How to mend Jeans: Part 2

Sewing machine mending

Jeans are one of the most popular items to repair at our workshops. Many people bring along jeans that have worn away between the thighs and ask if they can be repaired – yes is the answer and there are two ways of repairing. By hand and a Boro style stitch as shown in part one of this jeans mending series. In part two we show how to mend jeans with a sewing machine.

Sewing thread

Usually people prefer to mend their jeans in this particular spot as inconspicuously as possible. Jeans come in so many different colours and shades try and match the sewing thread as close as possible. Mid-blue and pale grey work well on worn denim jeans. As part of our denim patching kit we offer 3 different colour blue threads on one reel. All are from larger reels of deadstock wound onto used plastic reels (thanks to a Facebook sewing group).

Sewing Kit

  • Sharp scissors
  • Sewing needle (sharp ended to get through the denim)
  • Dressmaker pins to hold the patch in place or safety pins also work well
  • Tape measure or ruler to measure the patch
  • Thread – I use a blue to match the denim (not white shown in the photo)
  • Denim patching kits available on our Etsy shop
  • *TOP TIP* save pieces of denim cut from taking jeans up or save old jeans to use for patches.

Denim patches

As in part 1 of this blog the first step is to measure the hole in the jeans. If the hole is on both sides of the centre seam then use one patch to fit over the whole area. Cut a piece of denim that is a similar weight, feel and texture to the jeans you are mending. Set your machine to a zig zag setting. Nearly all domestic sewing machines have a zig zag setting. Have a practice on a scrap piece of fabric and change the stitch width and length settings to get the shape of zig zag that you prefer. Zig zag stitch just inside the outer edge of the patch. Sew around all 4 edges to prevent fraying.

Keep the jeans the right side out and open the fastenings as far as they will go. Place the patch over the the holes. Usually the holes are on the back side of the jeans, keep the patch on that side of the centre seam. Use dressmakers pins to pin in place.

  • Working on the right side of the jeans, feed the jeans under the presser foot of the machine. Take your time and wiggle the jeans to get them in place
  • Before you start sewing, trace the patch with your finger to make sure it is still in place and hasn’t folded over
  • Starting at the point where the two centre seams cross, sew a zig zag line following the line of one of the centre seams
  • Stop at the edge of the patch taking care not to go over the pins otherwise you will break a needle
  • Put the needle into the denim, lift up the presser foot and pivot the jeans 90 degrees
  • You want to come back and sew in the opposite direction that you have just sewn. But don’t sew over the same line, move the fabric of the jeans over so you end up creating rows of zig zag stitching. They don’t have to be exact
  • Once you have gone one way, turn the jeans so that you follow the line of the other centre seam. Crossing over the zig zag lines you have just sewn.
  • Demonstrated in the video below *top tip* if your sewing machine is missing stitches and not sewing the zig zag properly, trying switching to a denim needle. It isn’t always necessary to buy one specially but it does help this error.

Sewing machine stitching vs. hand stitching


I’ve used both techniques on this one pair of jeans to demonstrate the difference. Both work well and are both secure. Personally I like the meditative effect of hand sewing but machine sewing gets the job done quicker. Both methods won’t last forever. If another hole appears or the patching has worn away, place another patch on top and repeat the instructions. Don’t remove the original patching, the new patch will make it stronger. Want to find out more? Come along to one of our clothes mending workshops

Second-hand clothing mountain

‘A mountain of used goods is building up in the north-east of England as one of the biggest exporters of second-hand clothing to the EU has suffered a breakdown in trade caused by Brexit. ‘ The Guardian reported this week. The article goes on to explain that ECS Textiles send 100 tonnes of second-hand clothes, toys, furniture etc. to eastern Europe for resale each week. The goods are currently held in customs due to confusion and paperwork because of new rules after Brexit.

