Repairing Denim Worn Paper-Thin: Using Visible Mending to Fix Your Jeans

clothing repair diy how to mending sashiko tutorial upcycle visible mending

Paper Thin Denim Visible Mending

The Problem

There comes a time in every well-worn pair of jeans life (especially if there is lycra involved) when the fronts of the thighs begin to wear past the comfy stage, and into the paper-thin-afraid-to-wear-out-of-the-house-for-fear-of-tearing-wide-open stage. 

While, it's best to repair before this happens, but we are all only human, right? They are still fixable! 

Denim Repair with Sashiko Style Mending wrenbirdarts

The Plan

Add a layer of fabric to the underside of the front thigh, to strengthen the worn thin area. I used a cotton scrap from my hankie business, but this is a great way to incorporate scraps of other well loved clothing beyond repair, like an old sundress, or shirt--anything that isn't too stretchy. I also added a denim circle to the knee area, to bring a circular pattern to this leg, in a different way, but it also adds a little extra strength to the knee. 

Denim Repair wrenbird

Materials and Prep

Mending Materials for Denim Repair

This is everything that I used to repair these jeans. No adhesives, or sewing machines necessary. 

Needles-I used a shorter, Clover, thick sashiko needle. It is substantial in thickness to easily move through the layers of fabric. A sharp point is key here. 

Pins-Straight pins are necessary, to pin the patch securely in place, while you stitch everything together. Remove as you go. 

Wax-Beeswax is a great tool to have in your mending bag. Coat the thread with beeswax, and it helps to keep from tangling, and to ease the thread through multiple layers of fabric easier. 

Thread-I use secondhand thread for many of my mending projects. Here, I used crochet cotton. 

Scissors-any old scissors will work, but I prefer to use a small pair of snips.

Fabric-For lining the underside of the thread-bare jeans. Cotton works well for this, because it allows for a little stretch, but doesn't add much bulk to the jeans. Cut the patch so that it is an inch or 2 larger than the worn area on all sides.

The Repair Job

Patching denim layers

Pin all of the patches you'll be using for the mend in place. I lined up the cotton on the inside of the jeans, layering over some the stronger area too, to give the new fabric as much denim to hang onto, so it won't just rip through the weak areas like paper. 

Because I have a patch on the inside, and a patch on the outside, I opted to keep my stitching simple, and make smaller stitches close together to make sure the inside patch stays flush with the original denim. If the stitches are too large, it will cause the fabric to bunch up, and look and feel unfinished and bulky. When mended, if done correctly, you shouldn't be able to feel the repair while wearing the jeans. 

Pattern Transfer Methods

Pattern transfer methods for mending

 I decided to use simple, straight lines of stitching for this repair. There are several ways to create straight lines when mending. 

1. Use a ruler and water soluble pencil to draw the lines directly onto your jeans once you have pinned everything together. 

2. I created some mending patterns, printed on water soluble transfers that you can stick directly to the area to be mended, mend through the pre-printed stitch marks and then rinse off when finished. Quicker and simpler! You can buy them here.  

3. Follow the weave of the fabric, and freehand your stitches. This is the method I used to complete this project. 

Let's stitch!

Sashiko Style Repair

For this type of repair, I find small consecutive stitches worked in long lines, an attractive and effective way to secure the patch to the denim. 

Beginning at either the bottom (or top is fine too) corner, I stitched each row, from one side to the other, removing the pins after securing with stitches. 

Sashiko Style mending wrenbird

At this point, the patches are fixed in place, but because of the size of the patch, I wanted to add more stitches to really cinch the layers together. I also wanted to add a little more contrast, and texture for a more cohesive look. In the same sashiko-style method of stitching, I added horizontal stitches, beginning at the top corner, I stitched row by row, until finishing at the bottom corner. 

Visible Mending Sashiko

I took this picture the next morning, so the color is much more vivid in the natural light. 

Here is a picture of the inside of the jeans. 

Patching inside of jeans

After all is said and done, this mend is strong, and will last for years. And you can wear your jeans out without fear of them tearing off of your body!

Visible mending for jeans

If you loved this, I have lots of mending tutorials over on my blog.

And some video tutorials too! Click here for more info. 

 Sashiko Style Denim Repair


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  • dac luu on

    Very informative

  • Emma on

    Hi Erin! I have just stumbled across your wonderful site! I have several pairs of stretch jeans that have ripped knees. I would really love to mend them all with visible mending, but am a bit confused about what sort of fabric to use. Some sources say for stretch jeans you need to use stretch fabric, and others don’t.
    What would you recommend?
    Many thanks!

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