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Patching jeans

I don't make jeans, mostly because the ones I buy seem to suit me just fine. Whether that's true or just my impression - I do not know. But the desire for me to make jeans is just not there.

I have this one pair of Levi's that has a special "feature": they are threadbare in places for an interesting effect. Unfortunately, one of these places was close to the knee, and due to wear a tear appeared. Then, one day, while getting dressed, I managed to put my big toe through the tear and pull - a huge slit appeared :(

I thought I should fix them, and this is a post on how to mend a tear and add a patch to jeans.

Materials needed

  • seam ripper
  • patch of muslin
  • patch of outside fabric [should be sturdy]
  • needle and thread
  • sewing machine
  • pins
  • strip of silk organza [optional]
  • topstitching thread [optional]

Prepare the jeans

Unless the tear is somewhere accessible, you will probably have to unpick the seam. Jeans have two seams - one is flat felled (usually the inside of the leg), the other is stitched and zigzagged. You want to unpick the zig zagged one, because fixing the flat felled seam at the end will be much harder!

Unpick as much as you need in order to get the tear under the machine foot.

Select mending stitch

There will be a setting on your machine for mending tears. Mine looks like the one on top, but you can also use a simple zig zag:

Prepare backing fabric

You will need some backing fabric for strengthening the tear. I used two layers, a layer of silk organza on the inside and one of muslin on the outside. I used the silk organza because it's a sturdy fabric, which is tightly woven, but this isn't necessary. Just the muslin will work as well.

If using organza, sandwich the organza between the tear and the muslin.

Mend the tear using your machine

Use the stitch selected above to mend the tear. You want to see the tear as you're doing this, so keep the jean side up.

Baste around the edges of the muslin

You will need to baste around the edges of the muslin, while at the same time tucking in the raw edges. After basting, take it to the sewing machine and stitch along the baste stitches using a straight stitch.

After I finished basting I also noticed a bit of the original "threadbare" feature which I thought should be fixed, so I applied the same treatment:

Don't forget to machine-sew the basting to the jeans, otherwise it won't hold properly!

Prepare and stitch your outside patch fabric

I used some leather scraps I had lying around for this, but anything sturdy will do. I can imagine jean material, twill, heavy-weight cotton. Any faux-leather will work as well.

My tear was quite big so I needed a bigish patch - to get it to look the same, I folded the leather into 2, then folded that again, and then I cut along a quarter of the fabric - this way, all 4 quarters had the same shape.

Take your outside patch to the sewing machine and sew. Since this is visible, I would recommend topstitch thread and a longer stitch length so it looks pretty: I used a 3, whereas I normally sew with a 2.

If you are using a fabric that frays, you will want to either use fray check or turn the edges in before sewing.

If you are using a fabric that doesn't fray, you can trim the edges close to the stitch line after sewing:

Close the jeans opening

Because you had a stitch line before, you want to closely follow it when stitching the jeans shut. If you don't do that, you risk your jeans not fitting (if you stitch outside the line), or the darker material peeking out (if you stitch inside the line).

I pinned the stitch line down and then sewed the jeans shut. Then, I zig zagged the raw edges, because jeans fray like mad. Overlocking is better, but I don't have an overlocker, so a zig zag was just fine.

Enjoy your new patched jeans!

Grainy photos due to London winter. I'll try to get some better quality pics today :)


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