The charities are the ones losing out as thousands of pounds are usually raised through the resale of these goods. Of course this is concerning. However my overall reaction to the article is why is a large re-seller of goods at full capacity after just one month? It highlights the shocking overconsumption problem that we have in the UK. We only keep our clothing for an average of 3.3 years (Loved Clothes Last, Fashion Revolution). If one recycle business has 100 tonnes of second-hand products to sell on each week, it seems keeping an item of clothing for 3.3 years is hugely overestimated.

The same day I read the article my friend posts on a group chat asking for shopping advice as she is fed up of wearing leggings every day but hates internet shopping. Another friend advises her to order lots of things, try them all on and send back what she doesn’t like or doesn’t fit. My friends were blissfully unaware of what happens to an item of clothing when it is returned as I think most online shoppers are.

According to Good Housekeeping magazine ‘less than half of returns go back on sale, as it’s cheaper and less hassle for retailers to send them to an incinerator or landfill.’ Clothes are being produced so cheaply that it is more effort and expense to re-sort returned clothing for resale than it is to just throw it away.

With ASOS buying Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge brands from Arcadia this week, online shopping will increase in volume, inline with the returns waste. ASOS are aware of the issue. On their website they claim ‘During the performance year 2018/2019, emissions generated by customer returns made up 12% of our total footprint at 31,586 tonnes CO2e. This was a slight increase (4%) on the previous year. ‘ If the returns were up 4% in 2019, I dread to think what the returns number is for 2020. They have some projects in place to reduce the returns but they do not mention the amount of goods that are incinerated. ASOS only talk about the sustainable projects they are working on. They don’t mention what percentage these are on their overall supply chain. Only talking about the sustainable projects and not the negative effect of clothes production on the environment is known as Greenwashing. Find out how to identify companies that use this technique on our previous blog post.

photo credit: Ecoage

Fast Fashion Therapy was created to help people love their clothes for longer. To repair them, refashion them and reduce the need to always buy new. This results in fewer clothes reaching landfill. As consumers, if we buy less, retailers will eventually produce less. Resulting in a reduction in the damaging effects of clothing production on the environment.

5 ways to help reduce fast fashion and textile waste:

  • Identify which values are the most important to you when buying clothes and research the stores that match your values e.g. fair rights for workers, recycled fabrics, chemical-free dyes, organic fibres, a recycled clothes campaign.
  • can you find what you are looking for second hand in online market places, online charity shops, swishing events and vintage fairs (find many of these are selling on Instagram whilst we are in lockdown).
  • Buy clothes made from organic and recycled fibres where possible
  • Buy quality garments that will last longer and are easier to resell when you are finished with them. Donate clean, quality items to charity shops.
  • Repair damaged clothes rather than replace them or remodel them to make them fit better or a style you prefer.

Want to find out more? Join one of our online workshops or our monthly clothes mending social.

How to mend Jeans: Part 1

Hand sewing, Boro style patching

We designed this graphic last year before the start of the Covid Pandemic. We had been running two workshops a week and people brought along their clothes to repair. We did an audit to find out the most popular items of clothing to repair and the main issues they had. Jeans were one of the most popular items to repair. Many of them had worn away between the thighs and needed repairing. Usually the rest of the denim is perfectly fine. Mending the jeans brings them back to life, ready to wear again!

With the hole being in between the thighs, I prefer to use a denim patch along with matching thread rather than making a feature of the mend. Not quite invisible mending but not as obvious as visible mending as the example in the how to video. The above photo is of my favourite jeans which have been patched several times. Rather than take off the original patching, I add layers to it and patch over the new holes. I’ve been asked if it makes the jeans uncomfortable to wear but I don’t notice the difference.

First step is to measure the hole in the jeans. If the hole is on both sides of the centre seam then use one patch to fit over the whole area. Cut a piece of denim that is a similar weight, feel and texture to the jeans you are mending. Sew an overstitch around all four edges to prevent the edges from fraying.

Keep the jeans the right side out and open the fastenings as far as they will go. Place the patch over the the holes. Usually the holes are on the back side of the jeans, keep the patch on that side of the centre seam so it covers the holes on both sides of the centre seam. Pin in place with safety pins or dressmaker pins. An embroidery hoop placed over the area you will be stitching is useful to hold the fabric taught. But it isn’t essential.

