Choosing the right jeans
Most of the mending projects I share are pretty extreme examples of patching using sashiko inspired mending techniques. The examples that I share are jeans that I've found while shopping at thrift/secondhand shops and garage sales, where I am wildly excited to find a pair of jeans with excellent natural tears.
I do this for a few reasons:
1) I love handstitching, the more the merrier. In fact, I love it so much, I built a business around it. I started wrenbirdarts in 2012, and it's still going strong.
2) I want to show examples of ripped jeans that are worse than yours, to show that almost any jeans can (and should) be salvaged.
3) If you aren't a DIY-er yourself, and send them to me for repair, I want you to rest assured knowing your favorite jeans are in capable hands.
This is a pair of Levi's 569 32 X 30, and was a plan as I stitched kind of mend. The legs are so wide, I wanted to give them more of a feminine feel.
Prepping the denim
Before I start any denim mend, I cut off all of the excess strings and fluff, leaving a clean denim edge. This often makes the rips appear much larger, so make sure not to cut your patches until you have cut away all of the damaged denim.
After I've cut off all of the excess, I cut patches 1/2"- 3/4" larger than the hole you are repairing. Then, secure the patch by pinning all the way around the hole.
Starting with the left side (or right leg), I attached the denim patches and the silk with simple vertical sashiko stitching. As I was stitching with the white thread, I realized that I really wanted to add more color, that complimented the pink and gold in the silk patch. I added pink and gold vertical sashiko stitches alongside the initials white stitching.
This was a thick pair of jeans to begin with, and I used equally thick donor denim to patch. The is reinforced with denim patching underneath. When stitching through multiple thick layers like this, the key is a very sharp, substantial, long sashiko needle, and beeswax! The beeswax coats the thread, and helps it to move through the fabric.
And after about 50 lines of stitches to secure the patching on these heavy weight jeans, I noticed a new tear forming where I hadn't noticed the denim had worn down.
This mended area looked like a cloud to me. I decided to cut a circular shape to patch over the top of that weak spot, reminiscent of a moon.
Pretty painless fix, huh.
And with that, one side is finally finished.
Now for the left leg
I wanted to bring the 2 sides together, without them being too matching. I opted to patch the main tear with some circular stitching. The key to circles is to make them one or 2 at a time. Use a circular stencil, washi tape in this case, and trace a circle. Then after you've stitched the initial circle, you can stitch inside and outside, using that circle as a guide. I like to start with the outer ring of the circle, and then stitch my way inward.
Stitching one at a time, and adjusting pins as needed, check to make sure the fabric is flat, because circles can look sloppy if the fabric bunches.
When you are stitching in circles, it's helpful to use a shorter sashiko needle. It will help to maneuver the circular stitching.
Big tip: pin your pockets
Notice the safety pin in the pocket area? When you are mending the thigh area, especially with mens jeans and the enviable deep pockets.
The circles look dainty, so I wanted to add a thicker mend for the final patching.
Mending Is Complete!
Lots of stitching went into these jeans, over 20 hours of stitching time.
For me, it's not about the time, but I also don't want to give you the idea that something like this can be finished in an afternoon. I usually have 5 or 6 pair of jeans in progress, and complete them over a month's time.
If this made you itch to work on your own pair of jeans, you can find the tools that I use here, including the beeswax!
Want more examples?
Love the look, but don't wanna do all of the tracing work?