Sigh. It’s true. We live in a throw-away clothing culture. We pick up inexpensive pieces, fully aware that they’ll wear out and need to be replaced next season. But with new interest in slower, sustainable living, choosing clothes that last, and maintaining them so they’ll last even longer, is gaining momentum. Which means patches are back!
And I say hooray. The thought of wearing a favorite piece of clothing over years instead of months is wonderfully appealing. And if your pockets are feeling empty, the idea of dungarees that will handle a thousand hours on the playground, sounds especially smart.
So here’s a useful patching clothes guide that will aid even the non-sewers among us. In this post, I’ll cover three patch types: A simple no-sew patch in both fabric and leather. A contrasting “under patch” that will add a nice texture — using iron-on fusible web and a few decorative hand-sewn stitches. And third, a patch that works with knits (like sweaters) and can be hand-sewn in minutes.
PATCHING CLOTHES WITH OVER PATCHES
To start, you’ll need some type of iron-on interfacing. This helps strengthen the fabric as well as adhere it to the area being patched. It’s basically a sheet of fabric glue that melts between your piece of clothing and patch when you iron it. I recommend Heat n’ Bond. Because it can be used on lower heat settings, doesn’t require steam, and works with a wide variety of fabrics, including synthetics. It’s also much stronger than traditional fusible web. You’ll want to cut it exactly the right size, using the patch as a pattern. Remove any stray threads.
Secret #1 for Patching Clothes: If you need a really precise edge, skip the scissors and use a rotary cutter with a straight edge tool instead. Rotary cutters are also good for thick, tough-to-cut materials, such as leather.
The rough side of the Heat n’ Bond goes against the fabric.
Iron until it is melted and has completely adhered. Let cool and remove the backing. Position the patch where you want it on the pants or jacket or whatever you’re patching. It might be pretty easy to tell where the patch should go, but just in case, try on the clothing so you can place it correctly.
You will want to iron the outside and inside of the clothing to make sure the interfacing has totally melted.
Secret #2 for Patching Clothes: Corners and thicker areas are the trickiest parts. Double-check that these are totally adhered. If they’re not, add more heat.
If you’re making a patch with leather instead of fabric, replace the iron-on interfacing with a strong fabric glue. Cut the shape you want (perhaps hearts for some little girl jeans : ). I cut the basic rectangle from leather with the rotary cutter and rounded the edges with sharp scissors.
Place glue on the underside of the leather and place it on the pants.
Press firmly and let dry. Easy as can be.
PATCHING CLOTHES WITH UNDER PATCHES
Sometimes you may want to use an under patch, like when holes develop in the knees of your favorite jeans.
Pick a fun, contrasting fabric that will peek through the holes and a coordinated thread.
Cut a piece of Heat n’ Bond the same size as your fabric patch, leaving a hole in the center that will align with the hole in the jeans.
Pin it directly behind the holes in the knees and iron as directed.
Secret #3 for Patching Clothes: I wanted to make the fabric patch extra strong to ensure it would hold up longer, so I used Heat n’ Bond to attach some sturdy twill to the back of the fabric.
As a final step, I used embroidery floss to make some stars that match the fabric. The hand-sewn stitches aren’t just cute, they also help keep the patch firmly in place.
PAtCHING CLOTHES – KNITS
When patching a knitted clothing item, such as a sweater, you won’t want to use the heat n’ bond or glued or under-patching techniques above. Instead, you’ll want to pick a sturdy fabric that coordinates with the sweater and use a simple stitch to sew it on.
For the elbow patch pictured, heavy upholstery felt was used. Regular felt strengthened with interfacing will work too. Or even leather would also make a handsome patch.
Secret #4 for Patching Clothes: Sometimes, patches on knits are used to reinforce instead of repair. But, if you are using the patch to cover a hole, you will need to mend the hole a bit first so it doesn’t keep unraveling under the patch.
In the example pictured, there is no hole to mend. The patches are being added because they’re cute. : )
Mark where the patch should go and pin it in place.
Use embroidery floss to make quick stitches all the way around the patch, making sure to tie strong knots at the beginning and end. Simple as that.
Happy patching! And here’s hoping you’ll be wearing that favorite sweater for many, many years.
By Lindsey of Café Johnsonia for Design Mom.
