It's such a bummer when your favourite jeans finally succumb to the fate of all pants and rip through the seat. Or the pocket. Or worst of all, the crotch! That bummer becomes a full-on tragedy when they are your favourite pair of handmade jeans. The horror! The hours of work! The perfect fit! Fear not, fearless jeans sewists. We got you. After our inspiring interview with master denim repair master Indigo Proof, we have a tutorial for you today that walks you through how to repair jeans with (nearly) invisible mending. Hopefully by the time you're done, you can get some extra life out of those babies (if you prefer more organic repair, check out our post on visible mending with patches and sashiko!)
The example we are using is one of Heather's first pairs of Ginger Jeans, so you can imagine these have seen quite a few years of wear. And in this case, in two spots, right at the inner thigh.
You will need:
If you have a darning or embroidery foot (similar to the one used for free motion quilting) now is the time to get it out! Using a darning foot makes it easier to see what you're doing, but in a pinch, you can try using a straight stitch foot as well. You will need to be able to disengage the feed dogs on your machine (call off the dogs!) so that you can move your mending both back and forth under the needle. The interfacing helps stabilize and reinforce the weakened area, and the multiple thread colours will let you match the original colour of the denim along with any fading. Generally speaking, warmer versions of the colour will be more difficult for the eye to see. These charcoal-grey jeans were actually more of a mushroom colour at the tear so make sure you check things out in good strong natural light to ensure you're getting a good match.
Denim has two directions: a vertical thread (warp) and a diagonal thread (weft). Since you are usually mending a horizontal tear you want to first work in the warp threads and then weave in some diagonal threads to finish. If this is a new concept for you, hold your repair up to the light so you can see which threads are missing and this will help you wrap your head around the task at hand. It also will inform how big you want to make your interfacing patch as you want to extend your mending at least as far as the thinning of the fabric. Otherwise you will be chasing your tear sooner rather than later.
Now it's time to cut your interfacing. As I said before, you want to make sure the piece is big enough that you can extend your stitching out past the hole.
Iron it on using a high-heat iron and no steam. Press for at least 20 seconds. I used a tailor's ham for the seat mend since it had some curve to it.
RESTITCH THE WARP THREADS
Load your bobbin with a mid-range colour and the top with the "middle" colour of your denim; from here on out you really only need to change your top thread. Take a little time to try some stitching on a scrap piece and get yourself acquainted with the free-form back-and-forth stitching. Stitch up and down (the warp) from left to right using the grainline as your guide. You want to avoid moving too much diagonally at this stage. Imagine you are replacing the missing/broken threads and make sure you extend well above and below your hole to blend things as much as possible.
If there are any "runs" in your repair area (the white lines) you can stitch along these essentially replacing the missing thread which goes a long way to making the mending even more invisible.
Every now and then take your work to a window and see how things are going. If you're repairing stretch denim, you'll notice the stitching can distort the fabric since you are essentially making stretch denim into non-stretch with your stitching. It is really easy to get carried away and this method requires a less is more approach. It is also REALLY annoying to pick this work out (if not impossible) so it's better to stop and see if you need more than regret it after.
RESTITCH THE WEFT THREADS
Once you're satisfied with your first layer you can choose a darker or lighter shade to work in the diagonal. Lay a strand or two over the work to get a sense of the effect.
A note for tears on or near a seam: try overlapping your stitching onto the seam without touching the topstitching. If there is wear along the seam, you may end up creating a new hole once you're done. If the tear is very bad, open up the seam, darn the area and then re-sew the seam and replace the topstitching. In this case, I just ran right up to the top stitching; hopefully that will go a long way to reinforcing the seam.
After I worked in the slightly darker colour on the diagonal I gave this a good press with some steam which helps to integrate the threads and also snap back the stretch denim that had started to pucker. Do this periodically while you're working (especially with stretch) to get an idea of how things will settle.
While not totally invisible (we can't all be sorcerers like @indigoproof) I would say this is fairly unnoticeable, and I can already see how I would get better at it with practice. Luckily there are always more holes to mend and more opportunities to play around with patching them up! Have fun trying your hand at this and make sure to tag us with your magical fixes so we can see what you wizards manage to conjure. Abracadabra, and happy mending!