Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Reinforcing Jeans

Who can find a pair of jeans that fit? For they are more precious than sapphires. Therefore guard your jeans and keep them in good repair.... 

One night, Mr. M pointed to my hip and said, "What happened to your pants?" (I can't imagine why he was looking at my hips but he seems to make rather a habit of it.)

Turns out my jeans were ripped. A favourite pair, weary with long years of service, they had given way at a weak spot right next to the back pocket. I could have thrown them into the scrap pile, but was unwilling to give them up, because they - prepare to be astonished - actually fit. (At waist and hips!)

Desperate times call for desperate measures; time to get out the sewing machine and brush up on my Jean-Patching Philosophy:
  1. Do not trim loose threads, but leave them in place to preserve as much as possible the original weave of the fabric.
  2. Use soft old denim to patch soft old denim. (There's a Biblical precedent for this.) I never throw away jeans, but keep them in my fabric stash to use as patches and potholder backings.
  3. For an inconspicuous repair, place the patch on the wrong side of the fabric.
  4. Don't try to eliminate the hole completely; instead, provide a solid backing slightly larger than the hole, and make sure the jeans, and any loose threads, are securely attached to it. The backing will then carry the strain of wear.
And now for some exciting photos:

The embarrassing tear.

Scrap denim to the rescue!
Cut on the bias as an experiment
(to avoid having to zigzag the edges),
it worked out very well.
If you cut your patch on the
straight grain, be sure to finish
the edges, or they will fray.

The two stitches I use for patching:
1. 3-step zigzag
2. Normal zigzag

Slide the patch under the hole,
and pin if necessary.
Use 3-step zigzag to outline the hole,
then switch to regular zigzag.
Make a few passes up and down to

secure the patch and any loose threads.
(Or you can make several passes
using just the 3-step zigzag.)

Trim excess patch fabric, leaving
at least 1/4" margin all around.

Note: This is not a "pretty" patch job, but a very functional one. I didn't worry too much about the thread showing, because I usually wear these jeans with a long shirt that covers up the patched area. For a nearly invisible patch, use grey or even black thread.

As long as I had my machine out, I decided to tackle my jeans' badly frayed inner thighs, choosing bias tape for a thinner, more comfortable patch.

Holey thighs, Batman!

Cut a strip of bias tape long enough
to cover the frayed areas.
First stitch it to the jeans' seamline...

...then zigzag the edge of the bias tape
to the seam allowance.

Now for some 3-step zigzagging along the outer edge
of the frayed area, then regular zigzagging
to hold everything together.

Look, ma! No more loose threads!

Extreme close-up, showing how the black thread
practically melts into the denim.

A bit of follow-up: these photos are dated October 4, 2012, making this patch job 4 months old. The jeans are still going strong (in fact I'm wearing them as I type this).

Use it up, wear it out, make it do - and patch when necessary. This will postpone the misery of shopping for new jeans. :)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

50 comments:

  1. I use a scrap of bondaweb under larger patch pieces for added strength

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    Replies
    1. That's a good idea - I tend to forget the fusible and just go straight for the fabric.

      :)

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  2. Awesome, now if you could get my favorite pair to fit my ample behind better.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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    1. It's not an ample behind - it's a small waist. (Or that's what I tell myself.) :)

      Delete
  3. Aw, yes indeed, one must guard a pair of jeans that fit with all they've got!

    I say show off those jeans that fit both in the waste and hips with a tucked in top...perhaps a crocheted one. :-)

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    1. Hmmmm ... I haven't tucked in my tops for years now. I'm old enough to prefer the skimming effect.... :)

      But a crocheted top I can handle!

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  4. Oh yes I know all about the misery of jeans/clothes shopping.......
    Funny you should post this Sue, I spent part of yesterday patching 2 pairs of No. 1's jeans and they both were thinning and ripped near the crotch seam. Rather tricky to manouvere the jeans under the machine foot, but got there in the end. No.1 was very impressed with my sewing skills, he doesn't have to go to the expense of forking out for new duds....

    Claire :}

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    1. Distressed is one thing, but ripped is another ... especially in such a crucial area! :)

      And yes, all those bulky seams do make repairs awkward. Congrats on saving No. 1 some dollars.

