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How to salvage your clothes

30 July 2008

Drakes sweater

This is advice that was given to me on when you can save clothes that are ripped, stained or holed, and what to do about it.

The situation:
A sweater with a hole in it
Can it be salvaged? The more unravelled the fabric and the finer the knit, the more difficult it is to mend without being too obvious.
What to do: Find a seamstress who can reattach the loose knitted ends. Whatever you do, don’t wear a sweater with a hole in it if you plan on saving it.

The situation: A sock with a hole in it
Can it be salvaged? No point. The same goes for t-shirts.
What to do: Buy a new one and move on.

The situation: A small, clean cut through a suit
Can it be salvaged? Yes, provided it’s a cut rather than a rip and that the weave does not have a complicated pattern.
What to do: The services of a good reweaver, also known as an invisible mender. Trouble is, invisible menders are very hard to spot. Alice Zotta at 2 West 45th St (Room 1701) is recommended in New York.

The situation: A suit jacket with bubbly lapels
Can it be saved? No. The bubbles happen when a cheap suit – the kind that has a fused construction, made with glue rather than stitched – is caught in the rain. The glue dissolves. To tell if your jacket is fused or canvassed, pinch the material around a buttonhole with both hands, one on the inside and one on the outside. See if there is any material floating between the outside and inside when you separate them.
What to do: Buy a more expensive suit.

The situation: Salt-stained shoes
Can they be saved? Yes, provided they aren’t also dried out (see below).
What to do: Take a 50-50 solution of water and vinegar and wipe it sparingly over the shoes. Wipe off the excess. Once the salt stains have disappeared, treat your shoes to a loving, liberal repolish at the cobblers.

The situation: Shoes whose leather has become cracked by too-rapid drying after a downpour. Or, indeed, a lack of shoe cream for a good few years.
Can they be saved? Sorry. Consider this a cautionary tale. Leather is organic, and if you dry it out too quickly, it’ll go stiff and the fibers will break at the stress points.
What to do: Next time, wipe down your wet shoes and then dry them slowly, away from direct heat. Put newspaper inside to absorb the moisture.