Oct 13, 2016

The DIY Tailor: An Easy Way to Fix Holes in Your Jeans and Other Garments

created at: 08/27/2013

Hey ManMakers! We're spending this week in the workshop creating some new projects, and so, in addition to new content and cool inspiration, we'll be sharing some classics from ManMade's all-time greatest hits.


There are two basic principles to the ManMade approach to style and dress: fit is everything, and buy high-quality, universal items that will last. In order to help you hold on to those investment items, and make sure they suit you as best they can, ManMade is happy to present our latest series: The DIY Tailor. This summer and fall, professional tailor and alteration specialist Danni Trester will teach us some basic sewing principles and easy DIY repairs that every guy should know. 

It happens. To to all of us.  Suddenly your favorite pair of jeans, that you've worn in just perfectly, gets a blow out and you're absolutely gutted. But Have no fear!  You can give new life to old friends with this pictorial guide on how to repair holes! 

This technique can be applied to any garment, fabric, or hole size.  It's no magic bullet - the stitching will be visible and it won't look like new.  But if you match your thread and fabric correctly, you can camouflage and reinforce the damaged area to give the garment longevity.  

1) Gather your supplies.  For this task you'll need:

If you're not sure what fusible is, it's a lightweight non-woven webbing that when ironed between fabric, holds two pieces together.  This will be used to hold your scrap fabric to the back of your hole so you can stitch it. 

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2) To make things a little easier, and to be sure you don’t cut into any other part of the garment, put the item of clothing around an ironing board.

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3) Cut off the frayed edges of the fabric so you have a clean edge.  This will make it easier for the scrap fabric you’re stitching on to blend in to the rest of the garment. 

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All cleaned up:

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4) Turn the garment inside out and lay back onto the board.  Cut your scrap fabric large enough to cover the damaged area and a little extra to extend into an unworn part.  You may find you’ve got a pretty large piece if the fabric around the hole is also worn.  You should reinforce any weakened areas too because if you don’t, they’ll be the next to get a hole. 

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5) Tear off little bits of your fusible to make a ring around the hole.  Be careful not to get any over the edge, or you’ll see it on the outside.

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6) Center your scrap over the hole, careful not to get too much on one side or the other.

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7) Once your fabric is centered, iron the backside of the scrap.  Use the steam setting, and hold it for a few seconds to make sure the fusible adheres.

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8) Once you’re fused, it should look something like this:

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Now let’s sew!

9) Set up your machine with a matching thread.  A lot of times with jeans, or worn fabric, you may need a lighter color for the more worn areas, and a darker color for the less worn.  If you have a limited selection of thread, or you’re not very particular, the same color for all is fine.  But if you’re really trying to make it blend in, you can change the color part of the way through. For this demo, I am starting with a lighter color and switching to a darker.

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10) Change your stitch length to a shorter length.  Not too short that you’re sewing in one spot, but not so large that it can easily be worn loose.  Turn your garment inside out.  Starting on the outside of the hole, sew forward until you’re on the inside of the hole, on the scrap fabric.  Hold your reverse button and stitch back to the point where you started.  Repeat this action, going back and forth.  As you’re sewing slightly pull the fabric to the side so that as you are sewing forward and backward, it’ll start to form a zig zag (NOTE: I don’t mean to use the zig zag stitch on your machine.  You’ll be using the regular straight stitch, but the back and forth motion will create a zig zag shape).  Go around the entirety of the hole, pivoting at the corners.

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11) Once you’ve gone all the way around, stitch around the perimeter of the hole to tack down any loose fibers.  You can do little back and forth sewing here too, just don’t pull the fabric to make the zig zag.

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12) Now that I’ve stitched the lighter color, I’m switching to the dark to stitch the less worn areas.

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Pivoting at the corner:

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13) Once you’ve stitched everything, turn your garment over and snip the extra threads off the front and back.  Note the stitching pattern: zig zag around the perimeter, tighter stitching around the edge of the hole.

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14) If the scrap fabric didn’t get totally stitched down, trim off the excess fabric so that it doesn’t curl up as the garment is washed and worn.  A good way to keep the fabric from unraveling is cutting the scrap with a pinking shears.  If you don’t have one of these, a scissors will work fine, you just will have more fraying of the scrap fabric on the inside.

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A pinking shears:

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23) While your garment is inside out, press the fabric to smooth out the stitching. 

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24) Turn the garment right side out and press the outside of the area. 

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Clip any extra threads that may have come loose as you were working.

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Close up of the stitching:

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You did it!

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Danni Trester is a tailor with over 11 years experience.  She is currently located in Rochester, MN.  In addition to alterations, she is a designer and shoemaker. 



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Gail Pickens-Barger on Aug 29, 2019:

This is great. Thanks for the tutorial!

