Jeans have come a long way since their utilitarian, workwear beginnings. Most jeans now seem to be so thin and flimsy that the skill of patching jeans is very much needed.
You can mend holes in your jeans in lots of different ways. Today I’d like to just share one technique for patching jeans.
You don’t need a sewing machine, and it only requires the most basic of hand-sewing skills to learn how to sew a hole in your jeans.
If you can work a simple running stitch, then you can patch your jeans.
If you can’t work a simple running stitch, then it’s time you learned. I promise it’s not hard.
This way of patching jeans borrows from the Japanese technique of boro. (See what I did there? Borrow, boro. Hilarious.)
The word ‘boro’ literally translates as ‘tatters’.
It’s a traditional Japanese way of mending fabric over and over, layering damaged textiles to create new, patched fabrics.
Boro textiles are formed from layers of fabrics joined using rows of simple running stitches.
The hundreds of stitches stabilise the fabrics, blending patches of different textiles together to form one new piece.
Like other forms of patchwork from around the world, boro was born of necessity.
Fabric was a valuable commodity, requiring a lot of time and resources to produce. It made sense to take great care of it, mending it over and over to extend its life.
Clothing and household textiles were patched, again and again, creating a thick, insulated, patchwork fabric. Kimonos became sleepwear and quilts, or futon covers.
Eventually, those same fabrics would find themselves in use as cleaning cloths.
Now that we can pick up a pair of jeans for £10 in Primark, we’ve fallen out of the habit of repairing our clothes. We’ve fallen out of the habit of valuing the work and resources that go into our clothing.
It’s easy to dump damaged clothing in the fabric recycling bin, knowing that it can be cheaply replaced.
Maybe that doesn’t sit so well with you anymore.
Cheap clothes are often made by poorly-paid workers, and they come at a cost to the environment which we can no longer afford to ignore. Whether you approach it from the human angle or the climate change angle, it’s clear that we need to change our attitude towards fast, disposable fashion.
Patching jeans is a useful skill to learn.
It lets you keep your jeans out of landfill for a little bit longer.
It’s also an awesome way of developing your sewing skills.
This boro-style patching technique is so easy that a child could do it. It doesn’t require any special equipment.
Even if you’ve literally never sewn a stitch before, you can do this. And you’ll be much better at running stitch by the end of the project than you were at the start.
So, are you willing to give it a go?
Even if you’re not convinced you’ll want to wear the finished result out in public, at least give it a go and make those gardening or DIY jeans last a little longer.
Supplies For Patching Jeans.
- A ripped pair of jeans.
Holes in the knees or other straight parts of the leg are easiest to fix on your first few attempts.
- Some fabric to cut a patch from.
You can use old jeans if you like and cut a denim patch. I suggest keeping one ‘donor’ pair and cutting patches from them to repair other jeans.
Lately, I’ve been using softer fabric from old t-shirts or sweatshirts. I find this easier to sew through, especially when you get to a stage of adding patches over patches.
- A sewing needle.
Any kind will do. It just needs an eye big enough to take the thread you plan to use, and a point sharp enough to go through your jeans and patching fabric easily.
These are the needles I use most often for this kind of work. They’re Japanese sashiko needles, so they have large eyes and sharp points. They’re also nice and long, so you can load up several stitches at once before pulling the thread through.
Again, you can use anything.
I like stranded embroidery floss like this and normally use three strands together.
Sashiko thread is another option, not always as easy to get hold of, but less likely to split and tangle.
If you don’t want to buy special supplies, then a doubled length of normal sewing thread works perfectly well. My go-to for a general-purpose thread is Guterman Sew-All.
- Pins (optional).
It can be helpful to have something to hold the patch in place. A couple of pins or safety pins will do this nicely.
You can also just hold it in place with your non-sewing hand.
You need to be able to cut the patching fabric, and also your sewing thread.
I have these for snipping thread and often use them for cutting patches as well, since I’m too lazy to go and get my proper scissors.
How To Patch Jeans.
Patching jeans using a boro style of mending is easy, and it’s a very forgiving form of repair. You don’t need perfect sewing skills.
You’re aiming for a functional, utilitarian patch.
