Friday, February 01, 2008

Thrift is Better than an Annuity

I found out about Wardrobe Refashion 2008 from Mel at Pipe Dreams and Purling Plans. It's a simple idea for reducing my consumerism and environmental impact: recycle, renovate, repair and create my wardrobe this year, without buying new clothes.

I will be spending today on the mending/finishing basket. One day won't cut it.......uh, especially if I stop to blog about it......but at least it's a start. And, if you've ever wondered how exactly you're supposed to patch a pair of jeans, wonder no longer.

You'll need medium or heavyweight fusible interfacing, scrap fabric (preferably the same fibre content as your garment, and pre-shrunk), an iron, pins or Stitch Witchery (fusible adhesive webbing), a sharp needle and thread. Once you have these things around, by the way, you won't need to buy them for a long time. Just get a half meter of both interfacing and quilting cotton - it'll last you quite a while and only cost a few dollars. If you prefer a heavier fabric, such as denim, you can skip the interfacing stage altogether. You can also cut patches out of worn out clothing - choose the less-worn bits, of course.

Fusible interfacing and quilting cotton.

Step One - Create a Patch.

Fuse a section of interfacing onto the back of the fabric, making sure it's on-grain, if you're using a woven interfacing.

Cut out your desired shape from the now-interfaced fabric (I used a sheep cookie cutter and an extra-fine Sharpie).

You can use any shape, keeping in mind that one with lots of points, such as a star, will start to show wear around the edges very quickly.

Now you have a patch - or, I suppose, you could always buy one from a fabric store. But it won't be nearly as interesting or satisfying, I'd wager.

Step Two - Baste the Patch.

You need to hold your patch in place while you sew it on. There are two ways to do this: you can use pins (and caution while sewing) or you can use fusible webbing. My mum calls this stuff "Stitch Witchery", which I think was a brand name back in the day. It comes in a roll from which you can snip off bits of the length you need.

Position the patch where you'd like it, with the Stitch Witchery underneath, completely covered by the patch - you don't want this stuff stuck to the soleplate of your iron.

Fusible web on the bottom - patch on the top.

Press, without steam and for a fairly long time. Use the appropriate setting for the fabric you're patching. The heat has to get right through the double-thickness of the patch, so test it by lifting up on the patch a little bit to see whether it's fused. It doesn't have to be solid as a rock - you're just trying to keep the thing in place while you hand-stitch it.

Fusing the patch to the jeans.

Or you could do it the old-fashioned way.

Step Three - Sew the Patch.

Hand-sewing is getting to be a lost art, as everyone knows. If you're not in the habit of mending, darning, reattaching buttons, and so on, you might have to practice a bit before you really get the hang of it.

For today's patches I used blanket stitch. I like the look of it on this patch fabric.

Working from LEFT to RIGHT, (though I hold my fabric so as to make it TOP to BOTTOM) bring needle out at point A (outer edge). Insert at point B (adjusting spacing as desired - I spaced mine about a millimeter apart), then with thread below the needle, come out at point C directly below. Repeat, noting that point C now becomes point A for the following stitch. Make sure your spaces are even - unless you want them uneven.

Taking the stitch - note thread is below needle tip (also note I did this one right to left - don't let it bring you down).

Drawing the loop smaller.

Pulling the thread tight, ready to take another stitch.

Here are a pair of finished patches on Charlotte's favourite jeans. These hearts had to be a bit on the big side, which brings me to my final note: Patch 'em as soon as they need it. Apparently it's true that a stitch in time saves nine.


Annalea said...

One thing I've also noticed about patching . . . at least with my very active boys . . . is that the more white denim there is around the patch, the sooner it tears out along the sides of the patch. I go for really big patches for the boys, and smaller ones for the girls.

Thanks so much for the tutorial. I didn't know about the interfacing trick. :o)

kate said...

Love this, love the patches. thanks for showing the steps!

lizbon said...

I love the heart-shaped patches.

Unfortunately, my jeans always tend to wear out in the crotch.

Shan said...

Annalea: I was thinking as I made that little sheep, "This isn't going to last long." The denim around the edges is already so thin and soft.

But it'll hang on for at least a few months more - which, since I bought these two years ago for $12 at a consignment store, is just fine with me! Once the patches give out, it'll be cutoff time. The good bits of the legs will be cut into patches....the circle of life continues...

Lizbon: yeah, the crotch is a bit more awkward to patch. I actually noticed I need to patch the inner thigh of the OTHER leg, too...didn't think pictures would be appreciated, though.
; )

Kris said...

I recently purchased some of the ugly iron on patches and put them on the inside of Caleb's jeans. There is one type that is soft and not so scratchy.

Hopefully this helps with avoiding complete blow outs on his jeans. The knees on most of his pants are nearly white and are tissue thin.

These will not be great hand me downs.

Stace' said...


My eldest is BUYING jeans WITH holes already ripped in. Go figure!

Gwen said...

Oh, a sheep! I thought it was a buffalo. But now I see it is distinctly sheepish.

stitchin' girl said...

You have inspired me to get to the mendin' pile! Thanks for the tutorial - it has been so-o very long since I have actually hand sewn something, I am not sure I would have known where to start!

Tabatha said...

You are so thrifty!

Shan said...

Tabatha, a girl who spends $240 she can't really spare on a knitting kit from Scotland needs to compensate in other ways.

Bev said...

You should get "WonderUnder" fusible web. It has paper backing on both sides. You fuse your uncut patch to a square, then cut it out. You then peel off the back and fuse to your pants. This stuff comes in a variety of weights and will give your patch much more stablity and make the decorative stitching easier-- or completely unnecessary. You could also finish the edges with glitter paint. There are loads of options better than fiddling with little strips of stitch witchery! Have fun, Bev

mel said...

Awesome. I love it - thank you so much for the detail, esp on the blanket stitch, it always confuses me. This was nostalgic too, stitch witchery saved my ass many a time in my old sewing days, I have a feeling it's going to be a staple again ;)