This is a guest post from our friend and denim-celebrity Josh Le, who famously wore his jeans for 15 months straight without a wash as an experiment. Following up on our article on pre-emptive denim repairs, Josh has created a thorough how-to on DIY denim repairs.
While this post is a bit longer than our usual fare, we think it’s an important piece for denim-heads who want to keep their jeans going longer without breaking the bank.
Many people have asked how my jeans have lasted so long. The following was one of my secrets.
It’s an issue we all encounter during our denim journey; the mere sight of it makes even the most grown man and woman quiver in fear. You probably know what I’m alluding to: the blowout. Luckily, you can save and extend the life of your jeans by using this simple guide to denim repairs.
You should be on your way to fixing your own jeans after this article. The hardest part is learning how to thread your sewing machine. After that, practice on any scraps available before putting your skills to the test on your jeans.
Before proceeding, its important to familiarize yourself with the basics of warp, weft, and twill.
While we’re all aware of the alternatives to fixing your own jeans – darning, sew-on patch, the iron-on patch, fabric mending glue, buying new jeans, and so on – its best summed up in a quote we’ve all heard growing up:
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. – Chinese Proverb
So don’t buy a fish, learn to do it yourself. It’s saved me plenty of time and money just by learning how to fix my own jeans.
One of the biggest complaints about raw denim is that the crotch rips too quickly. Consider this analogy, if your car tire has a hole in it, you can continue driving it for a while before you have to replace it. Fixing it right away will save your car.
This analogy has some
holes faults in it, but overall the tear in your denim is like the tire’s hole. You can last with the tear, but it will eventually get worse and put your jeans out of commission. Fix the hole before it becomes a major problem and you’ll save yourself a lot of worrying.
On one hand, the crotch should last a decent amount of time since you’ve invested X-amount of dollars into your jeans. On the other hand, the crotch is the highest stress point and wearing it 7 days a week for an entire year is going to wear it out sooner. More importantly -
There is at least a 4 week period, usually longer but very variable, when a hole first appears before it fully matures into a rip.
From what I’ve learned and observed, the warp yarns tear before the weft yarns do. I may be extrapolating a bit, but the weft yarns are more durable than the warp yarns because warp yarns are more stressed by the friction of the up & down motion of our legs and life than the less common side-to-side movement. In other words, warp yarns break because they’re more active than the weft yarn.
Before we go any further, I’ve classified the life of a hole into 3 stages:
- Stage 1: When the warp threads start to fray or a few warp yarns have ripped.
- Stage 2: Warp threads have completely ripped in one area and the weft threads are starting to fray or a few weft threads have ripped.
- Stage 3: Both warp and weft threads have ripped.
The simple solution to prolong your jean’s life is this – Fix the fraying fabric before they become holes and rips.
Just to clarify, the main source of my sewing skills and knowledge come from Home Economics (AKA Foods and Fashion) in Grade 8 and 9 where we learned basic home skills of cooking and sewing. If you add a working knowledge of warp and weft yarns, congrats, you know as much as I do. Practice mending some holes and you’ll be an expert.
For what is worth, the sewing machine I’m using is about 28 years old. There’s nothing particularly fancy about it. All the machine needs to do is sew forwards and backwards. If you’re curious, the brand is Montgomery Ward (which has an interesting history).
I’m using my Naked and Famous x Blue in Green jeans as the test subject. It’s the beginning of the 22nd month and my jeans need a bit of help getting across the 2 year mark. Here I am practicing what I preach – so fix your jeans or let them die.
- Periodically check your jeans for any holes (especially the crotch). Pre-screen for any holes.
- Set up your sewing machine.
- Clear away any frayed warp yarns.
- Straighten fabric around the hole to ensure the fabric is smooth and wrinkle-free.
- Sew zigzag patterns to recreate the broken warp yarns.
- Continue the zigzag patterns back and forth until you reach desired hole coverage.
- Enjoy your denim until more holes form.
Below is a hole. Notice the broken warp yarns – they’re the first ones to go. If you let it go long enough, the weft yarns will break away and create a hole.
The goal is to recreate the warp yarns.
I do this by making zigzag patterns with my sewing machine over the length of the hole. Go from the top to the bottom of the hole from side to side until you reach your desired amount of coverage.
CAUTION - Don’t overdo it or else the fixed area will be incredibly stiff and unsightly.
BEFORE and AFTER shots of the jeans and holes
From the inside-out.
Looking at your jeans from the inside-out is a good way to determine where holes are forming. The fuzzy blue parts are warp yarns that are starting to fray. Nothing to get alarmed about – it’s just a sign of your jeans wearing down.
And what article would be complete without a pros and con list? Don’t be scared off by the cons; the pros outweigh them by a long shot.
- Prolongs the life of your jeans.
- Saves time and money.
- No holes, no problems.
- You’re responsible for any mistakes.
- Minor time investment to learn how to sew.
- Your jeans won’t drape as nicely if you over-sew the hole.
Let us know if you have any other tips, suggestions, or improvements to this or your DIY denim fixes.