pennies as tight as we could.  Buying new clothes was just not an option, so we got creative with what we had or could get on sale at the thrift store.

So here are a few of my favorite techniques.

Applique is really versatile.  I LOVE it for mending.  It's also great for covering up a stain, random logo, or just making a plain shirt more fun.  Rather than making a patch and trying to hide's so much fun to go all the way and make it super obvious and cute.  For applique, I have come to prefer knits (old T-shirts).  You can sew around the edges easily and knits won't fray except just a tiny bit around the edge at first.  (You can find my basic tutorial for it here.) 

I did these Dino Knee patches to fix some pants Little Brother was given with holes already in the knees.

Not only have they held up amazingly well...they've been his favorite pair of pants for almost a year.  I bet he's worn them at least once very 2 weeks for a year.  They're totally high waters on him now...but I haven't quite been able to put them away in a box yet.  I also made him this double dino applique shirt, and since it was one of his only "matching" outfits, it showed up in a lot of pictures.  And I couldn't stop there.  Both his sisters had to have a girly version too...since we were living in a town with 2 dozen large dinosaurs roaming the streets at the time.

Freezer Paper Stencilling
Freezer Paper Stencilling is a great no-sew option for covering up a slight stain or making a plain T-shirt more fun.  It can also give you finer details than you can get with applique.  I was scared to try it for a long time, but have recently fallen in love.  Most people recommend fabric paint, but I've had great results using acrylic craft paint (make sure you iron first after painting!). 

These are two of my favorite freezer paper projects so far.  You can find the car pattern here and the girl reading pattern here.  My kids have loved the shirts I made just for them and wear them often. 

I've also done some other quirky designs involving Pi (the number) and gyrocopters that you can see here.

Sometimes I find a great shirt at the thrift store or Firecracker falls in love with a hand-me-down...that's a couple sizes too big.  Rather than waiting two years (during which time you'll be given more hand-me-downs or your taste may change) you can resize them to make them work now.  If they're just one size too big...I usually leave them alone and let my kids wear them.  Resizing works best if they're just about 2 sizes too big, but can work with an even bigger gap depending on the types of clothes. This is particularly handy if you're like me and like your kids shirts to be just a bit long, so you don't see tummies peaking out.
Firecracker was wearing size 5/6 and the T-shirt was size 10/12.  It just took about 5 minutes, and the shirt no longer falls off her shoulder, but still has plenty of room for her to grow.  Since it was a T-shirt, the sleeves were fine and it's just a little long at the waist...which I like.

Another great option for a girly T-shirt resize if you've got a standard fit T-shirt that's at least a couple sizes larger than you want is to bring in the sides just a bit, remove the sleeves, and give that edge a ruffle hem.  This will probably take about 15-30 minutes.

Of course resizing doesn't have to stop at kids clothes.  You deserve some too!  I found the perfect pair of capris for 50 cents at a garage sale...but they were a size too big.  So I resized them by slipping some elastic through the waistband to tighten them up a bit.  Of course this works with kids' pants too and can be made adjustable by adding using buttonhole elastic instead of regular.

Now sometimes clothes are just too damaged to keep mending and it's better to reuse the good fabric for something else...or you might have clothes in your closet that you just don't wear.  This works especially well if you've got some adult size clothes that you want to remake into something for your kids.  My very favorite-most used thing to make is shorts, capris, and pants out of old T-shirts.  (Although I admit, by the time Hubby and I are finished with our T-shirts they're usually not even useful for this, so most of my kids clothes have been made with thrift store finds.)  These are perfect to make now for the warmer days ahead.

One of the things I especially love about making these shorts and capris is that there are always scraps left over that I can use to make some matching appliques for a shirt.
You can find the cat applique here and the butterfly applique here.

Another really fun and easy option with T-shirts is to turn them into a T-shirt dress.  I've got a free pattern for this one.

You can also take just about any piece of adult clothing and make it into a skirt for a little girl.  Skirts are about the easiest piece of clothing you can make if you're just starting out in sewing.  One of my favorite projects has been to take some of my old pants, cut them into strips, and then resew them into skirts for my girls.  From one pair of pants I was able to get a skirt for both of my daughters.
I especially love the look of reusing the original waistband because it has all those cute belt loops...without the work of me making them.  And I have to say the Very Hungry Caterpillar outfit is was one of my favorites to make ever.  It was Sweet Pea's 1st birthday present.  The pattern for the cupcake onesie is here, and the tutorial for the caterpillar applique is here.  She's outgrown the onesie, but still loves wearing the caterpillar skirt...especially now that she's old enough to love the book.

We don't want to leave the boys out you might want to try making your little boy some church pants out of Dad's.  (Or in the case of Little Brother...they were made out of some I got at a garage sale that were a size too small for me.)
And you might want one of these ties to go with it...made from one of Dad's or one from the thrift store.

Something Totally Different
And of course, you can also use those old clothes for some completely unrelated projects.  A couple of my favorites include the school spirit chair, color matching parking lot, drawstring bags, and denim photo mat.

One last word to the wise
As awesome as it is to recycle, mend, and decorate old clothes, you want to be sure the materials you're using are going to last as long as you need them to.   Jeans in great condition except for those holes in the knee are awesome to fix up.  Jeans that have holes in the knee and are worn out with holes beginning in 5 other spots are probably not worth it.  Some of the shirts my husband has worn out are SO worn that they're not even good for applique scraps...and some are still fine for applique scraps, but would not work for making capris because there are too many holes (from acid...he worked in a chemistry lab.)  A shirt with just a stain or two is great for covering up with an applique...but you could make yourself crazy trying to come up with a design to cover up 5 different stains, so that shirt might be better to cut up for scraps.  Even though I love being frugal and using what I've got...I have to factor the time in that it's going to take me to fix something and decide if it's worth it.

If you're interested in more Hand-Me-Down Rehab, I've got links to more tutorials on my Hand-Me-Down Rehab page.  (I'm in the process of taking my bullet list and turning it into a browsable photo please excuse the mess.)

Isn't she awesome?!? And Polly is much more than just hand-me-downs... she does a little bit of everything. You might recognize her stamped washers as the inspiration for my rock & roll earrings; she also makes the best coconut cream pie ever, teaches her kids math in fun ways, lets her kids frost birthday cakes, sews some super awesome felt food, and in March, she hosted a kids' book read-along. She is one busy woman and one of you lucky readers will win one of her dino appliques to make your own dino shirt!

To enter to win, just be (or become) a follower or subscriber of just Lu and leave one comment here on this post. Tell me something... anything -- what you'll do with the patch if you win, what you're making for dinner tonight, what your favorite color is... anything. :) If your email isn't linked in your profile, please leave your email address, too.
    The giveaway will close Tuesday, May 3 at midnight(ish) with the winner announced on Wednesday.

    Happy mending and rehabbing!


    Gwen @ Gwenny Penny said...

    What a great post! I especially like the applique and freezer paper stenciling ideas (love that little girl reading image). I'm a follower :)

    Debra said...

    I'm a follower of course! I loved this post! I am all about clothes rehab! I need to do more of this for Sofie's clothes.

    Nick and Keira said...

    THis is too cool.
    I need to learn to sew. ;) said...

    New follower and I would patch some shorts.

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