How to Put Darts in Your Shirts

I used to have a few shirts that I really liked but which did not fit especially well around the waist. They were bought in the days when I knew a lot less about fit and cloth (hard to imagine, isn’t it?), and while the neck, shoulders and sleeve were fine, the cut was simply too full from the chest downwards.

Such were my frustrations, I may have thrown them out. So instead I decided to try and sew my own darts into them, to narrow the waist. If I messed it up, I could just throw them away anyway.

My first attempt went surprisingly well, but there were a few lessons learned. I should have tried a couple of variations on the shape and size of the darts before I sewed them in. I should have been a little less cautious on their length. And while they held up very well in the wash, I learned it was worth sewing as tight stitches as possible.

I think I’ve now got a pretty good system, and all those shirts have been darted, worn and washed several times, to pleasing effect. I could have had it done at a tailor, but not being in essence a practical person, it is very satisfying to master a skill such as this. And it probably saved me £100. Here is my step-by-step guide to putting darts in your shirts. It is not that hard, and very satisfying when completed.

1. Lay out your shirt on an ironing board. Pinch the material in two places, roughly where your waist would be and a couple of inches in from the seam on either side. Start with a fold of a couple of centimetres, folded out towards the seam. Iron that patch flat and then fold the material above and below, pulling the material away gradually so it forms a crescent.
2. Pin both folds with three pins or needles each, to keep them in place.
3. Try the shirt on, being careful that none of the pins point inwards. Assess how suppressed the waist is by pulling the sides away from your skin, and try sitting down, stretching etc.
4. If the fold needs adjusting, take it back to the ironing board and fold the material more or less. Also, if you feel the dart could or should be longer, narrowing more of the shirt’s body, then extend the crescent above and below.
5. Sew the fold in place, starting with a few stitches in one place (on the inside of the shirt so it doesn’t show) and then sew smallish stitches, in and out up the fold, and finishing in the same way.
6. Use white thread unless the shirt is one block colour – and look closely, most colours are a mix of a darker colour and white.
7. Don’t worry if the stitches seem far apart. They will hold up well – and they don’t have to be as tight as the ones that construct the shirt itself. (You could of course do this on a sewing machine as well if you have one. I don’t.)

If you find it hard to iron the crescents (I found it the trickiest part) you can always start the fold halfway down the back of the shirt and just carry it on off the bottom of the tail. This will create a flap on the bottom, but if you have your shirt tucked in most of the time, this won’t be a problem. I found this particularly useful on a Ralph Lauren blue oxford, which although “custom fit” was still far too broad. The thicker material made it hard to fold accurately.

I’m sure some of you are proficient sewers, and all this is the equivalent of teaching your grandma to suck eggs. I’m sure others are horrified at the idea of amateur tailoring. But I found it very satisfying (a step up from hemming my trousers) and I encourage you to have a go.

Care For Sweaters

Love your cashmere sweaters, or just want to keep yours around forever without destroying them? Understood. Now read on!

Treatments and Washing

• When you get ready to wash your clothes, separate knitwear when you sort laundry. If you throw a sweater in the washing machine, it won’t last long! Anything that could be harmed by catches or snags should be thrown into a protective bag before it gets into the wash.

• Avoid washing sweaters on hot settings, which can damage them pretty severely. And say no to tumble dryers, too! I speak from experience. They can affect wool so severely that the item will shrink beyond recognition.

• Handwash items if you can. It may be time consuming, but it will save your more expensive articles like cashmere.

To Handwash a Sweater
1. Fill a sink or tub with lukewarm water, and follow the instructions on your fine garment wash like Woolite, for example.

2. Swish your hands in the water to create suds, and add your sweater to the water.

3. Soak your sweater for about 20 minutes in the basin.

4. Remove the sweater and rinse it thoroughly.

5. Place the sweater on a clean towel.

6. Fold the towel in half and then roll it.

7. After a few minutes, lay your towel out flat and shape it carefully.

8. Dry your sweater on a sweater rack and let it air dry out of direct sunlight and indoors.

Tip:  Don’t wring out your sweaters, which can permanently distort their shape.

