Everywhere you look at the moment there seem to be ads under the banner ‘Back to school’ and offering all sorts of deals on shirts, skirts, trousers, coats and shoes. The ads are probably depressing the heck out of the kids but, as a parent, is a cheap deal really value for money? Will everything look a little careworn halfway through the first term because it wasn’t the best quality in the first place?
Here at Make it and Mend it we know how important it is not to throw money away, so here’s our guide to prolonging the life of school clothes – whether you’re buying new this term or trying to squeeze more life out of the items you already have…
The way that buttons are attached in factories means they’re always falling off. Pull one little thread and the whole lot is gone in a second. So before you let your children wear anything, re-sew all the buttons and finish off with a dab of clear nail varnish over the thread to hold it in place and stop it unravelling. » Button sewing tips
2. Reinforce the knees on trousers
Little boys (of any age) and trousers don’t mix well. Within minutes of putting on a new pair, the knees will be worn, if not torn. To help prolong the life of the trousers, simply reinforce them by adding a patch on the inside of the trousers over the knee area.
If the knee area is already too damaged, turn the trousers into shorts for next summer, by cutting off at the knees and hemming them up.
3. Brush up your sewing skills – or acquire new ones
You can develop your sewing skills so you’ll soon be patching and mending clothes, letting out or taking in a waistband and hemming skirts and trousers. A few basic skills go a long way. And if you invest in a decent sewing machine you’ll save yourself a fortune in the long run. Modern machines are much easier to master. And own brand machines start at just over £100 – the JL125 from John Lewis has a choice of 18 stitches, stitch width control, twin needle sewing, freehand darning, monograms and embroidery.
The Supermum basic repair kit: sharp scissors with points that you can insert in seams etc. A selection of good quality thread in neutral colours (and including white, black and grey), hemming tape for emergency repairs (see our link to hemming without sewing), pins to hold things in place while you carry out repairs, a pack of needles, needle threader, iron-on patches (that can be cut to shape), marker pen and name tape. Name tape tip: Kids often hate having their names in things as they get older. Try sewing the name tag inside sleeves or under seams where they can be checked but are not on show.
4. Only use a cool wash
Take your washing machine down to 30 degrees. Not only is this environmentally friendly, but clothes friendly too.
5. Wash inside out
Make sure you turn jumpers, skirts and trousers inside out before you wash them. This will protect them from damage and keep the colour longer.
6. Prolong the working life of shirts by keeping them white
Constant washing can make whites go a bit grey and dingy but, with a little forethought, you can keep shirts looking clean and fresh.
To keep shirts white, simply soak the shirt in a bowl of warm water and lemon slices and then leave to dry in the sun. Lemon juice and sunshine are natural bleaches and the clothes will smell lemony fresh.
7. Download our fantastic stain busting guide
Stains on school shirts are inevitable, but with a little help from our stain guru Stefanie Zia, ink marks will be a thing of the past and you’ll be equipped to conquer even the worst grass stain.
Ditch the dryer
Apart from costing a fortune in electricity, dryers do dreadful things to clothes. Use an old fashioned clothes line and you will be saving money and clothes. Did you know that in the United States 10-15% of domestic energy is expended on dryers. We support Project Laundry List – campaigning in the USA for a return to line drying.
8. Dry clothes with care
When hanging dark clothes on the line turn them inside out. Remember the sun is a bleach, by turning coloured clothes inside out you will help stop them fading and keep them looking newer for long.
9. Invest in some Scotchguard
One of my son’s infant teachers always wore cream clothes to school and always looked immaculate, despite being surrounded by lots of little children. Her secret was that whenever she bought anything new would give it a quick spray of Scotchguard first before wearing. The result was a pristine outfit that was easy to clean.
10. Invest in a de-bobbler.
Nothing makes clothes look worn quicker than bobbling and unfortunately the cheaper the item of clothing the more likely it is to bobble. By investing in one of these cheap little machines your jumpers will retain that just bought look for a little longer.
If you can afford it, buy leather shoes. They may be more expensive initially, but they will last much longer and are easier to keep looking good. Get into the habit of cleaning shoes at least once a week. Remove any dirt with a little saddle soap first and then nourish with a leather conditioner or a good quality shoe polish. Not only will they look better for regular cleaning, but you will be feeding the shoes and will keep the leather nourished and waterproof.
And invest in some Dubbin
Dubbin is an old fashioned product that isn’t often seen these days except by hikers and treckers, but it works brilliantly for nourishing shoes and keeping them waterproof. It’s a tub of wax that you rub gently into the shoes on a regular basis and can be used with polish as well.