How to Permanently Restore a Mattress Pad

Mattress pads wear out fast, don’t they?

The top is usually in good shape because they are quilted and made fairly well.

But, usually, the sides of the mattress pad are either made of a paper-like material or a thin nylon type that gets holes in it easily. I’ve fought both types for years. And it doesn’t matter how much you pay, they are never made to last.

You can see by the zig zag stitches I stitched on this paper-like material, that I had tried to mend it before.

But, it didn’t last long in the washing machine.


In some areas, the elastic had torn away from the rest of the material:


Recently, I decided it was time for a new solution, a more permanent solution….I needed to put new sides on.

This is easier than it sounds.

You will need some cotton fabric and some elastic. The amount you need of both will depend on the size of your mattress pad top. I’ll show you how to calculate what you need. The mattress pad I am revamping is a queen size.

First, measure the width, the length, and the depth (or height) of the mattress pad and write down the measurements on a piece of paper.



Once you have done that, you will add seam allowances to each of the measurements.

As you can see below, I drew what each of the pieces would look like if they were separate and lying flat on the table. This is to help you see what shapes you’ll need to cut from the cotton fabric.

I added two inches overall to the width, two inches overall to the length because I want 1/2″ seam allowances.

I added three inches to the height because some of the pad extends underneath the mattress and the extra inch will make it hug the mattress nice and snug.


I found some scrap muslin fabric that I had in my cupboard and cut the pieces out according to my measurements.

You don’t need muslin fabric. Any cotton or cotton/polyester blend should do.

After you’ve cut those pieces, set those pieces aside for now.

Next, trim away all the side material from the top of the mattress pad, cutting as close as possible without harming the top. If you don’t cut real close, it’s not a problem.


Once you have the top piece cut away from the bottom piece, you are going to save the top piece.


Next, you will stitch together the rectangles of fabric to form the sides of the mattress pad.

Stitch the vertical seams making sure you have the two short ends opposing each other and the two long pieces opposing each other. Also, make sure you are stitching all the pieces right sides together. You don’t want to twist them and have to rip some of the seams out later.

Here is what one seam looks like from the right side. I haven’t pressed the fabric yet, but it would be a good idea.


Once I stitched the seams, I serged the edges to finish them off nicely. If you don’t have a serger, you could zig zag the edges together. This will keep your seams from raveling over time.


Once the seams are serged, you should have a giant tube of fabric. Go ahead and serge to top edge of the tube all the way around.

Now, let’s talk about the elastic. The company used elastic “thread”. To duplicate this on your mattress pad would require alot of time and work. We are going to make a simple casing and add one piece of elastic.

I like a method that is fast. Most people would tell you to make the casing and then feed the elastic through the casing with a bodkin or a safety pin attached to the end of the elastic. That takes a very long time. I’m going to show you how to streamline and do two steps at one time.

To make the casing, fold up and press the bottom edge twice. I like to use 1/2″ wide elastic. So, to make my casing, I folded up the bottom edge 1/4″ and then 3/4″ . The 1/4″ hides the raw edge and the 3/4″ gives you enough room to stitch the elastic in without actually stitching on the elastic itself. We want that elastic to be able to stretch inside the casing as we sew the casing down.


The cotton tube I sewed for the sides of the mattress pad has a perimeter of about 280″ (80″ + 80″ + 61″ + 61″=282″)

Let’s use the number 280″ for easy math.

Divide 280″ in half and you have 140″ or about 4 yards.

You’ll need to cut a piece of elastic about 4 yards long.

If you don’t have that much on hand, you can certainly use less. It’s not rocket science and you don’t have to be precise on this. You just don’t want your mattress pad to creep up or come off while you’re sleeping.

Turn the elastic into a tube and stitch the ends together as shown below. I overlap the ends and sew two rows of stitching to make it stronger.


Next, I divide the elastic tube equally into fourths and put a pin in each of the four spots:

Then, I divide the cotton tube into fourths and put a pin in each of those four spots.



Next, I just match up these pins.


Then, I tuck the elastic into the folded edge and put one pin in that spot to anchor the elastic until I can sew it in.

Remember, I am not going to stitch on the elastic itself, just the casing, but the elastic will be tucked down in there.


Next, I stitch the casing down, making sure the elastic is inside the folded area:


You will have to move the elastic inside the casing when it gets too bunched up as you sew. Just keep pushing the elastic back as you sew.


