Tutorial: Mending A Torn Dress Shirt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m not sure why exactly, but my husband has gone on an elbow-tearing bender with his work shirts. Right in front of my eyes he tore the elbows out of two shirts while putting them on yesterday morning! We’re trying to keep to a budget these days (and try to live frugally and consciously in general) so I decided to try to mend the shirts to avoid buying new ones (four in total!!!). I’ve written up a little tutorial here that I hope is easy to follow!

– iron
– thread in the color of the shirt
– fusible interfacing

Step 1: Interfacing.
To add some stability to the torn area, I first started by fusing a small patch of interfacing to the shirt. Fusible interfacing is two-sided; fabric on one and little bumps of glue on the other. You can see in the picture below the smooth side of the interfacing is in the foreground and the fusible side in the back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI cut a patch of interfacing about at least a half inch larger than the tear in each dimension. I’ve also found with past experience that round edges are less likely to peel up than sharp corners, so cut out a oval rather than a rectangle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALay the shirt on the ironing board then lay the interfacing patch on top of the tear, glue bump-side down (contacting the shirt). Try to pull the tear together as much as possible so that the two torn sides of fabric are in contact. This will make your mending job easier and less noticeable. Set your iron to as high a heat as your fabric will allow and iron with even, firm pressure for about 15 seconds then allow to cool.


Step 2: Sewing the Tear
First neaten up the tear by trimming any loose threads that are hanging off the shirt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext, you need to sew the tear itself closed. You’ve got two options for this depending on how noticeable you want the final tear to be. Option 1 is waaaaaaaaaaaaaay faster, but definitely a more noticeable mend and may work better on non-patterned shirts.

Option 1: Set your sewing machine to a wide zigzag stitch and top stitch over the tear, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of the sew and to catch both sides of the tear while sewing. You’re left with a neat mend, but one that can definitely be noticed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI tried Option 1 first, but since my husband was going to be wearing these shirts to work and potentially meeting clients, I decided to take the time to do Option 2, an (almost) invisible repair.

Option 2: This option is much more tedious than the first because it requires hand-stitching. Using the smallest stitches possible, I sewed over the tear making sure to catch both sides of it. Since this was a patterned shirt, as I sewed I tried to keep my stitches with the white thread to the white parts of the check pattern. I then sewed in a similar fashion about 2 mm around the tear for extra stability.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATear??? What tear?? Ok, it’s not quite invisible and you’ll never have a perfect mend but this is pretty darn close!!! Keep in mind this image is zoomed in on the tear and when he’s wearing it, you’re really hard pressed to find it!

Step 3: Secure the Interfacing
I find that over successive washes, fusible interfacing often starts to peel up off the fabric it was attached to. To try to keep this from happening, I also used tiny stitches around the perimeter of the patch, keeping to the white parts of the pattern to secure the edges of the interfacing and add extra stability (You can just make this out in the picture above).

Here’s how the wrong side of the repair looks:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m hoping these repairs, hold up in the wash and I don’t find myself repeating this process too often! Fingers crossed!


18 thoughts on “Tutorial: Mending A Torn Dress Shirt

    1. missphd Post author

      I’m so glad you found it helpful! If the only thing I accomplish with this blog is giving people an excuse to go to the craft store, I’ll be a happy lady 🙂

  1. LiLi

    Thanks for the tutorial!
    I just nicked a cut in my dress…literally brought tears to my eyes but hopefully this will do the trick!

    1. missphd Post author

      The fuseable interfacing just helps to hold everything together so the repair doesn’t rely on just your hand stitching to stay intact. If you don’t have fusible interfacing then just a piece of thin fabric that won’t show through your shirt would do. Ideally, if you’re going to use the fabric it would be best to adhere it with some spray fabric glue as well as the stitching. It’s fine if you don’t have fusible interfacing or fabric glue for a temporary repair, but I suspect the repair won’t last as long. Good luck!

  2. Ray Coleman

    Thank You! I have had this happen to 3 of my favorite shirts and didn’t want to buy new ones. I’m give this a try. Thanks again!!

  3. Matt

    Hi. I have a small tear in the back a dress shirt, off to the left of center. I already wanted to remove some fabric from the back of the shirt with darts, so I darted over the tear, but the slight pressure from wearing it twice pulled the hole open again. If I iron an interface over the tear first, then dart it again, will this likely keep the fabric from pulling the hole open again? I mean is it worth trying? Is that what an interface is for–to reinforce the intact fabric around the tear?

  4. Pingback: How to: Mend Your Own Clothes | Small Green Things

  5. Pingback: How to mend your own clothes – small green things

  6. Rob Kein (@robkein)

    He’s probably buying shirts with the sleeve length a hair too short. They are catching at the wrist and the elbow is the first (and sharpest point of contact). Happened to me until I went up an inch in sleeve length. Thanks for the mending tips.

  7. GleefullyMacabre

    I’ve been holding onto my favorite lightweight bolero because I hoped to find a tutorial like this! One that didn’t require bulky patches. Going to fit it up now. Just in time for autumn!

    1. missphd Post author

      Great, I hope it works for you! We found that the repair would extend the life of the shirt but that they wouldn’t be saved forever because the tear was usually in a larger area of worn fabric. So eventually, a new tear would form beside the old one. Depending on the state of your bolero, you could try extending the size of your interfacing to add more stability. Also, make sure to use woven interface for added strength. The non-woven stuff is more like paper and more likely to tear. Good luck!


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