LET’S DO THIS! In this post I want to share my favorite and most used mending techniques and to start it all off: the needle turn appliquéd patch and running top stitch combo. This is such a fun way to mend so many things AND you can really add a lot of color and PIZAZZ (again, my favorite word)!
I use this technique to cover stains, patch small holes and areas where my denim garments are getting worn, on the cuffs of jeans, on the edge of a sleeve…so basically everywhere that isn’t a huge knee hole. Here are some examples:
The needle turn appliquéd fabric patch works best in areas that need some reenforcing but still need to be pretty flexible. For example in the picture above, I used two fabric patches to cover up some stains and a small hole. I didn’t want to use anything heavier because the bulk of something like a denim would have made sitting uncomfortable. On a worn elbow it works well and, my favorite, to reenforce the seat of your pants.
I put together a free ebook (available in the Creative Resources Library which you can download) all about appliqué but I will quickly go over the basic technique here.
In my last post I talked about picking out colors. I like to choose three and add white or a neutral. I think the bit of white always adds a lot of pop that makes mending more interesting and the other colors shine.
I start by cutting and arranging patches large enough to cover the hole or worn away areas that need patching. Generally, I make sure one or two larger patches cover the area well and add two or three smaller patches to either side (for embellishment) and stagger them. The reason I stagger them is so the fabric addition doesn’t add too much stiffness (which can cause more tears or make the garment too small if it is normally very stretchy).
If the area you are patching is very worn thin, it is important to attach your patches to the affected area but also to link this patching to a more stable area of fabric to strengthen the integrity of the mend and the garment. For example, when I am patching the seat of pants, I often open up the side of the pants pockets to sew my patches to the fabric under the pocket which is often as good as new.
To remove the side stitching on the pocket, I snip the pocket threads and pull them out with a knitting needle (but you can use any tool that will help you carefully pull out the stitching). I pull out the thread and keep it long so I can use the original thread to tie it off to keep it from unravelling. (When I sew the pocket back on, I tie off the thread on either end of my opening and then use a heavy weight thread to restitch the gap.)
Next, I keep everything tacked down by pinning my patches in place or using a basting stitch if I worry about being poked while I stitch. Starting with the bottom most patch, I finger press the top edge of my patch under about 1/4” and pin it back in place. Using sewing thread (not embroidery floss or sashiko thread) I use a whip stitch or invisible stitch to sew the top edge of my patch until 1/2” from the end of the first side. Then I tuck the next side under 1/4”, pin it in place and stitch around the corner and down the next side of my patch to 1/2” from the next side, repeating the same same steps until I have stitched all the way around the patch, tying it off securely at the end.
I continue sewing all of my patches on from the bottom up, stitching the patches sitting on the bottom, followed by the middle patches, before finally stitching the top patches.
If I have removed a pocket or side seem of my mend, I will stitch these back on before adding my top stitching.
To add strength to my patching I usually add backing fabric and top stitching to my mend. The backing fabric adds a lot of strength to a weak area and covers all of the appliqué stitching I did for my patches on the other side. It’s important what kind of fabric you use for the backing and to consider if your mend can handle extra fabric in this area. If you are mending a stretchy pair of jeans, make sure your backing fabric has some stretch or is loosely woven enough to give your garment the movement it needs to still be functional. I like to use a sturdy cotton fabric if my project allows but that means that the garment doesn’t need to stretch in that place to still fit. Your backing fabric doesn’t need to be gorgeous, just functional. For special projects (like my collab with Jay Mac) I will use a special fabric but remember, this fabric won’t be seen.
For the top stitching a simple running stitch in an embroidery floss or sashiko stitch is all you need. You can get creative and add fancy stitching but a simple stitch will add just as much strength. To add stitching guide lines for a neater look, I like to use a clear plastic quilting ruler and a washable fabric pen. I use the side of the pocket or edge of my pant leg to square up my ruler and draw a line across the area I want to stitch every 1/4”. You can add stitched lines free hand, I love the way this looks as well but it will add a bit of wonk so just decide what kind of look you are going for and go for it.
You can add the lines to the inside if your mend if your patches are too dark to see lines from the outside. Just remember that the longer side of the stitches should be seen from the outside and will be under your work when stitching from the back. To keep your backing fabric in place while you stitch you can pin the edges with safety pins.
Using sashiko thread or embroidery floss I tie a simple knot and begin stitching along my drawn lines with a simple running stitch, trying my hardest to make my stitches as even as possible as these stitches will be the most prominent stitching. When I get to the end of each line, I tie off my thread and start anew for each line.
Up next: Putting the ‘fancy’ on your pants.