Repairing a pair of jeans using a Japanese method of visible mending
#Mending clothing is an essential part of the slow fashion movement. It has been around since family members owned one workday outfit and possibly Sunday finery. But it has taken on a new focus as people look into their own closets to slow down their fashion consumption. There are many books, websites, and social media accounts providing how-tos and inspiration for learning or improving mending skills.
Meant To Be Seen - Visible Mending
Traditional or "blind mending" is an invisible art, the less it is seen the better. Visible mending, becoming more popular today, adds stitches and fiber that are meant to be seen and express one's interest or artistic flair. A crafter may add embroidery to hide holes and create aesthetically beautiful stitching. The stitching not only holds the fabric together but creates a pattern that makes the repair visible and sturdy. Whatever technique is employed, visible mending is going mainstream and adds an important tool to repair garments that are well-loved but in need of a bit of care to shine again.
I have gathered a couple of mending books recently to try my hand at some traditional and fun mending.
The book Joyful Mending seeks to elevate the joy, not only of being more sustainable but also of your mending experiences to create one-of-a-kind pieces.
And, for a more hands-on local approach in the Monadnock Region Harrisville Design offers courses periodically on Visible Mending. These are just three resources, a quick online search will provide many local and virtual options to choose from.
“When you change the way to you look at things - the things you look at change.” Wayne Dryer
Repairing a Pair of Jeans - Sashiko Style
It seems the easiest place to start practicing visible mending skills is the Japanese method of visual repair, Sashiko. Both the books mentioned above discuss this method and let the reader know the word translates to little stabs. Looking at the final product the name is apt.
I decided to use a pair of my husband's jeans to test out the method. I figured he might not even notice or comment on the repair. I grabbed a pair with a worn knee, some rag denim from my craft bag leftovers, and gathered tools. (I save old garments and fabrics remnants to be reused for just this purpose. The denim patch was made from the remains of cutoff jeans. If you aren't doing this it is a great way to have what you need to make repairs on hand. If the bag gets too full - see what you might be able to compost to get the pile manageable. Just make sure to remove buttons, zippers, and tags and only compost 100% natural materials.)
Steps I used to repair my husband's jeans.
0. Collect and inspect the garment to be repaired. Cut off large pieces of frayed denim.
Cut a patch from spare denim material to cover the hole + any area that is worn and likely to tear soon. My patch was much larger than the opening at the knee.
Stitch around the patch to stop from edges fraying. I did this with a sewing machine - but it can be done by hand with a simple zigzag stitch, a sewing needle and thread. If you prefer not to stitch apply "fray stop" or "fray check liquid" (made by many manufacturers and sold at fabric and craft stores) along all the edges of the patch.
Pin the patch on the inside of the jeans leg. I decided I wanted the stitching to be the focal point and the patch to sit inside the jeans. (Note: The patch could have been placed on the top of the hole - stitching would have had to go all around the patch itself to keep it down. This seemed like more work to me so I opted for the easier approach.)
Choose the yarn for the project. Get a darning needle or large-eyed sharp-pointed needle that can accommodate the chosen yarn. Note: I used an acrylic yarn I had for this project. (I used this yarn because I owned it and needed to use it. Traditionally this repair would be made with light-colored cotton yarn.)
Begin stitching the jeans. I used a pair of small needle-nose pliers at times to pull the needle through the double layers of denim. The patch denim was very thick and I found this method easier but slower than traditional stitching as I could not perform multiple stitching at one time. Sashiko is typically shown doing multiple stitches being performed at one time.
Make sure to just use the pliers to get the needle through the fabric but pull the yarn through carefully by hand. If the yarn is thick it can bunch up and fray. You will need to pull on it so it doesn't get tangled while moving it through the fabric. Books and websites also suggest the use of beeswax to aid in the yarn's smooth movement. I didn't need to use beeswax but with a finer yarn, I am sure I might.
Keep stitching from the top to the bottom of the patch to ensure it is securely attached to the jeans in the back. Tie off with a small knot when completed. This took me about 30 minutes from start to finish including gathering the supplies and taking images. If I had wanted to be more careful or creative in my stitching it would have taken a bit longer to decide upon patterns and change yarn if needed.
Admire your handy work!
Note: Ensure you are flattening out the fabric as you stitch. You want the stitches snug but not pulling the fabric. I kept putting the pant's leg on the floor to flatten out the fabric and ensure the stitches were not pulling. The use of an embroidery frame can also secure the fabric to keep it stretched. I could not do this with a pant leg or it would have required a smaller frame than I own.
This mending method is easy to do and allows you to create straight or off-angle stitching. I like the imperfect nature of the stitching and created some at an angle with intent. It is fun and easy for beginners to advanced craftspeople. As you practice this method changing yarn color and creating patterns can add more flair and demonstrate your artistic eye.