Make or Mend of The Month: Hem Alteration

For our December ‘Make or Mend of the Month’ we are very happy to have a contribution from Christina Dean, Founder and CEO of Hong Kong based NGO Redress. Christina is certainly no stranger to the wonders of wardrobe care and repair, having spent the last few years masterminding the ‘Redress it, don’t bin it’ concept. In a bid to raise awareness of how much is wasted in the clothing industry, in 2013 Christina fronted The 365 Challenge wearing only discarded clothing, and this year launched The Get Redressed Challenge designed to inspire us all into wearing and not wasting our wardrobes.

‘I may be hooked on knitting and tapestry but I generally don't have a taste for sewing. However, as part of my passionate efforts to reduce clothing waste, I decided to get to grips with some useful skills so as to improve my day-to-day clothing management. 

As a result, I devoted one full month to repair during The 365 Challenge, during which I wore only dumped and discarded clothing throughout the entire year of 2013 in order to highlight the lost potential in clothes what we throw away. Thankfully, Zoe (Head of Wardrobe Wisdom at The Good Wardrobe) gave me a crash course of her sewing need to know tips and techniques to get me going. These were invaluable for the set of repairs that I did to the garments I retrieved from ‘waste’.

Since getting these sewing skills under my belt, I have made a personal commitment not to buy any new clothes for my own wardrobe wherever possible. This commitment means I need to continue developing my sewing skills and creative thinking in order to keep clothes working for me for longer.

'Before' the alteration: this skirt sat just below the knee on Christina making it feel outdated and frumpy.

This skirt alteration is one such example of bringing my sewing skills – and this skirt – to life! I saw it peeping from a huge pile of dumped clothes that sat in a huge used textile-sorting warehouse near the border of China in my home base of Hong Kong. The fabric and quality of the skirt was great and, whilst it was a little frumpy and outdated, it definitely had a sniff of style still in it. As I approached this alteration with a pretty good grounding in needlework, I was fairly confident that it should be easy.

I recalled that the key to a good hem was all in the pinning. Whilst wearing the skirt, I tasked my nine year old son - the only ‘assistant’ that I could find that day - with pinning key parts of the hem to the right length to avoid potential wonkyness from my trying to do it myself. (although his skills were really questionable!) This careful preparation made a big difference. I then ironed a crease into the fabric at the new length before trimming off the excess fabric. I left around an inch to hem and I managed to match the fabric to a thread I already owned.

I had a quick practice of a hemming stitch to get the hang of it before I started on the skirt, and then I was away!

'After' the alteration: this skirt's shorter hem has made it contemporary and given it a new lease of life.

A relatively easy fifty minutes later and a new shorter hem made this skirt more wearable and current. I am quite pleased with my efforts! Plus because the skirt is a nice neutral colour, I have worn it many times since.

The experience does make me wonder how many good quality clothes like this skirt have been dumped when they could have been given a new life simply with a needle and thread.

This December Redress are celebrating the stories of their followers who have embraced a sustainable change in their wardrobes in 2014. Share your story with them by tagging

If you would like to submit a project to be considered for 'Make or Mend of the Month', you can find details of what we need to see, plus terms and conditions on our first blog of the series:


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