You’ll be doing a lot of running stitch, so you’re bound to get better at it by the end of the patch. It doesn’t have to look perfect though.
Before you start, decide whether you want to patch on the inside or the outside.
This just comes down to preference.
If you patch on the inside, then the outside of your jeans will show the hole or ripped area, with the patching fabric peeking through, and a lot of stitching over the whole area.
If you patch on the outside, you won’t see the hole at all, just the whole patch, again, covered in a lot of stitching.
I usually patch on the inside, and that’s what I’ll be showing you today. The method is exactly the same whichever way you choose to do it.
Now let’s get onto the actual process of patching jeans.
1. Examine the damaged area.
Look to see if it’s just a straightforward hole, or whether the fabric around the hole is thinning or damaged.
It makes sense to repair the whole area, otherwise you’ll find yourself mending again sooner than you’d like.
You can see from these pictures that I don’t always follow my own advice!
I should definitely have taken the time to patch a larger area on these jeans when the holes first appeared a month or so ago.
Instead, I patched only the actual holes, and here I am again, putting patches over patches. That’s the beauty of boro though, you can just layer one patch over another, repairing things and extending their useful life.
2. Cut a patch big enough to cover the damage.
When you cut patches for jeans, make the patch a little bigger all around, so that you’re securing it into solid fabric, not just sewing into the damaged area.
I usually cut a square or rectangular patch. It doesn’t much matter, make your patches whatever shape you like.
3. Thread your needle and tie a knot in the end.
Cut thread about the length of your outstretched arms.
This is longer than you might usually use for sewing, simply because you’ll be taking so many stitches, and you don’t want to have to keep stopping to cut new thread.
Thread the needle and tie a knot at the end of your thread.
4. Position the patch over the hole ready to sew.
Make sure the patch is centred over the damaged area.
Bring the needle through from the back of the fabric (you want the knot to be on the inside of the jeans).
In these pictures, I’m putting the patches on the inside of the jeans, so you’ll see my knot on the same side as the stitching. If you’re patching on the outside, then you’ll probably want to hide the knot inside.
5. Make a row of running stitch, parallel with one edge of the patch.
Running stitch is the most basic hand-sewing stitch.
You’re just putting the needle down through the fabric and bringing it back up again a little way along.
Try to make your stitches all around the same length, but don’t worry too much if they’re not perfect. Even if you’re a complete beginner, your running stitch will have improved by the time you finish this patch.
If you need a more detailed explanation, then here’s a quick video for you to check out.
6. Turn your work and work back the other way.
That’s it really. Make a little stitch upwards at the end, bringing the needle into the right position for starting another row of running stitch.
This next row should be parallel with the first, and fairly close to it. (My rows are around 0.5 cm apart here).
7. Keep going until the whole patch is covered in stitches.
Back and forth, back and forth.
Lots and lots of rows of running stitch covering the whole of the new patch.
There’s no need to worry too much about holding the edges of the hole closed, just concentrate on keeping the rows of stitching as even as you can.
Take care not to stitch too tightly, otherwise, you’ll end up with a bunched-up patch like this:
To avoid this, take the time to stretch the fabric gently every so often, spreading the stitches out so that everything lies flat again.
8. Fasten off and trim thread.
Finish with your needle on the inside of your jeans.
Take a couple of stitches on top of one another, and then pull the thread through to form a knot.
Trim the thread.
Other Uses For Boro-Style Mending.
Once you’re a pro at patching jeans in this way, you’ll be able to use the same skills to mend all kinds of other things.
My work-in-progress at the moment is a cloth shopping bag that’s been a favourite in our house for more than ten years.
It’s sprung a lot of little holes lately, and I’m gradually working on patching them all.
I also use this boro technique to mend our dog’s blankets, and extend their life just a little – but that’s a real labour of love since he seems to shred them faster than I can repair them sometimes!
I love the way textiles look when they’ve been patched over and over.
If you feel the same, then there’s no limit to the number of things you can repair in this way.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, the simple running stitch and basic tools make boro stitching an almost meditative practice. It’s the kind of work that’s perfect for quieting an overactive brain, or for keeping your hands busy while you watch television.
What next? Why not take a look at my post on other creative ways to mend your jeans?