Sewing DIY: thread a needle, replace a zipper and hem a skirt

Sometimes a snag in our outfit is all it takes to ruin it completely. Learn how to fix it on the fly with these easy DIY sewing tips.

Sewing DIY: thread a needle, replace a zipper and hem a skirt

Thread a needle easily

  • Choose a needle with an eye of appropriate size for the thickness of thread you're planning to use.
  • Hold the thread against a background of contrasting colour.
  • Lick or dampen the end of the thread or apply some hairspray.
  • For thick thread such as wool, tie on a length of thin cotton and thread that through the needle first, pulling the wool through behind it.
  • Use an old-fashioned wire needle-threader. Pass the thin loop of wire through the needle, feed the thread through the loop and pull back through.
  • Buy an automatic threader, which you can usually find online.

Replace a zipper

When a zipper breaks on a favourite pair of pants it pays to be able to replace it yourself — but it's essential to make sure that the new and old zippers match exactly in length and as closely as possible in colour and weight. This easy technique can be adapted to replace zippers on other garments.

You will need

  • Stitch remover (ripper)
  • Small scissors
  • New zipper
  • Pins
  • Thread
  • Needle
  • Sewing machine with zipper foot (optional)
  1. Take out the old zipper, using a stitch remover to release only the stitches that are holding it in place. Don't undo the waistband stitching but use small scissors to cut off the old zip at the top.
  2. Pin one side of the new zipper to the base of the crotch, then pin into place up to the waistband. Fold the top of the zipper tape under so that the top teeth lie flush with the bottom of the waistband. Tack, then sew into position by hand, using a small neat backstitch, or by machine using the zipper foot.
  3. Close the zipper and turn the pants inside out, taking care to lie them flat. Pin, then tack, the second side of the zipper into position, again folding under the top of the zipper tape. Backstitch into position by hand, taking care to stitch through only one layer of fabric so that stitches don't show on the outside.
  4. On the inside, make a one centimetre (1/2 inch) row of small, tight overlapping stitches (a bar tack) below the bottom of the new zipper to create a strong hold.

Hem a skirt

Take down and iron flat an existing hem then mark the new length with pins and turn the skirt inside out.

You will need

  • Skirt
  • Tape measure
  • Pins
  • Needle
  • Tacking thread
  • Chalk
  • Scissors
  • Sewing thread
  1. Lay the skirt flat, fold up and pin hem at right angles to the edge. Check skirt for length then tack (sew loosely using large stiches, also called "basting") close to the fold. Remove pins and press.
  2. Measure and mark with chalk the hem allowance (how deep the hem is): seven centimetres (three inches) for a straight skirt, less for a flared one. Trim excess fabric at the chalk mark.
  3. Turn the hem edge under six millimetres (1/4 inch), iron flat, then hemstitch in place. Remove the tacking.
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