114 thoughts on “Guide to Patching & Mending Clothes”
Awesome tips – thank you!! I just picked up a favorite old sweater today and just about teared up when I saw it has a big hole in it. :( I’m going to patch it and keep it alive a bit longer!
the best way to patch jeans is to unstitch the seem on the inside of leg, flatten out and sew patch to underside of tear Trim and sew around the outside worn area, resew the seem, hey presto you have a nice neat patch that will last forever. My adult son works in mining industry, his work jeans have all been repaired in this manner. I usually use patches from old jeans.
We’ve all seen this needle felted heart image on etsy:
http://honestlywtf.com/diy/diy-elbow-patch/, but I think that it would be a great way to patch up holes on knits. Doesn’t just have to be wool, doesn’t just have to be on the elbow- needle felting is super durable and fun (to look at and do).
Lindsey, you are crazy talented!
This reminds me of when my grandmother would bring a patch to match my blue jeans way back when…it seemed so cool that it matched! Magic:)
do you have any tips for holes in the crotch/ butt area?
maybe something with less contrast… cut out some shape from the same material (star, flower) just big enough to cover the hole and try to sew it on as seamless as possible.
keep in mind that you will want a very soft fabric and no big thread knots…learned from experience…
You also don’t want to use an iron-on patch around the inseam, as it does not breathe and gets sweaty (and if it’s lower on the inner seam of jeans it can stick to your leg and also be uncomfortable).
I usually put on a patch of the same color and use the machine to zigzag around the edge of the patch and the edge of the hole, but have found that once it starts fraying in the inseam/inner thigh that the jeans are not long for the world. You might be able to get another six months out of them, but I’ve never gotten longer than that.
I hated having patches on my knees as a kid – maybe I should have tried being more careful with my jeans. But now I love patches. Even messy plain old iron on patches. They make clothes feel… comfy and lived in and happy.
I was just cutting out little denim knee patches for my little boy’s jeans and thinking the same thing! Glad to read this tutorial so I can reinforce the patches even more before ironing them. Little brother can maybe wear them next.
I have been waiting for someone to capitalize on this business opportunity – there should be more options for cute, iron-on patches! I’ve searched Etsy and everywhere else. I think there’d be a huge market for patterns and shapes that you can use to cover the worn knees and elbows of kids’ clothing. In the meantime, thanks for the tutorial!
I have tried iron on patches before but they always roll up at the edges after going through the drier. Do you have to air dry patched clothing, or am I doing something wrong?
try stitching around the edge after you iron it on…it will keep the edges down better.
I love the felt one on the sweater, looks like it was made to be there!
I am really just loving this series! Lindsey you are so talented and I always love your photography! Gabrielle we made a fun connection this summer when the Wright’s came through Paris and I got to meet up with my buddy from high school French class and his darling family and they told me they knew you from NY and then Lindsey told me she knew them AND you from NY! Small world!!!
I made a fun “monster” patch on a pair of jeans – the hole is the mouth, patched with red similar to the yellow patch above, then use embroidery floss to stitch some crazy eyes above, and funny tongue out of the mouth. unfortunately my daughter felt it ‘scary’ so now i’m waiting for her younger sister to grow into them! another Pinterest fail ;-)
I did a similar patch for my 17 year old son. His “monster” had the red mouth. But I also used white felt to add some crooked teeth and used black and white felt for eyes. The eyes were crossed, so he was a ‘silly’ monster. I thought he would just wear them around the house. He LOVED them and asked that I CUT some of his other jeans to make more monster patches!! He even has friends that want their jeans patched the same way!! Who knew ?! :-)
Do either of you have pictures?? Love to see that! My daughter is the one who wears out her knees, Maybe i could do a girly monster.
Funny timing, I love patching …it is so quick and feels smart. My favorite jeans were so perfectly comfortable when the knees went. Our cotton sheets just got wonderfully soft and smooth when they developed a tear, I patched them with the lightest cotton and I can’t see it nor feel it. thanks for the post !
It’s like you read my mind! I was just thinking about patching a hole in my favorite jeans, and I love the under-patch idea- I hadn’t thought of that. I also have a favorite sweater in need of patched elbows. Thank you for the great ideas and impetus to just go ahead and do it!
Fun! And perfect timing…my favorite jeans just got a tear in the knee. I was going to toss them but I think I’ll try the under patch idea. I love it
I just did this and my fave pair of jeans worked awesome i used strips if heat’n’bond that r made for hemming but worked great.
Never, ever throw away your old jeans! Cut them up to make rag rugs, or if the strips are too short, make them into rag wreaths. They are gorgeous, especially if you use different colored jeans. Use the cut off side seam as a tie for the wreath. And you can always make a purse or a pillow out of the butt or front, or both! And if you can cut the leather, you can make a neat bracelet out of the belt.