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  5. Excellent repair techniques! I know what you mean by well-fitting jeans that you like to prolong the life of!

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    1. It sometimes takes me a couple of months to find jeans that fit - trying on every pair in my size at several different stores. (They're so difficult to alter successfully, it's better to get a pair that fits properly to begin with. But what a hassle!)

      Thanks, Sandra. :)

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  6. I have to comment on this one: my pair of favorite jeans are falling apart and I've been thinking what to do. I've been using them at work so they would have to be patched nicely and invisibly :). Now I'm encouraged to try and tackle them, thanks :) (maybe I could use them on casual fridays...)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Good luck! If you use a matching thread it will make a big difference.

      :)

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  7. great tip, Mrs. Micawber. I'm glad your jeans stayed with you as you've given them a new life.

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  8. Good tips, specially the keeping the old denim one. Do you have any idea how to repair a jeans zip? A pair of DS2's jeans with a broken zip have been on my sewing table for weeks now

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    1. I think it's easier than you might imagine. Here are some handy links (and don't be afraid to use hand stitching if recommended - it's surprisingly strong):

      http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/3738/how-to-replace-a-broken-zipper

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Ah2mnMyHA

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-wFzECkzuk

      http://www.learning-alterations.com/replace-zipper.html

      http://sewing.about.com/od/zipperapplicationnetlink/ss/jeanzipper.htm

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  9. Wonderful to be able to save something, which FITS!!! :-)

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  10. Waste not want not. I even repair old cloth shopping bags. It's amazing how much longer they will last...often many years.

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    Replies
    1. Yes - we have a goodly collection of them and more than one has had a repair job to keep it going. :)

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  11. Now that is impressive. over 4 months and they are still holding up~!

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    1. Especially when you consider that Christmas happened in that time frame....

      :)

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  12. Oh, you are clever. When my jeans rip like this, I will show up on your doorstep. Don't say I didn't warn you.
    xx

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    1. You'll be very welcome, Kay - jeans and all. :)

      Delete
  13. I do sew patches, but my secret to jeans buying is eBay. I am Must Have the high-waist style from the 80's and early 90's and there they are! For a good price too, and higher quality denim than current jeans. If you know the brand, style and size that you love, I highly recommend buying new, like-new, or lightly used jeans. I started out at Goodwill actually, finding the style I liked. . .

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I don't at all mind buying secondhand - (much of my wardrobe comes from Goodwill). My problem is that I'm very picky about fit - comes of reading Threads Magazine - and even with a preferred brand, every pair fits differently. When jeans are factory-made, the pattern pieces are cut out of several layers of fabric at once. The layers slide around in the process, which means that each pair comes out with a slightly different fit. So for me, buying a pair of jeans means trying on every pair in my size, usually at several different stores, until I find some that don't gap at the waist or pinch in other, lower areas. It's a real marathon and I try to avoid it whenever possible. :)

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  14. I couldn't agree more, and also have a cautionary tale ... I normally do as you have with any inner thigh fraying (now there's a phrase to conjure with) but recently failed to do so only to pay for my mistake when I thread caught somehow and a much larger hole appeared, quite audibly, while I was shopping! So embarrassing!

    These are beautifully neat patching jobs Sue :D

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    1. A phrase to conjure with indeed! (I tried to be very careful when writing this post so it wouldn't show up as a result for unsavoury online searches.)

      And that sounds like a truly embarrassing moment. My sympathies. :)

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  15. My DD always has that inner thigh wear problem. I have 'fixed' several pairs for her, but never thought of bias tape. Since she is far away I will share the repair tips with her. Great ideas. I dread the jeans shopping process.

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    1. It must be nice to be one of those stick-thin models with thighs that don't rub together ... but alas I am a curvy gal with extra padding in all the wrong places (or right places depending on how you look at it).

