Patching is, according to a certain 1970s domestic science book, “the insertion of a fresh piece of material into a worn or torn part of a garment”. Apparently there are certain rules that must be observed when mending a holey item of clothing. This quaintly written book has been with me since my school days. Cringingly dated (even when I was in school) and sparsely illustrated it offers the aspiring homemaker all sorts of matronly advise; from dealing with house flies to making a caper sauce. I must have felt I might need some help in the housewifery department to have hung on to it for so long. And here I am, thumbing through it for direction on patching my favourite pair of jeans. In the needlework section I find my instructions.
- The material weight, texture and colour of the patch should match the garment as closely as possible.
- Cut your patch straight by a thread and make it plenty large enough to cover the hole and the fragile, tatty edges
- A patch should lie flat with its selvedge (the finished edge of the material) and its weft (running at right angle to the selvedge) threads running parallel with those of the garment.
- Generally the patch is placed on the wrong side of the garment except when mending a printed item or fine woollen garments.
- Folds are first turned on the weft, then on the selvedge sides. Corners must be square and strong.
- Sewing should start in the middle of a side. Make stitches as small and precise as you can so the patch blends in well.
- Both back and front of the patch should be neatly finished.
- If a patch must be shaped to fit , the straight edges of the patch are normally attached first before the shaping is done.
My jeans are sporting two gaping holes. But rather than throw them away I will mend them and get at least another season out of them. Even if they are demoted to gardening scruffs their life will be prolonged thanks to some serious needlework.
It can seem like a lot of hard work in this age of dispensability where the temptation is to pick up a reasonably-priced replacement in any of the larger retail outlets. But sometimes a really comfy item of clothes is just irreplaceable. When signs of wear and tear begin to show the only answer is to patch it up. You don’t have to do it yourself as there are lots of repair shops about. If you do fancy having a go and need some sage advice there is a certain 1970s domestic science book I could recommend…