Step-by-step ‘how to video’ on Boro Patching

In the video above, Eleanor demonstrates how to patch using the Japanese Boro style technique. This technique can be used for all woven fabrics, not just denim. The below video is my husband (Craig) mending his jeans after I taught him this technique. He can sew on a button but usually leaves the clothes mending to me. This is the first time he has tried Boro style patching, I wanted to share the video to show you don’t have to be a sewing whiz to mend your own jeans. Hand sewing is great for mindfulness too!

Boro patching in practice

Sewing Equipment

  • Sharp scissors
  • Sewing needle (sharp ended to get through the denim)
  • Dressmaker pins to hold the patch in place or safety pins also work well
  • Tape measure or ruler to measure the patch
  • Thread – I use a blue to match the denim (not white shown in the photo)
  • Denim patching kits available on our Etsy shop
Denim patching kits available on our Etsy shop – COMING SOON

We are running monthly virtual workshops teaching patching and darning. Join us to learn Boro style patching with the opportunity to practice and ask questions. Book via Eventbrite on the button below. The class takes place via Zoom, instructions and a patching kit (worth £10) is sent in advance of the workshop. Hope to see you there.

Hands Up – Who’s been Greenwashed?!

Me. Me. Me. So many times, and in so many different and confusing ways.

Greenwashing is described by Cambridge Dictionary as making ‘people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it actually is’. This could be through marketing campaigns that project the small, positive actions they’ve done far above the huge issues in their business model and supply chain or through just chucking out a few sustainable buzzwords and hoping they stick.

Approaching buying a new item of clothing whilst considering the sustainable, ethical and moral credentials of the company you are buying it from is not an easy task. Even fashion brands that consistently appear on sustainable bloggers Instagrams or blog posts or that are sold in specifically sustainable shops can, with a little digging, turn out to be a total letdown.

One brand that particularly got me was Matt & Nat, a vegan accessories brand based in Canada that regularly featured in beautifully-styled sustainable fashion photoshoots. I lusted after one of their backpacks for a good few years, considering them to be a sustainable alternative that was also genuinely attractive. On their own website they project their brand as better for the environment, stating that ‘in 2010, the UN reported that the best way to protect the environment is to adopt a vegan/vegetarian diet, given the harmful effects of factory farming’.

Matt & Nat https://uk.mattandnat.com/products/brave-backpack-purity

This vague reference to a UN report from ten years ago should have been my first red flag. The report did say that ‘a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from…the worst impacts of climate change’, and that the production of animal products ‘causes more damage than construction minerals such as sand, cement, plastics or metals’. So they are correct in saying that because all their products are made from vegan materials it is more sustainable, but compared to what, the absolute most damaging thing? That doesn’t seem like a good bar to judge it against if we’re looking for genuine change.

Matt & Nat make most of their products from PU (polyurethane) and PVC (polyvinylchloride), both of these are plastics with PVC being one of the most environmentally-damaging ones. The chemicals used in producing PVC have been found to cause life-altering side effects in those working with them, such as cancer and birth defects, leading to campaigns from Greenpeace asking for its production to be stopped entirely. Alongside this, other than ‘diligently visiting’, they are vague about the details of what they expect from the factories they work with, and only one of these factories operates by SA8000 standard, which means it is committed to providing a living wage for workers, no discrimination and a safe workplace.

Picking on one brand seems almost unfair when so many use the same techniques. Boohoo came into the spotlight over lockdown for its suppliers’ treatment of its workers in factories in Leicester, with many being asked to carry on working when sick with COVID-19, whilst also selling t-shirts with social distancing slogans on. Missguided, owned by the same parent company, chose lockdown as the perfect time to release a documentary on Channel 4 showing the ‘boss babe’ culture of their head offices. No mention of the poor treatment of female garment workers in their supply chain came up, and it’s striking that quite a classic dynamic within fashion companies, of a male CEO earning lots more than all the female workers who do the majority of the work in the business, was spun to be a tale of female empowerment. This branding strategy moves away from greenwashing and more into ‘woke-washing’, a term used to describe when businesses use ethical and progressive values in their advertising to conceal the bad practices of their companies.

