Recent Repairs 25/12

Another instalment of clothing repairs today. Don’t let the date fool you, this one doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas. The need to write these posts strike me at impossible to predict intervals, with no respect for holidays, and oftentimes it feels like a wave of fervour crashing over my shores. The loose connecting thread for these repairs is that they are all revisions or do-overs of old repairs. A quirk of my work process is that I get urges to go back over finished work and improve it with newfound skill or techniques. While it can be a hassle to do the same repairs multiple times, it can be relaxing, too. Retreading old ground and seeing some physical proof of your progress. So with that, I invite to come and look at some examples.

EXHIBIT A: Lee 101J Denim Jacket

My trusty Lee jacket is no stranger to repairs, but this internal patch on the collar is its most elaborate to date. The collar of a jacket will put up with a lot of friction from your neck over time, so some fray is inevitable. In this case a large portion of the warp yarns had been rubbed away, and rather than waiting for the weft yarns to follow, I decided to make a preventative repair and save myself extra hassle later. The patch is a piece of denim from a pair of Uniqlo selvage jeans that I had cropped with a pair of scissors. That DIY project didn’t pan out, but it did lead to this one, so silver linings. The patched denim is a lot darker than the rest of the jacket, but over time more and more of its indigo will rub off, until eventually its colour blends in almost seamlessly.
I initially sewed over the patch with just up-and-down running stitches with embroidery floss, but the denim I used for the patch has a little elastane mixed in, which is not good for patching non-stretch clothes like my jacket. The patch could stretch and distend over time, making the collar misshapen and preventing it from sitting properly. So, I added an extra set of running stitches from left to right to make the ‘+’ pattern you see above. This doubles the number of points where the patch is pinned by thread and will hopefully prevent the patch from stretching out of shape.

EXHIBIT B: Plaid Overshirt

Along with worn-out buttonholes and mysterious tears, this shirt has ended up fraying pretty severely on the cuffs. One of the first hand repairs I really remember doing was wrapping fabric around these shirt cuffs and stitching it haphazardly with thread I got from a supermarket sewing kit. At the time I thought it was cool and punk, which it totally was, it looked ugly and like I had done it in five minutes and sometimes you want things that look like that. But as time goes on and I find myself getting attached to my clothes more, suddenly treating them crudely doesn’t feel quite as right anymore. Punk is an aesthetic and attitude that exists to eventually be shed, to move on from, at least in my mind. And part of that shedding for me was giving this shirt something a little pretty instead of something crude.

The pattern on the patch is named Houndstooth, which originated in the 19th Century and was most commonly seen on Scottish tweed. In recent years it’s had a bit of a reinvention in the black-and-white incarnation you see here. I love the way this pattern looks, but the loudness of it means I have trouble finding ways to make it gel with my wardrobe. Part of why I like the pattern may have something to do with Persona 4, a Japanese Role Playing Game I love that uses the pattern a lot. Try not to take too many style notes from anime, things look a lot better in animation than they do in person.
While I wouldn’t exactly call it pattern matching, I did put some consideration into making sure the Houndstooth pattern of the patch would be aligned with the sleeve once it was on. In this case that just meant cutting the fabric in a square and wiggling it a bit as I pinned it, thankfully. If the Great British Sewing Bee is any indication, pattern matching is usually a nightmare.

EXHIBIT C: French Chore Coat

I picked this chore coat up in a Kilo sale in Leicester, but you can find these kinds of coats almost anywhere selling vintage. A mass produced workers garment made of herringbone cotton, and almost always dyed a lush blue. Dating back to the 1800s, you can find them in any manner of condition; some are preserved neatly with much of their colour intact, some are washed out and worn in (like mine,) and some are utterly trashed and rebuilt with decades of stains and repairs. The latter are the most expensive since they have the most personality. Mine is a happy middle ground I think, it’s definitely seen a lot use before I got my hands on it, but it’s still holding together well. That being said, some of its stitching is starting to unravel, so I’ve had to start repairing it in drips and drabs.

On the hems of the jacket, seen above, the overlock stitch that’s protecting the frayed ends of the fabric is giving way. If you don’t address this fast, the fabric can start to fray more and more until eventually there’s no fabric left to stitch onto. At first I tried to fix the problem with some basic running stitches, across and across and back and forth until I felt there was enough thread there to stop the fraying from going any further. Eventually my neurosis won out and I felt compelled to reinforce the hems again. This time, I went for a modified catch stitch.

The idea is that by going backwards a little bit on each stitch, it makes it stronger overall by distributing force in different directions. This technique also copies the purpose of the overlock stitch, which is to make a kind of cage for the hem, protecting it from moving around and stopping it from rubbing against anything that it shouldn’t be rubbing against. It also makes the mend less visible from the outside, which can be a pro or a con depending on your taste. It was a pro this time. I’d like to preserve the pure utilitarian look of the chore coat if I can help it, so no clutter for now.

Additional Resources:

Celia Pym – Celia Pym
Put This On – What You Can Really Afford: Lee’s 101J
Wishy Washy Studios
Long John – Original Vintage Lee Cowboy Jeans From 1940s
Long John – Original Vintage Lee Cowboy Jeans From The 1940’s (Not the same article!)

By William

A third year Graphic Design & Illustration student currently studying at De Montfort University. I enjoy creating both physical and digital design and dabble in various creative outlets in my spare time.

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