Hand stitching, I’ve found, takes practice as a skill to maintain. Rows become noticeably neater as your hand memorises the motions, the minute manipulations of your needle. I’ve caught myself on occasion wishing for my clothes to tear, just so I have something to stitch up.
This week, my father brought me a pair of camo trousers with their crotch blown out. As denim heads will be quick to tell you, the crotch is a stress point on trousers when performing physical labour or exercise, so it’s not too surprising to find it burst open after long stretches of wear. It’s a rather intimidating mend, as the tear is difficult to lay flat, and may leave you scratching your head on how to approach it.
Matt Rho, former partner of Shockoe Atelier and accomplished denim repairman, used to have an excellent step-by-step guide to this mend on his Instagram, but it has sadly disappeared. Armed with a half-memory of how his instructions went, I dived in head first, and these are the results.
I was surprised by how much I ended up liking the look of the indigo-on-camouflage once I was finished. Though not a colour combination I would usually consider, the effect has ended up strong.
All in all, the repair ended up better than expected. I had difficulty keeping the fabric flat underneath the patch, which meant readjusting pins a few times as I went, but the end result followed the shape of the fabric nicely. A poorly executed mend may have bunched the fabric or created unnecessary puckering. I went for a style closer to traditional boro, using extra stitches to reinforce, not just attach, the patch, though I wasn’t following this style too closely.
Boro is a beautiful Japanese craft that has its origins in practical necessity. Cotton garments would be patched and patched and patched again, using cotton thread as a means of reinforcing each repair (sewing was typically done using a Sashiko stitch, which eventually evolved into sewing complex patterns across fabrics.) Eventually, garments would be more patch than cloth, resulting in elaborate indigo tapestries.
While my attempt may not be the most accurate in terms of execution, it’s purpose matches traditional boro; this is, after all, a workwear garment being repaired with leftover scraps. I appreciated the opportunity to attempt a mend a little more technically demanding than my usual fair, and a chance to try out some new colour combinations.
Gear Patrol – Want to Extend the Life of Your Jeans? Here’s How
Heddels – How to Darn Jeans
Heddels – All About Boro – The Story of Japanese Patchwork
Matt Rho – Getting Started with Boro Denim Repair