I am more or less an avowed fan of buying clothes without
pre-distressing. In today’s climate of low sustainability and pushes for the clothing industry to become more carbon neutral, distressing clothes shortens a clothing’s lifespan and serves to make it thrown away that much quicker. This is especially true for denim, where pre-distressing increases the already massive amount of water needed to make a pair of jeans. It is unethical and harmful to buy artificially distressed jeans.
That being said, I am a hypocrite, so I bought a pair of distressed jeans from a used clothing sale about half a year ago. When I bought them, they had large tears on both knees, and a noticeable loss of dye on the thighs and seat area. Not long after I started wearing them did new spots of wear and tear begin to show up; warp yarns snapping above and under the back pocket, and abrasions steadily growing on the thighs. Over the current six-ish months of ownership, I’ve made several repairs, some minor and some not, and the jeans have ended up becoming a sort of mend laboratory.
The first mend I made was filling in the holes on the knee. I knew from mending an older pair the same way that adding a big patch to a torn knee would cause the fabric to bunch awkwardly when the knee is bent, as the two ends of the denim fight against the patch to separate themselves. Therefore, going into this attempt, I tried something more unorthodox.
The ends of the patch are serged shut and extend a little past the hole, meaning there’s fabric to spare as the knee opens up. The fabric itself is from a pair of floral curtains I bought, perhaps a little idealistically, from a charity shop with the intent to use it for all kinds of DIY projects. This is the only one so far. I wanted to use something with some less intense colours to match the light wash of the jeans.
The next mend in chronological order was the aforementioned hole forming underneath one of the jean’s back pockets. I took some scrap denim from another pair of Levi’s that I have been slowly cannibalising and patched the hole with a pretty basic stitch around the ends. When adding patches, it’s important that you use something of a similar weight and material to help avoid complications down the line.
For example, if you mend a piece of clothing that has elastane, adding material that doesn’t stretch will cause the garment to become misshapen after enough wear. Luckily enough, most Levi’s jeans are made with 100% cotton, so it’s a safe bet to use one pair to mend another. Later on, I also decided to add some reinforcement to the top left corner of the pocket, as I could see it getting ready to tear open soon.
Next was some reinforcement on the thighs. My first attempt was to fully darn the smaller areas where the jeans were fraying, but more fraying inevitably started showing up around the first mend. On my attempts after, I went for large internal patches reinforced with rows of thread instead. A little less elaborate, but more sturdy.
Finally, the most recent and most convoluted mend was patching the seat of the jeans.
Compared to the leg, the seat is a complicated shape to mend due it it being difficult to keep flat. Even worse, the weakened fabric that I was replacing went under the back pocket, meaning I had to unpick the pocket and then reattach it once I was done. I found an embroidery hoop exceedingly useful for keeping the jeans taut during the process, and I highly recommend anyone looking to try hand-mending to get some themselves. Using the hoop did mean I had to unpick pocket almost completely, but the overall time saved from using the hoop and having to wrestle the fabric meant it was still a net positive.
I didn’t have any matching thread to reattach the pocket, but the jeans are a light enough wash that I think I’ve gotten away with using white instead.
Die, Workwear! – Find the Perfect Pair of Jeans
Heddels – How to Darn Jeans
Heddels – A Simple Guide to DIY Denim Repairs
One reply on “Mending Project: Levi’s 501 Beaters”
[…] two workhorses of my winter wardrobe are my Levi’s 501 jeans (the ones previously covered here) and a thrifted plaid overshirt. I call it an overshirt because it’s massive on my frame. […]