Don’t sew over any pins.

When you get to a spot where there is a pin, take the pin out and stitch across the casing to hold the elastic in place. There will be four spots where you stitch across the casing on the tube, by the time you are finished.


Here is another angle of what that will look like:


This is what the elastic edge will look like when you are finished sewing in the elastic:


Now, it’s time to attach the tube to the mattress pad:

Start by dividing the mattress pad into fourths, just like you did with the tube.

Then, divide the tube (the non elastic side of the tube) into fourths.

Once you match up the pins from the mattress pad and the pins from the tube, pin those in place in the four spots.

***The seams on the tube should line up with the corners or curved edges of the mattress pad. This will keep your mattress pad and the sides fitting together nicely.

Now, pin all the way around the mattress pad. It should be a good fit.


If it’s not exactly right, you can ease in the extra as you sew the two pieces together, but if you did your math correctly, it should be just right.

If there is a large difference, you may have to take in the seams on the corners of the tube before you sew the two pieces together.


Stitch all the way around the mattress pad.


Can you see how the two are attached? The seam runs basically vertically through the photo below:


Here is the mattress before I put the updated mattress pad on:


Here is the new mattress pad:


Because the new mattress pad has durable cotton sides now, it should last for many years to come!


Here’s a post on How to Mend a Bed Sheet, if you’d like to learn!





How To Replace a Zipper in a Jacket or Coat

If you read my last post on How Much To Charge To Replace a Zipper, I promised I’d be back to show you how to put in a new zipper.

Here’s the jacket with the broken zipper:

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The zipper teeth didn’t hold together when the jacket was zipped:

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Before you begin, be sure and choose a zipper that is long enough for the jacket opening.

Try to buy a zipper that is the same length as the current zipper.

If that is not possible, get one that is longer.

You can always shorten the top of the zipper.

Here are two different types of jacket zippers:

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The zipper on the left is a heavy duty silver metal zipper.

The one on the right is made of durable nylon.

For this jacket, the metal zipper was chosen.

Before you buy the zipper, zip it up and down several times to make sure it doesn’t stick and that it actually works.

You’d hate to sew it in and find out it was defective.

You’d only do that once!

If your zipper tape is wrinkled, you could iron it, but be careful that you don’t hit the teeth on the nylon zippers with the hot iron.

I don’t usually have that problem with jacket zippers.

But occasionally, a dress or pant zipper is wrinkled.

Let’s begin.

I start by grabbing my seam ripper and beginning just below the zipper, start taking out the stitches:

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Pull out all of the stitches on both sides of the jacket.

As you can see, in this jacket, there is another row of stitching right next to the zipper tape.

It needs to come out too:

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Here is what this jacket looks like as the zipper is being taken out.

I think it’s funny that the manufacturer used pink thread:

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Here’s another look… near a snap:

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I’ll show you how to deal with the snap in a moment.

Before I take the zipper out of the top edge of the jacket, I pay attention to any detail I need to, so that I can put the new zipper back in the same way, if possible.

The zipper tape at the top is usually folded back inside the jacket so it doesn’t show from the outside.

You can’t see it very well on this jacket, but just take mental notes of your jacket as you disassemble the area:

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Once you take out the entire zipper, be sure to take out all the loose little threads.

Sometimes, a lint roller is very helpful with this:

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I insert the new zipper making sure the correct side of the zipper is on the corresponding correct side of the jacket and pin it every couple of inches:

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I like to pin because it anchors the zipper down enough so it doesn’t move as I sew.

If you are uncomfortable doing this, you can always hand baste the zipper in place.

Be sure to pin or baste the zipper so that the zipper slide won’t get caught in the fabric edge when you zip it.

I don’t measure this. I just eyeball it and give it about an eighth of an inch clearance.

Make sure that the lining of the jacket is lined up correctly to before you pin or baste.

You don’t want that bunched up on the back side at all.

Now, let’s talk about the snaps, if you have them.

When you get to a snap, you may notice that the zipper tape doesn’t fit down into the “hole” too well.

The snap is in the way.

Do you see how the zipper tape rises too high because of the snap?

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I place a pin right next to the snap on the zipper tape (see photo below).

It doesn’t have to be perfect placement as you’ll see in a moment.