      Jeans shopping is second only to swimsuit shopping for sheer horribleness, I always think. :)

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  16. Fantastic post, Mrs. M! Digging out the holey jeans right now :)

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    1. Thanks, Jan! Good luck with the repairs. :)

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  17. I mend everything in my household. And jeans without a patch do not deserve the name "jeans". My favourite jeans are always the mended ones. :-) I'm happy to know at least one American who mends clothes. ;-) Are there more? Have a nice day. Regula

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    Replies
    1. Oh, I think there must be. At least I hope so....

      I like your definition of jeans! :)

      Delete
  18. This is an absolutely brilliant tutorial. My hubbie is always getting me to fix his jeans and I was never totally sure how to do a really good job that would last. Thanks for this.
    Rosie

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    1. You're welcome! I developed this procedure years ago when a friend (a farmer's wife) asked if I could patch several pairs of her husband's jeans.

      If you're making a large repair, you can also use a straight stitch around the edges of the patch, then fill in with the 3-step zigzag, going back and forth, and up and down. (Hope that makes sense.)

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  19. Since retirement, all I ever wear is a pair of jeans. I have an awful time finding ones that fit. I am only 5'2" tall and not very big around. Most jeans that do fit are so darned long and might look o.k. on a teenager, but not on an old lady!
    Great tutorial, as always.

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    1. Thanks, Ellen!

      You can always hem up your jeans, you know. Don't worry about using jeans thread - just use a double thread on top in a colour similar to the topstitching on the jeans. No one will notice if it's not an exact match. When you get to the side seams, stick a piece of cardboard or matboard or folded cardstock behind the presser foot to elevate it. This will get it over the hump. (You probably know all this already.)

      :)

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  20. The misery of shopping for new jeans begins with the price tag... YOWSA!

    I think you and I were twins separated at birth. Not only do I never, ever discard anything denim, but I've been using the patching method ever since I first learned to use a sewing machine. (Because who in the heck could afford a pair of $9 jeans back then?!? That was four and a half babysitting jobs!!!) I must also confess I like denim in quilting, too. Thick. Worn. Faded. Stained. Frayed. Gold topstitching. Rivets. Pocket patches. Oh, my, the purses, jackets and vests I've created!!! And embellished!!!

    By the way, that was the most appropriate and fabulous scripture ever when it comes to sewing!!!

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    1. Yes, the price. And the difficulty of finding something that doesn't gap. Or look obscene. Or reveal too much when you squat down in them. Or look frumpy. Aaack!

      I'd love to see some of your jeans creations. (Embellishment does not come naturally to me.)

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  21. Hi, fabulous tutorial! I found you and I'm fascinated with your blog! I'm your newest follower! Your photos and explanations are fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing the great tutorial! Would love to have you visit me sometime.
    Hope your week is going well!
    Hugs from Portugal,

    Ana Love Craft
    www.lovecraft2012.blogspot.com

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  22. Excellent instructions and example, Mrs. M.! And along the "once you've got a great pair of jeans" line, I used to work with someone who had her jeans drycleaned so they wouldn't fade or shrink. We didn't work together very long so I don't know how they held up. I wonder now how hard repeated drycleaning would have been on the fabric.

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    1. That sounds rather dreadful ... I only wash my jeans when absolutely necessary. I think it helps them last longer. :) I only wish my jeans would shrink, and stay shrunken. Usually they stretch out more than I'd like them to.

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  23. You are so clever. I can barely sew a button on and have it stay for any length of time. :) Shopping for clothes is not my thing -- especially pants. They never seem to fit right -- usually too big or too small. I must be an in between size -- or they just don't make clothes like they used to. Have a great day. Tammy

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    1. Amen to that! I'm an "in-between" size too. :)

      Thanks Tammy!

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  24. That's a clever method for dealing with inner thigh rub. An old and favorite pair of mine, about 10 years old, have worn through on the inner thigh in several places and I keep putting off patching them (for now, I only wear them when I'm wearing cuddelduds underneath). I think the holes are too far from the seam, but if they're not I will be trying your idea.

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    1. Thanks Trena - coming from you it's a real compliment! :)

      I think this pair is about 10 years old too. I know it's possible to sew one's own jeans, but I haven't done that since college. I'd rather have someone else do all the work when it comes to rivets and jeans thread and the rest of it.

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