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Hand Repairs – How to Hand Darn, Patch, and Repair Hems

While a sewing machine is an essential piece of equipment for tailoring, hand sewing still has it’s place, especially in repairs. Even though stitches done by hand may not be as fast or consistent as a similar machine made stitch, the results have a really beautiful, handmade quality which works well with nearly any aesthetic.

What You’ll Need

  • A sharp needle
  • Thread (this can blend in or contrast with what you are repairing)
  • Pins
  • Fabric for patching
  • An iron

Basic Patching

denim repair hole

Patching is a great way to repair large holes that form at knees and pockets. You can pick material to patch with that either blends in or contrasts the material you are patching, depending on your desired look.

Stitches Used

  • Whip stitch – The thread will wrap continuously in loops around the edge of the fabric

How To

  1. Trim the scrap of fabric for the patch slightly larger than the hole you are patching.Denim patch hole fabric
  2. Position the patch on the inside of the garment so that the patch totally covers the hole. Pin this into position.Denim patch hole pinned fabric
  3. Thread a loop of thread through a needle, and tie a knot in the end.
  4. Starting from the inside, stitch as pictured, joining the garment and the patch with stitches that run perpendicular to the seam. For a cleaner look, simply tuck the raw edges inwards, then sew.denim patch whipstitch
  5. Tie the thread off and trim.
  6. Turn the garment inside out, and trim the patch to size, taking care to leave enough allowance for the patch to fray without coming loose.denim patch whipstitch weft inside

Patching a Hem

frayed denim pocketbag

Hems are often subjected to much more stress than the rest of a garment, and will probably need to be repaired before anything else. A patch on a hem will both cover up the existing damage, and prevent the fabric from unraveling and spreading further.

Stitches Used

  • Whip stitch
  • Running stitch – The thread passes up and down in a continuous line

How To

  1. Cut a piece of fabric slightly larger than the area you are repairing.denim patch scrap
  2. Press all but one of the edges of the patch inwards, and press this piece in half.folded denim patch scrap
  3. Position the raw edge of the patch upside down, inside, and parallel to the damaged area. Pin this into position.Denim jean pocket repair
  4. Place a running stitch along the raw edge, just before the damaged area begins. Tie this off.Denim jean pocket repair
  5. Fold the patch over, so the folded up seams cover up the damaged area and the stitches you just made.
  6. Stitch around the patch with a whip stitch, and tie this off at the end.Denim jean pocket repair

Button Hole Repair

denim jean buttonhole repair

One of the downsides of loose weave denim is the fact that occasionally the button hole stitches can separate from the denim. Luckily, there is an easy fix to this.

Stitches Used

  • Buttonhole purl stitch – Similar to a whipstitch, but the thread continuously knits back into itself to prevent unraveling.

How To

  1. With a loop about half an arm’s length long, start your stitch a little bit past where the button hole began separating. You are going to be working right to left.denim jean buttonhole repair
  2. Pull the needle half way through, and loop the thread around the needle.denim jean buttonhole repair
  3. Guide the needle through the loop and pull the thread tight to form the knot.denim jean buttonhole repair
  4. Repeat this stitch until the damaged part of the button hole is covered.denim jean buttonhole repair
  5. Tie the thread off and trim.

Hand Darningdenim jean hand darning repair

Hand darning is a really lovely looking way of repairing smaller holes where there is lots of material still present. This extra anchor fabric is necessary, as you are going to be weaving new thread into the fabric. Exposed weft yarns are really helpful for this.

As for thread types, you are going to want to try to match the thread to the size of the yarns the material you are repairing is woven from. If the repair is not in a high stress area, you can use whatever looks best to you. If the repair is more structural, like repairing a crotch blowout, poly-cotton thread is strong, which will prevent the repair from wearing away like an all cotton thread repair would, but visually it will blend into the denim better than a 100% polyester thread would.

Stitches Used

  • Hand darning – The thread essentially “re-weaves” the lost material by jogging up and down the missing threads.

How To

  1. For a hole this size, start out with an arms length loop of thread. Ideally you would use a darning needle for this, but if you don’t have one on hand its not a big issue.
  2. Start in a corner of the hole, a little bit before the hole actually starts.denim jean hand darning repair
  3. From the underside of the fabric, start weaving the thread in with the yarns of the fabric, making sure to go a little past the edge of the hole.denim jean hand darning repair
  4. After each row, pull the thread so there is no slack, but not so tight as to warp the fabric, and push the thread as close to the edge as you can get it.
  5. Repeat this until the hole is filled, and tie the thread off.denim jean hand darning repair