Clothing is an intimate and personal part of our lives, and we do our best to produce garments that you’ll want to wear day after day. Our hope is that our garments are durable and functional enough to serve you for a nice long time, but they aren’t meant to last forever. Here are our tips to help you honor your clothing through its entire lifecycle, from everyday care for your brand new piece, mends and repairs on something that’s still got life left, all the way to recycling or repurposing a totally worn out garment.
Maintenance and General Care: getting the most out of your clothing starts with your care routine from day one.
- General Washing Instructions: for natural fibers like linen, silk and cotton, machine wash on gentle cycle with cool water. Tumble dry low heat, or lay flat to dry. Always wash with like colors.
- On frequency of washing (it’s a balancing act): Reduce wash frequency to slow fading and wear-down of the fibers. But, don’t let heavy sweat or grease remain in fibers for extended periods of time without washing; it can cause the fibers to become brittle.
- Favorite Products: Soak detergent, Eucalan detergent, Woolite detergent for dark colors, Sweater Stone for removing pills
- Quick Tips: Add vinegar to the wash to remove stubborn smells, lemon juice solution and sunlight are great natural brighteners for whites, use a clothes brush instead of a lint roller to minimize waste, err on the side of relaxed in terms of sizing - the tension of wearing clothes too tight can cause damage quickly.
Stain Removal: removing stains from natural fiber materials is typically easy, but time is your worst enemy and the right approach is key!
- Oil & Grease Stains: remove with a dry, oil absorbing powder like the Janie stick, talcum powder, dry shampoo or baking soda. Let sit on stain for an hour, brush away, and keep reapplying until stain has lifted.
- Berry Stains: pour boiling water over taught fabric to lift the stain.
- Ink & Food Stains: wet the area, apply liquid dish soap with a toothbrush and scrub, rinse and repeatedly until stain is gone. The same technique with baking soda and vinegar works well.
- Favorite Products: Janie Stick for oil and grease stains, The Laundress Stain solution, Grandma’s secret spot remover, Oxi Clean, Dawn Dish Soap
Stain Disguise: embrace a stubborn stain and use it as a creative prompt, or use a clever technique to hide it!
- Quick Ideas: Cover a stain with a fabric patch, disguise it by using fabric paint to create a print, bury it with stitching (simple straight stitches or something fancy like French knots), highlight the stain and make it part of the garment by outlining it with contrasting stitching.
- Favorite Products: Embroidery floss in fun colors, Dye Na Flow fabric paint, fabric patches
Reinforcing Thinning Fabric: you can strengthen thinned and weak areas in fabric before they get worse!
- Disguise by reinforcing with matching fabric and thread: Apply fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the thinned material to stabilize and reinforce. Pin a piece of matching fabric that’s similar in weight, hand, and color to the wrong side of the material. Stitch through all three layers of the original material, interfacing, and fabric patch with matching thread in small rows until thoroughly strengthened.
- Make it a feature with a contrasting patch and stitching: Pin a piece of contrasting fabric that’s similar in weight and hand to the wrong side of the material. Stitch around thinned area in any pattern with embroidery floss in a contrasting color.
- Darn it (LOL)! Reinforce thinned area and close up small holes by darning the material with embroidery floss. This looks cool in matching or contrasting colors.
Repairing/Patching rips/holes: you can repair or mend rips and holes of any size!
- Minimal & Matching: pin a patch of matching fabric over the area to be repaired, leaving at least an inch or excess material beyond the hole. Stitch the patch on with matching thread. Trim away excess
- Contrasting & Colorful: Use the same technique as above but with contrasting fabric and thread
- Close Rips & Tears: sew ripped edges of fabric together using a whip stitch and either matching or colorful embroidery floss.
- Sashiko: Attach a rectangular patch of fabric with quilt-like sashiko stitching.
Aesthetic Transformations: take a garment that’s still functional but not getting much wear and give it a totally new look!
- Embroider or apply quilting stitches over the garment a la Alabama Chanin. You can use floss alone or stitch down a patchwork pattern of scraps for an even more radical change.
- Ice dye or tie dye the garment for a fool-proof color and print change.
- Do a solid color dye on the whole garment to achieve a fresh look or a color we don’t offer. Be prepared for the thread to remain it’s original color, though I think it always looks pretty cool! Indigo is always really fun, too.
- Paint a pattern or print on the item - I love abstract shapes, watercolor techniques, or using a spray bottle for a splattered effect.
Recycling/Re-use: all good things must come to an end, and a natural fiber garment’s life is no different. Once you’ve worn your favorite pieces out, there are still things you can use them for!
- Donating to charity shops and thrift stores should be a last resort; these are already inundated with more clothing than there is need. Finding a use for the material yourself is a great option!
- Cut large enough garments into squares to use as napkins. Wash and leave the edges frayed, or sew a small hem around the edges. Softened flax linen would be pretty dreamy at the table!
- Use intact material to sew baby clothes or small items like pouches or headscarves.
- Cut into small scraps to use for quilting or to patch other garments with.
- If you’re feeling ambitious, you can take strong parts of the material and create an Ace and Jig x Brother Vellies inspired sandal.
- Use the scrap material to create fiber-centric jewelry or a small weaving.
- Cut the material into small bits and leave outside in the spring time for birds to collect and build their nests with (natural fibers only).
Check out the ES Marketplace, our hub for buying and selling pre-loved ES Clothing for another option to extend the lifespan of your garments!