Man Hacks


This article was written on 09 Jan 2015, and is filled under EMSK.

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EMSK Basic Sewing Skills

Learning some basic sewing fundamentals is a must have for any man. Not only will this knowledge prove itself useful in a pinch, it can also be an impressive skill to brandish at the opportune time.


What you absolutely need are a needle, scissors, white thread, and black thread. Thinner needles are usually better. Having a choice between light or dark thread makes it a little less conspicuous even when you can’t match the colour of the fabric.

When travelling, hotels can usually lend you a sewing kit.

For a more complete kit, you’ll want:

  • Three or four needles
  • One or two very thin needles, for precise work
  • A thick needle, for thick or loose-woven fabrics
  • Scissors
  • A dozen thread colours
  • A couple pins
  • A few buttons in standard/inconspicuous styles, or that match what you’re likely to wear
  • A few pieces of fabric, to use for patches
  • Measuring tape
  • A washable fabric marker
  • A thimble, if you want to use one

Sewing on a button

The most basic skill, and the one you’ll use most often. When you lose a shirt button and can’t find it, you’ll sometimes find extra buttons sewn on the inside of the shirt near the hem, or on the sleeves (inside or outside). If there are none, you’ll have to buy a similar button, or sacrifice the bottom button of the shirt.

There’s lots of ways to sew on a button. This tutorial[2] explains one.

Mending holes

Not technically proper sewing, but fuck it, it works. A small hole in an inconspicuous place usually isn’t worth patching. To close it, simply secure the thread near the hole, then use a running stitch or back stitch[3] to pull the edges of the hole together. Pretend they’re surgical stitches.

To secure the thread (no one ever explains that clearly), you can:

  • Tie a knot into the thread so it can’t slip through the fabric. This can be uncomfortable if the knot is in a place you can feel; avoid this for socks.
  • Tie a knot with the thread into the fabric. This is very secure, but can be uncomfortable, and can lead to the fabric ripping under stress, which is harder to fix than the thread breaking or slipping.
  • Run the thread several times through the fabric. This is most comfortable (use this for darning socks), but can slip if the fabric is repeatedly stretched.


For bigger holes, cut the hole out so the edges are clean, and patch it. You can cut out the inside of a pocket to get the same fabric, or use a similar one.

This tutorial[4] (from Martha Stewart, but it’s short, step-by-step, and very clear) explains how to patch a shirt. It also explains how to mend a ripped seam or a pulled hem.

Another option is to use an iron-on patch, which requires no sewing.


Darning is a lot of work, but you can make very precise repairs with it. Use it to fix a small hole, for example in a sock. You might want to use a single thread, rather than double up the thread[5] . The idea is to weave the thread with your needle to rebuild the missing fabric.

Start a few rows below the hole. Secure the thread, then run it through each stitch in the fabric; at the end of the row, move up one row and stitch the other way. When you reach the hole, simply cross over with the thread, keeping it loose enough not to pull the edges together. Once you’ve covered the entire hole, repeat in the perpendicular direction. (For some fabrics, you might not need that last step.) The crisscrossed thread should cover the hole. This tutorial[6] and this video tutorial[7] explain it with knitted socks.

While you darn, stretch the fabric out over something. Your hand, or any smooth and rounded surface (like a cup or a bottle), will do, but you can also buy a darning egg.

Darning can be extremely precise. For example, if you have a striped shirt with a hole overlapping two stripes, you can use a different thread colour over each part of the hole and rebuild the stripes as they were.


The only alteration (besides moving a button) you’re likely to need. The basic idea is to roll the extra fabric up the inside of the sleeve/leg/shirt/etc. and sew it there. This tutorial[8] shows how to do it. Obviously you want to measure carefully. You might also want to try a few different stitches.

These are what I’d consider basic sewing skills. For anything beyond these, you probably want to go to a tailor – unless of course you want to pick up a sewing hobby.

(Creddits: JeremySmokedham on /r/everymanshouldknow)

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