I always had patched clothes and my sister and I were just discussing reviving it with our kids – great post!
Seriously – who wears their clothes long enough to wear holes in them? I’ve always wondered this. Okay – I guess technically my daughter wears her clothes so HARD they get holes in them. But given she grows out of them every 6 months or so, they are hardly worth mending.
But the designs are sure cool!! Maybe if I had 5 daughters worthy of hand-me-downs I’d take on the task!
“Seriously – who wears their clothes long enough to wear holes in them?”
I do! I guess I’m emotionally attached to several pieces I have now for maybe over 15 years!!! :) Maybe it’s just me…..
Some people seem to have a gift for not wearing out clothes. My grandma has tons of clothes that are like 15 or 20 years old and they look brand new. I, on the other hand, must be especially rough on clothes. My clothes rarely last more than a year before they need mending, especially jeans.
That’s pretty much the mindset of our society today. But repairing clothes is not only economically sound, it’s also really green, and frankly, it’s the right thing to do.
Granted, some things become unrepairable, but if we all took a few minutes to mend the clothes and other items we own instead of throwing them away, we would probably have a much better economy, environment, and sense of appreciation.
Seriously- who gets rid of clothes before they start to look worn? I’ve always wondered this. If you like something, why wouldn’t you keep it?
I’m interested in this topic because I have been mostly unsuccessfully trying to patch my children’s clothes for years. When I sew the patches on by hand it is labor intensive and generally looks bad, but when I tried the iron-on patches you can buy at the store, they began peeling off within a couple of days no matter how much heat I applied to them initially. I’m hoping it was a quality issue, and that this heat and bond stuff is better. I also wonder if some of the difficulty was that so many denim fabrics now have some stretch in them, which seems to undermine my patching attempts. My kids put holes in the knees of their pants in about two months, on average.
you could try a combination of the two. use an iron-on patch or heat n bond…then stitch around the edges. so you get extra holding power, but the patch stays put while you sew. the other thing i do is buy really cheap pants for my kids because they will inevitably ruin them. :)
I patch my kids’ holey knees in their jeans all the time, and my patches STAY. I unpick the sideseam that is not double -stitched (or flat-felled) and then I sew in 2 patches: a cute one on the outside of the knee, and a soft flannel one on the inside. I make a criss-cross with over the patches so the hole is really reinforced. Then I re-sew the side seam. I never had good success with iron-on patches and always felt the selection was so pitiful.
I have been reading these great comments but Margo you have the answer. I have mended clothes for my self and for customers for 30 years. The iron on type of patches, I believe, do come off unless they are stitched down. With jeans or work trousers I used to use a lighter fabric to cover the hole on the inside and machine down then a neater patch of matching fabric on the outside. Cutting an oval [round corners on a square] shape makes it easier to sew by machine. Patching fabric can be from an old garment or fabric scraps. Try a charity shop. Living in a small town I often saw my handiwork as the workmen got on with their day.
When my son was at school I wouldn’t send him in mended clothes until I realized that at least it showed I cared enough to bother patching rather than having holes in his pants knees.
It is a “green” thing to do but we were bought up not to waste so it is second nature to me. Patching and darning are part of life..stitch in time and all that. Keep up the good work.
Iron-on patches stay better if you don’t use fabric softener, including dryer sheets. You might try that and see if it helps.
Awesome! My favorite jeans have a hole in the knee, and Levis aren’t cheap to replace! I’ll have to try the underpatch with the little stitched stars or something on the edging. I’ve been jealous of my 8 year olds pretty jeans with the embellishments. LOL
These are really great tips – I’m forever patching things, but for some odd reason I’d never thought of using interfacing to help bond them! Duh!
Any top tips for jersey materials? My girls go through legging knees like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve done some heart-shaped patches also made of jersey fabric but they don’t stay very well (but maybe that’s down to lack of adhesive to help?).
I’d like to know too, but I’m wondering about t-shirts.
My granddaughter goes thru the leggings just like your girls. I think I am going to try to use stretch lace underneath and leave some of it uncovered to you can see the lace. If it works, it should be cute. At least it should keep the hole from getting bigger.
any suggestions on patching a hole at the site of torn belt loop, and re attachment of beltloop especially on jeans, material is so heavy!. would appreciate any feedback.
