Mend A Thing: Button, Sock and Zipper Fixes

Last week, I started sewing on elbow patches to my worn out sweaters in my new idealistic state of wanting to mend all of my clothing so I have to get rid of less/consume less this year. Thankfully, as I’ve started feeling better and started consuming less cough medicine, my idealism hasn’t worn off. But now that I have my rational goggles on, I’ve realized that there’s a lot to fix in my closet.

I have this bad habit of having broken buttons, ripped socks and jammed zippers on clothing that I really like and want to wear again, and I say to myself, “I can fix that, but later” and then I never do. Do you do this? Someone else in the world has to do this, too. I can’t be alone in this cruel world of being excited to wear a shirt only to remember I busted off the breast button six months ago.

Well, no more. Let’s start mending. This week we’ll cover how to sew on buttons, darn socks (seriously, I know I joked about this last week but now I have sock feelings) and realign zippers so they work properly again.

Sewing Buttons

I can’t count the amount of buttons I have sewn onto other people’s shirts and jackets for them because they didn’t know how to do it themselves. It’s really simple and easy. Esquire has a surprisingly easy to follow tutorial, but those of you nervous about kind of vague directions will enjoy this super in depth step-by-step guide from Instructables.

Here’s the most important thing you need to remember: keep the button loose from the shirt as you’re sewing it. Nothing is worse than sewing on a button too tightly and not being able to button it closed after all of your hard work. Don’t stress about finding matching buttons or matching thread, either. I find it completely endearing when there’s a mismatched button. If you’re wanting to be pretty intense about matching and can’t find the exact button, however, you may need to suck it up and sew on an entirely new set of buttons. It’s going to be okay. It’ll probably only take you about twenty minutes to sew on five or six.

Darning Socks

I know, I know. Darning socks seems really old-school, right? But then you give in and buy $20 hiking socks and they get a hole in them at the toe and you reassess your priorities in life. Or maybe you just have pointy toes and this is a fact of life for you and your favorite socks. Regardless, never fear, we’ll get your toes covered back up.

To be honest, darning socks is ridiculously simple. The Art Of Doing Stuff has an amazing tutorial that involves using a tennis ball or lightbulb to provide a bit of tension on the end of your sock so that you can sew it easier.

Fixing Zippers

Zippers are actually my arch-nemesis, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to take a lot for me to repair a zipper in my clothing. That said, is there anything more frustrating than when your zipper teeth won’t close? Luckily, with some pliers and thread, it’s not a hard fix.

via {WikiHow}

via {WikiHow}

WikiHow has some kind of hardcore instructions, but if you’re looking for simplicity in this lifestyle of zipper repair we seem to have jumped into together, then I’d recommend this tutorial on It’s just a process of taking off the zipper bumper and sewing it back up.

So there we have it! Next week, we’re going to go over replacing drawstrings in pants, patching holes in jeans and sewing up torn lining in jackets and handbags. Until then, thing-menders, good luck!

This has been another installment of Make A Thingwhere we make things with our hands for ourselves or other people we love.

Header by Rory Midhani

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Hansen is the former DIY & Food Editor of and likes to spend most days making and cooking and writing. She teaches creative writing at Colorado State University and is pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in her free time.

Hansen has written 189 articles for us.


  1. Huzzah this makes me so happy! Sewing, especially basic sewing (including buttons and hems) is probably one of the most valuable and underrated skills to have. On the flipside as someone who sews for a living, I rarely get around to fixing my own things…One day I’ll get to it, turns into 6 months. I dig this series.

  2. I know how to sew a button but every time a zipper breaks I’m like “welp, guess I’m done using that.” NO LONGER. (Hopefully. Because I am kind of a fail when it comes to things like this.)

  3. Wow… another example of AS knowing exactly what I need in my life EXACTLY when I need it!!! I was just lamenting that my fave pj pants are just about to give up and here you are telling me I may be able to save them!!! although when it’s the fabric wearing through there’s not much to be done, huh? :(

    I’m still happy about this! Thanks Hansen!!

  4. My reaction to this headline was, “oh thank god.” I’ve taken my pants off at work so a co-worker could fix a button. Twice.

  5. Better than a fuzzy tennis ball or breakable lightbulb for darning socks is an old-fashioned wooden darning egg. I bet you could get one at a good fabric store. Great tutorial!

  6. ““I can fix that, but later” and then I never do. Do you do this?”

    *shamefully stares at “To Alter” pile*

    • We gotta have an article on altering clothes for all the short ones among us. I know how to hem pants by hand, but always screw it up and hem them in a spiral when I do it on a machine.

      • That’s a genius idea! I just walk on the bottom of my jeans and they become a ragged mess. This was problematic in the snow at Camp 4.0.

        I do alter my dress pants though… Well *I* didn’t but my Mom did. I get my height from her so she knows what’s up… Or rather isn’t up.

  7. Zippers are also my arch-nemesis. Maybe we could all form some kind of crafting superhero alliance, fighting the dark forces of broken zippers, tangled thread, broken sewing machine needles.

  8. I think this must be one of those cases of straddle-dipity, because just a handful of hours before you posted this I was having in-depth discussions on darning socks with a guy at work! Except we were kind of going at it from an angle of how you could make a kind of sock stapling machine to patch holes easily, because we are nerds.

    The stuff I looked up seemed to suggest stitching more of a lattice than the link posted above (e.g. here), which I think is meant to be better because it doesn’t reduce the size of the sock, making it less susceptible to re-breaking. I am yet to try either method, but will be sure to do so soon, because I have a pair of Frida Kahlo socks that need resurrecting.

  9. Also, for the infinitely lazy- lots of computerised sewing machines have a sew-a-button-on function which makes it /far/ less defeating when faced with the prospect of sewing on more than one button in a row.

Comments are closed.