Ask CRAFT: Patching Sensitive Spots and Vintage Knits

Craft & Design Yarncraft

Jennifer writes:

I’ve noticed the wonderful jeans/pants mending tutorials you guys have posted this week. They’re useful and informative, but here’s my conundrum: My jeans always wear out in the, uhm, crotch area first. (One of the less-discussed perils of being a bit overweight is ones legs rubbing together) The jeans are always in great condition otherwise, but these holes make them unwearable. Any tips or techniques for making repairs before I recycle these jeans into purses and bags?

I’ve had crotch holes in jeans before, and it really stinks! I tried zigzagging over the tear with similar color thread, but ended up with an uncomfortable build up of thread that just hurt when I wore them. It’s a delicate operation for sure, but I’d say that now that I have plenty of other types of patching experience, that a reverse-applique technique with knit jersey is probably the best approach. Using thread that’s the same color as your denim, you can recycle an old blue t-shirt or buy some knit jersey from the fabric store. Use Goli’s reverse applique tutorial, and look at my “stylish stitches” jeans patching tutorial, and make a compromise between the two. You can hand stitch the patch to avoid an uncomfortable build up of thread. Take pictures and let us know how it works out!

Kristy writes:

Your mending theme has got me thinking about items I’ve been meaning to repair. Top on this list is a lovely hand knit skirt my father’s grandmother made as a teenager in the mid-1930’s. It is starting to develop holes, and I’m afraid that it will simply unravel if I wear it in this state. I can darn and patch with the best of them, but I was wondering if there is a better way to repair hand knit and hand crochet pieces? Can you splice in to repair the actual stitches somehow?

What I worry about with this skirt is that if it’s developing holes in multiple places, the delicate yarn must be disintegrating because it’s so old. To patch the holes, you can use a grafting stitch (also called a kitchener stitch) with a small tapestry needle to sew in the path the yarn should take. It’s essentially the same as a duplicate stitch, except you won’t be duplicating right inside the hole, you’ll be placing new yarn there. I would follow the path of the yarn all around the area of the hole including through the hole itself. In my research I also came across the term “Swiss Darning” for this technique. The larger problem still needs to be addressed, though. If I had such a skirt, I would definitely want to show it off, but wouldn’t want to damage it further by wearing it around town. Maybe you could sew a fabric lining to which you could carefully affix the skirt? If you sew the knitting to this fabric base in various places (down the sides, along the waistband and hem, for example), the knitting wouldn’t hang with as much weight, but rather rest on the strong fabric substrate, thereby alleviating strain on the fibers. I hope that helps! We definitely want to see pictures, so send ’em over or add them to the CRAFT Flickr pool.

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6 thoughts on “Ask CRAFT: Patching Sensitive Spots and Vintage Knits

  1. KYouell says:

    I’ve had to patch similar problems on my husband’s jeans, but his always seem to rip out right next to the flat-felled crotch seam. I’ve had great success using a zig-zag stitch to just darn the rip. Sometimes I add a fabric patch, sometimes it’s not necessary because the rip is so straight. Either way, it’s been successful if not pretty, but no one but me sees the stitching, right honey? ;-)
    My one tip to add is on jeans to use a thread slightly lighter than what seems to match exactly. Once you’ve done all that darning it will be built up a bit and seem darker.

  2. LauraJ says:

    My husband’s jeans always tore right at the crotch, next to the zipper. A bulky repair just would not work. You need to have one pair of jeans or some denim fabric available for the repair. You will have to take the jeans to be fixed and open up the entire inside leg seam. Then open up the flat felled seam towards the zipper. If the zipper is ok, try not to pick it’s stitches out, or you’ll have to re-sew it. You will need a heavy weight woven needle in your machine. Cut away the torn portion of the pants, but use it to make a pattern for the replacement piece. From the donor pants or fabric, cut the new piece, be sure to cut a little extra for seaming. Carefully sew the new pieces into place (be sure to finish the edges so your new patch doesn’t fray out), then re-sew the flat felled seam and finally sew the seams down the inside legs.
    If the zigzag or straight stitch darning isn’t attractive, you could also try free-motion embroidery instead of the darning. Just drop the feed dogs on your sewing machine, baste you patch fabric to your piece to be repaired, outline a design with wash-out marker or soap and stitch away. It does take a little practice to get a feel for the motion, but you’ll definitely have some personalized jeans!

  3. michelle mcgrath says:

    when my jeans wear out at the inseam. I make shorts out of them. Cut off at the knee, I take the left over and piece together a strip. unsew the inseam, cut off worn area and add this strip. depending how much leg room you want and how big the worn spots were will determin how wide you should make the strip. hem and you have some nice comfy shorts.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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