Cost of living: Here are five simple steps for making your clothes last longer

Industry experts share their top tips for getting the most out of what you already have in your wardrobe — from hand stitching to natural dyeing 
Cost of living: Here are five simple steps for making your clothes last longer

If you're looking to cut back on your clothing consumption, there are plenty of simple skills that can go a long way and help make a garment last.

In the midst of the cost of living crisis, many of us are beginning to rethink our shopping habits and look at ways that we can make things last. 

When it comes to clothing, there are so many simple ways to repair, revamp or rework a garment. We've talked to experts in the industry who have revealed their top tips for anyone looking to make the most out of what is already in their wardrobe.

How to get started 

“Mending is a great way to keep your clothes in use for longer. It's very easy to throw away something just because it has a tiny hole, but you can fix it yourself. You don’t even have to take it to an alteration place," says Wicklow-based designer and natural dyer Malú Colorín.

"There are so many videos on YouTube on how to do different kinds of mends or there’s a website called — they have free tutorials. Everything is online it’s just sitting down and doing it and hand stitching, it’s not that hard.”

If you want to learn to start mending your own clothes or even making your own pieces, you can start simple. A fancy sewing machine is not always necessary starting out and as Malú says, hand stitching is great for most mends.

“I’d definitely start with a needle and thread, and I suppose if you wanted to sew something, the best thing to start with would be just a basic pencil skirt,” advises designer Aoife McNamara. “Believe it or not, they are one of the easiest things to sew because you just have the two seams at the side.” 

YouTube will be your best friend when it comes to learning the basics and Aoife also recommends looking at simple tutorials as you work. 

“It doesn’t have to be a sewing machine. You don’t have to complicate it as much as that. Even if it’s just a button…it couldn’t be simpler once you have something like YouTube or something like that in front of you and all you need is a needle and thread.”

Start with a needle and thread, says Limerick designer Aoife McNamara.
Start with a needle and thread, says Limerick designer Aoife McNamara.

How to naturally dye your clothes

Natural dyeing works best on natural fibres such as cotton, linen, silk and wool so it is a great way to give a high-quality garment a new lease of life — especially for those faded t-shirts we all have hiding in the back of the wardrobe. 

There are many natural items that can turn clothes pink, but one of Malú’s favourites is avocado skins and stones. 

To start off, weigh your textiles and use that same amount of dye material (so, for a 100g t-shirt use 100g of avocado skins). 

Soak your textiles in water for at least half an hour before dyeing and place your dye material (e.g. avocado skins) in a pot, cover with water and bring to a low simmer for at least one hour.

Strain your dye material, keeping just the liquid and add your textiles to the dye pot with the strained liquid before simmering for at least one hour. 

After one hour, turn off the heat and leave to steep overnight. Finally, rinse under running water and hang to dry away from direct sunlight.

For better results, scour and mordant your textiles before dyeing. More information is available on

You can join Malú for an Introduction to Natural Dyeing Workshop at Aoife’s Cottage in Adare as part of the Aoife Mc Namara Community Events series on Sunday, 16 October.

How to sew a button 

Natural dyer and designer, Malú Colorín of Talú.earth.
Natural dyer and designer, Malú Colorín of Talú.earth.

Louise O’Dea, owner of the Laundry Basket on Barrack Street in Cork city, is a bit of an expert in mending clothing after 15 years in business. According to Louise, sewing a button is a simple skill everyone should learn to help keep clothes in good nick.

Starting off, you thread the needle, tying a knot at the end of the thread. Then, position the button on the fabric and start to thread the needle through the fabric, before bringing it through the button.

“You don’t tighten the button. When you pull the thread back through the other way, don’t tighten it too much because you need a little bit of play in the button so it can go through the buttonhole,” explains Louise.

“You just go in and out of the holes and then when you’re done, you go around the back a couple of times just through the fabric with the needle and thread, so it doesn’t unravel immediately.” 

How to fix a hem without sewing 

If you would rather stay away from the needle and thread for now, there is also a very handy way of fixing a hem. Available in most pound shops, hemming tape is a heat-activated adhesive tape that is an excellent quick fix.

“If it’s a hem that has fallen down, the shape would be in it already. You just put this stuff between the fold, and you just iron the fabric and it's actually sticky, so it sticks one side of the fabric to the other side. It’s a quick fix,” says Louise.

How to de-bobble knitwear 

Cosy knits are a staple for Autumn/Winter and never go out of style. However, with some general wear and tear and washing, bobbles can often start to form. 

Instead of throwing away your favourite woolly jumper or avoiding washing it for fear it will be ruined, get your hands on a fabric shaver. Alternatively, it is recommended that you wash knitwear inside out and by hand if possible in order to help prevent piling.

“If you’re going to wash wool, it will have to be on a delicate cycle on a very low temperature. Don’t put it in the drier, you have to let that drip dry or dry it flat if it’s a jumper because you don’t want the weight dragging it down on the hanger,” Louise O'Dea says, adding that it is important to read the labels on garments for instructions.

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