The other day I got a pair of third hand jeans. They fit me perfectly, but parts of the hems had been worn out, so I wanted to mend them. I threw out a question on Instagram and asked for advice on how to mend the hems. I got lots of really useful replies, some of which I decided to use and some of which to save for later. This post is all about mending hems.
When I was teaching at Sätergläntan craft education center this summer I met a woman who had the most beautifully visually mended pair of jeans. There were colourful embroideries all over the legs and they were just a joy to see. She had had them for 20+ years and mended them as soon as she had seen a hole, wear or tear.
With the mended pair of jeans as an inspiration I decided to take care of my own pair and mend them visibly as soon as I needed to, starting with the sad hems.
Among the replies to my Instagram question, some were leaning towards blanket stitching around the hem, others towards embroidery and some towards a bias band. One suggested weaving straight onto the hem. I decided to embroider on a bias band on one leg and sew a tight blanket stitch on the other. The weaving I will save for later. I feared that it might get too bulky on a pant leg hem.
Both leg hems were worn, one a bit more and wider than the other. I chose the blanket stitch for the less worn leg. I have a box full of thrift shop embroidery yarn in wool, silk and linen. But for a pair of jeans I would need cotton. The only cotton yarn I had was a melange pink pearl cotton one, which was perfect for visibly mending hems.
I think I will keep my eyes open for more melange pearl cotton for future mending emergencies, I really liked this one.
Bias tape and sashiko
I wanted to use sashiko as the main mending technique for the more worn leg. I had bought a bundle of 26 beautiful Chinese handwoven vintage cotton patches from the 1960’s from Indigoloom that I wanted to use. They are all great candidates for both a bias tape and other mending techniques. Since I wanted to make my own bias tape out of the Chinese patch – another great tip from my Instagram question – I had ordered a bias tape maker.
In the Ultimate Sashiko sourcebook by Susan Briscoe that I had in my book shelf I found sweet patterns based on chequered fabrics. There were a lot of those in the bundle and I chose one of them. I figured that as a beginner it would be a good idea to use a chequered fabric pattern as a guide when I did the stitches.
The world isn’t square!
As I meticulously measured the cutting angle and width of the bias tape-to-be I realized that something was wrong. Only I couldn’t figure out what. I saw that I had measured the angle and the width correctly, but still the checks didn’t add up. Measuring again and again I scratched my head until it dawned on me: There was a weaving error!
I had made the mistake of counting on the squares to be square. But that’s the thing – the world isn’t square! It’s full of wonderful irregularities and differences. Therefore, so is my bias tape.
The making of a bias tape
Making the bias tape was quite entertaining. Once I had cut the fabric on the bias I eagerly waited for the bias tape maker to arrive. Once it did it took me five minutes to grab the iron and ironing board and make the tape.
The bias tape maker is just a metal guide where you stick the flat strip of bias fabric into one end and end up with a folded tape in the other. As soon as the folded end appears you just iron it and there you have it!
I cut the frays on the pant leg edges and stitched the tape by hand on the inside of the leg with a backstitch. I stitched the top of the tape onto the front of the leg with a whipstitch.
I used a komezashi variation for the sashiko part, that took advantage of the chequered fabric pattern. This meant that I didn’t have to create a grid for my stitches since it was already there. I did want to continue the pattern above the tape, though, so I did my best to follow the lines from the tape onto the denim.
Since the bias tape was longer than I needed I could easily have cut out the weaving error. I chose not to, though, but instead to embrace the perfectly flawed irregularity and work with it as it was. It will serve as a tribute to the weaver who reminded me that the world isn’t square.
It was interesting to use the sashiko technique for mending. I haven’t tried it just for the sake of sashiko yet, but I have plans to make little sashiko project pouches. Perhaps to keep my sashiko kit in.
Mending with love
I love my old new pair of jeans. Every time I mend them, which will be a treat and an act of love in itself, I will get that feeling that a new piece of clothing can give. A new start, a fresh breath. But with a smaller ecological footprint and hopefully with the inspiration for others to mend their own clothes with love.
As I plan to keep mending my jeans I also ordered a book on visible mending by Arounna Khounnoraj . It’s supposed to come next week. I’m secretly looking forward to more wear on my jeans. There is so much to explore! Thank you all who contributed to my cry for hem mending help.
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