You just want a visual marker:

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Next, with a pair of scissors, notch out a little semi circle on the zipper tape just below your pin, like this:

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That semi circle is going to fit around the snap.

Now, remove that “marker” pin.

It has done its job.

Place the zipper tape back in the “hole” and continue pinning:

See how slick that looks?

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Your zipper will not pull out because you have that notch. Your stitches will hold it in place.

Trust me on this!

Once the entire zipper is pinned in, put your zipper foot onto your sewing machine.

I also use a denim weight needle.

They are better suited for a jacket, than an all purpose needle.

Begin stitching and be sure to back stitch so your stitches don’t come out later.

Stitch on the stitching line where the original zipper was, being careful not to run over your pins.

Take them out just before you get to them:

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When you get to a snap, just stay on course.

You shouldn’t have any trouble staying on the original stitching line.

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You might think from the photo above that there would be a small pucker.

To avoid that, I just make sure to hold it tightly as I sew.

Let’s look at how that stitching line looks near the snap:

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When you reach the bottom of the zipper, you’ll notice that the zipper tape has a thick, stiff area about one inch long.

I go slowly over this area.

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Sometimes, I may even “walk” my needle over the stiff area so that I don’t break my needle.

You may have noticed that the original zipper ended a few inches above the bottom edge of the jacket:

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The new zipper was longer and it fit perfectly into the bottom of the jacket:

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If your zipper is too long, just fold the excess under at the top of the jacket before you stitch it in.

If it is several inches too long, cut the excess leaving about an inch or more so you can fold it under at the top.

Some people don’t like any bulk from the zipper, so they cut it off.

If you do that, just make sure you have some extra so you don’t have a raw edge at the top.

You may need to satin stitch the top zipper teeth so that the zipper slide (or pull) doesn’t come off. To do that, set your stitch width to the widest setting you have on your sewing machine. Then, set your stitch length to zero. You don’t want your needle to move forward while you stitch this wide stitching in place.

Remember that second line of stitching that was next to the zipper tape? You don’t need to worry about that.

This one row will hold your zipper in tightly.

Here is the finished zipper:

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It’s easy to replace a zipper. It just takes a little time, but the effort is so worth it!




Ethics in Business

A college student sat in our kitchen last week and told me of his experience at a local alteration shop.

He needed three repairs done on two items.

First, there was a tear in these shorts:

and a rip in this pocket:

and a button missing here:

And guess what they were going to charge him?



Can you believe it?

How much would you charge?

How much would you pay to have someone else fix them?

I know, some people would say, “Hey, if someone is willing to pay that much, you should charge whatever you can get from them and make a huge profit.”

Well, I don’t agree.

First, wouldn’t you just feel terrible in your heart of hearts knowing that you ripped someone off?

One of the verses in the Bible in the book of Proverbs says that “Honest scales and balances are from the Lord.”

So, I want to be fair and honest in my pricing; not gouging someone just because I can.

Plus, there is the admonition to love your neighbor as yourself. I’m to treat others like I want to be treated.

And,  don’t you find that people who are “all about the money” are tough and mean and greedy?

I don’t want to be tough and mean and greedy.

The thing that’s sad about this particular shop is that they consistently don’t do a good job.

I’ve been hired to redo several items that they “altered” over the years and I feel bad for the customer.

Lots of people go there because they are located right next to the city mall.

When they walk in the shop, they don’t know what poor service they’ll get until after they pick the item up.

So, I told this boy I would fix his clothes for a fraction of what it was going to cost him there.

He called the shop, ran over and got the items, and brought them back to me.

And we were both happy about it.

It took me 20 minutes to do all the mending and reattach the button.

That means the other shop, who I’m sure would take the same amount of time to fix these items, was charging $126.00 an hour!


Isn’t that what we pay a doctor per hour? Or a dentist?

Granted, our skill is a skill and it takes time to develop, but $126.00 per hour?

Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think…..!

(If you want to know how to fix these kind of tears in your garment, check out this post.)


Liquid Stitch

Do you get lots of sewing related items in your stocking each year?

My husband puts all sorts of them in mine… bless his heart.

This year, I got this:

I have to admit that when I first pulled it out of there, I thought to myself:

“When will I ever use this?”

My husband loves to admit that he walks down the aisles of a certain large box store and puts anything sewing related that he sees first, into the cart.

I have never told him that many of those purchases have gone unused.

It’s not that they aren’t great.

