How to sew a patch on a garment – mending those jeans

I don’t know about you, but it always strikes me as a terrible waste of resources to throw away a garment, no matter how old, just because a small portion of it is worn out. Especially so when that small portion of the garment is in an out-of-the-way, not that noticeable location.

Say, like the inner thigh or crotch area of a pair of jeans.

I have a love-hate relationship with jeans. On one hand they’re reasonably easy to get a hold of in several sizes at the thrift store, and they are a neutral “uniform” that neither too formal nor too casual for my work setting, but I also don’t really like them and would rather not spend too much money on replacing them.

I also wear them out really fast, like 6 months fast, which strikes me as not very long for a garment to last (except for my slippers in winder, I darn those several times a season).

But again, it seems such a terrible waste to look for new jeans, even second hand when the only thing wrong with them is that inner thigh fabric! Not a very ecofrugal thing to do, at all!

Enter: Patching, the ancient and really very quick art, once you get the hang of it.

What you will need

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  • Item to be mended
  • Scissors
  • Similar fabric (Ecofrugal bonus point: Source cheap fabrics in the discount bin at second-hand shops!)
  • Sewing thread
  • Sewing needle
  • Pins
  • Thimble (especially for thick fabrics, like jeans)
    • NB: Thimbles come in different sizes. They should stay on your finger when you face your fingers down, but not pinch or restrict blood flow/be uncomfortable.

Step 1: Assess the damage

Here you can see a rather large area to be mended, and some more wear marks on the seam to the left. This tells us that the area receiving daily strain is rather large, and we should be generous when we cut our patch + 1 cm/ half inch seam allowance to fold under the patch for a neat finish.

Tip: If your hole is due to an accident or random stroke of event and not due to a pattern of wear over months of use, you can generally get away with cutting a smaller patch because the surrounding fabric is not damaged.

Step 2: Cut out and pin

This is where we, or at least I, choose one pair of jeans either so worn out from my own use, or found cheap in a second-hand shop (there are always some sizes that will be less popular than others, and will often be available at a discount) to sacrifice to ye olde patching and mending gods. So I start ripping seams open and cut out a large piece of the leg in as close an approximation to the damaged area as I can + extra because the fabric is tired.

As you can see here, I am also matching the direction of my patch to the direction of the fabric of my jeans. This is because fabrics stretch and behave differently based on which direction it is cut in. It will be strongest in the direction of the white stripes (the direction of the warp, on grain), while it will be most stretchy on the bias (diagonally).

Matching the direction of the patch and the original fabric is also a subtle way to make things look neat and tidy. It makes the patch a little less noticeable too, unless you go with a contrast.

Once you are satisfied with the placement and things lie relatively flat, go ahead and fold the edges in under itself and pin your patch into place. Be extra careful not to pin into any fabric on the other side of the trouser leg or some such accident. You want only the patch and the damaged fabric, or you’ll quickly find yourself with a problem (not that I would know… *cough cough*).

Step 3: Sew

This is where you get out your needle and thread and get as simple, or as fancy as you like. Personally, I like a good felling stitch, which I tried illustrating with this, er, first-ever youtube video of mine. You’re welcome? I’m sorry?

I like felling stitches for patch edges, especially for areas that sees a lot of wear and tear, as it leaves no raw edge flailing about getting stuck in things and having threads pulled out, especially when we take the little extra step and fold our seams over too.


Now, I did not add any embellishment or decoration to my patch this time, because I know I wear down this particular part of jeans in about six months and will have to remove and replace the patch again within a relatively short time frame.

But if your patch is in an area that receives less wear and tear and will probably stay there a while, or maybe you’d like a little extra strength by connecting the two fabrics so they act more like one piece of fabric?

How about sashiko? Sashiko is a gorgeous, Japanese technique to add strength and warmth to double layers and patched fabrics. There are some amazing pieces of art out there, and you can really go all out if you want to (add that to the list of Ecofrugal hobbies, anything that takes more time than resources is a win!). Personally, I have this book on sashiko stitches, and I love leafing through it for inspiration.

Or you can just follow the pattern of the patching fabric, like I did here when I accidentally cut through my pajamas with a pair of scissors…

Really, your creativity is the only limit when it comes to mending your clothes. You can’t expect a mend to be invisible unless you get really nit-picky and careful. So why not have fun with it!

I would love to hear of other people and their patching adventures, please let us know if you give it a try!


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