Image from Inside Missguided documentary – https://www.missguided.co.uk/babezine/our-world/inside-missguided-documentary-nitin-passi-ceo-founder

Realising you’ve been greenwashed or woke-washed and invested in a company you don’t agree with, shouldn’t be met with guilt. It reflects badly on them, not on you. Acknowledge the ways they attracted you to their brand, learn from it and look out for those techniques in the future.

Realistically, it’ll probably happen again, because different companies use different tricks to present themselves positively and certain companies will try their absolute hardest to hide the not-so-rose-tinted facts from you. Also, there’s a lot of other stuff going on in life and sometimes you just don’t have the time or money to wade through all the lies just to get a t-shirt. Websites and apps like Good On You can be so helpful for speeding this process up, it was there that I found out about the less pleasing sustainability credentials of Matt & Nat. The scoring system is really simple to understand and their research into different fashion brands is regularly updated and reviewed.

Our part in the fashion industry as ‘consumers’ can make it seem like the only way to change the industry is to consume differently but we have so much power in refusing to consume. Obviously at FFT, we are big fans of repair and reuse as a way of doing this and trying to ask ourselves whether we can avoid buying new by first, repairing something we already own or reusing something that someone else no longer needs is always a good place to start. But using our voice, even in the smallest way, can have a real impact too.

Instagram post from Clean Clothes Campaign calling on brands to pay for cancelled orders.

Over lockdown with many brands refusing to pay garment factories for orders and a lack of options in terms of protesting physically, many people took to social media to support campaigns led by Clean Clothes Campaign and Labour Behind the Label to place pressure on these brands to #PayUp. Although tagging a brand in an activist post or commenting on their posts when they try to show off their sustainable and ethical credentials can seem tiny, brands can’t ignore thousands of people doing it. And some of those brands listened to this action with Gap and Levis changing their minds and paying up.

In a past blog post, we reviewed Lauren Bravo’s How to Break Up with Fast Fashion where she used the emotions and complications that come with getting over your ex as an excellent analogy for getting over our addiction to fast fashion. With woke-washing becoming a trend this year in both fashion and online dating (green-washing pops up here a little bit too), that comparison seems even more apt. With dating, if someone presents a version of themselves in which they care about the social, political and environmental issues that you care about, that can be attractive and make you believe they’re a good person. When you get to know them a little longer and realise their actions don’t back these ideas up, our trust can be broken. Most people don’t give up on love entirely however, we learn from it and little by little, we work out how to pick out the good ones.

How to Refresh & Repair Knitwear

It is that time of the year when my jumpers and cardigans swap their under-the-bed storage home with my summer clothes. Moths like to eat dirty clothes so I washed my knitwear before I stored them away in an airtight bag. Bringing them back out into the Autumn light, I can see their are in need of refreshing and repair…

Refreshing & Washing

I prefer not to wash my knitwear too frequently. It can cause more pilling (bobbling) and shrinkage. Instead I gave them a refresh. The most effective way to refresh your clothes is to hang them outside in the fresh air. I live in a flat without a balcony so this is how I refresh my clothes:

Boil half a litre (1 pint) of water and let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, add 10 drops of tea tree essential oil and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. 30ml of witch hazel is also useful if available. Tea Tree oil is thought to work as a natural insect repellent, including moths. Lavender is a well known remedy to prevent moths and I also prefer the smell to Tea Tree, so this blend works better for me.

I added the solution to a rinsed out spray bottle that I had previously been an eco-friendly cleaning product. Any spray bottle will do but it is best not to use one that previously contained bleach just in case there is any residue as it will damage your clothes. I place my jumper over the ironing board, give it a generous spray then hold over a steam iron. Ensure the iron is on the wool setting, too hot and it will shrink your knits. I only pressed the iron very gently on the knitwear, more of a hover and using the steam to refresh (see video below). The jumper is still damp at this point so I placed flat over a clothes rack so the water didn’t weigh down and stretch the jumper.