It’s usually that I have one or two or ten of them already.

It just doesn’t seem right to disappoint him and turn all his joy into sadness.

So, I just thank him and merrily tuck it away into “that box” of stuff.

It’s sort of like me trying to buy him fishing or hunting items.

I don’t know what he has or doesn’t have, or need or doesn’t need.

If he doesn’t spell out exactly what he wants in the right size, shape , brand and quantity, I avoid it.

Who knew there were a dozen different sized tippets?

What’s a tippet anyway, right?

Well, I gotta say, before I could put this tube of stitchless wonder away,

I noticed my mother-in-law’s stocking laying there with the snowman coming off.

And the tree.

Her stocking is made of felt and the items are all glued on.

So, in my usual, predictable fashion, I hightailed it upstairs to the sewing machine to stitch these pieces down permanantly.

The only problem was…. the stocking was too narrow to scrunch all up and turn it in several directions while I tried to stitch them on.

And after my last month of alterations, I wasn’t in the mood to wrestle with it.

So, the Liquid Stitch came to our home at a perfect time.

And guess what?

It worked like a charm!

It made my day.

It’s still making my day.

It dries clear, is machine washable and dryable, non-toxic, permanent and strong.

I can’t believe I’m promoting a stitchless adhesive on a sewing blog, but hey…

When something works, you gotta sing its praises, right?


Mending What the Dog Chewed Up (Part Two)

In the last post, we looked at a technique on How to Mend What the Dog Chewed Up, Part One.

But in that scenario, we used the first of two Vera Bradley bags that a customer brought to me to fix.

Her dog had chewed them both to pieces.

Today, let’s look at the other bag.

It has bigger issues.

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This big bite came out of the pocket on the front of the bag.

Good job, Fido!

This one needs some serious surgery.

So, we go to Plan B (Technique #2).

First, I hand sewed the area just to draw the raw edges closer together.

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Because there were holes all over this chew area, I had to cover the bite marks up!

I had some leftover seam binding in my notions box. You may find something similar in yours or you may have a scrap piece of fabric that you can use to cover this hole.

I like the seam binding because it comes with a prefolded edge to it.

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I cut it a little longer than the area I needed to cover.

Then, I trimmed the width, because it was wider than I needed too.

That’s the thing about alterations. You can use all sorts of odds and ends and make them work.

Then I stitched the long, unfolded edge of the seam binding to the edge of the bag.

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I sewed it right sides together and then flipped the scrap fabric over to make sure I had covered the torn edge with my stitches.

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Then I flipped the fabric patch to the other side of the bag and pinned it in place:

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Then I stitched close to the edge. Then, using the stitching technique from the first bag, I tightly stitched the ends as shown.

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If you don’t like how the tight stitches look at the ends, you can always turn under those short ends before you sew on the patch and then the last step would be to stitch straight across those ends.

But, I felt this bag needed the extra reinforcement.

And do you know what?

The customer called and profusely thanked me for making the bag look so good.

Wasn’t that sweet of her?

That kind of consideration just makes your day, doesn’t it?

Now, go and fix that ripped and torn item you’ve had sitting around for weeks or months.

It will make your day!


Mending What the Dog Chewed Up (Part One)

A customer brought me 2 Vera Bradley bags (purses) that her dog chewed up and asked me if I could repair them.

She really didn’t have high expectations; she figured anything I could do was better than what they looked like.

But, she didn’t know that I have a favorite mending technique that earns rave reviews every time I use it.

This is some of the damage to one strap on the first bag:

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To fix this, select thread that matches the bag and thread your machine and bobbin with it.

Now, switch your machine to a zig zag stitch.

Select the widest width of zig zag that you have.

The stitch length should be set at zero. (If you start sewing and the machine does not move forward, then move the stitch length lever just a smidge and try it there. You certainly don’t want it at “1″. The goal here is to have the stitches as close together as possible.)

Begin stitching along the edge of the strap like this:

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You may need to go over it a couple of times.

This is how it turned out:

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See how good that looks?

Most people won’t even notice that the bag was in shreds a few minutes ago.

Here’s another example of damage to the middle of the bag:

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This is what it looks like after the mend:

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This technique has many applications.

I use it to mend jeans, jackets, sleeping bags and many other items around the house.

It only takes a couple of minutes and the right color of thread and you’ve got an instant solution to lots of problems.