Tip:  You can wash more than one sweater at a time, but just make sure that they’re similar in color.

After Care

• Brush your sweaters once they’re dry. Use a small soft brush on cashmere, acrylic, and lambswool to take care of fluff and hairs. You can also use a lint brush to remove pills.

• While dry cleaning sweaters is definitely an option, it won’t extend the life of your knitwear.

• Iron sweaters on a low setting, and if you iron wool, make sure that you “knead” the sweater once you’re done to set it and prepare it for wearing.

• Storing your sweater? Be sure to wash and dry it before you store it, and then wrap it in acid-free paper before it goes in a special storage box.

Stay away from mothballs. They smell strong, and you can get the same effects from a lavender sweater wash. Both cedar and lavender repel moths, and they’re natural.

Tips to Keep Clothes Wrinkle Free

Ironing has to be one chore that no one (and really, no one) actually looks forward to. Why don’t we just prevent all the wrinkles from happening so we don’t have to bother anymore? If that sounds like a good idea, read on to find out how to prevent wrinkles from occurring.

Preventing Wrinkles
Preventing wrinkles is an important step, because if you play your cards right when you wash and dry everything, you can pretty much avoid the ironing step all together.

• Hang your clothes well. While we may be tempted to throw our jacket or sweater over an arm of a chair or on the back of a car’s seat, it will leave fold lines that aren’t easy to remove. Stay away from clothes hooks as well!

• Never leave items in the dryer. As soon as they’re completed, take them out of the dryer and get them hanging (on a hanger, please!). Cool air sets wrinkles as items sit in the dryer longer.

• Smooth your clothes with your hands as you remove them from the dryer. If you “pull” out wrinkles the best you can, they will be wearable.

• Avoid folding lightweight items, and hang them instead. If it’s possible, hang everything! Many items have a better chance at being wrinkle-free if they aren’t folded or bunched.

Getting Rid of Wrinkles
These techniques will remove wrinkles without an iron.

• Hang your items in the bathroom when you’re taking a shower. Hang your clothes on plastic hangers, get the bathroom steamy, and then gently stretch each item after it has been hung.

• Remove wrinkles by sticking each article that’s been wrinkled in the dryer. Spray it lightly with water before you dry it, and make sure that it’s on the “Press” setting if you have it.

• Use a wrinkle-free spray. Spritz it on and then smooth wrinkles out with your hand.

• Dry clean your items to get rid of wrinkles with minimal effort. . . but you’ll have to wait for a day before you wear it.

Traveling Tips
• Look for items that are made from special travel fabric. Does it seem gimmicky? Try it before you decide. Consider fabric of 2-ply combed cotton and stretch microfiber of poly, viscose, and lycra all work. How do they work? Wrinkle-free clothing has been treated with a special treatment that coats all threads and lining to keep everything crisp.

• Don’t just shove your clothes in a suitcase! If you carefully roll your items, then even your “regular,” untreated items will resist wrinkling.

Underarm Stains on Shirts No More

Yellow stains on the underarms of your shirts aren’t just ugly, but they can contribute to the demise of plenty of nice, white summery shirts. While staining does have to do with sweating, you can get your shirts white and clean with a few treatments and a little bit of elbow grease. [Read more…]

Guide to Washing Clothes

Pre Washing Checkout

1. Before washing, empty your pockets. You’d be surprised at the havoc a single receipt can cause on a load of black laundry.
2. Take off any pins or ornaments that may be on your shirts or trousers. If you work in a job where a name tag if required or even if you just love your band buttons.
3. Inspect everything for damage. It’s best to mend any tears before laundering, because otherwise, damage could get much worse. Imagine your favorite shirt. . . now imagine it unraveling. [Read more…]