When I was young, my family had very little money. All of my clothes were thrift store veterans and cheap as heck, and really not worth saving once they had something wrong with them. In the last several years I’ve started occasionally buying nice clothes, and discovered how much more traumatic it is when a $200 suit is torn than when it’s a $3.50 pair of canvas shorts. Fortunately, after surviving so long on a shoestring budget, I’ve learned several sewing tips and tricks that help me extend the life of my clothes long past what I’d have thought was their expiration date.
Sew button “tags” instead of just looping the thread
A common mistake is to sew a button as tightly to the fabric as possible after it falls off. Don’t do this! It puckers the fabric and increases tension. To save not only the thread holding the button but the fabric itself, leave about a quarter of an inch between the button and the fabric when you sew it in–then, tightly wrap the end of the thread around the loose bit several times, creating a “standing tag.” Your clothes will be less stressed and fit better, too!
Learn to tie a perfect sewing knot
One of the worst things about sewing a seam is having to re-sew it when it tears again. A good way to avoid this is to make your sewing knot tight and indestructible the first time! Wet the tip of your index finger (licking it works fine), loop the end of the thread around it once, then slide it firmly off your finger with your thumb. Pull the loop tight, and there should be a big impenetrable scraggly knot at the end that you can’t break through with a chainsaw.
Beware of weakened cloth
When a seam rips, don’t sew it back in the exact same place. That cloth is weakened now; it’ll drastically improve the chances of that seam surviving the next abrupt movement if you move it a quarter of an inch to one direction or another. If not, next time it might not be the thread that rips, but the fabric itself, which is much harder to repair.
Abuse clear nail polish
Super quick “cheat”: Is there a hem that wants to unravel? A hook and eye or button that looks a little weak in the thread? Paint it with clear nail polish! Let dry for 10 minutes and you should be good to go!