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Reconstructing Clothes: What to Avoid Trying to Fix

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Reconstructing Clothes: What to Avoid Trying to Fix

By Miranda Caroligne Burns from Reconstructing Clothes For Dummies

If you usually shop at regular stores, you may not be accustomed to checking for some flaws typically found in reused clothing. Don't buy second-hand clothes with the following issues, no matter how inexpensive the garment or lovely the pattern.

Armpit problems

Before you buy, look what lies beneath that sleeve and put it back if you see the following:

  • Torn underarm seam
  • Sweat or deodorant stains
  • Pills (that yucky balled-up effect that clothes get when they're rubbed together)

Beadwork and other adornments

Cutting through a section of beadwork (or sequins, thick embroidery, embroidery with metallic thread, or embedded mirrors) typically cuts through the thread that keeps it secure. Not only will this result in a loss of beads, but a loss of continuity in the beading design. Plus, cutting through beadwork can ruin your good sewing scissors.

Unless the adornments are well out of range of any area that you might be cutting up, steer clear of these garments.

Lice, bedbugs, and other creepies

There are nasty things out there that can infest your home via used clothing:

  • Never pick clothes up off the street!
  • Be savvy of your thrift stores and how they handle donations.
  • Know what's going on in your neighborhood. If you hear of a bedbug problem, hold off on purchasing any used clothing.
  • Wash all clothing before handling or storing it away for future projects.

Bedbugs, fleas, and lice are not the only critters that can make a nightmare of your reconstruction dream. Boxes, bags, and undisturbed piles of clothing or fabric are a virtual palace for mice.


It's easy to have grand plans, hopes, and dreams when you are still in the second-hand shop. It's a whole other ball of wax when you get stuff home. Often, things don't look so bad on first sight, especially if there's bad lighting. But upon further consideration, you'll be wishing you thought twice about it. Take a good look at the garment. A once-over glance is not enough. Pills are most common in the following locations:

  • Underarm area
  • Under the breast
  • On the back (where the fabric rests on a chair)
  • Between the thighs

For the partial pills, give it a test-fix. Pinch one of the pills between your fingers and see if it pulls off easily. If so, the garment might be worth salvaging.

Fragrant fabrics — if you have to hold your nose, put it back!

Second-hand clothes sometimes are ridden with odors that you just can't get rid of, even after repeated runs through the wash cycle and dousing them with all sorts of odor removing miracles. Here's a list of some odors that are particularly difficult to get rid of:

  • Mildew
  • Mothballs
  • Perspiration
  • Perfume
  • Pets

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