When I was growing up, I was embarrassed to have darned sox and patched jeans. Then one day a friend’s Mom commented on the skilled work on my jeans and said I must be very loved to have someone take the time to repair my clothes with such skill.
Today, I love to darn and patch my children’s clothes. Love sewn.
These tips (and the other comments) are really helpful for a new parent, thanks!
These tips are fabulous, thank you! Do you have any tips for mending holes in the belly area of shirts? My cotton shirts always get holes in the stomach area and I can’t figure out what is causing them! :-( Thanks in advance if you do have any ideas!
Do you have a rough place on your desk or counter in the ‘stomach’ area? If so sand the item ruining your tops. To repair top add patches that are leaf and flower shape connecting with green floss to repair and decorate. I did this to a stain near my shoulder and got lots of compliments.
Virginia…I would love to see the finished product of what you are describing here. I have a few favourite sweaters that mysteriously get tiny holes in the tummy area. Would love to see a solution for this.
What’s with the tummy area holes?! I get them on my t shirts, usually near the pants zipper are. But it’s not like I go around with my fly open and there’s a cover over the zipper on jeans anyway so I can’t imagine how it gets there. I don’t spend my time leaning on furniture, rough or otherwise. DRIVES ME NUTS!
Maybe the lap portion of your seat belt rubs there?
I get holes & stains on the tummy of a lot of shirts mostly because when I’m doing dishes, I lean against the sink surround/counter and the edge of the counter isn’t particularly smooth and often has drips on it.
I find that I have better luck avoiding the tummy area holes if I wash my t-shirts (especially the thin ones) in lingerie bags. A pain? you bet… but they stay hole-free much longer. Also, look at the quality of what you are buying in the first place. Thick, quality t-shirt material will last longer, require less patching/mending, and then when you do fix a little hole, it will be worth it because the rest of the garment will last also.
Finally… the dryer kills clothes. I hate to say it, but it does cost in terms of wear and tear (as well as the environment) – I found this when I lived in Lithuania for a bit and was forced to hang all my clothes to dry (no dryer there!). At first I hated it, then I grew accustomed to it, and then I found that my clothes were lasting far longer! I have never gone back to using the dryer on most sweaters, t-shirts, jeans… at least not the good ones! The house ones, yes, I do put in the dryer. It’s that old “ounce of prevention” thing, I guess.
I have heard that the button on jeans can sometimes cause a hole. Just a thought…
I’v found that the holes on the (bottom) belly of my shirts is from cooking! My shirt rubs on the counter and my pants while I chop and prep meals. It makes a bunch of tiny little holes.
A kitchen apron is a must have for me now
Its not even the fact that the clothes with holes are OLD…accidents happen haha. I’m clumsy! I fell once and ruined a pair of jeans with nasty tears in the knees. Wish I’d found this earlier. Super cute idea =)
Now I can keep my favorite jeans :) Thanks for a cute and great tutorial! It will be up on my FB later today!
Great tips! Especially for those of us who aren’t great at sewing. I have a few jeans that need fixed up, so can’t wait to try a fun colorful patch. The embroidery detail is so cute too!
love the idea of embroidering stars to match the patch on the pair of jeans!! Definietly will have to do this!!
This reminded me of my college days! My 2 friends and I formed the ASK patch company. We would go to parties and ask the guys if they needed their pants patched. We charged by degree of difficulty and location of patches. We earned money so we could see bands on campus and have fun partying!
Glad to see patches are back!
thanks for this tutorial, I have several pairs of jeans in desperate need of patching, and I love your idea of using bright fabric and cute embroidery stitches!
Any ideas for frayed cuffs and collars.
When my gran was alive we used to spend evenings taking frayed collars and cuffs off shirts, turning them inside out and sewing them back on. This was for men’s shirts. For the ladies we would sew lace on to hide the fraying or do a colourful blanket stitch or such
That’s funny, I just did that with a ’70’s shirt in great condition other than one cuff was soooo sun faded and looked awful. My husband had the idea to turn it around funny and impressive a man who’s never held a sewing needle had this idea. It was his shirt, so I asked him if it’s ok with him that it buttons ‘backward’. One cuff still buttons original-wise. Funny to me that sometime in our family histories all our families probably had all the men in ‘backward’, awkward buttoned cuff shirts.
Your little comment put a smile on my face… the things you learn ! :-)
I love the under patch on the jeans. So cute! But the time or two that I’ve used interfacing, rather than thoroughly sewing on a patch, it didn’t hold very well. It eventually peeled off and I had to reapply. Perhaps user error or quality of the heat ‘n bond brand I used?
