Fashion · Needlework · Useful Thing

Sashiko Inspired Mended Jeans

My favorite perfectly worn in jeans got a hole in them. It started small, but every time I washed them, it just got a little bigger and a little bigger again.

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Before: It’s not going to get any smaller….

I knew that I wanted to mend them, but I didn’t want them to look haphazard or shabby. I wanted a result that I could proudly wear just as I would any of my “good” jeans.

Casting around for ideas, I came across the book Mending Matters: Stitch, Patch and Repair Your Favorite Denim & More by Katrina Rodabaugh. In it, she states

When we spend time patching, stitching, darning, or otherwise fixing torn fabrics, we ultimately deepen our understanding of quality, composition, and craftsmanship.

She likes using simple needlework, such as running, straight and whip-stitches in natural fibers to complement the craftsmanship of the original denim garment.

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Pinked edges on my cotton patch will prevent raveling.

At the same time, another book caught my eye, this time about the Japanese quilting technique sashiko. The Ultimate SASHIKO Sourcebook: Patterns, Projects, and Inspirations by Susan Briscoe turned out to be a great general reference and introduction. Many readers will recognize the repeating geometric patterns used in sashiko embroidery, even if unfamiliar with the craft. Since sashiko began centuries ago as a thrifty way to mend all kinds of items made of woven fabric, it seemed like a great fit for mending my old jeans.

I took the patterns as an inspiration and looked at what I had on hand that might work. If I had some denim of a similar weight to my jeans, I could have used that as a patch. Since I didn’t, I looked for a good quality tightly woven fabric that I could attach underneath. Scraps from the quilting cotton I used for my Vintage Style Shirtdress fit the bill and was soft enough that I knew it would not be irritating against the skin.

sashiko_jeans_3I thumbed through the sashiko pattern reference in the Sashiko Sourcebook and chose a simple design that I thought would look nice stitched over about a 3 inch square. I traced the design onto tracing paper using a marker designed for iron-on transfers. (Iron-on transfer pen – black by Sulky.  I have more on tranferring designs in my post on Hand Embroidered Dishtowels.

I considered using fusible tape to temporarily hold the patch in place, but pinned it carefully instead, as Rodabaugh does in her book. On the right side, I chalked a square over the location of the patch. I used the chalk lines to help place my iron-on in place. It turned out to make a nice, solid impression, although a little bit heavier line than I expected.

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Ready to stitch

Sashiko thread is a long staple cotton made especially for the highly visible sashiko stitch. It comes in different weights and colors, and can even be hand dyed. I would love to try it some time, but this time I made do with what I had on hand.

The closest match I could find was a spool of jeans topstitching thread. It’s designed to use with jeans, so the colors coordinated well. To make the stitches stand out a little more, I doubled the thread. I did try to keep the stitches nice and even, but it’s pretty obvious I’m new at this. Even so, I like the way it turned out. I think I put the brakes on the hole’s growth. I think the patch underneath will look interesting if/when it starts to show through.

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The finished mend
Supplies

Aunt Martha’s 8.5 x 12 inch Tracing Paper 50 sheets


Wawak Tex 60 Cotton Wrapped Polyester Jean Topstitching Thread


Sulky Heat Transfer Pen in Black (It also comes in lots of other colors)


The Ultimate SASHIKO Sourcebook: Patterns, Projects, and Inspirations by Susan Briscoe


Mending Matters: Stitch, Patch and Repair Your Favorite Denim & More by Katrina Rodabaugh


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From a distance, the patch is fairly subtle.

Until next time, happy sewing!
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General · Home Dec · Vintage · Whimsy

Hand Embroidered Dishtowels

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I’ve taken a small break from fashion sewing to work on a few just-for-fun embroidery projects. Over the holidays I had rediscovered how much I love old hand-embroidered things for the home when my Mom showed me some items she had embroidered when she was a girl. They were so charming and sweet.

I thought about the trend for adult coloring books. Coloring as an adult is supposed to be a relaxing activity that relieves stress and restores calm. I think working on simple embroidery projects can do the same. You choose the colors you like and the designs you like. It’s easy and something you can do just for pure enjoyment.

One of the easiest ways to get started is with dishtowels. I love using flour sack towels to dry my dishes.  As a child, my mother embroidered many of these and I was eager to make some of my own.

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A scrap I saved from one of Mom’s well-worn towels. They were always machine washed in hot with bleach! The embroidery outlasted the towels.

My first effort was the kitten in the knitting basket. I found the design on a google images search and just printed it onto regular paper. I already had a stack of plain unembellished towels in my drawer, so I grabbed one of those. Using my favorite sewing notion, blue painter’s tape, I taped the printout to my table. Then I positioned my towel above it and taped it down as well. Since my towel had such an open weave, I was able to trace the design onto the towel with a soft lead pencil. I had a 6-inch embroidery hoop, embroidery needles and needle threader already, so all I needed was some thread. I bought a variety pack of good quality embroidery floss and was good to go.

Once I got started, I had a lot of fun playing with different colors and types of stitches. Some of them I knew already. Others I found in my Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Needlework or in one of the many online resources out there. The kitten uses back stitch, french knots, lazy daisy (my favorite), stem stitch and satin stitch. I consider the final embroidery a success although I would have used a more tightly woven dish towel if I had thought about how much the reverse side would show through.

Now that I knew a little bit, I was ready for more. I researched dishtowels and landed on Mary’s Kitchen as my choice. They are large, hemmed, on-grain (!), tightly woven bright white cotton towels. For patterns, I decided to go the tried and true iron-on transfer route. People have been buying iron-on designs since the late 1800’s and they are still a great option. The Aunt Martha’s brand seems fairly easy to find in retail stores and online. I bought a selection of patterns that I thought I might like – they were less than $2.00 each, so why not? I also got a little more organized with my materials by adding a floss box, plastic floss bobbins, winder and ring. My total investment so far was about $35. This is one inexpensive hobby!

Supplies in hand and fully committed, I stamped 7 flour sack towels with a days of the week birdhouse series. It was a fun project to work on whenever I wanted something small and portable. It went surprisingly fast and I love the results! I will definitely have one or two hand embroidery projects ready to go from now on.

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Project 2: Days of the Week Birdhouses on Flour Sack Towels

If you would like to give embroidery a try, here are a few resources to get started:

Patterns and Transferring
  • Iron-on transfers: I found Aunt Martha and a variety of others on EtsyCreateforLessAmazon and EBay
  • How to transfer designs – Here’s a nice overview of various methods from Mary’s Kitchen
Skills
Materials