Choosing the right jeans
Most of the mending projects I share are pretty extreme examples of patching using sashiko inspired mending techniques combined with my own stitching style. The examples that I share are either my own jeans or those that I've found while shopping at thrift/secondhand shops and garage sales. When I feel a little giddy to find a pair of jeans with excellent natural tears, that's the one.
Why Such Extreme Examples:
1) For Craft. For me, I love handstitching, the more the merrier. In fact, I love it so much, I started a hand embroidery business (in 2012!).
2) For Sustainability. I want to show examples of ripped jeans that are worse than yours, to show that almost any jeans can (and should) be salvaged. Textile waste is a very real issue. To learn more, Slow Factory is a good place to start.
3) For Connection. Clothing holds memories. Each tear and wear is part of that story. And each mend makes it more.
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 cutting 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 style stitching. As I was stitching with the white thread, I realized that I really wanted to add more color to compliment the pink and gold in the silk patch. I added pink and gold vertical 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 silk is reinforced with denim patching underneath. When stitching through multiple thick layers like this, the key is a very sharp, thicker 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. Sigh. Sometimes this happens.
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. Mending is much easier when you can think (or patch) on the fly.
And with that, one side is finally finished.
Now for the left leg.
I wanted to bring the design of each side together, without it matching too much. 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, a washi tape roll was handy, in this case, and trace a circle. Stitch around the traced line. Then, after you've stitched the initial circle, you can stitch circles inside or outside, using that 1st 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 curved lines while stitching.
Big tip alert: pin your pockets away!
Can you see the safety pin in the pocket area? When you are mending the thigh area, especially with mens jeans and the enviable deep pockets, pull the pockets up and back, pinning completely out of the way.
The circles looked dainty, so I wanted to add stitching to this patch for balance.
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 1 afternoon. I usually have 5 or 6 pair of jeans in progress, and complete them over several 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 want to do all of the tracing work?
Great idea. What about a pair of stretchy jeans that are worn to holes? Is it worth such time consuming stitching if it’s easier to buy another cheap pair of jeans?!
For me it’s a dilemma. I understand if jeans are 100% cotton denim without stretch (like Levi).
Would like your opinion on it please.
Many thanks for your kind reply
Do you just leave raw edges on your patches or hem around edge?
Where can I get kimono scraps? Do you stock them?
Hello Erin! I became familiar with your products on Pinterest. My daughter ordered several mending transfers for me as a gift. I’m having so much fun with them.
I know you are new to Portland. Are you planning on having your items for sale in a store? May I suggest a store in Hillsboro called The Artful Garden. One of my friends sews for them and works there. I think it would be a good fit. Of course Acorns and Threads is a go to for many people. See what you think.