I, too, love the idea of clothes lasting for years! I like saving money but I also have a hard time finding clothes that fit just right so when I find a winning piece I want to wear it FOREVER. I still (pretty much every day) wear my Danskos that I bought about 8 years ago.
Thanks. I have four daughters and my youngest will put a whole in a pair of pants within weeks. I feel like I do nothing but buy her pants because I can’t stand sending her to school with holes (though she always comes home with them). I’ll try this, hopefully we can just get through this phases…
I wish there was a way to patch stretchy clothing like leggings. My daughter wears holes in her leggings So fast! I either have to toss them, or allow her to look like a ragamuffin (which I’d prefer not to, but I can’t just treat clothing like it’s a disposable razor!)
I use fleece (an old sweatshirt usually) to patch my daughters leggings. I cut a small heart and just used a blanket stitch all around. It holds up really well. I also cut a ‘flower’ shape, kind of round with petal edges, just don’t get too crazy with detail because you still have to stitch it!
My son had torn holes in all of his track pants by practicing sliding for baseball. Any ideas if this would work for that type of material. Some are fabric and some are the wind.
What great ideas for keeping loved items around for awhile longer! I used this as the “craft of the day” on our facebook page. Check us out at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brushes-and-Thread/231012056980834.
I have bleach spots (also known as, “Never let a man do your laundry”) on several very new brightly colored tee shirts. Any ideas on how to mask the spots so I can still wear the shirts? Thanks.
My suggestion to you Ali is to learn to stitch “Lazy Daisies” using embroidery floss or cotton yarn. Make the bleach spot the center of the flower and daisy stitch around. Perhaps sequins or buttons could be stitched in the bleached spots. Remember the fabric is stretchy
so make the stitches loose so they stretch too. Good luck.
How about putting bleach spots on the entire shirt so it will look like it came that way.
I have done quite a bit of patching in my day (I had six kids) but my favorite fix for holes in sweaters is to find in my stash of crewel yarn a strand that matches the sweater. I darn the sweater very carefully and the holes are almost invisible!
I agree! I darn sweaters, socks, and recently, my beautiful damask tablecloth.
just: thank you!
Is your Heat n’ bond double sided?
I think I must have bought the wrong stuff. I’m trying to patch a hole under the back pocket of my favorite pair of jeans, but I’m petty sure the heat’n’bond fusible stuff I got is not double sided.
I have a bunch of tiny holes in multiple shirts from my cats nails punching through when I’m trying to get him into the car. I’m loving the idea of little leaves or flowers connected by stitched branches. This could completely revive my wardrobe!
Fabulous tips. This makes me feel guilty for a few of the clothes that I was too lazy to repair and threw away.
I have a question. What about holes in the butt of your pants? Is it appropriate to patch those or is that a situation where trashing them is the only option?
Fit a girl butt patches are cool. So many jeans have decorations on the butt anyway. Too far to inside between the legs I’d probably do under patch that is discreet…
I just patched two pairs of my 6 YO son’s pants and they turned out great. I couldn’t resist posting a pic on Pinterest, giving credit to the Design Mom, of course. :)
Thank you for this tutorial.
I have a super easy and effective way to little holes in T-shirts. I yse fusible webbing very light weight and a piece of pantyhose as close to the color of the shirt as possible. I find the cheap knee high ones in multiple colors. I just cut a circle about a half inch larger all around than the hole and out all three layers together and iron from the inside. It can be tricky keeping the pantyhose material from rolling so I use ball point pins to hold the edges. The patch stretches with the fabric and its almost perfectly invisible! Works great!
I have a few pairs of skinny jeans that have developed holes in the inner thigh (almost at the… ahem… crotch). Any tips on how to mend those inconspicuously? Thanks!
I have the same issue.. I’m thinking of trying Ann under patch in a similar colour so as not to stand out…
I love mending and patching! And I have seen that jeans patch with the yellow stars floating on Pinterest already – so pretty.
I wrote a poem on patches and posted it on Mother’s Day: http://thriftathome.blogspot.com/2013/05/mothers-day-poem-about-patches.html
Where can I purchase patches?
I have just started making patchwork knee patches and selling them in my etsy shop
I also have a blog http://www.villapernilla.blogspot.se
Can I link this great tutorial on my blog?
So what do you think should be done about tough stains? I hate throwing away cute clothing that has been ripped or stained. :(
Just too, too, too clever!!