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Friday, September 7, 2012

No-sew fabric mending (using an iron)

If you didn't have to drag out the sewing machine, is there something you would enjoy having mended?

There's this wonderful stuff called Wonder Under. It's a fusible adhesive that you use to make your own patching material. No sewing involved, just the iron. It will last through many, many washings. If it does begin to come up at the edges, a quick touch-up with the iron is all it takes. And you don't need something to have an actual hole in it for this to be useful.  I find if something is developing a wear spot, such as the knees of kids jeans, an inside patch of fabric attached to Wonder Under, keeps that hole from developing.

A couple of months ago, I bought a piece about 1/8th yard, for 45 cents. This was enough to make a double patch for a bed sheet with a wear spot, and patches for 3 small holes and 2 large holes in 2 different pairs of jeans. For the sheet, I ironed on patches on both sides of the fabric. It has been through the wash about 8 times since the patch, and just this week, needed a touch-up with the iron. The 2 pairs of jeans were just patched the other day, but should now last for several more months, with iron touch-ups. I've also used Wonder Under to make decorative patches for kids' clothing.

Making patches for kids' clothing 

When my children were young, we'd go shopping in mommy's scrap bag for fun fabric pieces. Then we'd use some Wonder Under to make patches out of these scraps. I patched so many pairs of my kids' pants this way. And the iron-on patches we'd make were adorable. I made flowers, hearts, trucks, dinosaurs and their initials. I simply traced a shape onto the paper backing of the Wonder Under, adhered it to a scrap of fabric, and cut out.

I had many other mommies ask where we got our patches. I would explain how easy they were to make. Before I knew it, the other kids in the playgroups were sporting equally adorable patches on their clothing. As for a cost comparison, you can buy an iron-on patch at the fabric store for about $1.50 to $2.00. With Heavy Duty Wonder Under and some scrap fabric, you can make your own simple single iron-on patch for about 15 to 20 cents, or a layered iron-on patch for 15 to 30 cents.

The photo above is a layered iron-on patch I made with 3 different fabrics, Heavy Duty Wonder Under (1/8th yard is enough to do two of these patches), and my iron. It took me all of 15 minutes, and cost about 25 cents.

First, I drew a simple pattern of a flower on a scrap of paper. I used a wide-mouthed drinking glass to draw a circle, then turned that circle into a flower, with a scalloped edge to simulate petals. Then I traced around a bottle cap to make a circle center. And finally, I framed the flower by allowing about 1/2 inch border all around forming a square, then rounding the corners. (A patch with rounded corners is less likely to peel up than a patch with squared corners.)

I then cut out the outer part of the pattern, the square. I used this as a template to trace around, onto the paper side of the Wonder Under.

Next, I ironed the fusible side of the Wonder Under onto the back side of my chosen fabric for the square. And then cut out this square patch along the lines I'd drawn on the Wonder Under.

After making the square patch, I then cut out from the pattern, the flower petal portion. I traced around this pattern onto the paper side of the Wonder Under, and ironed it onto the back side of my chosen fabric for the flower petal patch. I then cut out the flower petal patch.

And I followed this up with cutting out the center of the pattern, tracing it onto the WU and ironing onto the fabric chosen for my flower center, and cutting it out of the fabric.

At this point (all of 5 minutes later -- this takes longer to describe than it does to actually make), I had 3 iron-on patches: the square, the flower petals and the flower center. I peeled off the paper backing from the Wonder Under for the top two patch pieces (petals and center) and ironed them together, first the petals to the square, next the center to the petals. And voila, a custom made iron-on patch. This patch is ready to iron onto any fabric now.

Repairing other items with Wonder Under

Let's say you don't have any children who need colorful patches for their clothing. Then what else is this good for? We had a cat who clawed a hole in the curtains. I used a small patch made from similar colored fabric and some Wonder Under to patch this hole from the under side. The hole practically disappeared.  I've used Wonder Under to make appliques for craft projects, such as turning a plain tote into something decorative. And, as I mentioned before, I patched a wear spot in a bed sheet, preventing the wear spot from becoming a full-blown hole.

For the sheet, I figure I spent about 30 cents for the needed fusible web. The scrap of fabric was free, part of another sheet/turned curtains years ago. The sheet with a hole is about 9 years old, and originally cost about $25. Averaged out, that's about $2.77 per year. For 30 cents and 10 minutes of my time, I should be able to make this sheet last at least 6 months, maybe a year. In that time, I can a) shop around for new a sheet on sale, or b) downsize this particular bed (something we've been considering), and buy smaller sheets. This bed was a hand-me-down and was one size larger than I had thought we'd buy. The room for this bed is on the small size, so we've been thinking of downsizing, anyways. Holding off on buying a new sheet will give me the time to think about this purchase.

