Sewing Lessons Help Us Preserve the Environment and Get through Hard Times

comments (8) January 9th, 2009     

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MaryRay Mary Ray, contributor
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Long before “Project Runway,” sewing was considered one of the domestic arts and later a part of home economics.
Methods, procedures, and supplies were very specific.
The darned section on this cashmere sample is almost invisible.
Long before “Project Runway,” sewing was considered one of the domestic arts and later a part of home economics.

Long before “Project Runway,” sewing was considered one of the domestic arts and later a part of home economics.

Photo: Mary Ray

It’s so easy today to throw away and replace anything that needs repair, especially when shopping is as easy as a click of the mouse. Worse yet—use or wear things that are torn or have worn patches that just get bigger when ignored. (How—and why—did we let jeans with holes the size of dinner plates become designer fashion?) But, maintaining and repairing is easy, too. I’ll show you a couple of quick and basic methods that get the job done. However, if you’re inclined, think how creative you can be if you let patching be an opportunity to create surface design.

First, I’d like to treat you to a look at a vintage sewing school notebook that includes some awesome samples of patching and darning techniques as well as some general directions for the “proper” way to approach the fine art of sewing. I found this gem several years ago in an antique shop. I love the way it presents the need for discipline and perfection. On the other hand, I value today’s approach to sewing that’s so much more relaxed, creative, and fun!

Methods, procedures, and supplies were very specific.

The darned section on this cashmere sample is almost invisible.

Darning techniques were precise.

Patching stripes was an art in itself.

Seam allowances are stitched down on the wrong side.

Patching was not a creative endeavor. It required skill and precision.

Darning and patching by machine get the job done.

If the tear is small and there are some yarns from the the fabric that cover the hole, I suggest darning. First, fuse an oval of interfacing to the wrong side of the garment, adjusting the loose yarns of the fabric to fill the hole. Rounding the edges eliminates corners that can easily come loose.

Adjust the loose yarns of the fabric to fill the hole.

Rounding the edges of the fusible interfacing patch eliminates corners that can easily come loose.

Use a darning foot or a free-motion foot and lower the machine’s feed dogs. I use the multiple zigzag, or serpentine, stitch and sew first in one direction and then in the other until the hole is covered.

Sew over the hole with feed dogs lowered, first in one direction and then in the other, until the hole is covered.

Machine darning gets the job done.

When the hole is large, you might need a patch. Fortunately, my son didn't care if the result was aesthetically pleasing. He just wanted the patch to be strong enough to cover the tear and extend the life of these casual pants. I was glad, because sewing a patch at the midpoint of a pant leg is a little tricky. Turn the leg inside out so you can get in and sew the patch to the right side of the fabric.

A large hole might require a fabric patch.

Turn in the edges of the patch and apply some fusible web to baste it in place.

This patch may not be fancy, but the tightly woven fabric is strong.


posted in: fabric, vintage, mending

Comments (8)

Januk writes: We just don't know how lucky we really are with all the technology we have nowadays's.
Posted: 5:15 pm on March 17th
Love_it writes: Our Great-Grandmothers and Grandmothers past down these techniques for our mothers and us until the early 1970's when waste and waste more became a state of affairs in this great country of ours.

I am over joyed to see younger people wants to preserve, conserve and fix to save time, money and pride.

These skills are transferrable.
Posted: 2:23 pm on February 1st
wtb writes: I love the article on mending and patching. My mother always took great care in patching my brothers' blue jeans. She learned how in sewing classes in high school. She is 94 years old. When my boys were small, she would patch jeans for them also. The boys never minded jeans patched by Granny and got more wear out of them. Also, when they were small land got little holes in their knit shirts, I would buy small iron-on knit patches at the fabric store. You place the patch on the underside of the knit garment, glue side to underside, close the hole together and iron the patch on. You could then take a couple of almost invisible stiches on the outside of the shirt to reinforce the patch. If you do it correctly, it doesn't show, unless you are just looking for it. I don't know if they still sell those small round iron on knit patches, but they sure did come in handy. There is a great satisfaction in mending. But there is a limit. My husband asked me not to mend his socks any more. He does not like the bump from the mending. So years ago quit mending socks.
Posted: 10:32 am on January 29th
seabeegirl writes: Yes, mending is an art and you at times have to be artistic. My 18 year old son can get rips in the strangest places in his jeans and shorts. I have decided to make them "fashion" statements. The last was a pair of jeans with a rip almost all the way up the back of one leg! First I ironed all the fringed threads out and then took fabric from an old pair of jeans and usings my sleeve board pinned it together as close as I could. I then used jean thread to sew as close to the "fringe" as I could.
He LOVED it - and that says a lot coming from a teenager. I will try to post a photo.
Posted: 4:39 pm on January 16th
pamphyila writes: YOu can also hand darn patches - using fused interfacing or "bondex" patches on the wrong side - and then hand sew around the edge of the bonded patch as otherwise they tend to get loose and ultimately come off. Make sure you used different weights for different fabric weights. I would have hand darned the patch on the jeans - you can also blend in the thread with markers to mask the darn - (good if you have patterned fabric).
Posted: 5:34 pm on January 11th
ErinN writes: So many of my daughter's little t-shirts end up with tiny holes. I've started darning them out of desperation...too bad I'm winging it!
Posted: 4:51 pm on January 9th
robtsou writes: If you like vintage techniques, you'll love this site: . It has books from the early 1900's forward with subjects from dressmaking to millinery.
Posted: 4:07 pm on January 9th
IggyJingles writes: This takes me back to when I was in college in the late 1980's. One Thursday a month, when I had no classes, I would make myself available at my dorm to mend and sew for anyone who needed it in the Hall of Residence. I can't tell you how many holes in jeans I patched, mostly for guys. I also hemmed a lot of pants, and sewed on a few buttons. But the big thing was patching jeans - in exactly the ways that are shown here.
Robyn C.
Posted: 11:03 am on January 9th
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