When washing knitwear it is important to take notice of the care instructions in the label. I prefer to handwash my knits or if using a machine then I set it to the lowest spin cycle. A special wool detergent is recommended such as the one from Ecover.

Knitwear shouldn’t be dried on a hanger or a washing line / rack. The water in the knit construction will be heavy, causing it to stretch. It prefer to lay the knitwear flat on a concertina clothes airer with a towel underneath to catch the water.

De-Pilling or de-bobbling

Small bobbles seem to appear on jumpers out of nowhere. I am constantly de-bobbling! It is technically known as pilling and is caused by the friction of two pieces of fabric rubbing together. Under the arm is a common place or if you carry a bag regularly you will notice pilling where the bag is in contact with the jumper (or any type of fabric). Some fibres bobble more than others, I seem to always choose the bobbling type! The video above includes two ways of getting rid of the bobbles and the final refresh as described in the paragraph above.

Loose or Pulled Threads

I bought this jumper in a charity shop, perfect condition except for a long piece of yarn hanging from the sleeve. It had probably got caught on a clothing tag whilst in the shop. Here is a quick video on how to pull through the yarn or thread to the underside of the jumper to prevent causing a hole.

Darning

We love darning at Fast Fashion Therapy. The mindfulness of the stitching and the sense of achievement when repairing a hole. One of my cardigans had a hole directly under the button. I removed the button first, repaired the hole by darning with a matching yarn. I chose a matching yarn rather than making a feature of this darn as it is only a small hole that will be covered by the button. I sewed the button back on and voila! My cardigan is ready to wear.

Most of my jumpers had small holes in so I spent a bit of time darning before refreshing them (my tights too!). A darning mushroom is a useful tool that can be bought from good haberdashery shops and picked up in vintage and charity shops. How about following our tips on what to use around the house instead of a darning mushroom?

Or try an even more decorative method of repairing holes in knitwear as shown in our video below.


Darning Kits

We have pulled together a selection of darning kits to help you mend your knitwear, available on our Etsy shop for £10 including postage within the UK.

Clothing Maintenance 101: Overstitch

How to sew an overstitch

Overstitch is a simple and effective hand sewing technique. It is really useful when it comes to mending clothes. The stitch can prevent fraying, hold two pieces of fabric together or useful for patching.

Watch our video on how to sew an overstitch

Examples of using an overstitch

Repairing a rip on a pillowcase by cutting a square of fabric from inside the pillowcase
Using a thicker thread and a larger stitch has created a decorative effect when patching this leather bag with faux suede
Mending a bra by overstitching a piece of ribbon over the underwire channel preventing the wire from poking out and digging into the skin.
Creating an Elbow patch by using a thicker yarn and sewing the stitches very close together. Georgina from Pebble Magazine mended her tweed jacket by covering the elbow rib with the patch.

Weekend Clothes Mending

It might be a bit dull being stuck inside on a rainy weekend but on the positive side we caught up with some of our clothes mending. Although we teach clothes mending techniques to others, our own pile of clothes mending seems to get bigger rather than smaller.

First up was a vintage leather bag that’s suede outer casing contained some very big holes and tears. I patched the holes with scrapes of faux suede left over from industry waste. I used a large over stitch with a thicker thread to create a decorative effect. I’m really pleased with the result and think the mend adds to the texture and design of the bag.

Next up is a favourite dress that I managed to get bleach on. I cut off the bottom and re-hemmed giving it a re-style. We have created a video on how to re-hem trousers, I used the same principle for the dress, although I did use a sewing machine to re-stitch rather than hand sewing.

Lastly, I took in the waistband on a pair of casual trousers. The fabric was quite fine so it was simple to do. I put on the trousers, pinned where I need to take them in and made sure it was even on both sides. Working from the outside I used a sewing machine to top stitch a line on the new seam I had created. I used a matching thread so the stitching is only visible from the outside. This only works to take in a waist a few cm on each side. Any more than that and it will distort the main body of the trousers.

