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Not Your Nan’s Jeans

Repair your jeans and make a statement with visible mending

Profile photograph by Hannah Webb

A perfectly fitting pair of jeans is like the holy grail. The good news is you don’t need to say goodbye to them if they wear thin or tear. In fact, your jeans might have many more years of life with some simple repairs. Mending advocate, Renee Williams of That Perfect Hour, joins us to give her top tips on how to mend your favourite pair of jeans, while making a slow fashion statement at the same time.

5 things we love about mended jeans

1. Completely unique jeans that are all your own.

2. You have saved valuable fabric from landfill.

3. Spread the mending love as others admire your handiwork.

4. A reminder of what you are capable of every time you look down.

5. That impossible-to-replicate, perfectly worn-in, jeans look!

As long as there have been clothes, people have mended them. Unfortunately, the prevalence of mending has slowly decreased, as buying new clothing has become more affordable. In response to this fall from favour, a new ‘Visible Mending’ movement has emerged. Visible Mending is about wearing your mended clothes proudly and showing the world that you care enough to repair; the perfect statement piece this Slow Fashion Season.

Why should you mend your jeans?

You may have heard before that denim is a water and chemical-hungry garment to produce, and this is true. According to this report, one kilogram of cotton (enough to make approximately one pair of jeans) can take up to 10,000L of water to produce. This is before we consider the environmental impact of the dyes and chemicals also used in the jeans making process.

While there has been a significant amount of work done to ‘clean-up’ denim manufacturing. As jeans lovers, the best thing we can do is take a pro-active approach by caring for and mending our already owned denim. In fact, jeans make an ideal garment to experiment with visible mending, as the sturdy nature of denim makes stitching even easier for beginners.

How to start mending

To begin your visible-mending journey, all you will need is your favourite, worn-in denim jeans, some simple sewing equipment, and a ‘patch material’ in a fun print. Now to begin!

Assess the damage – Hold your jeans up to the light and note the full extent of the thinning or wear.

Match your fabric – When choosing a patch material try to match the fabric weight and stretch percentage to your original garment (i.e. a denim patch on denim jeans). Your patch can go either on top or underneath the damaged area.

Pick your thread – For a less visible mend, match the patch and thread colour to your jeans, using a thin thread such as a universal sewing thread. For a more visible mend that stands out, use bright or contrasting patch colours and a thicker thread such as sashiko thread or perle cotton. These can be found here or at your local haberdashery stores.

Patch it up – Be sure to patch over all the thinning or weakened fabric. Your patches should be 2-3cm larger than the area that needs patching, in order to prevent the weakened fabric from tearing again.

Stitch it straight – Attach your patch using your preferred stitching method. Using a running stitch is as simple as it is fast and will add strength and visual interest. A video tutorial showing running stitch can be found here.

Remember, it takes time to develop mending skills. Renee recommends trying to keep your stitch lengths as even as possible; aim to make your stitches about the size of a grain of rice. Drawing a stitching line on your garment using a fabric marker will help keep stitch lines straight—although freehand stitching also looks good.

Join the Visible Mending movement

Visible mending is not meant to look perfect!

Hand stitches are individual and unique, so embrace your stitches and wear your repairs with pride. In true 2020 fashion, check out hashtags on social media, such as #visiblemending and #lovedclotheslast for more jeans-mending inspiration.


Renee Williams is a clothing repair advocate and mending enthusiast based in Auckland, NZ.

She shares mending tips and inspiration on her Instagram and on her website.

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