To fix an even more complicated tear, check out this post on How To Fix What the Dog Chewed Up, Part Two.


Flip the Shirt Collar to Extend Its Use

My husband had a job for many years where he had to wear dress shirts to work.

Sound familiar?

Invariably, the collars (where it folds over) would be the first thing on the shirts to wear out.

So, I’d flip them.

And the shirts would last twice as long.

Let me explain what I mean.

Here’s a typical dress shirt:

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A typical dress shirt has two parts to the collar: the upper collar with the points on it, and the lower collar that is the long skinny piece just below the upper collar. The lower collar usually has a buttonhole on one end and a button on the other end.

Sometimes, the area just above the seam where  the upper collar meets the lower collar, gets worn out. There is fraying or there is staining so bad that it won’t come out.

To see if your shirt is “flippable”, look at the underside of the collar like this:

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If the under side of the collar has permanent bubbles in it (like in the photo above), and there’s no way an iron will smooth them out, then I don’t advise you to flip the collar.

These bubbles usually come from the iron-on interfacing that some companies use and the wrinkles are caused when the interfacing was not applied correctly.

The shirt in the photo above has permanent wrinkles and bubbles and wouldn’t be a good candidate.

But, if the under side of the collar is smooth and lays flat, you can flip it.

Here’s what you need to do.

There is a horizontal row of stitching that runs between the tips of the blue pens in the photo below.

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Take out that horizontal row of stitching.

That will separate the upper collar from the lower one.

Now, all you do, is flip the collar over and pin it back in place in the exact spot you took it out from.

Then restitch it back in following the same line of stitching that you took out in the first place.

Isn’t that simple?

And you just doubled the life of the shirt by doing so!


Mending a bed sheet

Can you save the planet by mending one bed sheet? Probably not, but it will save you alot of money to do it yourself and repurpose it.

I have a large hole in one of my bedsheets. Typically, my washing machine eats these on a regular basis if I don’t have a full load. I could just zig zag over the hole, but that would not leave it flat and chances are, it would tear again very soon because it would be weak where I stitched it. This is what happened the last time I tried to fix it. (See photo below) I did put a plush piece of thermolam under the previous hole and tightly zig zagged over the rip, but it wasn’t stable enough with all the washings. SO, now we’re going to get serious.

sewing-blog-010Who wants a weak and wimpy bed sheet?

Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy.

Ok, here’s how to fix it. Get out a scrap piece of cloth that closely matches said bed sheet. Wait a minute, who is going to see this thing anyway? No one. So, get out any scrap piece of fabric, the crazier the better. The only recommendation I have is that you find a soft piece in case your little toes, fingers or nose rub up against it in the night.

Mine has to match because my mom was a neat freak and I inherited the gene, and even though she’ll never see it because she’s been gone 15 years, this is how it has to be.

Hey, you never forget what your mom taught you.

First, cut the fabric to be a little larger than the area you are mending. Now, if you have a serger, serge around the edges of the scrap. If you have a regular sewing machine, zig zag around all the edges. Now, pin the patch over the hole. Your pins should be perpendicular to the line that you will sew. This is so when you get close to the pin, a) you can pull it out easily and b) if you do happen to run over the pin, chances are better that you won’t break your needle.

Actually, don’t run over your pins! It’s a bad habit.


Plus, if you sew over pins, I recommend wearing eye protection: glasses or goggles of some sort.

I’ve had a few pins and needles break and one got awfully close to my left eyeball. That was enough to convince me that eye protection is so important.

The next step is to sew around the perimeter of the patch close to the edge. If you feel the need, sew around the patch a second time.

sewing-blog-012Then, stitch across the patch (just eyeball it…remember no one is gong to see this because you’re not going to use these for guest sheets, right? Right.)

sewing-blog-015Then, turn the patch the other direction and stitch across in vertical rows going this way. Now it looks like a sewn grid. Perfect. That’s how you want it to look.


Now, if you want it to be super durable (and I should think you do. After all, it’s alot easier now than down the road. For heaven’s sake, you already have it under the machine!) Repeat the process entirely by putting another patch on the other side of the sheet, covering all the work you just did and do it again. If you’re particular, do the backside first and then the front. If you do it that way, you’ll see this (photo above) on the top side.

Now, get out there and do some arm bending sheet mending!

And here’s a post if you want to learn How to permanently fix a mattress pad.