I prefer the Heavy Duty Wonder Under. At our local fabric store it retails for $3.99/yd, or 50 cents for 1/8th yard piece. Heavy Duty Wonder Under has enough adhesive for making durable iron-on patches. If you've never used it before, this how it works. 
  • Cut a piece of scrap fabric to fit the piece of Wonder Under. 
  • Apply the webbing side of the WU to the fabric with a hot iron, set on "wool". 
  • Peel the paper backing off of the WU. You now have an iron-on patch. 
  • Place this patch over the hole or wear spot, and adhere with a hot iron. 
  • Iron fabric from both sides, both inside and outside of garment. And you're done!
Do you mend clothing when torn or worn thin? Do you have a special technique that you use for such mending?


  1. I don't have to get out my sewing machine, but I will have to get out my iron which stays equally hidden. :)

    I have used Wonder Under for craft projects, but never thought about using it for mending. I'll think about that when I get around to the mending projects that have been waiting for about a year now.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      If you use Wonder Under for mending, I highly recommend the Heavy Duty. It has a more dense bonding layer. The regular is better for positioning for crafts, then still stitching around the edges with a zigzag.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. I 'mended' a tear in a blouse this week with a special Sarah technique whereby I accidentally stitched the right side rather than the wrong side...doh! If I wear the blouse inside out the mend looks great and you'd hardly know there was a tear...

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Oh no! Oh well, that's the way it goes sometimes. Best intentions and all. Just wait until cooler weather hits, and you can wear a jacket over it, or a vest, or adhere a colorful patch in the shape of a truck or dinosaur. You did say you worked with kids, right? They might appreciate a dinosaur patch!

      Thanks for your comments (and sorry about the mending)!

  3. I don't do a lot of mending now that the kids are getting older.

    My husband is careful about his clothes, which is relatively easy when you work and office job. When I was a child my dad was a carpenter and I remember always mending a pocket or a rip.

    I just gave up and finally tossed a cotton gown I had been wearing for years. So many my mama and I cannot remember what year we made them. I used a few yards of $1 cotton fabric from Walmart. Wore it for years and faithfully repaired any little rips, but the fabric finally just weakened enough it was beyond repair. I definitely got my money's worth. (I'm currently trying to figure out if she has the pattern or if I do because I'm thinking I need a new one!)

    1. I don't do nearly as much mending for my kids either, now that they're a little older, at least not as much clothing. But still some. Often the thrift clothing we find has a hole or flaw that needs mending (I believe the reason the item was donated in the first place -- someone didn't want to mend an item).

      The other day I had to run my daughter's backpack (for school) under the sewing machine, to fix a tear in the fabric next to the zipper. But we're doing great on those backpacks. This will be the 4th year using them, and they take a beating each year.

      I know what you mean by the fabric just getting too thin and worn to even mend. With the sheet I recently patched, I wondered about that, as the fabric is thin. But I made the patch large and it seems to be doing okay, and will buy me time to decide what to do next.

  4. It really depends on what the item is. I do mend most of my things when I can. My son is famous for sending me his work pants that need holes repaired, being work clothes (correction officer) these need special mending so they don't show. Buying a new pair of pants is almost $80 as they have to be specific pants bought at a uniform supply store, so we mend until they have to be replaced. I am also known to cut up sheets that are holey as I can't stand the feel of a patched sheet, I just can't get to sleep it bugs me to feel it, these then become my cleaning rags.

    1. Hi Lois,
      oh what a good mom you are, to mend your son's work pants. Yeah, $80 does sound pricey. But a uniform is a uniform, can't get around that. Hopefully the pants are extremely well-made and of durable fabric. I've found a lot of uniforms to be that way.

      Fortunately, this wear spot on the sheet was from the sheet catching on a zipper in the wash, and is not in a location where anyone would feel it. But I can see how that would be annoying to feel a patch while trying to fall asleep. And when this fabric is totally kaput, it too will become rags. I like to cut up old cloth items into rags about the size of paper towels. And I treat them as paper towels, and toss them when used. They;re great for cleaning up really icky messes like car grease, messy paint brushes, etc.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. That is the cutest little patch, Lili! Just adorable for a girl. :)

    1. Hi belinda,
      Thanks! Yes, most definitely a girls' patch. I did some pretty awesome dinosaurs when my son was small, too.

      Thanks for your comments!

  6. I need to mend my adult son's jeans. There is a hole at the top of the back pocket. Can you explain how I can use the Wonder Under for this? I DO have some denim material I can use for the patch. Thanks!

    1. Hi Linda,
      Is the hole in the pants, but not the pocket?

      If you make a patch with wonder under and a scrap of denim, (by ironing wonder under onto the denim), you can then iron this onto the inside of the jeans, covering the hole from the inside. Then, with your sewing machine, stitch this patch into place, using a zig zag stitch, covering the hole. Sew over the hole and patch, with zig zag, until covered. Here's a post where I did this patch on a pair of sweat pants. Same thing, different fabric.

      I hope this helps.


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