Grandma on Aug 28, 2019:

Good teaching. One suggestion is to lay the patch and the jeans in the same direction on the grain. A patch on an angle shows up more.

Joycelyn on Jun 08, 2019:

I saw that some said if you are gonna patch why not add flair, to that I must say, this tutorial is perfect because not everyone wants flair. I’m patching levi’s for my stepdad, an old man who just wants patches. He wears his jeans until they can be worn no more.

I’m wondering why can’t you just use the zigzag stitch? Is it the inconsistency that makes it blend better? Comments from anyone on this are appreciated.

Sassy on Jun 07, 2019:

Wasn't that stitchinbritches rude. I have mended jeans for many many years and saved tons of money on family clothes. Yours look so much nicer than mine and I have always been rather proud of mine. I have always been grateful that I had the knowledge and skill to mend them. Thank you for showing the tut'.

Carol on Nov 18, 2018:

Nice repair, but where do you find denim scraps for the patches? Do you buy a damaged old pair of jeans whose color and texture approximately matches yours, and cut it up? Thanks!

Linda on Oct 24, 2018:

Thanks so much!! I posted the shorts I mended on @bordeauxbound on Instagram today if you want to take a look. I embroidered some crosses over the split after using your patch method. So great!!!

Darlene on Jul 26, 2018:

It took me years of patching our 4 sons' jeans to learn your method. It works great and looks that way too. I have only one comment: I've learned that the backside of the patch sometimes matches the color of the well-worn jeans better than the front side. The patch then becomes almost invisible if you're using the right colored thread. It's just as solid (same material) and looks great. My son's friends soon wanted me to patch their jeans too. Just think about it....you'll see what I mean.

Momo on Jul 10, 2018:

Great Idea! I'll use it further on. Thanks!

Krystal on Jun 08, 2018:

Would anyone be able to tell me how to sew the patch manually? I don’t have a sewing machine but my only pair of good jeans ripped.

Olivia on Jun 07, 2018:

This is an amazing job. Thanks for sharing. I have learned from your post.
My only suggestion would be to use a fusible which can be ironed onto one side first (with a paper backing.) Do this first, then trim the hole. Remove the backing and the iron patch onto it. Then sew as directed in instructions. This will ensure you get adhesive right to the edge of the mend and eliminate the need to tear off small pieces to match the edge of the hole.

Patricia on May 05, 2018:

This is the best looking patch I have seen. Stitchinbritches comment seemed rude. I would not like to mend something in the thigh area that brought attention to it. Yes I like her patches but not for the thigh area. Yours is better. Thank you for sharing.

Eric Parker on Apr 27, 2018:

Useful tips that will save the cost and money.Your instructions are very clear to me. As I work on the floor, within just a year, there always be a hole.
I'm in a poor family. I've learned from you a good practice.

I got your article after searching on Google.
Surely, I'll try this out.

Cathy on Apr 08, 2018:

Good tutorial. My method is pretty much the same. However, instead of fusible I use elmers school glue to glue the patch to the jeans. After it dries the patch will stay on well enough to sew over it. Then the glue washes out easily the next time you do laundry.

Stitchinbritches on Jan 31, 2018:

I much prefer the traditional Japanese methods of Boro and Sashiko that have a visible mending flair. If it's going to show, then give the repair some style! This method is tiresome and boring. Even darning on denim is more creative than this, but the people I mend for want a more unique look in general.

Lindi on Dec 28, 2017:

Great tutorial. Just when my son's jeans get worn and comfy, he blows a hole in them. And he hates to give them up. I mend his jeans but this method has more detail. I appreciate the extra steps to make the mend less noticeable. Thank you, my son will appreciate my new mad sewing skills.

embdigitizing on Sep 23, 2017:

Your article contains all the necessary elements which makes the article interesting.

Milena on Aug 27, 2017:

Hi! I found your ideas for jeans repairs very useful. :) How can I do the stitches manually, by hand? Thank you.

Kate @ OneBagger on Jun 08, 2017:

I've had a few small holes in merino garments before. They happen if your washing machine is too harsh, the shirt snags on something, or if little crawlies can get to the shirt where you are storing them.
I usually just darn the hole with a needle and thread. Since the t-shirts are knit (as opposed to woven), this is pretty much your only option. The first time I did it, it looked pretty awkward, but now that I've done it two or three times, the mend is virtually undetectable.
Kate @ onebagger.com

Dimple on Jan 24, 2017:

this is actually very nice,
but please let me know how may i repair my jeans because my jean burn near around zip and whole size is like mid figure.

Denise Robinson on Dec 19, 2016:

I liked how the jeans looked after the repair was done. I will be trying it on my jeans and I hope mind look this good.