Patch It

If you’re a woman above the age of puberty, one of the most soul destroying activities you can engage in is shopping for new jeans. You’re usually helped by another woman who has inexplicably managed to find a pair of jeans that fit her perfectly – probably because she works there and tries on every piece of new stock the second it arrives – who tells blatant lies such as “those look great on you” when you’ve got saggy bits at the back, bulging bits at the front, and camel toe that makes you question your future reproductive health.

Jeans with a ripIn light of the excitement that is jeans shopping, when my favourite pair of jeans developed an epic hole there was a bit of depressed whimpering. I tried to sew the rip closed, determined that they were still good, but it wasn’t going to work no matter how deeply steeped in denial I was. It was looking like the worst had come, and I was going to have to face the trauma that was jeans shopping.

Despair is a beautiful motivator, and as I was working on another sewing project I realised that I had a lot of small scraps that would normally go in the bin. I collected them all, set them aside and then, when I had a moment to concentrate, I looked at the scrap pieces and compared them to the hole in my jeans. One piece was a perfect fit.

Hole in jeans edged with zigzag stitch.I started the repair process by doing a zigzag stitch with my sewing machine around the edge of the hole. The zigzag stitch is great at locking in fraying threads and stopping that part from getting worse. It’s a simple way to make the fabric more stable without having the bulk of a hem. I don’t have a clue of this step is actually necessary when patching something, but I figured I could do all the sewing in less time than it would take me to turn on the modem to look it up online. I then did a zigzag stitch around the piece of fabric that I was planning to use for the patch, because it is necessary for that step.

Jeans with a patchOnce the jeans and the patch were ready, it was time to put them together. This was tricky because the patch is fairly narrow and the hole wasn’t in a straight line. I tried to pin all the way around in a single go, but the fabric was shifting and then I started stabbing myself. To get around both of those problems, I pinned and stitched along the bottom edge first because it was the easiest, straightest side. Once that was sewn on, I was then able to smooth the patch over the rest of the hole and make sure that everything lined up properly without odd ripples in the fabric.

When I triumphantly brandished my patched jeans at my family and asked for their opinion, my five year old immediately pointed out that I’ve sewn the patch on upside down. Sometimes I really hate it when my kids are right. The other observation was that the jeans are obviously patched and that this clearly isn’t in pursuit of a new fashion trend that I’m trying to set. To solve that problem I’m going to find a few other pieces of scrap fabric and sew them on in a random pattern, making sure I get parts where the denim is starting to look a bit delicate and also parts where the condition is fine.

Patching and mending clothes can seem a bit pointless, but from an environmental perspective it makes sense. Before trying to reduce our footprint I would have thrown these away and bought a new pair of jeans. I also would have thrown away the fabric that I used to patch them instead of finding another use for it. Clearly both of these will eventually end up in landfill when the jeans are past the point of patching, but if I can double the life of my jeans then I can significantly reduce my reliance on the fashion industry. That’s important, because the fashion industry currently uses an estimated 2% of our global carbon budget, and is projected to consume 26% by 2050 at the current rate of expansion, on top of all the other pollution it causes.

If you’re playing along at home…

… can you extend the life of your clothes with some creative patching? Please share in the comments below any other tips or tricks you have to extend the life of your clothing.