If you are looking for specific clothes mending advice then please get in touch and we can arrange a 1:1 clothes mending session with you for a small fee. Or join one of our free zoom workshops.

How to make a waistband bigger

With a round tummy area, I often have a problem that my shorts and trousers are too small around the waist. These shorts are not too bad when I am standing up but when I sit down the button flies off, even when I have sewn it on securely. With the hot weather we have been having I needed to make these shorts fit more comfortably. Here is what I did…

In a previous post, I cut the elastic off some worn out men’s boxer shorts. I still have quite a bit of the elastic left. I cut two pieces each measuring 6cm in length. Leaving the width as it is (it will fray if cut).

On the front of the shorts, the waistband had a stitched side seam. This was easy to unpick with some sharp scissors and an unpicker (seam ripper). I unpicked both sides.

I wasn’t able to unpick the waistband on the reverse as it was one piece of fabric. So I cut it with some sharp scissors down just past the line of stitching.

I inserted one piece of the elastic under the channel of the waistband and pinned in place. I repeated this with the other end of the waistband and made sure it lay flat before pinning. Using a zig zag stitch on my sewing machine I stitched down over the raw edge of the waistband side seam, incorporating the elastic. Zig zag stitch is useful for elastic and stretch fabric as it stretches with the elastic. I used a regular running stitch along the bottom edge of the waist band to re-fix the area I had cut.

I then repeated this for the other side of the waistband. So that I had two pieces of elastic inserted on each side of the waist of the shorts. If you don’t have a sewing machine you can replicated the zig zag stitch by hand. It is best to use a thimble as it is a lot of fabric to get through and will make your fingers sore otherwise.

My last job was to sew the button on. I had lost the original button, so I chose one from my spare button jar. Before I sewed the button on, I checked it fitted through the button hole and was large enough to hold the thick fabric of the waistband. Watch our video on how to sew on a button. If you need some odd buttons for your collection, we sell a pack on our Etsy shop.

I can now comfortably sit down in my shorts with the button safely in place and they are more comfortable to wear. An alternative way to fix a waistband is to change it completely. In this how to blog post I replace the waistband of some pyjama bottoms. The same technique can be used for any shorts, trousers or skirts.

Need help with your repairs? Why not join our next virtual zoom mending session on 14th September 2020. Sign up to our newsletter for more details.

Our Favourite Charity Shops

We are very excited to be able to hit the charity shops again from this weekend. We often pick up haberdashery and sewing equipment for our workshops from charity shops. Helping to reduce waste and support these fantastic charities.

We shared a couple of our favourite shops with sustainable lifestyle magazine Pebble. Along with many other Pebble readers, creating an exhaustive list of the best charity shops in the UK.

Our friends at Ayoka charity shop in East London save us clothes that are damaged so the attendees of our workshops can practice their mending techniques.

We didn’t get chance to mention the Big C craft warehouse in Wymondham, close to Norwich. A warehouse full of second hand sewing equipment and craft accessories all neatly categorised in baskets.

What is your favourite charity shop? Join in one of our virtual mending sessions to share your tips. Sign up for our newsletter for more information.

Podcast with Boro Magazine

Katy got in touch at the start of lockdown to invite us to take part in her podcast. A journalist student at the London College of Fashion, Katy has created Boro Magazine as part of her final major project. She tells us ‘I am producing a magazine which explores contemporary make do and mending, focusing on the importance of extending the life of old clothing and innovative textile craftsmanship.’

The magazine sounds right up our street and we were happy to take part in her podcast. Katy asked us how we encourage people to repair their clothes and also the focus we place on therapeutic mending. Her questions were well researched and we had a lively conversation about our workshops. Click the button below to listen to the podcast (30 mins long)

Thanks Katy for asking us to be involved, we really enjoyed chatting with you. Good luck for your final project!