The first place we all start with any mending project is obviously with what needs mending. A hole in our pants, a worn away elbow, a stain—every project starts here. While the number of things that could be mended are endless, I want to kick off this Studio Journal series with my ideas for mending pants and other denim garments items like shirts.
All of the ideas in this series are from my own mending projects for our family as well as those that I have done for people who have wanted custom mending jobs. These aren’t the only ways to mend pants, just the ways I have found that work best for me and what I have discovered along my mending way.
First up, I want to talk about supplies. In my denim repair kit I have a few things: standard sewing needles, heavy duty sashiko needles, sewing thread, sashiko thread, embroidery floss (in every color, almost literally, it’s a long story…), tapestry thread, seam rippers, short pointy scissors, fabric scissors, pinking sheers, straight pins, quilting safety pins, and…ok, I have too many things in my mending kit. Here is what I think it are the basics:
Some extras that I find super handy are U snips, needle grippers (thimble style and circular), fabric marking pens, tailor’s chalk, a clear ruler, and safety pins.
Then there is the issue of what material to mend with. I think this depends heavily on what kind of mend you are doing and where it is. For example, if I am mending a pair of pants that have some wear near the front pockets I normally will choose to reenforce this area with cotton fabric and thread. That’s because this is an area that wears through slowly but needs to be comfortable when I sit so adding a lot of extra denim or other heavy fabric will make sitting uncomfortable. This is also an area that needs to be flexible for standing and sitting so again, a cotton fabric patch will work much better for me here.
If I am patching a worn through back pocket that’s usually carrying a wallet or a large knee hole, or anything else that will need a lot of strength, I will patch these with denim or canvas (depending on what the garment is made from) and add stitching and cotton fabric for reenforcement and pizazz (favorite word so be ready to hear a lot of it!).
In my mending arsenal, I keep five types of heavy wearing fabric, loads of sturdy hand dyed cotton fabric and specialty fabric for special projects and to add interest. For denim and canvas I have: heavy denim in blue and black (without elastic in the fiber blend), blue and black denim with elastic, and heavy cotton canvas. (It’s important to use a denim or canvas patch that matches the stretch of your original garment. If you are patching a knee hole with stretchy denim, you need to use a similarly stretchy denim so the patch moves like the rest of your garment.)
My hand dyed fabric stash is always changing but for mending projects, I make sure and use a sturdy cotton in a color that I have washed many times and am sure won’t bleed. (You don’t need to use hand dyed fabric, any sturdy cotton will do.)
Lastly, I have a stash of specialty mending fabric that I keep in my mending stash and use for accent to make a project a little extra special. My favorite ‘specialty’ fabric I use for mending is a roll of vintage hand printed, resist dyed indigo, heavy cotton fabric I found on a trip to Japan a few years back. It’s so special and I love it so much which just makes me love my mends that much more when I use my hand printed Japanese fabric.
Now that you know what’s in my mending tool kit, let’s talk for a moment about how to pick colors for your project. The heavy denim or canvas is going to be an easy one: pick a color that is closest to the color of your garment and use a similar fiber content (again: if you are mending something that is a denim with elastic, use a denim patch that also has elastic in it and vice versa for patching denim without elastic).
Next, to choose the color of your cotton accent patches and embroidery floss you have to pick something that goes well with the color of your garment. There isn’t a one size fits all solution so I suggest holding up a bunch of options next to your garment to be mended and try to find a combo that works well together.
Something to keep in mind: all blue denim is not the same color! It is really important to take the kind of blue your garment is into serious consideration when picking colors. Even if you LOVE a certain color scheme and you saw a pair of pants mended with these colors, they will look very different when paired with different blue denims. Also take into consideration any other color element present on your garment including contrast stitching or trim. Your patching should work well with these colors as well.
To see the color combos I have used in previous mending projects, click here.
Up next: basic mending techniques.