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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Fashion · Fitting · General

Quick Jeans Edit – Topstitch Hem

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So professional looking!

I’ve hemmed jeans on the blog before, I know. This time though, I’m taking it up a notch with some jeans-thread topstitching.

The last time I did some outlet shopping, I found some jeans that almost fit for $16 (yay, me!). The only problem was that they were over 4 inches too long. Fortunately, hemming pants is one of the easiest sewing projects there is. These were straight leg, making it even easier.

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Mark length with pin

I followed my usual hemming process. Here’s a refresher:

  1. Try on the jeans with shoes. Place a pin where you would like them to end.
  2. Measure the distance from the bottom to the pin. Subtract your chosen hem allowance from this number.
  3. Take out the pin. Measure up from the bottom the calculated number of inches and mark. Be careful to mark the same distance all the way around both legs.
  4. Cut at the marked line.
  5. Finish the raw edges with a 3 or 4 thread overlock stitch. (Any color will do – this stitching doesn’t show).
  6. Turn the jeans inside out. Turn up the hems to your hem allowance and press. Turn right side out again.
  7. Test your topstitching on the cut-off scraps. Topstitch the hem in place. Done!
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Measure and mark

To get the factory-made jeans look, the right topstitching is essential. When you think of jeans details, you think of heavy thread in shades of gold, white, and neutrals. I found that there are many options available. You can find thread made specifically for jeans, but any thread in the heavier weight ranges is worth considering. Think about whether you want soft or hard, matte or shiny, heavy or really heavy. Here are some to try:

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Ready to cut

You will need the right size needle for your thread. I used a size 14/90 universal needle for my TEX 60 weight thread. It worked well on the first try, so I didn’t try any other sizes. However, if I were to use a TEX 80 or 100 weight thread, I would go up to a 16/100. Schmetz, Klasse and Singer make a range of needles specifically for jeans which are supposed to be more durable when sewing through multiple layers. You can also get double needles. These are great if you want to be extra sure you stitch parallel lines and come with different spacing. I haven’t tried them yet, but if I get into sewing a lot of denim, I’m sure I will.

I never really thought about it before, but there isn’t any reason that the bobbin and the upper thread have to match. In fact, what seems to work best for jeans is a bobbin thread in a normal weight the same color as the denim.

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Topstitching thread in needle, navy blue all-purpose in bobbin

Fortunately, my machine sews through thick fabrics and “bumps” without a hitch. I have found that with other machines a “hump jumper” can save a lot of frustration when going over seams. You can make your own with some folded tagboard or you can buy them ready-made. A walking foot can also help your machine cope with the thick layers.

Your machine shouldn’t need any tension or other fancy adjustments. You will just want to make sure it is sewing the longest possible straight stitch to start.

Once I had my machine set up, I lined up the bottom edge of the jeans with the edge of my presser foot. This worked well for stitching the first line. The second line was done in much the same way, just using the first line of stitching as my visual edge guide.

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Maintain even stitching by aligning presser foot with jeans edge

Now that I know how easy it is, I am going to topstitch all the time!

Next time, sewing for patternreview.com’s Shirtdress Contest.

Until then…

Happy sewing!

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Align presser foot with first line of stitching for second line
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Completed topstitching
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The navy bobbin thread blends right in. Maybe I should get some navy serger thread too!
Fashion · General

Quick Fix: Coverstitch Cut-offs

Front View
Old jeans to new summer staple

Here’s a quickie that can really reinvigorate old pants and shorts. Making a raw edge by leaving everything unfinished and letting the fraying process take its course is a fine option. But sometimes a neater finish is a better fit. Here’s what I did to some tapered jeans that I wanted to make into shorts.

First, decide on the length you want and how deep you want to make the hem.  I decided to go with a one inch hem and a 6 inch inseam. Carefully measure and mark the legs before cutting.  I like to use a temporary marker that fades in a day or so. Cut the legs.

Open Seam
Inside with side seam opened and spread flat.

Since these bottoms were tapered, they needed a little extra work. I examined the legs and saw that they were only angled on the outside seam. So I picked the stitches out until the outside leg seams opened just slightly below one inch. Next, mark the right side of the legs at one and two inches from the bottom all the way around.

Fold the hem into place and press.

Set up the coverstitch machine with topstitching thread in the two needles and wooly nylon in the looper. I found that plain orange polyester thread works well for jeans topstitching. Using nylon helps keep the seam flat.  Otherwise, you may risk creating a ridge or “tunnel” of material under between the two topstitch lines. The nylon color isn’t important since it will not show.

Using the 2 inch line as a guide, stitch the hem.

Press and Mark Hem
Hem pressed and stitching line marked

I had contemplated getting rid of these jeans at first, but I’m really glad I didn’t. Sewing to the rescue!

Inside Cutoffs Coverhem
Finished hem: inside
Finished Hem Top
Finished hem: right side
Back View
I could live in these